Let’s stop fighting development- The Goat Islands project

Jamaicans have a tendency to engage their tongue and disconnect their brains as they participate in veranda talk on very important matters, without trying to fully understand the subject matter.

The educated and learned individuals amongst us has done a lot to facilitate this process and instead of using their reach in the media (both electronic and printed) to simplify and educate the masses, they have instead chosen in many instances to mislead the many who are not in the know or who do not have the capacity to comprehend what is going on around them.

These folks have a captive audience and they use their reach to pass on personal positions as factual positions and engage in what I call “intellectual dishonesty”. By this I mean they give you a part of the information, then turn around and interpret that information with a bias is towards their personal position, without telling you that this portion is a personal view or position, leading you to believe it’s factual as in confirmed by science etc.

This leads me to the goat islands and logistic hub development, where a lot of misinformation exist  in the public domain, which has been facilitated by the  environmentalist and a government that has been less than truthful forthcoming  and with the information .

When one loses trust in what emanates from the Government on important development as this project is, those who seek to mislead will capitalize on this and this can lead to complete chaos and chase investors away.

If we were to follow the environmentalist, who in many cases want to keep things as they are, we would have never had the following:

  1. A national stadium
  2. Mona and Hermitage reservoir
  3. Highway 2000
  4. Many concrete structures

The list could go on and on.

Now I am not trying to bash the environmentalist such as JET and others as I do believe they have a role to play in keeping the Government honest and others involved in development, but they need to develop  a new persona , while the Government must move to improve the level of transparency that exist.

Yesterday, Tuesday, February 25, 2014, the Minister of Transport and Works , Dr Omar Davis provided an update to parliament and by extension the country on some of the plans for goat island and indicated that among other things, there could be  a coal fired power plant, designed to meet the electricity needs of the logistics hub.

Alarm bells began to rang immediately as environmental experts and even those who have zero expertise in this area, shouted that this was the wrong way to go and this would do severe harm to the environment. Some folks even pointed the big pollution problem that currently exist in Beijing , China suggesting this is enough reasons for such a plant to not be given the green light.

As many of you who read my articles, I often take a different approach from the crowd and the herd mentality that exist in this country and I will do the same thing here.

Let’s first examine some facts.

  1. Coal is no doubt the cheapest way to produce electricity.
  2. A coal plant is one of the most expensive plants to build of all the fossil fuels.
  3. A coal plant is one of the dirtiest ways to produce electricity.
  4. Coal plants tend to add more pollutants to the environment more so than other plants.
  5. Technology exists to significantly reduce the levels of pollution from coal plants, than existed years ago.
  6. The level of pollution is largely influenced by the quality of the coal used eg moisture levels and the technology that will be utilized by that generating facility.
  7. The technology to be utilized by the generating facility is or can be largely influenced by the local environmental policies eg policy’s on emission control, particulate emissions etc etc.
  8. Disposing of the waste generated by the coal generating plant has been issues of concern in many countries.
  9. Storage of the coal can be a challenge as it requires large land mass of course this is dependent on the size of the plant. Also the item must be stored in a manner to avoid possible contamination for the ground water supply.
  10. Depending on its size a coal fired plant takes the longest period of time to construct vs other plants of similar size. On average it could take up to four years to build the plant that I see being used for the logistics hub.
  11. USA has issued new emission standards for power plants, which could see many coal powered plants closed down by 2016.

The question therefore for Jamaica becomes,  can Jamaica afford to allow a coal plant to be built in the country, when plants in the USA are closing as they cannot meet the emission standards being developed by the USA.

Here is my take on the approach the Jamaican Government ought to use.

  1. The GOJ of Jamaica needs to have a very clear and stringent policy on emissions control and should decide the allowable limits of NOx, Sox, CO2, CO, particulate levels in PPM etc. that can be emitted for each MW of energy produced.
  2. We should also develop policies and the methodology  to monitor and check for waste storage and proper disposal of hazardous substances eg lead, mercury, arsenic, ash  etc.
  3. The country must (if not already in place), develop a pollution prevention policy, which speaks to all forms of pollutants being emitted in the public space from industrial processes.
  4. The country( if not already in existence )must develop policies to address storm water runoff from industrial process and impose heavy fines, where these policies are breached.
  5. The country must have inspectors who will have full access to all industrials plants and audit their waste management program, pollution prevention program etc.
  6. All industrial plants must apply for and get a air permit, which would indicate the extent to which that facility is allowed to send emissions into the public space. Those facilities must then show the inspector the measurements they have on record, which indicates what levels of emissions are taking place and the makeup of those emissions. Where it is found that a facility is emitting more than it claims it would then be subjected to heavy fines and have it air permit revoked.
  7. All industrials plants must also apply for and get a permit for disposition of industrial waste and the waste stream must be clearly identified and charted. What this means is an industrial pant must be able to demonstrate what becomes of the waste created as a result of its process. Is it recycled, reclaimed or discarded and if so, how and where.

There are many more items that can be added but I just wanted to present a picture of what needs to be put in place now if not already in place or enforced if they already exist.

The effect of the above, is we can say to anyone wishing to build any plant, coal fired or otherwise, these are conditions under which you will be required to operate. These are the various permits which you will have to apply for and retain records for inspection and periodic audits to ensure you are in fact operating within the confines of those permits or regulations.

What will come out of the above, is once an entity recognizes that your environmental laws are in place, have teeth and are will result in massive penalties of breach, will now have to balance the cost of compliance vs the cost of construction and operation of one type of power plant vs another. It will boil down to straight economics. There is a way to get cheaper electricity while ensuring the environment in which we all share is protected today and for years to come. These things are not mutually exclusive, Jamaica needs both today.

I would not say to China Harbour that you cannot build a coal fired plant, instead what I would say is the plant you choose to build MUST meet these regulation guidelines etc and the design you submit must demonstrate that enough systems are in place to ensure that the standards that needs to be maintained while you are in operation are consistent with what is required to ensure full compliance.

If for example in its proposal they say, the projected emissions from the plant will be X for noxious substances and Y for particulates, then they must also show what systems are included in the design to achieve this and what safeguards or redundancies will be built into the system if the primary emission control system fails.

So a word to the environmentalist, stop fighting development, instead focus on sustainable development.  Assist in creating the standards and safeguards for environment, get the people involved in the development of their standards, then lobby the parliamentarians to enact the relevant laws without loopholes and ensure the laws have real teeth.

 Yeah mon mi no it long but mi could not find a way to make it shorter and bring out all the points I wanted to make.


4 Responses

  1. Jay, I agree with point #5 that there are new coal plants being developed to capture most of the emissions. As you can see the costs associated with developing this new technology coal plant is enormous.


    Also, you can see there are risks associated with where the ash ponds for the coal plants are located. Not sure where CHEC plan on building this new plant and what controls they will have in place to prevent a leak like the one Duke experienced recently and that TVA suffered a few years ago.


    Finally, as you know China is not known for their environmental stewardship and I doubt the JA government will require / enforce strict environmental controls. If they do not, this is what Jamaican citizens could be facing.


  2. I see the Gleaner is expressing similar sentiments to the one I expressed above.


  3. I made the above comments in February and today I am upping the ante.

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