Cahill project dead, confirms Lowe
The Freundel Stuart administration had dumped the proposed $700 million Cahill waste-to-energy project.
Confirmation of this tonight during debate came from Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe during debate on an Opposition-sponsored no confidence motion against the Government.
He said Government had decided to heed the cries of members of the public who had urged the Government to slow down the controversial project at town hall meetings.
Lowe, who had been under pressure from the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to abandon the project from the outset of the agreement reached between Government and the Guernsey-based Cahill Energy in March 2014, also said the decision to halt the multi million dollar project, which was to be based at Vaucluse, St Thomas, had taken into consideration recent events in London and other places, which had revealed that waste-to-energy operations and plasma gasification projects had shown up significant flaws.
“So I assure the public today the Government ain’t going no where with that option. It can’t do it, not after the fact that so many Barbadians made their voices heard and told their Government be cautious, hold back on this thing. We don’t understand it enough. There are other options we can explore,” he said.
“The Government of Barbados would have to be absolutely collectively mad to move ahead on an option where there is global evidence that there are flaws with the technology,” Lowe said.
Last month, Barbados TODAY first reported that the project had been thrown in jeopardy after a senior Government official, with intimate knowledge of the project, confirmed to Barbados TODAY that a dark cloud was hanging over the proposed waste-to-energy plant.
In fact, that official had revealed that if there was going to be a plasma gasification plant in Barbados, it would not be done by Cahill Energy, which was led by Clare Cowan.
The official, who did not want to be identified, had further disclosed that Cahill had not lived up to promises made to Government and that the financial arrangements for the project were still up in the air.
“If there is a plasma gasification plant it will not be with Cahill . . . I don’t know if that project is going ahead and certainly not with her [Cowan],” the official said, while complaining that the investor had become the subject of controversy.
However, without giving any credit to the Opposition for leading the fight against the Cahill project, Lowe compared the controversial project with the contentious Greenland Landfill initiative undertaken by the former administration in the 1990s. He told the House, the ruling Democratic Labour Party acted more sensibly than the then BLP Government, which had refused to listen to the people of Shorey Village, and Greenland [in St Andrew] who had strongly opposed the landfill.
“Mr Speaker, Sir, you know what happened? They went ahead and $100 million later, not a piece of garbage, and the taxpayers have to pay back the money. We rejected the Greenland option.
“So Barbadians, we are not going to forge ahead on anything to bring disaster to this country, we are not going to forge ahead with any option that is not the safest option.”
Earlier, the minister had rubbished as “nonsense” demands made by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley during her presentation on Tuesday that the Prime Minister should verify whether it was his signature on a copy of a document entitled Heads of Terms Relating to Waste to Energy Project, displayed on the Internet blog Barbados Underground since last November.
Mottley told Parliament that when she read the documents on the Internet with what looked to be Stuart’s signature, “I was the most shocked person”.
She added, “I could not believe that the person whose signature is attached here for the Heads of Agreement for the Cahill project on the 13th of September, 2013, signing on behalf of the Government of Barbados … by the Honourable Freundel Stuart, QC, Prime Minister.”
Mottley said if the signature was indeed that of the Prime Minister, he had an obligation to clarify the matter because it committed the people of Barbados to a long term debt, amounting to as much as $4 billion.
However, in a fiery response tonight, Lowe said Government had entered into a “conversation” with a company called Cahill and a Head of Terms agreement was completed.
He however stayed cleared of whether the Prime Minister had signed the document, saying that “A Head of Terms is a document that lays out the possible points of negotiating an agreement, it is not agreement itself.”
The minister went on to explain that Government had chosen to undertake a waste-to-energy programme, which he described as a “universally accepted option” because the island was running out of physical space to build more dumps, adding that dumps were responsible for green house gas emissions.