FLASKBACK: Phase 2 of the PowerGen PoS Decommissioning Project. Workmen remove Powergen Plant stacks on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.

If you are a taxpayer in this country, then you just footed a $30 million-plus bill for the recently completed demolition of the PowerGen stacks along Wrightson Road in Port-of-Spain, Energy Minister Stuart Young has said.

Young made the statement on Thursday as the Standing Finance Committee examined the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries’ estimated expenditure for fiscal 2022.

During the committee’s session, Oropouche West Member of Parliament Davendranath Tancoo asked Young about the Environmental Indemnity to PowerGen which was highlighted in the recurrent expenditure documents.

“We have seen a reduction in 2021, your estimate was $14 million but zero spend in 2021 revised estimate and a smaller estimate of $3.3 million for 2022. Can the minister advise why no money was spent in 2021?” Tancoo asked.

Young said he could not have asked for “a better run-up to the wicket” since this issue was one he intended to bring to the attention of the T&T population.

“In 2014 the UNC (United National Congress) Cabinet burdened the taxpayers and the people of T&T with this in that they inserted a clause into the contract with PowerGen that we the taxpayers must pay for all environmental work to be done,” he said.

“Not that PowerGen, who has made millions of dollars off of the people of T&T during their history here must pick up that tab, but no the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government inserted a contract back in 2014 when they could have negotiated it out,” Young said.

“So now all of the work you see going on there at the end of Wrightson Road at the old PowerGen station we the taxpayers now have to pay for all of the environmental work associated with that,” Young said.

Young said the current Cabinet was looking for ways to address the situation but unfortunately could not find one.

And so in fact money was paid this year but it was not highlighted in the budget documents because the payment happened “after the budget books went to the printery.”

“It is going to be a lot of money that the taxpayers have to pick up,” Young said.”

“The work is ongoing, the people will be paid for the work by the taxpayers of T&T thanks to your failed negotiations,” Young said.

Contacted by the Business Guardian about the statement made by Young, then Energy Minister Ramnarine explained:

“The facts are that this arrangement had its origins in the Shareholders Agreement that was signed in the year 1994 between the original shareholders of PowerGen namely T&TEC, Southern Electric and Amoco. At that time the shareholders of PowerGen wanted to be indemnified against pre-existing environmental liabilities in the three power plants that became part of PowerGen’s asset base (Wrightson Road, Penal, and Point Lisas), In 2014 the provision was included in a new Power Purchase Agreement which replaced the 1994 PPA.”

The current shareholders of PowerGen are T&TEC (51 per cent), Marubeni of Japan (39 per cent) and National Enterprises Ltd (10 per cent). The plant on Wrightson Road is to be decommissioned and demolished in three phases.

Phase One of the project commenced in early July last year, which addressed scaffolding and abatement works to remove regulated industrial materials present within the plant.

The removal, containment and transportation of regulated industrial materials was undertaken by Green Engineering.

“The mitigation strategies for the Abatement Works include containment procedures that meet international standards and local regulations. Hazards associated with the project are managed such that exposure to members of the project team and the Power Station’s neighbouring community are reduced to as low as possible. This is supported by the fact that current site testing results are well below the maximum permissible levels. These results are routinely reported to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) as required by the project’s Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC). This is consistent with PowerGen’s commitment to regulatory compliance, no harm to people and no harm to the environment, as well as its corporate philosophy, ‘to provide quality energy in a safe and environmentally responsible manner’,” PowerGen stated.

Phase Two of the PowerGen PoS Decommissioning Project commenced on August 3.

“All relevant regulatory approvals were received before the start of Phase Two scheduled works. Any consequential effects of the demolition works will be mitigated in accordance with the Certificate of Environmental Clearance for the project, other applicable regulatory requirements, industry standards and best practices in Health, Safety and Environment. Public consultations formed part of the community engagement process and channels have been established to enable 24-hour communication with the neighbouring community,” PowerGen stated.

On September 21 the demolition of the last of the four stacks began.

The stacks also known as the “silver sentinels” have been a part of the Port-of-Spain skyline for 60 years.

The main plant and associated buildings are to be demolished next.