Tallinn mayor: Auvere oil shale processing plant must be built

Center Party chair and Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart.
Center Party chair and Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The currently halted construction of an oil shale processing plant in the Ida-Viru County town of Auvere should restart, and Estonia should reach climate goals in a way which supports regional development, social well-being and the economy, Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) says.

Kõlvart told ERR Thursday that: "With reference to the Auvere oil plant construction, it is important, amid the political discussions, to not lose track of the fact that it represents a key economic, social and regional project."

"If we want to ensure the security of the state's energy supply and energy security, we must support all viable solutions which would enable production that met energy needs; the to-be-built Auvere oil plant also offers this," the mayor went on.

That the mayor of Tallinn was speaking on the topic of a planned facility in another part of the country may in part relate to the region in question being a traditional Center Party support stronghold, though that support has diminished in recent years.

Kõlvart added that the planned plant will also help secure jobs for several hundred people in Ida-Viru County, a vitally important development for the people there, given the current unstable economic situation.

"This, in turn, will contribute to the sustainable development of local life and the region. We don't know if and when our economic situation will stabilize, so we have to contribute and support the business environment, and not inhibit it," the mayor went on.

Kõlvart noted around €230 million has already been invested into the project, making it extremely irresponsible for the state, in the present time when cuts are being sought and additional taxes imposed - simply to write off several hundred million (ie. the above some) as lightly as that.

"The plant would bring additional tax revenue to the state in the form of jobs and production. In the converse case, however, the unemployed would prove an additional burden on the social system, to the state," Kõlvart added.

Due to reported errors in the environmental impact assessment, the Supreme Court earlier this month revoked the building permit granted to Enefit Power AS, a subsidiary of Eesti Energia, for the construction of the new oil shale processing plant at Auvere, work on which is already well under way.

The development met with protests from environmental groups; while shale oil as a fuel source in electricity generation runs counter to EU climate goals, the changed security and energy situation has given the sector a new lease of life in the immediate term.

Of €350 million in investments earmarked for the project, €290 million has already been disbursed, Mihhail Kõlvart says.

"We should reach the set climate goals in a way where we simultaneously support regional development, public and social well-being and the national economy. One goal should not be mutually exclusive of another, or come to be an obstacle to other developments. This means we must focus on finding a solution for the necessary permits and to continue with the construction of the plant," Kõlvart said.

The two other opposition parties, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, have also criticized the delays in the completion of the construction of the oil plant.

Reform Party Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev, who also holds the role of Eesti Energia , initially did not want to take a clear position on the launch or otherwise of the plant, but since Friday he has reiterated several times that the plant must in fact be completed.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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