Coalition Eesti 200 chair Lauri Hussar said that while his party didn't support the construction of the shale oil refinery in 2019, now that the plant is practically done being built, it should be issued a use permit and started up as quickly as possible.
"Eesti 200 was of the position in 2019 already that Estonia has no need for such an oil refinery," Hussar told ERR on Monday. "The Government of the Republic nonetheless decided to build the oil refinery – the decision was essentially made in 2020, when the government granted Minister of Finance Martin Helme (ERR) the authority to increase Eesti Energia's equity by €125 million."
It's been three and a half years since that decision was made, "And now we're in a position where the plant is largely finished and its scheduled launch is six months away," he noted. "In a situation where a more than €350 million investment has either been made or is contracted, it would make no sense to halt construction, because that would mean writing off that investment, and the expected revenue from this business plan would be lost as well."
According to the Eesti 200 chair, the socioeconomic impact of the refinery and its role in regional employment, which have shaped people's expectations in the region, are very important as well.
"I think it's possible to have brainstorming sessions and debates regarding new projects only just being planned, but right now, this plant should be issued a use permit and started up as quickly as possible," he said.
Eesti 200 parliamentary group member Züleyxa Izmailova, however, recently published an opinion in which she found that the construction of an oil refinery is not compatible with Estonia's needs.
Hussar highlighted that of Eesti 200 MPs, two have publicly expressed their views on the matter in recent weeks – Riigikogu Economic Affairs Committee member Tarmo Tamm and Riigikogu Rural Affairs Committee member and party board member Züleyxa Izmailova. He said that both their messages have essentially been the same – that if possible, future-oriented decisions must be better thought out, and that future-oriented decisions must be thought through.
"This has been particularly clearly expressed by Züleyxa Izmailova, who has highlighted very clearly and in a well-argued manner the fact that the state has been a very bad owner in the case of the oil refinery too – that has made long-term decisions and resulting investments in a changing environment and then at the eleventh hour decided to essentially work against themselves," he commented.
Essentially the only sensible way out of this situation is to issue the refinery's use permit and launch operations as quickly as possible, the Eesti 200 party chair reiterated.
"Hopefully they'll understand at the Ministry of Climate as well that to do otherwise would just be irresponsible and wasteful," he added.
Last Wednesday, October 25, the Supreme Court of Estonia annulled the building permit issued to Enefit Power AS for the construction of a shale oil refinery as errors were made in the environmental impact assessment during the permitting process.
The country's top court found that Narva-Jõesuu city government must continue building permitting procedures and correct errors made in the environmental impact assessment.
Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform), who serves as the general meeting of Eesti Energia shareholders, initially declined to take a clear position regarding launching operations of the plant, but since Friday has repeatedly confirmed that the refinery must be completed.
Investments in the Estonian state-owned Eesti Energia for the new shale oil refinery total some €353 million. As of late October, nearly €230 million of this has already been paid out, however the obligation remains to pay out the remaining sums arising from the contracts. Contractual obligations currently amount to a combined nearly €330 million.
Editor: Aili Vahtla