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Estonian Environmental Board approves shale oil plant impact report

Enefit 280 and Enefit 280-2.
Enefit 280 and Enefit 280-2. Source: Dmitri Fedotkin/ERR

The Estonian Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet) has approved the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for Eesti Energia's Enefit 280-2 shale oil processing plant. The report provides the basis for granting the permit required for the plant to begin operating.

"The approval of the EIA report means that the Environmental Board now has the necessary basis upon which to begin considering whether, and to what extent, the oil plant can start operations," said the board's deputy director Erik Kosenkranius.

The EIA report addresses the potential environmental impact of the new Enefit 280-2 shale oil processing plant in Auvere, Ida-Viru County.

Along with the data and best available technology documents submitted in the application by Eesti Energia subsidiary Enefit, the report will serve as a basis for the Environmental Board to process the plant's environmental permit and set the relevant conditions.

"The oil plant will only be granted the necessary environmental permit to start operations if we are satisfied that mitigation and compensation mechanisms are in place to offset the negative environmental impact and that the planned production volumes are acceptable. During the permit procedure, the company will have the possibility to modify its initial application," said Kosenkranius.

The EIA report also took into account and addressed certain issues that were missing from an earlier impact assessment report that provided the basis for the building permit annulled in court.

For instance, the new report identifies risks associated with the handling of certain waste chemicals and addresses the plant's potential impact on EU Natura 2000 sites.

The report was compiled by OÜ Hendrikson and Co. and commented on by the Estonian Health Board, the Estonian Rescue Board, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, and the Estonian Chamber of Environmental Associations, and later, by the Ministry of Climate and the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture.

Part of the permit application process involves the publication of a draft environmental permit or a draft refusal to grant a permit before a decision is taken.

In early November, the Estonian government decided it would be possible to issue time-limited complex permits in the future. According to the Ministry of Climate, this would enable allow the oil plant to be issued a complex permit. The new Auvere oil plant, which is set to cost €350 million, will also be able to recoup its investment.

The oil plant has been opposed by several environmentalist groups, who argue that Estonia should not increase its carbon emissions and should instead be reducing its use of fossil fuels.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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