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MPs divided on pulp mill national designated spatial plan

The planned pulp mill would require a substantial portion of the wood logged in Estonia each year.
The planned pulp mill would require a substantial portion of the wood logged in Estonia each year. Source: (ERR)

A number of MPs find that it is difficult for the Estonian government to decide without the facts whether or not to move forward with the national designated spatial plan for a pulp mill to be built on the shore of the Emajõgi River in Southern Estonia. In addition to surveys, some MPs want more motivating factors to be offered than just local jobs, or for the pulp mill to be built in Ida-Viru County in Northeastern Estonia instead.

Chairman of the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu and former Minister of the Environment Marko Pomerants (IRL) told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" that this was a typical situation in Estonia, in which people do not want new developments near their homes.

Pomerants is encouraging the Estonian government to move forward with the pulp mill national spatial plan according to the path prescribed by the Planning Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act.

"We have not even gotten any further in this process than the Estonian government launching this national spatial plan," explained the committee chairman. "No substantive activities have taken place. These activities can only take place, environmentally speaking, once a strategic environmental assessment program is first drawn up."

Constitutional Committee member Jaak Madison (EKRE) likewise recommends that the government move forward with the planned environmental impact assessments.

"The government must consider the full picture to ensure that the interests of all parties involved are represented," Madison said. "Thus the locals' living environment would be protected and the natural environment would not be damaged, but at the same time, sustainable industrial development would be ensured, as industry is what creates jobs, increases wages and at the same time helps add value to our forestry."

Karilaid: Local government should be allowed to veto

Free Party chairman Artur Talvik said, however, that he feels as though the forest industry has done a great deal of lobbying on behalf of the national designated spatial plan, and this should not be allowed. He believes that the first thing to be decided should be how much forest, by species, can even be logged.

Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Jaanus Karilaid (Center) found that the government should abandon the designated spatial plan.

"In the current situation, I think they should," Karilaid said. "It is unreasonable for the central power to overrule a local council. I think it would be wise to amend the Planning Act to include a provision that local governments retain the right to a veto."

In his opinion, this right to veto would force central powers to negotiate more with local governments as well as offer additional motivation on top of jobs, for example financial investments into the local living environment.

Michal: Build it in Ida-Viru County

According to Economic Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu member and former Minister of Finance Kristen Michal (Reform), the mill in question would be welcomed in Ida-Viru County in Northeastern Estonia, as the region is already home to skilled workers.

"There is clearly a pretty big difference in whether this mill will be build near a city the second biggest city [in Estonia], or into an actual industrial area," Michal said, adding that the construction of a modern mill in Ida-Viru County would not negatively impact the local living environment.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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