The ghost of the controversial Cahill waste to energy project has apparently returned to haunt the new Mia Mottley Government.
This morning Minister of the Environment and National Beautification, Trevor Prescod, expressed surprise that legal issues surrounding the $700 million plasma gasification project, which was dumped by the then Freundel Stuart administration, has resurfaced three years later.
“There has been some communication to Government from some new entity representing that agency. I can’t say if it is a lawsuit but it appears there is some element of Cahill in the business and politics of Barbados. The presence of Cahill and its agents is still very much here,” lamented Prescod.
It was last Tuesday that Prime Minister Mottley revealed in Parliament that Government received legal correspondence from a successor entity, seeking to assert legal rights in the abandoned project.
“Yesterday I received a letter from the successor entity to Cahill seeking to claim legal rights against the Government of Barbados,” Mottley said charging these were “contracts signed under the cover of night before the Cabinet of Barbados got to see them”.
This morning Prescod opted not to go into detail about the nature of the redress being sought nor any possible financial exposure to the taxpayers of Barbados.
While in Opposition the BLP had demanded clarity on the details of the agreement between Government and the Guernsey-based Cahill Energy in March 2014, which resulted in a huge outcry from the public.
According to then Minister of the Environment, Denis Lowe, the decision to halt the multimillion-dollar project, which was to be based at Vaucluse, St Thomas, had taken into consideration events in London and other places, which had revealed that waste-to-energy operations and plasma gasification projects had shown up significant flaws.
“So I assure the public today the Government ain’t going nowhere with that option. It can’t do it, not after the fact that so many Barbadians made their voices heard and told their Government ‘be cautious, hold back on this thing’. We don’t understand it enough. There are other options we can explore. The Government of Barbados would have to be absolutely collectively mad to move ahead on an option where there is global evidence that there are flaws with the technology,” Lowe said back then.
Minister of Energy Wilfred Abrahams, who was an Opposition Senator at the time and a lawyer for groups opposed to the construction of the waste-to-energy plant, cautioned that Government would have to fork out a “substantial sum” in penalties for breaching its agreement with the Guernsey-based energy firm. He claimed back then that there was a “done deal” in place, which called for Government to provide all of the garbage needed for plasma gasification.
Abrahams also said Government had ensured that the necessary legislation had been passed in both Houses of Parliament for the acquisition of lands at Vaucluse, St Thomas for the project, for which he contended the country could not meet the garbage requirement and would, therefore, have had to import waste.
“The minister needs to say what is the Government of Barbados’ exposure, and as a consequence, yours and my exposure as taxpayers, for breaching this Cahill contract,” Abrahams argued.
He had charged that the Stuart administration had previously denied entering into the agreement with Cahill and only admitted to it when they eventually announced that the project was dead.
“They [Government] went recklessly, irresponsibly, selfishly, under the cover of darkness and entered an agreement that they refused to accept, up to the time the minister said they were no longer going ahead with it,” argued Abrahams.