Ventspils council accused of «dual standards» on environmental protection

Aivars Lembergs, the long-time mayor of Ventspils and one of the most controversial figures in Latvian politics, has come under heavy fire from one of the main businesses located in the port town.

In a statement titled "Theory and reality of doing business in Ventspils" the owners of the Ventspils nafta terminals (Ventspils oil terminal, VNT) say the council is blocking moves to install a vapor recovery unit (VRU) at a cost of €5 million that would improve environmental standards for residents of Ventspils.

"Recently the Chairman of Ventspils City Council [Lembergs] in his weekly videoconference stated that the type of cargo a terminal handles is secondary, while the compliance with environmental standards comes first.

"Ventspils nafta termināls (VNT) follows exactly the same principle by focusing all efforts on the installation of a vapour recovery unit (VRU) that would not only contribute to higher environmental standards in Ventspils, but also create an opportunity for VNT to increase the volume of transhipped cargoes in Ventspils port," said the VNT release.

VNT believes that the board of Ventspils Freeport, represented also by four members of Ventspils City Council, could review the VRU related matters very quickly if they wanted, but are deliberately dragging their feet. 

"The Chairman of Ventspils City Council and Chairman of the board of Ventspils Freeport, in the interview with the television channel TV3 commented that the plans of VNT regarding the installation of the VRU could never come true.

"Such mixed messages reveal the existing dual standards and the drastic difference between theory and reality, which negatively affect long-term business development opportunities and growth of economic activities in Ventspils in general, especially in current times of declining cargo volumes," VNT said.

VNT's Lars Pantzlaff said: “We expressed our readiness to invest 5 million euro into the VRU a long time ago, and we live up to our promise. Regretfully, we hear statements of the Chairman of Ventspils City Council, who also performs duties of the Chairman of the board of Ventspils Freeport, regarding the likelihood of installing the VRU. This raises questions and doubt about the true intentions of leading officials in Ventspils and their commitment to raise environmental standards, welfare of local residents, and stable cargo flow through the port of Ventspils, thus also neglecting the interests of the state.”

Control of the lucrative flow of oil and cargo through Ventspils has long been a major battleground in Latvian business. Lembergs, now into the ninth year of a trial for major graft, is regarded by many to run Ventspils as his own personal fief. However, he has repeatedly beaten off efforts to unseat him and remains an influential figure within the Greens and Farmers Union political party, recently participating in meetings to choose the prime minister.  

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Economy
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