New minister reiterates plan to ensure quality gas at pumps

New minister reiterates plan to ensure quality gas at pumps

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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NEWLY appointed Minister of Energy Fayval Williams yesterday reiterated the Government's position to explore legislation that would ensure that consumers receive quality gas at the pumps.

She was speaking at the Texaco Centenary Anniversary press launch at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, where she stopped short of echoing the 2016 announcement of former minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley, who declared that legislation and regulations were being developed concerning the sale of contaminated gas.

“As the minister with responsibility for energy, I want to assure you of the Government's firm commitment to the industry and our continued support in areas of policy and the maintenance of industrial harmony within the sector. We are committed to ensuring that consumers receive quality petroleum and petroleum products to meet their energy needs.

“The ministry is committed to creating the legislative framework that would ensure not only quality, but safety in accordance with international best practices for the benefit of the motoring public,” said Williams, who was last week appointed to the portfolio by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Williams' statement comes after reports emerged over the weekend that the country could be on the verge of another bad-gas saga.

The energy industry was a few years ago thrown into a tailspin, with hundreds of motorists claiming damage to their vehicles from contaminated fuel which they bought at service stations across the island. The affair came to a boil late 2015 into 2016, resulting in seething tempers and finger-pointing between the retailers and their suppliers, with motorists demanding compensation.

Dr Wheatley — who last year resigned amid the explosive Petrojam scandal — when he assumed office in March 2016, said the legislation and regulations were being developed as a matter of priority and urgency.

“The Government remains resolute in our commitment to ensure that measures are in place to protect consumers,” he said then in the Lower House.

He had also said that the Petroleum Inspectorate, which was established in the Bureau of Standards following the bad gas saga, would protect retailers and consumers from having a repeat of the situation.

Yesterday, Williams told the Jamaica Observer that the legislation is coming.

“We're supposed to be putting in new legislation — obviously anything that we can do to improve the quality of the product. From a legislative perspective, we're committed to doing that. I will be significantly briefed on all the issues in the industry, but today I might not be able to give in-depth knowledge of that legislation,” she said.

On Monday, Opposition People's National Party's (PNP) spokesman on energy Phillip Paulwell called on Williams to update the nation on the implementation of recommendations by the Petroleum Trade Reform Committee (PTRC) that investigated the substandard product in the market in 2015.

Paulwell, in a news release, said he was extremely surprised to hear of new reports of the possible existence of bad gas in the petroleum retail sector.

He said Cabinet had accepted the report from the PTRC on August 22, 2016, and agreed to implement a series of recommendations.

The spokesman said both former Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his capacity as minister of energy, failed to follow up and ensure that the events of 2015 were not repeated.

Paulwell is now asking the new energy minister to clarify whether the PTRC and the relevant agencies had ceased its implementation meetings since October 2016, and what steps she intends to take to ensure that all the recommendations are implemented to guarantee quality standards in Jamaica's petroleum sector.

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