Independent candidate Arnold Cassola has called Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia a "bluffer" and warned the Labour government is proposing to change the law to weaken environmental protection. 

Speaking outside the environment ministry in Santa Venera on Tuesday, Cassola said Farrugia had never published a calendar of meetings - something he had promised to do years ago - and said that the minister was now quietly pushing for a relaxed regime of fines for environmental offences. 

The independent electoral candidate was referring to a public consultation by the Environment Ministry published on January 12, which seeks to amend laws governing daily penalties for environmental contraventions. The public consultation closed on February 9. 

Among other changes, the draft Legal Notice would see offenders who are subject to multiple daily penalties only be liable to pay the highest one applicable at any one time. 

It will also give contraveners the right to petition the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal and simplify the list of environmental breaches..

Currently, anyone found to be breaching multiple environmental laws must pay the daily penalty for each breach separately until all offences are addressed to the satisfaction of the Environment and Resources Authority. 

“It is completely shameful that it is now the Minister for the Environment himself who is using ERA to propose changes to the regulations which will seriously weaken the system of daily fines for offences against the Environment Protection Act,” Cassola said.

“Basically, Aaron Farrugia has reduced ERA to being the government’s lapdog instead of the guardian of our environment.”

Cassola said he was also very concerned about the proposal to involve the EPRT.

“Our country’s experience of the use of review boards and tribunals has never been a happy one and this proposal, made by a minister with very little credibility in effective environmental enforcement, raises suspicion that another mechanism is being created to allow environmental offenders to get away scot-free,” he said. 

Cassola said Farrugia is also the same minister who is proposing a flyover instead of a garden in Msida and a petrol station inside the Ta' Xbiex gardens. 

"This is folly," he added, warning voters not to be taken in by Labour's "greenwash".

"Once again it is abundantly clear that the only way for environmental protection to be taken seriously is for people to vote for it," he said.

"This can be done by voting for honest independent and third-party candidates who have walked the talk in favour of the environment throughout their lives and have the will and credibility to protect the environment through concrete and direct action."   

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