Government launches designated spatial planning process for Est-For biorefinery project
The Estonian Government has launched the designated spatial planning process for the building of a modern biorefinery and the accompanying infrastructures, as well as a strategic assessment of its environmental impact. The purpose of the designated spatial planning process is to find the most suitable location for the EstFor BioRefinery within Viljandi or Tartu County in the immediate vicinity of River Emajõgi and to create the detailed plan for the suitable site to enable construction permitting.
Strategic environmental impact assessment is a compulsory element of the designated spatial planning process, however, the conducted impact assessment is much wider, covering the economic, cultural, social, and wildlife impacts of the project. Minister of Public Administration Mihhail Korb noted during the Government’s press conference that designated spatial planning is compulsory for investment projects of such scale.
Building such a huge industrial facility is in the interest of us all, as it helps to develop our timber sector, which is one of our economic engines. In addition, the refinery will help to introduce innovative technology, add value to our timber sector, and definitely create new jobs, Minister Korb added.
The Ministry of Finance, responsible for finding the planning contractor and procuring the necessary research and analysis work, will carry out the designated spatial planning process. The process of designated spatial planning and impact assessment will take approximately two years.
Aadu Polli Member of the Est-For Invest Management Board said that the entrepreneurs behind the project intend to carry out more research than the Estonian legislation requires to ascertain the environmental impact of the refinery project.
Already in the beginning of this year, CentAR applied research centre carried out the socio-economic impact assessment of the refinery. We also intend to carry out studies exploring optimal timber use and availability of raw material in Estonia and Latvia, as well as the carbon cycle impact assessment, which would explore the positive impact of the refinery on Estonia’s national commitments in the framework of the Paris climate agreement, said Polli.
Aadu Polli added that local communities and municipalities would be involved in the discussions around establishing the refinery so that they would be able to think about the process and ask questions right from the start. Experts of Estonian universities and research institutions will be asked to contribute to answering the rising questions; the process of applied research will be supported by the Est-For Academic Council established on the initiative of three Estonian public universities.