TALLINN – The Estonian government at a Cabinet sitting on Thursday approved 14 million euros in special aid to East-Viru County to improve the competitiveness of local businesses and help preserve jobs.
"The oil shale sector is the largest employer in East-Viru County and the livelihood of thousands of families depends on it. As the outbreak has reduced both electricity consumption and global demand for oil products, government support is essential until the situation returns to normal," Prime Minister Juri Ratas said in a press release.
He added that at the same time, the sector must adapt and implement developments that contribute to cleaner energy production.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas said that a package of measures has been developed to assist the sector.
"These include a reduction in the environmental fee for ash deposit and temporary compensation for the special use fee for water pumped out of quarries and mines. The use of fuel with a fiscal marker for oil shale quarrying equipment and devices would also be temporarily allowed," Aas said.
After studies, oil shale ash was excluded from the list of hazardous waste from this year. The amendment would lower the fee rate for oil shale ash to the same level as the fee rate for oil shale mining waste. In the second half of the year, the Ministry of the Environment is planning to come up with amendment proposals regarding a more wide-ranging system of pollution charges for waste in the oil shale sector.
Aas emphasized that companies can also apply to Kredex for a loan or loan guarantee, if necessary.
According to the government, the export revenue of shale oil producers amounted to 390 million euros last year. The sector employs around 7,600 people and involves thousands more in the region.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Justice will prepare specific amendments of the aid package and submit them to a government meeting.