Thursday, December 28, 2006

A battle not yet won

Dear friends
The anti-smelter movement in Trinidad and Tobago has had a significant victory. On Christmas Eve in an address to the nation, Prime Minister Patrick Manning announced that plans for a smelter in Chatham/Cap de Ville would be scrapped. While Manning still dismissed health and environmental concerns and announced that Alcoa's project would be moved to Otaheite, it is clear to the nation that the people of Chatham in keeping up the pressure caused the Prime Minister a moment of doubt.
The implications of this are far reaching for all involved in activist work in Trinidad and Tobago. There have been too few people driven successes against the might of the state corporation and the success of this lobby is a victory for all citizens.
The war against aluminium smelting and other visionless policies regarding industrialisation and monetisation of our natural resources is far from won. Let the Christmas Eve victory for the people of Chatham be a warning shot to the government and those in opposition that never again will we sit around and allow others to determine our destiny. Let this too be a time for the NGO movement to reach across the race, class, ideological divisions and begin to truly address the problems plaguing Trinidad, of which the smelter is merely a symptom.
The Rights Action Group looks forward to the New Year, to redoubling national efforts to have our voices heard. In the media, in the university, in parliament, in the streets.
We call on the people of Otaheite to gather strength from the unrelenting efforts of the people of Chatham/ Cap de Ville and for all those who have been standing on the sidelines observing to get informed and get involved. We commit ourselves to continuing the battle to save Trinidad and Tobago and thank you for your support thus far.
Yours in struggle,

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reflections on Christmas Eve

Christopher Castagne
December 24, 2006

By the time you read this you would have heard of the announcement by the `Honourable' Prime Minister Patrick Manning during his Christmas Eve address to the nation that the government is not going ahead with the Chatham/Cap-de-Ville smelter!

It must be noted at this juncture that this is simply a further manifestation (and a predicted one at that!) of the truth of which we have been reminded on more than one occasion before - i.e., simply stated, that THE PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER!!!

Contrary to whatever the media, the Government, and myriad other public sources of information will say, there is absolutely no other reason for this latest about turn by the Government outside of the relentless, sustained public pressure, of many forms including and especially the use objective fact-based, informed perspectives on the issue, but also the so-called "emotional" and "misinformed" displays, which were really grounded in truth from the beginning and which led to the former.

Throughout the life of this issue the proponents of the projects, especially the Government, have tried to use the tactic of intimidation by making the public feel like the fight was hopeless ("yuh doh like smelter, we bringin three!"), that the Government will go ahead regardless, that it was "a done deal"!

And throughout that time, they have succeeded to a great extent in that pursuit of weakening the resolve of persons concerned about the issue- but only among those who were the weakest links from the beginning! Among those really serious about it, those with pure unselfish passion for nature, nation and fellow man and woman, whose actions, untainted by ulterior motives, remained fuelled only by "Boundless faith in our destiny"- among these Power People- it only served to strengthen the resolve that much more!

And while this latest development may be given a lot of attention, it is important to recognize that these two fundamental truths- [(i) that the people have the power and (ii) that truth with Patient Perseverance brings success,] have been proven by small victories which have occurred during the life of this struggle, but which sadly were missed by the majority, and that this is only the latest of a long line of such victories. But as they say- "Those who have eyes to see shall see!"

As such, let us then understand that these victories will continue- but only as long as we continue the struggle. Let us also heighten our senses so that we are able to recognize even the smallest of these victories when they do occur.

The timing of this occurrence is fitting, for while the birth and message of Christ were great blessings to mankind, we have witnessed the perversion of both by the powers that were (and those that continue to be), sometimes unconsciously and often with the best of intentions, but ultimately for their own gain. Yet they will never be able to reverse nor erase the essence and power of these blessings. So too, let us remain vigilant in being grounded in truth, honesty and confident humility, lest we too get carried away in the perversions and misuse of this positive energy which will inevitable occur, or at least be attempted.

Merry Christmas Everybody, And May God Bless Our Nation.

Christopher E. M. Castagne


Save our Wetlands

by Radhica Sookraj

While many are enjoying the Christmas festivities, residents of Aripero and Oropouche have put aside their celebrations and have started doing research on what they fear will be the impending destruction of the Oropouche wetlands.

The residents were catapulted into action on Christmas Eve when Prime Minister Patrick Manning announced the abandonment of plans to build an aluminium smelter at Chatham, stating that the plant will be relocated to an industrial estate which Government plans to create using reclaimed land on the Otaheite Bank.

Manning announced that the establishment of the offshore estate will be accelerated, to facilitate aluminium production.

But environmental conservator John Keens Dumas said the construction of the offshore estate will affect ocean currents, nesting grounds and the fishing industry in the Gulf of Paria.

Dumas, who is a member of the group Neighbours Incorporated, said they have started doing research into the effects of the proposed off-shore industry.

“We believe that this industry, if it is built off the Otaheite Bank, will have implications for the Oropouche Bank, the Oropouche wetlands and the Rousillac swamp, located further west of Otaheite,” Dumas said.

He said the swamp is a spawning ground for marine life. Dumas explained that the Oropouche swamp, located at Mosquito Creek, is also a wetland and there was a possibility that with industrial activity the natural habitat of the protected Scarlet Ibis will be affected.

“The other wetland is the Rousillac swamp and the Aripero Village is bounded by the Rousillac swamp, so undoubtedly there will be repercussions if that plant is built,” Dumas said.

He added: “The entire hydro-dynamics of circulation in the Gulf, as well as the ocean currents, will be affected. We have to be careful in how we affect the circulation of the sea. This is where we have the entire food chain and, once we affect that, there will be a domino effect once you start messing with the natural forces,” Dumas said.

He said that the fishing industry in Otaheite will also be affected.

“We are still doing our research to determine whether this offshore estate will destroy the fishing industry in the South.”

Meanwhile, another activist—Judy Mc Lean—said residents are planning to meet on Old Year’s Day to discuss their concerns. We are prepared to stage protests and do whatever it takes to protect our coast,” Mc Lean said.

She added that she has already started doing legal research to stop the construction.

—Alcoa responds on Page 5

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Anti-smelter lobbyists still up in arms

by Shaliza Hassanali
Trinidad Guardian
December 26, 2006

Representatives of two organisations who lobbied bitterly against Alcoa’s proposed aluminium smelter at Cap de Ville/Chatham, yesterday hit out at Government’s plan to accelerate development of a new industrial estate offshore Otaheite Bank, from which aluminium production can be pursued, together with other industrial plants.
The announcement was made by Prime Minister Patrick Manning on Sunday night in his Christmas and year-end review statements.
In light of that announcement, Government can expect massive protest from people living between Mosquito Creek to Aripero Village, who warned that they would give no support to Manning’s new plan.
Government will however continue with the Alutrint plant at La Brea, which could form the basis for further aluminium production facilities in the country.
In a telephone interview, secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, Gary Aboud said while anti smelter activists and supporters are claiming this stand down as a major victory for the community, it will not change the environmental impacts and health concerns that were highlighted by environmentalists months ago.
“These problems would not go away. We are just shifting the problem from one area to another,” Aboud said.
Aboud also complained that the relocation would wipe out all fish life in the Gulf of Paria.
As it stands, Aboud said, the fish industry was struggling to keep its head above water due to Government lack of support and interest.
Pointing out that the Gulf of Paria was prone to flooding, Aboud said that the Government would also have to spend million of dollars in pile driving to develop the area, which does not have firm soil.
Also of concern to Aboud are the disposal of spent potliners and the price at which gas will be sold when the smelter plant comes on stream, as well as the amount of water to be consumed.
“Citizens of the country continue to remain in the dark with regards to these issues. The Government is not coming clean. We need answers,” he said.
Chairman of Yes TT and the Keith Noel 136 Committee, Stephen Cadiz, described the news as utter madness, stating that his organisation and thousands of other people are not in support of smelters in T&T.
“I think Manning bounced his head by making this move. We have only shifted the issue to another area, which is even more populated, Cadiz said, adding that nothing would surprise him anymore.
“I don’t know what Manning was thinking when he came up with this idea. It makes no sense at all,” he said.

Aluminum Smelting - Speaking in Tongues

by Julian Kenny
Trinidad Express
December 26, 2006

"With that in mind, if the currently proposed smelter goes ahead at Cap de Ville, it would be Alcoa's preference for the site to be designed so that room could remain available for expansion of the smelter and to enable consideration of an alumina refinery at some stage in the future".

Mr Randy Overbey, President, Primary Metals Development Letter to Express January 23rd 2005.

Presumably few readers will actually recall the substance of a long letter by Mr Overbey of Alcoa almost two years ago. The letter appeared in response to my January 18th column entitled "Bhopalising Trinidad". I had invoked the name of Bhopal, a city in India, in which Union Carbide, an American multinational, had established a pesticide manufacturing industry, in which there was a release of a highly toxic gas cloud that killed over 3,000 citizens and permanently injured an even larger number.

The column was responded to that very day through a phone call to me from someone who identified himself as president of primary metals of Alcoa. I did not actually record the conversation but I did make a record of the salient points raised by the caller, including the question as to whether I happened to be a lawyer.

The thing that struck me with Bhopal, and continues to strike me, is that the compensation arrangement following the tragedy was between Union Carbide and the Government of India. The victims had no say in the matter, as they would have had, had they been in the United States. An Indian life had been calculated to be worth no more than US$24,000! It is not that I expected an aluminium smelter to produce a toxic gas cloud. Indeed, if heaven forbid, we do have an industrial accident or "event", I would expect it within the energy industry. They happen, in spite of the best technology, even in the developed world.

The coining of the word "bhopalisation" was meant to focus attention on the risks of foreign direct investment in heavy industrialisation. Suppose a citizen at one of the foreign-owned industries is killed or injured, may the family take legal action in the country of the foreign direct investor? I doubt it.

But rummaging through archives I happened upon Mr Overbey's letter to the Express in response to my earlier column. The letter was written long before the smelter issue developed into what it is today. And I reflect also on Alcoa's "Smelter in a Park" proposal and integrating the smelter into the "ecosystem".

Now, the letter is obviously rather longer than the quotation above and I suppose that I may be charged with quoting material out of context. Nevertheless, I defy anyone to challenge the meaning of the extract, coming as it was near the end of the letter. Room for expansion of the smelter and the possibility of an alumina refinery! Read the quotation again! This is why it is of paramount importance that there be full disclosure of both the May 25th 2004 Memorandum of Understanding, and, the February 2006 Memorandum of Agreement referred to by Mr Alain Belda, President/CEO of Alcoa Inc.

But the story does not end there. And we must thank the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the accessibility of its Administrative Record. The Draft Air Pollution Rules 2005 were laid out for public comment with a closing date of November 11th 2005. Alcoa wrote to the EMA on November 18th after the closing date, the letter being received on November 22nd in which the Environmental Manager, one Mr Steven H Myers, stated inter alia - "Alcoa believes that the "Short Term Maximum Level" proposed for hydrogen fluoride 24 hour averaging is unnecessarily stringent and cannot be achieved using best available technology for an aluminium smelter", and "From and economic standpoint, the proposed limit would unnecessarily impose a cost of around US$200 million on the project for installation of either fresh or salt water scrubbers on the roof of the aluminium smelting potrooms". Just read the extracts again. The standard supposedly cannot be achieved using the best available technology, yet it goes on to say that it would cost US$200 million to achieve what is unachievable.

The symposium on smelters was also supposed to provide information on the proposed aluminium industry. And it did succeed in some ways, but raised more questions that remain unanswered. The invited expert, Colin Pratt, did not mention it in his presentation but a question from the floor elicited a response that had you alternative use for natural gas you would not use it for an aluminium smelter.

A question from the floor also elicited a response from the representative of the EMA that rather than lay standards in Parliament, the EMA preferred to retain flexibility and settle standards with applicants for CECs for industrial proposals. Will deviation from their published standard to accommodate Alcoa not destroy their credibility?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Manning shelves smelter plan

Santa delivers early to Chatham residents
by Roxanne Stapleton
Trinidad Express
December 25, 2006

IN A shocking move last night, Government backed down from plans to establish an industrial estate in Cap-de-Ville.

This essentially means that there will be no smelter built at Chatham, much to the delight of the area's residents, who have united against the construction of a proposed Alcoa aluminium smelter in a series of explosively bitter, physical protests.

Instead, the Patrick Manning-led administration is to accelerate development of a new industrial estate offshore Otaheite Bank, "from which aluminium production can now be pursued, together with other industrial plants".

The highly charged statement came in the Prime Minister's Christmas and year-end review, which was aired to the nation last night from 7.30.

"We will continue with the Alutrint plant at La Brea, which could also form the basis for further aluminium production facilities in this country," Manning said.

Anti-smelter activists and supporters yesterday claimed this stand-down as a major victory for their camp, though this round is simply limited to a change in location.

Last night, strongly defending his Cabinet's stance that, come what may, it is unlikely that they would relinquish plans to establish aluminium smelting in this country, Manning described the recent symposium on the issue as being both "quite successful and helped in determining the direction we must now follow".

"Our symposium produced the very salient conclusion that the two proposed aluminium smelters present no unmanageable threat, either to the environment or to the health of the population," he said.

In fact, he said the symposium concluded, on health and environmental grounds, that there was no bar to the establishment of an aluminium industry in Trinidad and Tobago and that risks "as may exist are quite manageable".

Manning reiterated that the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) "has set the strictest standards for the pursuit of aluminium smelting facilities", adding that Cabinet will ensure the standards are met.

Commenting on the announcement, anti-smelter activist, Prof Julian Kenny, told the Express that the Government ought "to be commended for listening to the views of the people of Chatham/Cap-de-Ville and independent views from the wider public".

Kenny said that while the idea of building an island offshore Otaheite has been bandied about, it poses a threat to "the important fish and shrimp harvesting area at the Oropouche Bank".

"My point has always been if you want to develop an aluminium industry, my preference would be for importation of primary aluminium ingots, as does Japan, South Korea and other countries," Kenny said.

"My reasoning is the cost of smelting aluminium using natural gas is far costlier, by about a factor of ten to one, as opposed to the downstream use of aluminium."

Human rights activist/attorney, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, who on Friday filed a constitutional motion in the San Fernando High Court to stop construction on the proposed Alcoa plant, slammed Manning's statements as inconsistent. (See Page 9.)

"Aluminium smelting, the Prime Minister agrees, is dangerous and needs to be managed. If it's dangerous to human health in Chatham, why have it in La Brea. You'll allow it to kill people in La Brea and Otaheite?

"The EMA, in any event, does not have the expertise, nor the human resource to police all poisonous emissions from aluminium smelters. We are going to oppose smelters in any location," he stressed.

Maharaj insisted that the relevant laws are not in place to assist Manning in his quest, adding that at the end of the day, the laws will be against the Prime Minister.

Opposition Senator, Wade Mark, said no information had reached his party as to the conclusions of the symposium, adding that it is incredible that the Prime Minister could have drawn such conclusive evidence.

"His statement appears to be ill-informed. He must understand that 89 per cent of the population in two surveys conducted... said that they didn't want any aluminium smelters.

"The Prime Minister should pursue a new line of industrialisation," Mark said.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Grecian gathering

by Senator Mary King
Trinidad Express
December 11, 2006

I was not invited to the one-day symposium on the aluminium smelters. However, I am aware of what took place because of video recordings and notes taken by a colleague. Neither have the views expressed at the symposium nor did those of our Government posit the proposal in the context of whether we can develop globally competitive aluminium businesses, owned by the citizens of T&T (the Demas/Porter development model).

However, it is obvious that the Alcoas of this world are clear as to what subsidies they require (e.g. in the price of gas to make electricity) and what pollution levels they are willing to accept so that they can develop their competitive industry.

Colin Pratt, one of the invited experts, explained that the FDI smelters are looking for sources of fuel for the smelters that are "isolated islands"of energy. In other words, there is little else the country could do with the energy so the investor can negotiate cheap prices for, say, natural gas from the NGC.

It is worth noting that a participant from the floor asked Mr Pratt whether he considered that T&T had little else to do with its energy resources. Mr Pratt said no, i.e. we have other more lucrative uses for our energy. He also reminded us that though Norway had many smelters that country uses its isolated hydro-electric power in the aluminium industry and reserves its natural gas for input into the European pipeline where returns to Norway are much higher. He added that the US has not built another smelter in a long time, not only because of environmental concerns, but because that country has more financially lucrative uses for its natural gas.

Further, Mr Pratt pointed out that what the investor feared could happen in, say, Australia where the fuel being used was brown coal that produced large amounts of carbon dioxide (green house gas), is increases in taxes via a carbon tax. Hence investors are looking for low-carbon sources like hydro and natural gas.

Gregory McGuire (UWI) told us that the maximum price that the investors are willing to pay today for electricity is of the order US1.5 cents per KWh. In T&T the commercial price of electricity is some US4 cents per KWh. NGC will have to offer gas to the smelters at a cost substantially below the price it can get from other commodity plants in the country. As a business venture the return on our depleting natural resources for aluminium smelting is below what we are getting at the moment-a reduction on the productivity of our resources. This would be a backward step in our economic development.

Of concern is whether NGC's gas pricing strategy leans towards facilitating the smelters or maximising return on our resources. Mr McGuire then postulated that the reason our people may be willing to subsidise the smelters is because they can produce jobs. However, Paul Lochner, another Alcoa expert, stated that smelters provide a low level of job creation after the plant is built; a US$2 billion investment produces jobs for 1,000 people. Hence it is important, he said, to downplay the inflated job expectations of the society.

Mr McGuire agrees with this column that the smelters simply extend the Point Lisas model, however, I may add, with the constraint also that their productivity in the use of gas is lower than other processing plants and LNG. He concludes that we need to examine also the benefit that we could receive for this subsidy from a downstream aluminium industry. Yet he was very cautious, since Point Lisas is only now, after some 30 years, beginning to go downstream. These proposed downstream plants, UAN etc, are not really a move into the investment or innovation stages, but one still in the exploitation of basic factors (cheap feed stock).

Further, Mr McGuire pointed to the claim, also made in this space, that FDI investment did not encourage technological dispersion in the country, i.e. the locals did not learn or use the technologies introduced. Point Lisas has shown that there is little local equity participation in the sector and in investing downstream.

But the Government is banking on the creation of an aluminium downstream sector. Prakash Saith stated at the symposium that Alcoa will not be allowed to build a smelter unless Alcoa goes downstream also. The hope there is for FDI to create more jobs is the added value part of the industry.

What the Government has failed miserably to understand is that for competitive economic development the downstream will only make sense if it is owned by local or regional capital. We have an opportunity to use our brains and we can make it globally competitive. (To continue)

Mr. Manning's Industrial Explosion

Dear Editor,
Today more than one billion people live on less than one dollar a day yet the world boasts about such high degree of industrialization and economic development.
Well here in our twin island, our beloved Mr. Manning is singing a mantra about this country is on the road to having the highest energy consumption per capita while the other 1st world nations are trying to reduce energy consumption. Now tell me, what type of sustainable development is this and is destroying the environment and depleting a nation’s natural resources part of your so-called vision 2020? -such strategically thinking individuals!
On the 6th of this month, I attended the symposium held to educate the public about the aluminium industry in Trinidad and Tobago. Shouts of pains echoed throughout the auditorium where the majority of people objected to the construction of the smelter plants, but what appalled me was on the same day the daily newspaper read-‘ Symposium will not stop smelter-Manning,’ I am now questioning whether this country really is a democratic one. Is the word ‘democracy’ erased form this government’s vocabulary or do their conveniently utilize it? Well as one of my colleague boldly stated if the voice of the people is ignored the only power we as a society possess now is our civil right- the right to vote.
Endless acres of nutrition packed soil lie naked due our government’s educated plan for industrialization. Mr. Prakash Saint, President Of The National Energy Corporation whose brother is coincidently Mr. Lenny Saint, Minister in The Ministry Of Energy and Energy Industries stated the main purpose of the two smelter plants is for economic diversification. When last did you buy food, because if you visit the supermarket with the salary of a middle/low income person you will realize that only a mere number of goods can be purchased as basic rice and flour is overpriced. So then why can’t the government diversify into more agro-based businesses?
It is a pity where this country has reached, where the gap between the rich and poor is widening and nothing is being done to help the ‘small man’ in society yet it is due to his taxes that government officials are able to live life in luxury and flaunt the country’s money to their fancy. Well there is an old proverb that fits well in this scenario-‘What goes up MUST come down.’
ALCOA is a multinational, which means most of the revenue that is earned, is pumped to the mother country NOT Trinidad. Once the natural gas is depleted ALCOA will have no interest with Trinidad and what we will be left with is- a scarred economy, damaged eco-system and memories of a place that was once an independent virgin, now an abused and barren Chatham.
The spatial dualism that exists in the country is far too evident to place a blind eye to. More than 50% of this country’s wealth comes from South but ironically development is at its minimal. We are now experiencing an oil boom but instead of improving the standard of living and developing measures for poverty eradication, we are plagued by increasing food prices, inadequate medical services, deteriorating education system, accelerating unemployment rate and the inflation rate that is heading to the history books.
Mr Manning, you have once again showed the population your mastery of shooting without aiming. It is evident that your administration only seeks to satisfy their needs while the society suffers from your narrow minded and irrational decisions but rest assured for every action there is a equal and opposite reaction. In closing, Mr. Prime Minister, myself and every other citizen who will be affected in some form or fashion have power- the power to vote! Let him who has an ear, hear, and let the will of the people prevail!
Fyzabad Anglican Sec. School

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Smelter Deal under threat?

by Camini Maharaj
Sunday Express
December 10, 2006

Republic Finance and Merchant Bank has obtained a US$8.6 million judgment in default against Sural CA, Government's joint venture partner in the aluminium smelting company, Alutrint Ltd. And sources report, that Republic Bank is looking at seizing the assets of Sural's 40 per cent interest in Alutrint and its 60 per cent stakeholding in another government venture, Alutech Ltd, in its bid to recoup the outstanding US millions owed by the State's Venezuelan partner.

The Sunday Express obtained a copy of the judgment in default which was registered on October 10 this year in the local courts and which orders Sural CA or Suramericana De Aluminio CA to pay Republic Bank US$8,678,066.63 for debt and interest at a statutory rate of 12 per cent per annum plus TT$3,270 in legal costs.

Republic Bank took Sural to the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago after failed attempts to call in the outstanding debt from the Venezuelan company, headed by Alfredo Riviere, a director in Alutrint, Alutech and a Ken Julien firm, called Pan American Development Company Ltd.

In the uncontested claim filed in the local courts, Republic Bank said the money represented the balance owed on four outstanding loans to a wholly-owned Sural subsidiary, Techno Metals Ltd, also a Venezuelan registered company. Leopoldo Rodriguez, a manager and director of Sural, signed a guarantee bond in May 1997, naming Sural as a guarantor and giving an undertaking to accept full liability for credit facilities extended to the company.

Under the terms of the guarantee bond, signed by Alfredo Riviere and his son Carlos Riviere, Sural is legally obligated to Republic Bank until full settlement of the debt. Sural failed to respond to the bank's demand for payment, legal letters or even a court warning issued by the High Court that judgment could be entered against the aluminium smelting company.

The Sunday Express understands that Republic Bank is also considering going after Sural's Venezuelan operation in Los Palos Grandes, Caracas. Alfredo Riviere and his associate Renda Butler, both electrical engineers. are listed as directors in Alutrint Ltd and Alutech Ltd, a planned aluminium wheel manufacturing facility to be set up in Trinidad.

The two men are also directors in Julien's company, Pan American Development, which the Professor, in an initial response to Sunday Express enquiries, disclaimed any knowledge of. Anthony Bullock, one of his attorneys, in a threat of litigation against the Sunday Express, said the truth was, "he (Julien) forgot about its existence".

In detaling what he termed imputed defamation against Prof Julien, Bullock said: "With regard to the company Pan American Development Co Ltd, you are correct in reporting that there is such a company registered and that Prof Julien is recorded as a director. The company was registered at a time when it was intended to be used as a vehicle for a business venture which eventually was not pursued, The company never got off the ground and has never traded."

Bullock said it was his client's instructions that: "There has never even been any directors' meeting. More importantly, this company has never had any relationship with UTT. It is for these reasons that Prof Julien's immediate response to your query concerning this company was that he knew nothing of it. Simply put, he forgot about its existence."

Attempts by this newspaper to reach Alfredo Riviere on Friday was unsuccessful. Butler, the managing director of Alutrint was reported to be "in meetings" and failed to return several messages left at the Pasea Main Road, Tunapuna base. Efforts to contact Alutrint's finance director, Adrian Bernard and Philip Julien, project development manager at Aluntrint also proved futile.

Finance analysts questioned why government has gone into joint venture deals without conducting the requisite due diligence of its business partners.

Government breaking the law- Prof Kenny

by Kayode James
Sunday Guardian
December 10, 2006

Professor Julian Kenny emerged as one of the more vocal protesters of the Government’s smelter plans during last week’s symposium, where he presented compelling points against the construction of the controversial facility. The presentation by the prominent environmentalist entitled Heavy Industrialisation in Trinidad - the expansion into the south-western peninsula and the problems of processes constitution, law, national policy, international obligations and carrying capacity is summarised below.

Political note

At its core, Kenny’s presentation argued that the very process used to establish the planned aluminium-based industrial estates in the south-western peninsula was flawed at best, and arguably illegal.

According to Kenny, Cabinet’s unilateral decision to establish the smelter runs contrary to several laws and policies, including the Town and Country Planning Act, the Environmental Management Act (2000), and the Constitution itself.

Cabinet, Kenny explained, neglected its constitutional obligation to account to Parliament, particularly due to its failure to ensure that members of the National Energy Corporation and the National Gas Company answered questions posed to them by a Joint Select Committee chaired by Senator Mary King.

Kenny wrote, “Cabinet has refused to acknowledge receipt of an alternative regional developmental plan conceived by citizens, NGOs and CBOs based on sustainable use of the renewable natural resources of the south-western peninsula.” The move conflicts with the National Environmental Policy (2006), which states that community groups and NGOs “should be given an opportunity to share in managing their local resources and the right to participate in decisions.”

Kenny also pointed out the smelter plans conflict with several international treaties, including the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat.

Legal and technical loopholes characterised each of the five treaties identified, however, as was apparent with the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1999), which seeks to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions. T&T was an early signatory of the convention, but has not yet determined a limit for its industrial emission of the harmful gases.

Geographical implications

Kenny briefly outlined a wide cross-section of the flora and fauna of the peninsula’s ecosystem, and described the Carlisle and Quarahoon Rivers as the country’s only stable examples of tropical intermittent streams. Among the unique species of plants and wildlife he listed were the Oncidium Lanceanum orchid, the Cedros Balisier, the silver hatchet fish, and a local species of capybara.

“The peninsula would meet all the requirements for declaration as an Environmentally Sensitive Area under the Environmental Management Act and fulfil requirements of obligations under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity” he wrote.

Kenny dismissed the current scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment, saying that a proper scientific survey of the area would require more time and expertise.

Such scientific investigation, he explained, would also be necessary to further satisfy the requirements of the Town and Country Planning Act as well as the lapsed Planning and Development Bill of 2001.

Kenny added to the discourse surrounding the state of local agriculture by condemning the industrialisation of the south-west peninsula as a “further alienation of agricultural land that would seriously compromise the country’s agricultural future.”

“Many human settlements in the area will be seriously affected by displacement and lifestyle changes from rural self-sufficiency to factory wage dependency.”

Small-scale operations

Kenny acknowledged the significant advances made in the pollution reduction technology used by the aluminium industry, but questioned Alcoa’s stated intent to export spent pot liners.

“It would be unreasonable for the Environmental Management Authority to grant a Certificate of Environmental Clearance on the grounds of future export of spent pot liners in the absence of the required legislation and without formal agreements with the countries that may be affected,” he argued.

Like several other presenters, Kenny urged the panel to consider the feasibility of establishing a downstream aluminium manufacturing industry in T&T instead of a primary smelting facility.

“The Union Industrial Estate that has now been cleared of vegetation and graded might be considered the prime site for such industries, a savings in scarce land and energy,” he said.

He suggested a regional aluminium industry more in line with the vision of the late Dr Eric Williams, consisting of smelting facilities in Guyana and downstream industries in T&T and Jamaica. Guyana, he argued, would be better suited to handle a smelter facility because of its large size, whereas smelters in T&T would not augur well for a country with one of the highest population densities in the world.

Transparency in gas pricing

Dear Editor,
Dr Pratt, an expert at the Governments aluminium "symposium",
emphasised the pre requisite importance of the worlds cheapest gas for the success of the aluminium industry.
Dr Pratt is a technical advisor to Governments and Companies engaged in the aluminium industry.
Mr Charles Thavnot, an executive of British Gas here in Trinidad,
has last week written in the business section of the Guardian, warning that there will be burdensome financial penalties if Trinidad cannot meet its supply obligations to ALNG for the life of that project, that Trinidad has not had any new discovery of gas which would provide a justification for rushing into several (high gas consumption) aluminium enterprises, and that the Government ought to first find new gas before engaging in new gas intensive obligations.
Mr Thavnot's warning suggests that unless we find new gas, we will either pay burdensome penalties, or will need to buy gas from elsewhere (at higher prices) in order to meet supply obligations for the life of the ALNG project.

Why have the ALNG contracts and agreements been kept secret from public, and technical expertise?
The gas belongs to the people.
The old secret closed door deals must be stopped if we are to stamp out the slippery reputation that Governments have earned.
What exactly are the penalties that taxpayers will be forced to bear if we "give" the gas originally intended for ALNG to other new projects?
Industry sources have informed FFOS that these penalties will be 7 Million USD per day for failure to supply Train IV alone!
We direct the following three questions to Minister Lenny Saith,,
What are the exact Royalty, Netback, Well Head and all other named revenues and taxes from gas supplied to and processed at ALNG Trains I, II III and IV?
How do these revenues compare to other underdeveloped countries with gas processing agreements similar to ours, such as East Timor and Malaysia?
What is the price which the peoples gas is to be sold to Alcoa and Alutrint? Why is this being kept secret by Mr Manning and Saith? Is something being hid?
How does this price compare in actual value to other supply
agreements to other energy consumers such as the seven existing methanol facilities, the ten existing ammonia plants, Essar, Ansa McAl, Methanol Holdings, ethylene, polypropylene etc?
Every right thinking citizen is asking for complete, and not
selective, transparency in natural gas pricing so that we are all
better informed.
Why is Mr Saith, and his Prime Minister Patrick Manning avoiding the essence of the peoples concerns? Is honesty still the best policy?

Gary Aboud

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Chatham women to hold smelter talks

by Lara Pickford-Gordon
December 9, 2006

Chatham Women for the Protection of the Environment will be hosting a symposium next Wednesday from 5 pm to 9 pm at the Learning Resource Centre, University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus.

“This symposium will illustrate in a simple and logical manner the costs and any potential benefits of the proposed aluminium smelting industry in TT,” Muriel Amoroso, head of the Women’s group said at a media briefing yesterday at the office of YES TT at Roberts St Woodbrook.

Amoroso said the group was prepared to take the issue internationally . “We have taken it to the highest person in the world and that is God. We are saying the PM is forgetting who is the creator of heaven and earth,” Amoroso said.

She added that the group is looking for more people to join them and have more pressure groups formed in the country. Amoroso called for religious groups to hold prayer and fasting sessions and she extended an open invitation to interested persons to attend the forum. She stressed that the group did not have a political agenda although Amoroso admitted she once was a candidate for Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj’s now defunct party Team Unity. Dr Peter Vine, Industrial and Agriculture Physicist; Doolin Maharaj of the Women’s group and Wayne Kublalsingh, UWI lecturer in Liberal Arts, were present at the meeting.

Vine said the reliability of data being put out by the proponents of the smelter should be questioned. He said there were problems getting a technical report on the emissions and performance of the Chinese smelter which is the type proposed by the Alutrint smelter (at La Brea). He said there were flaws in the data collection exercise. A map produced by Environmental Impact Assessment indicated that the vegetation at Alcoa’s proposed site (at Chatham) was scrub and abandoned plantations. However, he said a large percentage of the area to be used for the factory was high forest. Vine said Alcoa has put PVC in two areas at the site. He believed this was done to test soil permeability.

Vine said, “On the basis of measuring in two places on a highly variable site puts a lot of doubt on the data they are collecting.”

Kublalsingh said projections should be done on the impact of the smelters on the flora and fauna.

He said “modelling” has been done indicating that the smelter would only eliminate small amounts of particle matter. However, Kublalsingh said the cumulative impact of these particles posed a threat to fisheries, flora and food supply in TT. He said the Health Ministry should do a study on the health impacts.

“A smelter is not going to knock you down in a week or two it is in 30 years, 40 years,”

Kublalsingh said relocation of residents and installing of gas pipes were other costs. The symposium will have three panel discussions. Speaking on the Health and Environment panel will be members of the Women’s group, economist Dennis Pantin, Professor Julian Kenny. The Economics and Energy panel will comprise Senator Mary King, Vine and a representative of the National Energy Corporation (NEC). And on the Alternative Industries panel are Professor John Spence, Petra Bridgemohan and former Agriculture Society President Wendy Lee Yuen.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My Lord, I rest the people's case

Prof Julian Kenny
Trinidad Express
December 5, 2006

My Lord, at the end of this trying hearing, which has consumed so many months of your patient attention, it is now my honour to summarise the people's case. This I assure your Lordship can be done in just a few paragraphs. The thrust of my argument is the legality of processes employed.

As your Lordship is undoubtedly aware, Section 75 (1) of our Constitution, while giving authority to the Cabinet for the general direction and control of the government of Trinidad and Tobago, goes on to state "and shall be collectively responsible therefore to Parliament". Our official language is English and the use of the word "shall" is clear - Cabinet is responsible to Parliament.

And My Lord, here is the first point of my argument. A constitutionally appointed Joint Select Committee of our Parliament did formally invite all of the major participants in the smelter issue to attend, give information and answer questions on the issue. Few of the senior persons actually attended, giving dubious excuses, and one even refused to attend. My Lord, I argue that this is a contempt of Parliament, and of the people, and I suggest that had Cabinet so wished, it could easily have instructed its agents to attend and give all the requested information.

My Lord, the second pillar of my submission is that the extant law regarding physical planning development is the Town and Country Planning Act Ch 35:01. It may be true that this Act is obsolete and it is true that during the past two decades desultory steps have been taken to replace it with a more up-to-date law. Ch 35:01 is nevertheless the law of the land, a law that all Cabinet members have sworn on Holy Books to uphold. Section 3 of the Act states unequivocally, when referring to the Minister, that he "shall secure consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a comprehensive policy with respect to use of all in Trinidad and Tobago in accordance with a development plan prepared in accordance with the provisions of Part II".

I will not burden Your Lordship with the fine details except to note that after more than a decade of preparation and deep public consultation a National Physical Development Plan (NPDP) was prepared by the Minister and submitted for the approval of Parliament, as required by Ch 35:01. This was approved unanimously by Parliament in 1984. The plan was supposed to have been updated by the Minister every five years but no Minister has ever done this in the 22 years since Parliament approved the first plan.

The area currently under threat was reserved for agriculture, forestry and rural development. I argue, your Lordship, that the very least that might be expected in a true democracy should have been a preparation of a regional plan in accordance with the provisions of Ch 35:01 involving broad public consultation and ultimately approval by Parliament. I respectfully suggest that you consider these two important points.

There are very many other points that I could raise, Your Lordship, but I focus only on three. We as a sovereign nation have signed many international conventions, some of which are not forcefully binding and some that are. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity is one that simply urges parties to do everything possible to conserve biological resources by various means, including establishment of a system of protected areas.

This obligation is adopted in our recently revised National Environmental Policy. The other treaty of interest is the Basel Convention that seeks to manage transboundary transport of toxic wastes. We signed this 12 years ago. Unfortunately, the treaty requires domestic legislation that has not yet been drafted and it must be noted that we are not permitted to ship wastes to a non-party country, such as the USA, except through bilateral treaty.

The second point I raise, Your Lordship, is that the biota of the south-western peninsula has been demonstrated scientifically to be unique in our country, as unique as that of the Aripo Savannah or the Nariva Swamp, supporting a large assembly of continental species of plants and animals not seen elsewhere in Trinidad. Our National Environmental Policy is unequivocal on conservation of unique ecosystems.

My final point, Your Lordship, concerns the sincerity of the framers of our National Environmental Policy in proposing citizen participation in decision-making regarding the use of the resources in their communities. It states that they should be given the right to participate - there is no ambiguity.

My Lord, as I close my argument for the people, a slip of paper was passed to me by counsel for the other side, even as I address you. May I read it Your Lordship? I may! Thank you Your Lordship. "Trust us, we know what we are doing. Stop being dotish and talking foolishness. Shut Up". Your Lordship on behalf of my clients, the people, I rest their case.

Friday, December 01, 2006

12 Reasons for No Smelters in T&T

1) Aluminium smelters are notoriously dangerous to human health and environment . These industries use large quantities of hazardous substances which, if ingested even in the tiniest of quantities, WILL result in cancer. Smelters generate complex toxic wastes which are very difficult, expensive and energy consuming to dispose of safely. Both ALCOA & ALUTRINT are proposing to ship their waste to USA. Toxic shipments from the developing world to USA would be unprecedented.

2) ‘Developed Nation States’ are eliminating aluminium smelters and other high risk heavily polluting industries and cleaning up toxic waste. No new smelters have been built in the USA in the last 25 years. These ‘heavy gas based industries’ are all moving into countries in the Southern Hemisphere where workers rights, labor costs and environmental legislation are weak and insufficient, and where “dotish” governments are prepared to sacrifice public and environmental health for perceived short-term economic gains.

3) All over the world, heavy gas based industries have contributed to a break down in climate and global warming. Aluminium smelters release green house gases which increase the scale and intensity of hurricanes. With these smelters, T&T will further sabotage the Kyoto Protocol and become the largest per capita Global ‘Soca’ Polluter. Smelters were noted as being particularly destructive in Al Gore’s book. The movie “an inconvenient truth” which IS NOW SHOWING AND MUST BE SEEN BY EVERY TRINBAGONIAN.

4) In July 2005, ALCOA and the National Energy Corporation (NEC) submitted a joint application to the EMA for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (signed by Prakash Saith) for the Chatham smelter, even though the smelter is wholly owned by ALCOA. ALCOA went on to spend big dollars in our newspaper trying to whitewash the truth of elevated cancer risks associated with smelters with slogans like “Building Sustainable Communities” and “Supporting Women of Substance”.

5) ALUTRINT is owned by the T&T Government (60%) and a Venezuelan private company (40%) which is reportedly hostile to the Chavez Government. ALCOA supplies aluminium to the USA’s ‘Defense’ Department to fight their on-going “War of Terror”. THESE INDUSTRIES WOULD INTRODUCE INCALCULABLE HOMELAND INSECURITY INTO T&T (check ALCOA’s website for multi-million dollar sales contracts to armament industries).

6) In 2003, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) approved the clearing 800 acres of land at Union Industrial Estate (UIE) to make way for ALUTRINT without knowing what the impact of the intended use of that land would be! It is now reviewing separate Certificates of Environmental Clearance (CEC) for aluminium smelting, electricity production, and port, harbour and shipping infrastructure, when all these are integrated components of ALUTRINT’S footprint. This fragmented CEC process is fatally flawed.

Furthermore, the land clearing for UIE was based on an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) written by the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA). They also wrote the EIA to clear 1,500 acres of pristine Chatham lands for ALCOA. This EMA decision is still pending. The IMA is arguably not qualified to assess the impact of a large industrial footprint on land. The IMA is currently without a Board and has been incorporated into the University of T&T (UTT). (check out “Something Smelting Fishy”, Edward Ramdass’ anti-smelter song).

7) ALUTRINT’s smelter technology was developed at the North Eastern University of China and is being financed by the Chinese Government. This technology has never been tested outside of China.
The ALUTRINT Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) failed to include a single shred of information on the health records of employees working at a similar smelter plant in China yet, this is the most important data that our EMA needs to assess the impact of this industry on worker’s health.

8) THE RECENTLY WATERED DOWN OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT (2006) DOES NOT PROVIDE ADEQUATE PROTECTION TO WORKERS in an aluminium smelting industry, as it denies them the right to refuse to work in conditions they consider to be hazardous to their health.

9) A review of the ALUTRINT EIA submitted to the EMA in January 2006 revealed that their declared toxic emissions would contravene the EMA’s draft Air Quality Standard for Fluoride. In response to the EMA’s expressed concern over this, Renda Butler, Managing Director of ALUTRINT declared to the EMA’s CEO on 18th August, 2006, “We believe that the proposed draft 2005 Air Pollution Standards are unnecessarily stringent for industrial sites”. ALUTRINT WENT ON TO MAKE AN “ECONOMIC BENEFITS” ARGUMENT TO SUPPORT THEIR CASE (Alutrint Position Paper, Supplemental Report, August, 2006).

Over a year ago, in a letter dated 18th November, 2005, Steven Myers, Environmental Manager, ALCOA wrote more candidly in reference to the same Standard, that it was “unnecessarily stringent and cannot be achieved using best available economic technology for an aluminium smelter.” Despite this, ALCOA’s media personality and Director Wade Hughes has repeatedly sought to mislead the public saying “the proposed smelter will meet internationally accepted standards for the protection of the environment and human health…including those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO)”.

10) Smelters require vast amounts of energy. If ALUTRINT and ALCOA together smelt their intended 466,000 Metric Tons of aluminium per year, they would require more than double the total amount of electricity consumed per capita in T&T in 2005 - for all sectors combined. (assuming ALCOA’s estimate of 15 KW-h of electricity to smelt 1Kg of Aluminium website information is reliable).

Retired Energy Expert Reginald Potter says “we have 12.9 years of proven gas reserves and in a few years shortages will occur” (Express 12th August, 2006)

Yet, despite huge energy needs of smelters, the current Government has failed to follow our National Environmental Policy (NEP), which requires “political, administrative and technical support to enable a SYSTEMATIC ASSESSMENT OF THE EXTERNAL COSTS AND BENEFITS OF EXPLOITING FOSSIL ENERGY RESOURCES…These assessments will be used to determine those uses that contribute to DEVELOPMENT THAT IS ECONOMICALLY, SOCIALLY, AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE.” (NEP 2005).

The National Energy Corporation has failed to demonstrate why a smelter in Venezuela or Guyana using renewable hydro-power and development of a down stream aluminium industry in Trinidad, is not more economical than operating the smelters here on our non-renewable and shrinking gas reserves.

11) In 2003 Trinidad & Tobago became a signatory to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative which requires “full publication and verification of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas and mining.” It was signed by Senator The Honourable Christine Sahadeo at a 17th June, 2003 London Conference attended by Tony Blair. She said “I wish to reiterate my Government’s support for this Initiative and its commitment to adhering to the Statement of Principles.” Despite this international commitment to transparency, sometime in early 2005, without any consultation, the current Prime Minister offered ALCOA Chatham lands and signed a secret deal to provide them with cheap gas. To date he has refused disclosure.

12) According to residents of Union Village and environs, they only get water two half-days per week, if they are lucky. Yet, in a letter dated 14th June, 2006, WASA’s General Manager, Business Services, Mr. Godfrey Ventour, ambitiously “guaranteed ALUTRINT a daily supply of 2,444 m3 of water coming from the Caroni Water Works”. THIS MEANS THAT OVER 12,000 ADDITIONAL PERSONS IN T&T WILL GO WITHOUT WATER EVERY DAY!

The days when old party politics divided the national community to mask the capture of our wealth by foreign and minority local interests are over. The time is come for all Citizens of our Republic to reap sustainable benefits from our Nation’s wealth as the primary means to fight crime and poverty.


For more information
write to and visit the Anti-Smelter Camp, South UWI.