Thursday, April 19, 2007

Action Alert: Anti-smelter activist begins fast outside EMA

Dear friends,
University lecturer and anti-smelter activist Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh
was forcibly removed from the head office of the Environmental
Management Authority this evening (Thursday April 19) .
Dr. Kublalsingh went to the office earlier today, asking whether at
the time of the granting of the CEC to Alutrint, a contract or
agreemernt with the waste disposal company in Arkansas actually
exists. The hazardous waste facility is to be the final destination
for the Spent Pot Lining waste from the Alutrint smelter plant on
Union Industrial Estate.
After being ousted by members of the protective services, Dr.
Kublalsingh began a fast outside the office and has pledged to remain
there on Elizabeth Street in St. Clair, until he receives a
satisfactory response.
The Anti smelter lobby would like to thank those citizens and
international supporters who continue to suppoort our actions for
people centred development and environmental justice and we would like
to urge all concerned citizens to show solidarity for Dr. Kublalsingh.
If you can, please pass by Elizabeth Street and give your support.
If not, please also send your call for clarification on what will be
done with the SPLs.
Environmental Management Authority
8 Elizabeth Street
St. Clair
Port of Spain
Phone - 628 8042
Fax - 628-9122
EMail -

In solidarity

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

No Water? Drink Smelta

Cathal Healy-Singh
Environmental Engineer
Anti-Smelter Alliance

The following contradictions accompany the recent decision by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to award a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) for the ALUTRINT Aluminium Smelter Complex proposed for Union Industrial Estate:

Our National Environmental Policy (NEP, revised in 2005) contains an important ‘Energy’ Clause which requires that a cost – benefit economic analysis of gas/oil energy allocations to major developments be part of any impact assessment. Provision for this assessment should have been made in the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) which is to inform the EMA’s decision making on ALUTRINT’s application for a CEC.

The Environmental Act (of 2000) binds the EMA to follow its Policy. Despite this, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) failed to include this energy analysis in the TOR they approved to asses ALUTRINT’s smelter complex. This failure is significant as smelters require ‘vast’ amounts of natural gas. The Government’s 2020 smelting plans which include ALCOA, would more than double the 2005 national per capita electricity consumption rates, with no regard for future ‘energy security’ needs.

ALUTRINT failed to confirm any firm arrangement for the safe disposal of Spent Pot Liner (SPL), a deadly toxic by-product of smelting. When ALUTRINT first spoke of disposing SPL in November 2005, they proposed to bury it on-site and later truck it to an industrial landfill in Trinidad. But T&T does not have any physical infrastructure or regulation for safe disposal of hazardous wastes. After being challenged on this matter, ALUTRINT claimed that SPL would be shipped to a private treatment facility in Arkansas, USA. Yet their EIA failed to make mention of the necessary approvals required by USA State and Federal Authorities. They are also silent on the consent required from fellow CARICOM States for T&T to ship toxic waste through their territorial waters.

SPL is a cocktail of hazardous wastes requiring stringent handling, treatment and disposal every three-to-five years of smelting. Improper disposal would constitute ecological disaster. The EMA should therefore not have awarded the CEC until firm long-term legal agreements and assurances for safe disposal of SPL were secured by ALUTRINT.

There also remain significant outstanding questions relating to the impact of smelters on the health of ‘pot room’ workers. ALUTRINT spent considerable effort to convince the national community that advances in pollution control technologies had reduced to an acceptable level the cancer risk to workers in the massive smelting ‘pot-rooms’ - where aluminium oxide powder is electrolyzed at 1000 Degrees Celsius, using a gigantic electric current, into molten aluminium metal. However, research around the world on both old and new smelting technologies continues to find increases in specific forms of cancer and respiratory ailments in pot-room workers. This is unsurprising given the toxic nature of raw material inputs.

Furthermore, research on the impact of smelting on the health of surrounding communities is extremely limited, as reaffirmed by the Australian presenter at the UWI Engineering Department’s Smelter Symposium. We do not accept the methodology used in the much touted Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment carried out for ALUTRINT by Canadian consultant ‘SENES’, to calculate actual conditions of pollution exposure that will be experienced by the some 10,000 surrounding La Brea residents. This is of great concern despite ALUTRINT’s claim that the methodology used is generally accepted in North America. It is important to note that because of a lack of resident technical expertise in the EMA to understand this Risk Assessment, they relied on another Canadian company called ‘JACQUE WHITFORD’ to advise them on the findings of SENES.

The truth is the impact of cancerous substances emitted from aluminium smelters on surrounding human and environmental health is not properly understood. Like most industries, reduction in impacts has accompanied technological advances. However, given that existing baseline health conditions in La Brea (and other industrialized areas like Point Lisas) are not presently properly understood, ‘caution’ should have been the EMA’s ‘natural response’ to the introduction of smelting into our small-island state.

The National Environmental Policy also refers extensively to the importance of the role of the EMA to ‘educate’ and ‘inform’ the Public on environmental issues and risks. Yet during ALUTRINT’s CEC process, the EMA made no effort at any time to educate anyone on the risks and/or issues associated with aluminium smelters. Hence, the community stakeholders were unable to develop an informed view on the industry.

Some front-line community residents surrounding the proposed footprint of the Union Industrial Estate were beguiled by large sums of cash money and job promises from ALUTRINT’s Public Relations campaign, which was passed off to the EMA as part of their ‘public consultation’ drive. But, had the EMA been interested in following their own Policy, they would have found it imperative to educate both the national and front-line communities and not rely solely on ALUTRINT to do so.

We believe that given all of the above, the EMA should have invoked the “Precautionary Principle”, provided for in the National Environmental Policy, which says essentially ‘when in doubt, don’t proceed’. The EMA should, on this principle, have denied the CEC to ALUTRINT.

But caution was not on the mind of the EMA’s Chief Executive Officer, McIntosh, when he announced the award of the Certificate of Environmental Clearance to ALUTIRINT. He insisted that there had been no political interference and expressed satisfaction that ALUTRINT could smelt away if they agreed to an intensive regime of pollution monitoring and reporting of potential cancerous substances expected to be released continuously from the plant over its projected 50 year life span.

McIntosh also insisted that the twenty-seven (27) new EMA staff members promised to them by Government would be promptly assigned to the new task ahead. ‘More staff’ was the likely concessionary ‘carrot’ extended to the EMA by the modern industrial state 2020 Visionaries in the PNM administration headed up by Prime Minister Manning.

Having completed his mission, McIntosh will no doubt be retired and replaced by another champion of corporate environmentalism. A curious Public wonders why notable EMA Board Members, John Agard, a UWI academic and David Abdullah, a trade unionist, were unruffled by the CEO’s announcement of the green light for ALUTRINT. The Public remains shocked by the EMA’s betrayal of its own core principle of valuing life and the right of citizens of our Republic to be informed when their right to a healthy life is being threatened.

World Earth Day Invitation from the Anti-Smelter Alliance

you may be aware that Sunday 22 April, 2007, is World Earth
The significance of this day is ever-increasing as the world struggles
to control the decimation of the environment, changing climates due to
global warming and the ensuing threats to food and water security.
Our country is not exempt as our small island faces the possibility of
over-industrialisation - which would likely result in the extinction of
agriculture (along with the ability to feed ourselves) and our compromised
health. The Anti-Smelter Alliance has planned a celebration of World Earth
Day at the site of the proposed Alutrint smelter at Union Village on
Your presence would be greatly appreciated.
It is hoped that this ceremony will send a message of solidarity to all
concerned citizens and organisations.
Everyone is asked to gather at Square Deal Corner at 8:30 a.m. This will
be followed by an Interfaith Service to pray for the future of our country.
The Alliance also feels it is important to leave a green 'flag' to mark
the occasion - as such, you are invited to bring along and plant a tree or
shrub at the proposed smelter site. Included the day's activities, which
will run until 11.30 a.m., will be a cultural section.
Comrades, as the clock ticks and we draw near to a decided fate for our
land, it is imperative that anti-smelter activists show steely strenght and
It is of the utmost importance that our numbers be many.
We ask you for a firm comittment to help us make a statement on Sunday.
Please come out and let it be seen that the movement remains, that we grow
and that we will not give up or give in. The message must be clear - NO
We thank you for your support.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Is EMA a puppet for the Government?

Letter to the Editor
April 10, 2007

After deafening public outcry from all sectors of the national community and conclusive research studies from eminent environmentalists on the dangers of the operations of smelter plants in south Trinidad, the Environmental  Management Authority (EMA) had the audacity to grant a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) to Alutrint! How insensitive, disrespectful and blatantly insulting this agency could be to people's constitutional right in wanting a healthy, chemical-free environment!

It is indeed strange to know that the EMA's dreaded decision came mere hours after environmentalists met with the Patrick Manning-led Cabinet's Energy Committee to present their case against the smelters. Based on this strange sequence of events, many questions can now be asked of the PNM Government's role in EMA's decision. Is the EMA independent and impartial in its decision-making? Or is it a heavy-handed puppet of the State? Â

According to the Town and Country Planning Act there are zoned areas for industrial development. Was there a compromise and/or breach of this law because of the whims and fancies of a higher authority?

Given the overwhelming public outrage over this latest development, the country demands honest answers from the Minister of Energy, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Planning and Development.

Colin Ghouralal

Another way to manage our environment

by Prof Julian Kenny
Trinidad Express
April 10, 2007

"The task the EMA will now one of monitoring and understanding what the baseline conditions are, so we can examine any shifts in terms of the human health of the area or impacts on vegetation and wildlife."

EMA official release

The headline of the story in the Sunday Express of April 1 stated bluntly - "Tiny blind animal halts $b Aussie mine". No it was not an April 1 joke. But it certainly illustrates the differences between us and the Australians. A tiny cave dwelling arachnid is the grain of sand in the machinery. The species, or I should say the few species involved, are relics of a group that once lived in rainforests in Australia, forests that dried out in time, and have retreated into cave environments and continued to evolve, feeding on organic matter underground. These tiny creatures measuring a few millimetres are now eyeless.

The thing is that Rio Tinto wants to develop a $12 billion iron ore mine in the environment occupied by these creatures and the creatures are in the way. Australia has an Environmental Protection Agency and the EPA's Chairman has ruled, on behalf of the EPA, that the mining proposal is environmentally unacceptable. The EPA's ground for rejection? The Environment Impact Assessment studies, conducted by the company, discovered five new species of these creatures unique to the proposed mining site. Of course, Australia has the appropriate legal and institutional mechanisms that permit appeals or resolution of the problem. While the EPA makes a decision on scientific grounds, the minister in the end may make the final decision, taking into account social and economic factors, as well as political risks. There the matter rests for the time. Conflicts of this kind are relatively common in the developed world - an owl, or salamander or fish standing in the way of "development".

We, on our way to developed country status by 2020, also have an agency that is charged with "managing" the environment. That body, the Environmental Management Authority, was established during the first Manningadministration, as a conditionality of a World Bank loan for business expansion (and don't be fooled into thinking otherwise). Note that its name is "authority", not "agency". For the first few years the Authority was powerless, in the absence of the Environmental Commission. Many hoped that the Authority would be independent of political influence and would make decisions on technical grounds, more or less like the Australian EPA.

Of course, it was only a hope. Although members of the EMA were "appointed" by the President, who signed their instruments, they were Cabinet appointments, like any other board appointment.

The first stumble of the Board was the celebrated case of the CEC application by Talisman to conduct a 3D seismic survey at the edge of the Nariva Swamp. The application was rejected outright without giving a hearing to the company - the wetland lobby. The Company's appeal to the Commission was allowed, without hearing any technical arguments, supporting the rights of the company to a hearing, and the irrelevance in domestic law to the Ramsar Convention and the National Wetlands Policy. Eventually Talisman successfully conducted its 3D seismic survey.

Ironically, the EMA could have used the same approach of outright rejection of the NEC application for land clearing for an industrial estate at Union Estate, but on stronger legal grounds, that of the National Physical Development Plan adopted by Parliament in 1984. The Australian EPA would have done so and left it to the politicians to make the decision. In the plan Union Estate was designated for agriculture and intensive agriculture while Point Fortin was a growth centre. The NEC could then have appealed to the Commission. But no, a CEC was granted for clearing about 800 acres of mixed agriculture and forested lands with three artificial lakes and the lunar landscape is now to be the site of the Alutrint smelter. And the citizens of Union Village have had to endure in these past two years noise and dust, and the on again off again resettlement of their village. As I suggested earlier the NEC and the EMA are really provoking citizens. I hazard a guess that the anti-smelter groups will now more than likely take legal action for judicial review of the EMA's decision.

The grounds? Amongst others, original failure to take into account the approved National Physical Development Plan; deciding to conduct baseline environment studies as smelter construction progresses; deciding the matter in the absence parliamentary approved air pollution standards and rules; failure to show confirmation that the United States has agreed to accept spent pot liners in accordance with the Basel Convention; failure to show that our neighbours have agreed to shipment of hazardous wastes through their waters.

And now the EMA will monitor the effects of the smelter on the vegetation and wildlife of the area, 800 acres of which have already been cleared of vegetation and wildlife with EMA approval.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Another Industrial Revolution

by Mary King
Trinidad Express
April 9, 2007

The EMA has given its approval for the construction of the Alutrint smelter. An important consideration is that Alutrint is 60 per cent owned by us and it will be using electricity, as its largest single expense, derived from our natural gas resources. Hence we as the majority owner have to be satisfied that the economics are efficient.

It simply is not good enough for Alutrint to say that it is satisfied with its business model; i.e. given the gas price it was able to obtain from our Government it will be profitable. The question is, profitable for whom, the Venezuelans? Surely, we have to monetise our natural gas reserves so that we can obtain the resources to develop ourselves economically and socially. But the major metric of economic development is by how much have we improved the productivity of the additional natural gas used by the creation of the industry. Also we need to provide the wherewithal to replace the energy sector rents with foreign exchange earnings from the on-shore sector as the former diminishes.

At last the Minister of Energy has been forced to admit that we are short of proven reserves to supply our commitment to Jamaica, embarrassingly so, and even for a new LNG train. He hopes that we will find and produce more gas from the joint T&T/Venezuelan field or the deep sea fields, which were in general refused the last time the blocks were out for bids. Surely, any natural gas reserves we still possess, have to be utilised to provide us both with local energy security and increasing returns on their exploitation.

If we sell gas to the smelters so that the smelters make the normal international return on investment, and gas prices are severely subsidised, then this is economic un-development. We can all recall the statement by Colin Pratt, an Alcoa expert, that smelters are put where energy resources are stranded, i.e. there is little else you can do with the energy, selling it for anything you can get, even for a handful of brightly coloured beads (Minshall). For example, Norway's hydro electric energy is stranded and is used for smelting while its natural gas is pumped into the European pipeline fetching much higher prices.

The international figures suggest that the price of electricity for competitive smelters, which depends on the price of natural gas used to fire the gas turbines, is around US 1.5 cents per KWh which is below what T&TEC sells at, US4 cents, even with its subsidised gas prices. The gas price to Alutrint appears to be a national security secret, hidden away even from our Parliament.

We are certainly not building the smelter to provide local employment. One of the experts at the PNM Government symposium, Paul Lochner, showed us that smelters do not provide much employment. Possibly we are building the smelters so that we can benefit from downstream activity. i.e. the creation of locally owned companies that use the aluminium to make finished products. Our experience with the iron and steel plant, ISPAT, is that though the plant produces more flexible primary products, billets and wire, it has not been able to stimulate a sophisticated downstream private sector industry.

The Alutrint smelter is expected to produce some 125,000 tonnes per year of primary products as ingots and wire, like ISPAT, and intends to export 80 per cent of these products with the balance allocated for local production of motor car wheels plus another 5,000 tonnes per year. In reality, Alutrint does not include a significant local downstream industry. But we were told at the PNM Government symposium that downstream plants are not located where there is cheap energy, but where there is a large market for the finished products. Hence Alutrint is about exporting its primary products to these established markets. Surely then in our scenario, where gas supply is limited, where smelters, like the Pt Lisas model, provide little employment, where the returns on natural gas are uneconomic, the building of smelters is inexplicable.

But the comment by the Prime Minister as he launched the e-Teck flagship building is enlightening. He sees T&T as embarking on a second industrialisation thrust. Other countries are involved instead in a knowledge-based thrust even in the use of their natural resources. If we examine what our human resource intends to do at Alutrint we see that the knowledge and innovation come from abroad, from the Chinese who are adept at poisoning their own environment while we again manage, operate and maintain heavy industrial plant. There are none as deaf as those who will not listen.

EMA under Manning's thumb

Letter to the Editor
Sunday Express
April 8, 2007

The EMA is Manning's footstool. The EMA's decision to permit a smelter plant in our tiny isle clearly demonstrates that they have no men of independent thought and action within that sorry body.

Their decision flies in the face of massive public opinion. Their actions have only confirmed and reinforced my view that we have a strong dictatorship in Trinidad and Tobago, a host of coward sycophants bowing and genuflecting to the Manning's regime.

Clearly our system of government has produced a nation in mental slavery.

Sadly, these are the people that hold the reins of power and act in favour of the Party in Power are there no independent thinkers who are capable and able to damn this demigod, this clay-footed megalomaniac who stamps on the people's rights with impunity.

Manning's public life is a colossal failure, but what is most disturbing, his failures are now leading us in the path of destruction which will probably make us one of the most depressed countries in the world. While he builds monuments to himself our people suffer for a lack of water, a proper educational system, a poor health service, massive congestion on the roads, leading to a waste of time, money and energy, and he has the gall to go running around the country, kissing babies while the country goes down and down into the quagmire of hopelessness and desperation.

Wake up T&T, before it's too late.

CF Ramcharan
St. Augustine

Sunday, April 08, 2007

No Answers!

by Anne Hilton
Sunday Newsday
April 8, 2007

“No answer” seems to be the stern reply to the questions posed in last week’s Environment Watch column. The EMA — well, the less said about the Environment Management Authority the better, in view of the, to my mind, questionable decision to grant Alutrint what I understand to be a conditional Certificate of Environmental Clearance.

At any rate, to date neither WASA nor the Authority has felt inclined to tell us who is going to police the Water Pollution Rules, and how — with particular reference, as the late Dr Eric Williams was so fond of saying, to back “street garages” and “mango tree mechanics.”

Nor has WASA cared to reveal whether or not the proposed scale of charges for polluting our water resources are likely to cover the cost of dealing with those pollutants. And there’s another thing I omitted to mention last week.

Are those pollution charges written in stone — by which I mean, are they a part of the Water Pollution Rules that can only be increased to meet increases in the cost of living by Act of Parliament, so that, as years go by, polluters laugh at the paltry sums imposed for poisoning the nation’s water resources (NOT, I hasten to point out, supply)?

And here’s another point for your consideration as you applaud or condemn the EMA’s decision on the smelter issue.

Remember the old adage “Prevention is better than cure” or, as Henry of Bratton (Henricus de Brattona or Bractona wrote concerning the laws and customs of England in 1240, or thereabouts — I give you a rough translation of the words written in Latin) “it is better and more useful to meet a problem in time than to seek a remedy after the damage is done.”

We all, well most of us, know that it’s easier to stop developers ruining an environment before ever bulldozers or backhoes carve out roads, or blocks are laid and cement trucks line up to pour foundations, than to have them tear down a completed building.

If I remember the La Brea case rightly, hectares of bush were cleared in preparation for an industrial complex without so much as a “by your leave” to the EMA.

It’s happened already — and one gets the impression the EMA’s attitude is that now the damage is done industrialisation might as well go ahead. Nor is the La Brea smelter the only industrial development “in the pipeline.”

To the Alutrint smelter add the proposed new methanol plant, new ethylene plant, another steel mill, new urea and ammonia plants.
The prospect is frightening — it is for me, at any rate, following Jared Diamond’s warnings in his book Collapse, and Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

There’s no doubt in my mind that that smelter or (Heaven forbid) those smelters, those new methanol, ethylene, urea, ammonia plants and steel mill are bound to accelerate the process of global warming leading to sea level rise as night follows day.

Of course, it won’t be the natural gas-guzzling industries, the sleek, modern office buildings, the million dollar homes that will be swallowed up by the sea — at least, not at first.

As Jared Diamond pointed out when he described the end of the Norse settlement in Greenland, first to go, first to be engulfed by the Gulf will be squatters’ homes in Sea Lots and houses in the Beetham.

The up-market, high-rise towers at Cocorite and Westmoorings may only be accessible by water taxi but the more modest townhouses built, like the Beetham, on swampland could be inundated.

Sooner or later the luxury towers must yield to the waters, sooner or later even the richest of the rich are affected. But while they can enjoy all the good things of life at the expense of others, while they can ignore the signs of disaster, of things to come, we are all at risk.

Yet, perhaps, we could, if we would, turn aside from the reckless course charted by those who refuse to face facts.

We could take up Professor “Gus” Speth’s challenge in his book Red Sky at Morning, and Jared Diamond’s advice in “Collapse and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

It takes courage, it takes discipline, it takes self denial and a kind of re-birth to do what has to be done to save ourselves from the Inconvenient Red Skies of Collapse — which is a thought to ponder well this Easter morning.

Flee from smelter shame, Sister Penny

Letter to the Editor
Sunday Express
April 8, 2007

This is an open memo to Minister of the Environment, Pennelope Beckles from a very concerned sister.

My dear sister Penny, today would be a good day to resign. Put two wheels on your heels and run from the shame.

We would like to think that you have had no part in the planning of "development" options that seriously endanger our environment, no part in the mamaguy of the EMA granting "permission" to build a smelter two years after the site was confidently cleared (savaged) for the building of said smelter.

Early in the game your Prime Minister told the nation that the smelter project was a "done deal" (translation: "Shut up!"). So the EMA Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) was already included, from morning, in the done deal?

Would our caring Government have spent our money to bulldoze acres of our land, destroying precious forest and wildlife, if they didn't have this permission in the bag since then, long before the EMA went through the motions of "consulting" and "assessing"?

Clearly, then, this CEC is a sad mamaguy. They mamaguy the country and they mamaguy you, Madam Minister of the Environment.

Through your Ministry's reafforestation programme you are busy planting trees all over the country, and they busy mashing down trees by the acre, not only on the south-west peninsula (Smelterland), but also Fort George, Tucker Valley coming up, and God knows where next.

We can't believe you are part of that. We can't believe you are in on the smelter "done deal" and all the other vandalism that your 2020 government is perpetrating on our environment. It has to be that they exclude you from their decision-making and treat you like another rubber stamp.

So get out of there, my sister. Run while we can still think of you as a woman of the people and a community activist devoted to service rather than to power at any cost. Write your name into the distinguished tradition of women in politics who dared to distance themselves from Party when their conscience told them to, thereby making a resounding statement against policies and actions that they considered wrong. These women chose principle over political power-women like Hulsie Bhaggan, Deborah Moore-Miggins, "Sister Pam" Nicholson, Gillian Lucky.

We wouldn't want history to count you, instead, among those who helped bring irreparable harm to our environment, to us, our children, and our future generations, by not taking a stand against the abuse of political power. Yours in sisterhood,

Merle Hodge

St Augustine

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Not breathing easy

April 5, 2007
Politically speaking, the granting of a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) to Alutrint was badly timed. The announcement by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) came mere hours after environmentalists met with Prime Minister Patrick Manning and the Cabinet’s Energy Committee to present their case against smelters. To get this announcement right after their meeting must make the environmentalists believe that the Government only wanted a basis for claiming that “consultations” had taken place.

The EMA’s already unimpressive reputation is also going to take a hit from this decision. This is not to say that the EMA did not have good grounds for giving Alutrint the green light to build its plant at La Brea. But the Authority now faces the challenge of making clear to the public the basis on which it has decided that pollutants from Alutrint, according to EMA chairman Dave MacIntosh, pose no threats to human beings or the environment. Indeed, in making the announcement, Mr MacIntosh showed he was aware of this challenge, emphasising that Alutrint would be shut down if it did not conform to the environmental guidelines set by the EMA and that the Government had not pressured the EMA to grant the CEC.

This latter assertion is already being scoffed at by environmentalists. Respected scientist Professor Julian Kenny went so far as to question the impartiality of the EMA Board which, he says, includes PNM Deputy Political Leader Nafeesa Mohammed. “The Government puts people who will give the appearance of professionalism and independence but who are political appointments who will do whatever the Government says,” Professor Kenny told Newsday.

Mr MacIntosh will have to refute Professor Kenny’s assertion, but the chairman has already stumbled in claiming that the Government was not pressuring the EMA. After all, Prime Minister Patrick Manning has made it clear in various public statements that he is set on having two — maybe three — aluminium smelters set up in Trinidad and Tobago. Given this country’s political culture, we find it unlikely that, if the Prime Minister can send such a message publicly, even more pressure would not have been brought to bear behind closed doors.

The EMA will also have to deal with the legal issues raised by Professor Kenny — to wit, that the Alutrint CEC breaches the Town and Country Planning Act. If this is so, it will strengthen the perception that the EMA is nothing more than a public relations tool for the Government. If it is not, however, then the EMA will be able to show that the environmental lobby is not treating with the issue in a fair manner. Yet, even if the EMA is given the benefit of doubt and it turns out that there were good grounds for granting the CEC, the issue of monitoring remains problematical. Is the Authority really going to ensure that Alutrinadheres to the reportedly strict standards imposed by the EMA? Would the EMA really defy the Prime Minister and shut down the plant if it didn’t?

The fact is, there is nothing in the EMA’s record which shows it is capable of such efficiency or even gumption. After all, since the Authority was set up, there has been no noticeable improvement in the environment of this country. It is also noteworthy that in its 15 years of existence the EMA has not commissioned an air quality or population health survey of the Point Lisas Industrial Estate and its environs. We hope the Authority will do better in respect to the smelters, but we are not holding our breath — although the residents of La Brea may have to.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Culture Jamming Trinidad style: Calling all Bobolizers

Every Good Friday it is a common sight in communities across the country to see nationals beating the crap out of a Good Friday bobolee.
A bobolee is actually an effigy of that treacherous disciple Judas Iscariot who sold Christ for 30 pieces of silver.
Usually the bobolee takes on the likeness of whatever the community concern is
This Good Friday we're inviting all communities to dedicate their bobolee to one of the traitors of our national environment.
Take your pick and send us a pic of your portrayal of any of the Judas Iscariots who've sold out our country for thirty pieces of aluminum.

EMA a Toothless Bulldog

Trinidad Guardian
April 4, 2007

The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has been described as a “toothless bulldog” by the United National Congress (UNC).

A press release issued by the UNC yesterday said:

“So the EMA has given Alutrint the green light after ‘carefully’ studying information that itself is inconclusive. What rubbish from this toothless bulldog.

“The truth and the facts are—as we have always said—the EMA is a toothless bulldog! It is a puppet of the PNM. It cannot and will not stand up to the PNM.”

Chief executive officer of the EMA, Dr Dave Mc Intosh, came in for attack after he announced on Monday that Alutrint was given the green light by the EMA to go ahead with construction of the smelter plant in La Brea.

The release also said nothing in Mc Intosh’s statement “makes any sense and provides any justification for the clearance.”

The release made reference to Mc Intosh’s statement on Monday.

“The task the EMA will now one of monitoring and understanding what the baseline conditions are, so we can examine any shifts in terms of the human health of the area or impacts on vegetation and wildlife,” it said.

The release questioned how could the EMA grant a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) to Alutrint if it was now setting out to understand certain information.

“How is the EMA protecting the lives and safety of the citizenry if it is taking this reactionary approach to see what adverse effects arise and, then, hope that Alutrint regulates itself?” it asked.

The release also noted it had no confidence in the EMA, which was tainted with political influence from the PNM.

“This Government likes to run roughshod against the wishes of the people and is demonstrating it is willing to kill every single citizen just to put a few dollars into the pockets of its friends,” added the release.

Anti-smelter groups plan court action

Trinidad Guardian
by Shaliza Hassanali
April 4, 2007

ANTI-smelter activists and groups are waging war against the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) for its decision to grant Alutrint a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) for construction of a smelter plant at Union Estate in La Brea.

So outraged by the issuing of the CEC, committee member of the Anti-Smelter Movement, Dr Peter Vine, said the T&T Civil Rights Association intends to challenge the EMA’s decision to award Alutrint a CEC by filing for judicial review.

The organisation will be represented by attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj.

T&T Civil Rights Association is also exploring the possibility of approaching the court to get a conservatory order against the Government for preservation of the status quo of the land at Union Estate in La Brea, and to stop construction of any smelter plant in T&T.

In a release yesterday, the civil rights body said the EMA’s decision to grant Alutrint a CEC was unlawful and unconstitutional.

It stated the public had a right to comment upon the standard before they were fully approved by the minister and by Parliament.

Anti-smelter activist Norris Deonarine, however, called for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Minister of Energy Dr Lenny Saith and the entire EMA board.

Deonarine said his group would work with other civil society groups and anti-smelter activists to intensify protest action to stop the construction of any aluminium smelter in the country.

“We are not going to back down...We intend to hold strong our resolve to fight this matter to the bitter end,” Deonarine said.

“The granting of the CEC tells us that Government will stop at nothing.”

Vine and Deonarine were giving vent to their feelings at a press conference at their anti-smelter camp in St Augustine, yesterday, hours after the EMA gave Alutrint the green light to go ahead with construction of a 125,000 metric tonnes-per-year aluminium smelter in Union Estate.

The announcement was made on Monday by EMA’s chief executive officer Dr Dave Mc Intosh, who insisted the decision was not made lightly, that the EMA had done a year of evaluation of the parameters of hazardous waste, air and water pollution.

Addressing reporters, Vine, an agronomist and physicist at the University of the West Indies in St Augustine, said Monday’s granting of the CEC to Alutrint could generate widespread bitterness among citizens.

He said people, in particular anti-smelter activists and groups, had expressed disgust and disappointment with the EMA’s decision.

Vine said assurances given by the EMA about 27 compliance officers, who would take a keen interest in the operations of the plant, would not bring any measure of relief to those living on the south-western peninsula because they knew their health would be compromised.

He felt those villagers should be compensated and relocated to a safer place.

“When rain falls it picks up all those airborne pollutants...Where do you think it would end up?” he asked.

“They are only talking about the compliance officers to appease the residents...I am sure they are not going to stick to the environmental guidelines for the next 25 years.

“Why is this aluminium plant so important to the Government? We need to know.”

Having marched and protested against the three proposed smelter plants in the country, Vine said he thought the issue was dead and that it was no longer going to be a priority, but was surprised at the decision taken.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The morning after the night before.

Environmental Management Authority CEO Dr. Dave Mc Intosh announced yesterday that they had given Alutrint the go ahead for an aluminum smelter to be built in La Brea.
This inspite of two years of extensive comment, research and investigation which conclusively shows not only that aluminum smelting is not a financially viable option for Trinidad and Tobago but that we are ill prepared for the environmental implications of such a hazardous industry.
The Rights Action Group, the St. Augustine Anti Smelter Front and other civil society organisations in Trinidad and Tobago are appealing to Trinbagonians, Caribbean people, human beings the world over who are concerned about global warming and the continued wanton destruction of our environment to pledge their support to common sense over dollar sense. To a vision for development that is not inimical to our natural and human ecologies. To a Trinidad and Tobago that is led by progressive and visionary leaders who would never dream of shoving some helter smelter development plan down our throats.
We do not accept it. We are prepared to defend our right to a cleaner, greener future.
In spite of the cowardice displayed by the EMA yesterday it is still our determination that not a brick will be laid for an aluminum smelter plant in Trinidad or Tobago and we intend to use whatever legal means are at our disposal to ensure that we are successful.
The fight is only just beginning.