Wednesday, April 04, 2007

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.


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