Trinidad environmental body fines Petrotrin TT$20m

(Trinidad Express) Petrotrin has been fined a whopping TT$20 million by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

The EMA imposed the fine on the State-owned energy company — the largest fine from the Authority so far — over a series of oil spills for which Petrotrin is being held responsible. Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali last night described the EMA’s action as “harsh”. Contacted for a response to the EMA’s action, Hassanali said, “Having regard to the quick response that Petrotrin undertook and the care for the persons and environment, I think the measures taken by the EMA were rather harsh.”

EMA chief executive officer Dr Allan Bachan yesterday announced that the fine would go towards rehabilitation of areas affected by the spills and also towards consistent testing of various aspects of the environment, including air and water quality.

The announcement was made at a press conference at the EMA’s Elizabeth Street, Port of Spain office, to address the Authority’s action in the wake of 11 spills of varying degrees, the first of which occurred on December 17, 2013 at Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre jetty.

Answering questions from the media after announcing the fine, Bachan said it was not the concern of the EMA to ascertain whether the spills were as a result of sabotage, as the company has claimed, nor would the fact of sabotage, should that be found to be the cause, change the company’s culpability in the matter. Bachan said the company failed to monitor its assets, which could under the circumstances include adequate security presence that could have prevented the spills.

Two Notices of the Violations were served on Petrotrin last Friday for four breaches of the EM Act and Bachan said while the Authority has been criticised for its apparent failure to become involved following the spills, it must be guided by the legislation available.

“This is unprecedented,” Bachan said.

“We are seeing environmental issues cropping up now that are not considered in the Act.”

Bachan acknowledged that the Act is somewhat outdated and said the board of the EMA has since last year begun reviewing the legislation with a view to modernising it. The EMA was yesterday unwilling to commit to any statements on whether the spill that has affected residents of Coffee Beach in La Brea will have long-term effects.

“That will be part of the process from this point forward, there will be monitoring and testing,” Bachan said.

EMA director Dr Rai Ragbir, who also attended yesterday’s press conference, said the EMA has so far conducted at least one clinic where the results did not show any cause for long-term concern.

Ragbir said workers in the oil and gas industry are exposed to similar conditions every day. The EMA will, however, continue to host medical clinics and make recommendations to the relevant authorities based on those results. Bachan said it would be premature at this time to speculate on whether Petrotrin can expect further fines as investigations go on.

“It was important to make this step and to begin rehabilitation and remedial action,” Bachan said.



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