Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 19th 2014 Contents A5
January 19, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Once dubbed the industrial capital of
T&T, the quiet community of La Brea
has fallen into ruins in the last century.
Its downward spiral, exacerbated by the
recent Petrotrin oil spill, has occurred
despite its international acclaim of having
the Pitch Lake, the largest natural deposit
of asphalt in the world.
With high levels of unemployment and
poverty, La Brea has experienced its own
brain drain. Now that the community is
set to receive some monetary compensation
derived from a $20 million fine imposed
on Petrotrin by the Environmental Man-
agement Authority, many residents are
President of the La Brea Fisherfolk Asso-
ciation Alvin La Borde said he wanted the
money to be spent on developing sporting
facilities, building a fishing jetty and com-
munity centre, as well as upgrading edu-
cational opportunities for youths.
"We have many young people in La Brea
who are out of jobs. The whole of La Brea
is very poor and education is the only way
out of this. We need to focus on the whole
community, from Rousillac to Vance River,"
La Borde said. He called for construction
of an Olympic sized pool and a proper fish
"We need a place for boats to be repaired
as well. We want the Government to bring
in coaches to work with our young people
so they can excel in football, cricket and
basketball," La Borde said. He also said
a tilapia farm could be built in the area
to bring employment to the people. How-
ever, La Borde said he did not want the
Government to donate money to com-
munity organisations for fear of embez-
"My advice is to work with officials
from the University of the West Indies
who did a comprehensive study on La
Brea and develop a proper framework so
all the money can be accounted for," La
Meanwhile, Melissa Joseph, of Coffee
Bay, who was hospitalised after the oil
spill, said she would like to see a proper
library and computer facilities for the
children of La Brea. Joseph said since
their library burnt down in 2012, poor
children had been journeying to Point
Fortin to access computers.
"We cannot afford to buy computers,
and our children have school projects
and SBAs (School Based Assessments)
to complete. It is really hard for us,"
Joseph said. She recommended upgrades
to the dilapidated Brighton Community
Centre and a play park for children.
"When I was a child, we had a play
park at Brighton, but that fell apart and
it was never repaired," Joseph said.
Arch deacon of the St Anns Spiritual
Baptist Church Jason Jacobs also called
for tourism development in La Brea.
"We have nice beaches, but people do
not come here because there are no prop-
er facilities. We want them to provide
sheds and cooking facilities for the Carat
Shed beach and Station beach. There is
also a historical site at Coffee beach which
can be developed," Jacobs said.
He called for all families to be properly
compensated by Petrotrin.
Klavon Cadette, of Queen Street, called
for proper street lighting and a health
centre to be opened on a 24-hour basis.
He said a park could be built between
Victor and Freeling streets because chil-
dren had no form of recreation.
Cadette also said the roads in La Brea
were deplorable even though La Brea
produces asphalt to pave the entire coun-
He said while residents welcomed the
$20 million investment into their com-
munity, they hoped that it could be well
spent to improve their lives.
Residents: We hope the money will be well spent
LA BREA WANTS
Proper roads and lighting
The Environmental Management Agency
(EMA) will utilise the $20 million which it
fined Petrotrin to "rehabilitate" areas impact-
ed by the oil spill along the country s south-
Several concerns have been raised about the
size of the fine and whether that money would
be deposited into the consolidated fund, mak-
ing it harder to access.
But EMA officials confirmed to the Sunday
Guardian that the multi-million dollar fine
would be deposited into an environmental
account which gives them access to it without
the bureaucratic ministerial or Cabinet
The money, according to a consent agree-
ment signed between Petrotrin and the EMA,
would be used to "assess, rehabilitate and do
remedial work" in the affected areas.
The EMA said that contrary to earlier con-
servative reports, close to 10.5 miles of beach
was affected by the spills.
This small victory for the EMA was hard
won, as the agency is currently dealing with
archaic legislations that make it hard to leverage
or take action against offending companies.
The EMA latched on to only one CEC granted
to Petrotrin back in 2006 in order to impose
the $20 million fine for the consequences of
the environmental breach that led to over
7,000 barrels of oil being emptied into the
Gulf of Paria on December 17, and another
spill on December 26.
Petrotrin President Khalid Hassanali and
the EMA s Dr Allan Bachan signed off on
the consent agreement on January 7 where
Petrotrin accepted liability for the two spills
which contributed to the oily mess washing
up on miles of beach along the peninsula.
The agreement states that Petrotrin was the
"violator" of four clauses of the Certificate
of Environmental Clearance (CEC).
The unprecedented spill forced the EMA
to invoke Section 25 of its legislation for the
first time. Enacting that law means that the
$20 million would be placed in an environ-
"The fine is not for the breach, the fine
is for the consequence of the breach," one
high-level member said.
This means that Petrotrin, because of the
short legislative arms of the EMA, may be
able to side step any financial responsibility
for the spills and pay for the clean-up oper-
"There is no way to fine them for neg-
ligence, because the law is not made up that
way," the source said.
The Environmental Management Act leg-
islation leaves companies in operation before
2001 without the now regulatory Certificate
of Environmental Compliance (CEC), and
also leaves the EMA without any leverage
to enforce environmental compliance.
"You know how hard we had to search
for that one CEC to leverage on Petrotrin?"
one EMA member revealed.
While residents, environmentalists and
wild life enthusiasts continue to reel under
the strain of almost one month of clean-up
operations, the EMA has admitted that it
cannot force the state company to adopt
better maintenance practices or preventative
The Sunday Guardian met with senior
staffers at the EMA and was told of frus-
tration driven by archaic legislation, which
left the body virtually powerless to prevent
environmental mishaps and little room to
leverage on companies violating environ-
"The bottom line is we need to advocate
to change the legislation," one EMA member
The bigger question though, is whether
this sort of environmental disaster can hap-
"We cannot stop them, we cannot change
how they do business. It could very well
happen again," one member said.
The environmental company, the Sunday
Guardian learnt, has already met with a
member of the United States Department
of Agriculture (USDA) for assistance on the
next step in rehabbing the affected areas.
One representative has accompanied EMA
members for an on-site assessment of the
Petrotrin $$ to rehabilitate La Brea
...EMA wins small victory, calls for new legislation
Children walk the the streets of Coffee Beach La Brea during the height of the clean up exercise earlier this month. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
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