Ian K Ramdhanie, MSc,
The clean-up of the beaches from La Brea to Point Fortin has cost the Petroleum Company of T&T (Petrotrin) about $20 million so far, according to Energy and Energy Affairs Minister Kevin Ramnarine. He said more than $2.5 million was paid in compensation to affected residents. He spoke at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair.
The US firm, Oil Spills Response Ltd was contracted by the company to clean up the nine-mile shoreline since last month. Ramnarine said most of the heavy work was now complete and the company was beginning to “ramp down.” Ramnarine dismissed claims by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and president general of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) that the terms of reference for the National Environmental Assessment Task Force did not provide for an investigation into the cause of the spill.
The minister said the work of the task force has not yet started as its approval was only confirmed by Cabinet yesterday. He also denied claims by Rowley that he had misled the population about the spill, and said if Roget had any evidence of misconduct or negligence by Petrotrin he should take it to the police. Earlier Petrotrin said it was committed to transparency in its operations.
The company was responding to claims by Rowley and Roget that the company was engaged in a cover-up of the December 17 oil spill. “There is no cover-up,” the release added. Petrotrin said it was following best practice in its investigative procedure, which dictates speed without compromising the principles of natural justice.
The company said it had committed extraordinary resources to mitigating the economic and environmental impacts of the spill. On Wednesday, Roget said the company was engaged in a cover-up of the cause of the spill. He said the residents should be properly compensated and its board should be fired. Roget repeated his call for an independent inquiry into the incident, saying the company, in an internal report since 2010, was advised of certain maintenance requirements to prevent such spills. He said the recommendations were not implemented. He said the union would do all it could to ensure the spill was properly investigated, and people should “stay tuned” for the next instalment from the union. He ruled out industrial action.