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Cunupia residents win EMA case

Saturday, November 18, 2017
Members of Concerned Residents of Cunupia (CROC) leave the Hall of Justice with the group’s Attorney Jonathan Jaggessar, right, following yesterday’s Court of Appeal ruling.

Cunupia residents have won their appeal against the decision of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to allow a concrete batching plant to operate in their community without a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC).

Delivering a 27-page judgment at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday, the Appeal Court ruled that the EMA’s decision to allow RPN Enterprises to operate without a CEC was unlawful and null and void.

However, the judgment was merely academic as the plant was shut down soon after it began operations in 2012 as the Town and Country Planning Division refused to grant the company planning permission.

The residents and members of activist group, Concerned Residents of Cunupia (CROC), complained to the EMA after the company installed the plant at Chin Chin Road in Cunupia.

They claimed that the plant increased dust and noise pollution in the community and that the company had unlawfully diverted and modified a river to establish the plant.

Despite their complaints, the EMA entered into a consent order with the company allowing it to continue to operate without a CEC. CROC sued but lost their case in the High Court.

In her judgment, Appellate judge Charmaine Pemberton agreed that the EMA was permitted to enter into a consent agreement with the company but that the requirement for a CEC was still mandatory.

“There is no express provision of the Act, and no construction of the Act Lends itself to the interpretation, that the EMA could have permitted RPN to operate or to continue to operate its concrete batching plant without its having applied for and obtained a CEC. The CEC and the consent agreement are not interchangeable,” Pemberton said. Appelate Judges Nolan Bereaux and Peter Rajkumar, also sat on the panel and agreed with Pemberton’s reasoning.

Pemberton also dismissed the EMA’s claim that a CEC was not required for the plant’s operation but only for its establishment and/or decommissioning and that the consent order sufficed.

“The unvarnished fact is that RPN is a violator, not having its establishment and operations sanction by a CEC. The fact that the violation was discovered by the EMA during the plant’s operation is immaterial,” Pemberton said.

Pemberton also criticised trial judge Mira Dean-Armourer for also dismissing the claim based on alleged misrepresentations from CROC on when the operations began and its effect on them.

“The trial judge failed to consider that evidence which was just as cogent as the incidents of ill health which occurred before the start-up date, and the later evidence supplied by the appellants which in totality, placed the impact of the activities complained about in an unsavoury light,” Pemberton said.

As part of its decision, the court ordered the EMA and the company to pay CROC’s legal fees for the appeal.


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