Tar ponds critic: They meant to leave us out
By LAURA FRASER Cape Breton Bureau
Sydney - The agency overseeing the cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds and
coke ovens site has purposefully excluded the Sierra Club of Canada from
the community group that gives feedback about the project, an
environmental activist has charged.
The Cape Breton chapter of that environmental group learned in May that it
lost out on a seat on the project's community liaison committee, Bruno
Marcocchio said. Mr. Marcocchio has been an outspoken critic of the way
the cleanup of the site has been handled.
He said he believes the Sierra Club has been sidelined because the Sydney
Tar Ponds Agency wants to silence its critics rather than get real
"They don't want anyone who will ask them pointed questions," he said
Tuesday. "And, respectfully, there are a lot of questions that need to be
asked" before the solidification of the sludge in the tar ponds begins.
But a spokeswoman for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency said the Sierra Club
would not have been excluded for being critical of the project.
The agency sorts through those who applied for membership, then makes its
recommendations to an outside panel made up of federal and provincial
representatives, Tanya Collier MacDonald said. That panel has final
approval of who makes it onto the liaison committee.
The committee is made of up of representatives from different sectors,
including the environment, education, business and health.
When memberships were renewed last March, the Sierra Club was up against
ACAP Cape Breton, an environmental research group, for a seat in the
environment section of the committee.
"To say that one (organization) is more critical than the other, I don't
think that comes into play here," Ms. Collier MacDonald said. "These are
all members of this community that want to see this done safely and
ACAP's membership was renewed because it has better representation
throughout Cape Breton than the Sierra Club and has already been working
well with the committee for several years, Ms. Collier MacDonald said.
Mr. Marcocchio said he's concerned about the transparency of the selection
process. He sent a letter Monday to the commissioner on the environment
and sustainable development, who is an assistant federal auditor general,
asking that the Sierra Club be given membership on the community liaison
"They obviously have selected the same group over and over again," he
said. "The Sierra Club has been a major player going back decades into the
cleanup of the tar ponds."