Federal Environment minister responds to Clarke's ultimatum

Statement from the Honourable David Anderson,
Canada's Minister of the Environment
Environment Canada Press Release
Saturday, Mar. 27, 2004

OTTAWA - As Canada's Minister of the Environment, I was pleased by Thursday's reaffirmation of provincial funding for the Sydney Tar Ponds remediation by the Honorable Cecil Clarke, Minister of Energy for the Province of Nova Scotia.

The Government of Canada has been working with the Province of Nova Scotia on the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds for many years. We have made it a priority to getting the Sydney Tar Ponds site cleaned up.

In fact, on March 23rd, the federal budget stated clearly that "an immediate priority for the Government will be to conclude discussions with the Government of Nova Scotia and the City and citizens of Sydney to establish an effective approach and a fair division of responsibilities and costs for the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds."

Meanwhile, site work continues. Over the past years, the removal of derelict and dangerous structures, the containment of an old municipal landfill and the installation of interceptor sewer piping have taken place.

With respect to sharing of clean up costs, it is important to note that the federal government's involvement in the operation of the Coke Ovens facility was limited to a five year period during its eighty year life span. The pollution that now rests on federal property was caused by the emissions from the steel and coke facilities operated primarily by the Province of Nova Scotia and private interests regulated by the province. The tar cells that rest on the Coke Ovens site were created in the mid 1940's and early 1960's, not during the period of federal ownership.

The Government of Canada subscribes to the policy that the polluter should pay for the cleanup (the "polluter pay" principle). The regulatory authority which allowed such contamination is next in line of responsibility. That said, because of the nature and size of the problem in Sydney, the federal government has been assisting the Province of Nova Scotia. We have been supporting the province in the remediation and will continue to do so because we feel it is the right thing to do. Co-operation between the federal and provincial governments is essential for an effective solution to this longstanding issue.

The Government of Canada remains committed to the clean up of this site. We believe it is in the national and provincial best interests that the Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens are properly dealt with. We are committed to work towards this end.

Further information:

Kelly Morgan
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of the Environment
(819) 997-1441

Sébastien Bois
Media Relations
Environment Canada
(819) 953-4016