Wednesday, March 24, 2004 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Money set aside for tar ponds, other sites

By TERA CAMUS / Cape Breton Bureau and The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - The Sydney Tar Ponds cleanup and environmental technologies ranging from wind power to fuel cells appeared to be the big winners in Tuesday's federal budget.

Ottawa tabbed $4 billion for cleaning up contaminated sites - already promised in the throne speech - to be spread over a 10-year period.

Most of the money, $3.5 billion, will go to sites under federal ownership. About 60 per cent of that is expected to be spent in the North.

But the remaining $500 million will go to sites where jurisdiction is shared, and the Sydney tar ponds have been identified as a priority.

Reaction in Sydney to the cleanup news was mixed.

Bruno Marcocchio, the local Sierra Club president, said the lack of detail on how that $500 million will be spent over 10 years is a concern.

"It is a certain recipe for environmental injustice," the longtime tar ponds activist said after watching the minister's speech. "We've lived long enough with injustice and it must stop."

The tar ponds cleanup is expected to cost upwards of $1 billion, once taxes and other startup costs are factored in.

The federal government and province continue to dicker over who will pay the lion's share.

While Mr. Marcocchio's group welcomed the cash commitment, he said Ottawa must also ensure decisions on how the cleanup proceeds are made in an open process.

The Metro Cape Breton Junior Chamber said it was an exciting day.

"That's what we were hoping for," spokesman Keith MacDonald. "It's key for the project to move forward."

Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor John Morgan was pleased by the specific mention of the tar ponds project in the budget.

While Mr. Goodale didn't detail how the $500 million was to be shared, Mr. Morgan said the language led him to believe the money would go to the tar ponds cleanup first and anything left over could be spent on other contaminated sites.