Monday, May 3, 2004 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Ottawa appoints tar ponds negotiator

Ottawa has appointed a negotiator in the final round of talks with the province on cleanup costs for the Sydney tar ponds.

Alphonse Cormier, an assistant deputy minister with Public Works and Government Services Canada, has extensive management and negotiating experience and an excellent relationship with the province, the federal government said in a release Sunday.

Planning for the cleanup began in 1996.

"The community has been very patient throughout this process and I encourage all of the partners to continue to work together as quickly and carefully as possible, so that we can put the tar ponds and coke ovens behind us," said Mark Eyking, MP for Sydney-Victoria.

In March, Ottawa set aside an additional $500 million for work on contaminated sites such as the tar ponds.

In February, Environment Minister David Anderson said Ottawa is responsible for just 40 per cent of the site but would pick up half the cost of the roughly $400-million project. He warned there could be less federal money for other Nova Scotia projects if Ottawa gives too much to the tar ponds.

Premier John Hamm has argued there is already a deal for a 70-30 split stemming from an agreement in 1999.

Anderson said he looks forward to reaching an agreement on cost-sharing and related issues that will lead to the cleanup of the 700,000 tonnes of toxic waste at the site.