DOE gets passing grade on tar ponds regulation

By Tom Ayers
Cape Breton Post
Thurs., Apr. 23, 2009

Sydney - The Remediation Monitoring Oversight Board has given the provincial Department of Environment a passing grade in its first annual report on the regulator of the tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup.

The three-member board says Nova Scotia Environment is effectively regulating the cleanup project and the public "should have confidence that the NSE is taking ‘due care’ to protect the environment."

Board spokesman Sinclair Dewis, a retired environmental auditor with the federal Environment Department, said the board’s mandate is to "keep track of Nova Scotia Environment and their actions to make sure they don’t rush through anything."

The board was created by thenprovincial environment minister Mark Parent in 2008 following the federal Joint Review Panel’s environmental assessment report into the $400-million tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup.

David Morse, the current environment minister, said in a release Wednesday that he had received the report and would respond to the board after he has reviewed it. In its first report, the oversight board’s only criticism was that the various partners, agencies and contractors involved in the cleanup "need to improve the efficiency and transparency of inter-organization interactions and communications."

Dewis said the finding was intentionally non-specific because the oversight board’s mandate is limited to the Department of Environment rather than the agencies, contractors and individuals involved in the cleanup. "Our mandate is more linked to the regulatory approval process," he said. "Our mandate relates to Nova Scotia Environment only. "In all fairness, we left it a little general because our mandate is to oversee the Department of Environment."

The board’s terms of reference include a requirement to take into account public input and to provide the public with the opportunity to provide feedback on regulatory management issues. The terms specifically state that the board must post contact information on the proponent’s project website and the Nova Scotia Environment and Labour website. "There’s no requirement for us to have public sessions with questions and answers," said Dewis, who is joined on the board by Colin Hines, a former environmental auditor with the federal departments of environment and defence, and Edwin MacLellan, a Cape Breton University engineering professor.