Sierra Club expects panel review for cleanup

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post - Front Page
Wed., May 26, 2004

SYDNEY - It's expected a panel review for the cleanup of the tar ponds and coke ovens sites will be announced in the next few days, says a Sierra Club of Canada spokesperson.

Elizabeth May, executive director of the national organization, said she received assurances from within Public Works and Government Services Canada that the cleanup will get a more structured version of an environmental assessment as government fast-tracks the process legally required to start the work. "I'm on an advisory panel with (Public Works) Minister Stephen Owen - I work quite closely with him - and I certainly understand him to favour a panel, " said May.

Tuesday, just hours before she was to meet with government officials to discuss the issue further, she told the Cape Breton Post the details of the assurance she's received are still being sorted out. " The question is one around timing, " continued May.

Similar panel determined if bridge or tunnel would link two provinces

Subsequently, May said, the organization wants the panel to be appointed immediately -- not after the project is defined by the provincial and federal governments. "If we wait until the project is defined, we're not able to thoroughly assess and explore the options which are more appropriate from an environmental and health aspect," said May.

She said she expects the effort would be similar to the approach completed by a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Panel in 1998 that dealt with the concept of nuclear waste disposal by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. As well, a similar review was used to determine if a bridge or tunnel would be built to link the provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

May said the environmental assessment for the Sydney cleanup shouldn't cause a delay and should fit in the existing timeline determined by both the province and Ottawa. "It should work over the summer, " she said. "We don't want delay. We're trying to get things done in a way that expedites the progress that everybody wants to see without risking the the health of everyone living nearby."

May said the assessment could take six months if the panel is properly crafted and deadlines are imposed, or as long as four years if the panel is without time constraints.