On February 27, 2007, the Water Pollution Fees Permits were passed as a standard fee. It meant that a standard fee of $10,000 per annum would be charged to all water polluters, so a chicken farmer with 801 chickens, a pig or cattle farmer with 21 animals would pay the same $10,000 per annum as the largest polluters.
In 2012, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea fought a judicial review of those Water Pollution Fees Permits before Justice Rampersad. His High Court judgment quashed the permits structure. The court recognised that the more an entity pollutes, the more it should pay (the Polluter Pay Principle). Instead of abiding by this ruling, this UNC-led Government appealed the judgment, to which we anxiously await the learned ruling of the Appeal Court.
While we await this ruling, this Government has passed another polluter permit fee without the respectful courtesy of abiding by the principles upheld in the Justice Rampersad ruling (of the pivotal role of the Polluter Pay Principle in determining polluter permit fees).
In their defence, the Government has stated that in 2000, and 2005, ten to 15 years ago, it “consulted” with some of the largest industrial contaminators of air, which pertained to the Draft Air Pollution Rules as they were proposed then, in 2000 and 2005. However we can show that what was passed in 2015 is completely different.
Three critical issues arise:
1. Is it reasonable that the largest industrial polluters of “air” be the only parties which are consulted on a matter of wide public interest? Are secretive, closed-door, invite-only consultations a symptom of a corporate lobby which borders on a perversion of natural justice?
2. Was the 2000 version of the rules commented on by corporations in 2000 or 2005 the same as that which was laid by the minister in Parliament in 2015? Any member of the public can compare the two versions to see the differences. The 2015 rules are completely different. Therefore are the lopsided exclusive corporate consultations held in 2000 and 2005 of any lawful relevance?
3. The law is clear: the minister, in the course of developing rules, must submit the draft rules for public comment. This statutory public comment process requires publishing a notice of the rules in the Gazette and a newspaper, for an administrative record to be developed and a 30-day comment period for the public to submit its comments. Our investigation shows this was not done. Therefore can Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh answer if these rules passed unlawfully?
We publicly invite the minister to a public debate at any university forum on: (a) the differences between what was written in 2000 and 2005, and what was passed in 2015, (b) the UNC position on whether the larger polluter should pay more permit fees than the smaller polluter (the Polluter Pay Principle), and (c) whether the Air Pollution Rules deliberately protect the largest corporate contaminators of our clean air.
Allowing deadly air-borne toxins to cause disease is a crime to which our Government must be called to account.