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OWTU calls on Greenpeace for help

La Brea oil spills

By Kim Boodram

International activist group Greenpeace, known for its radical actions in conservation and environmental management, has been summoned by the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) for what it said is the failure of the Government to address a series of oil spills that began last year in fields owned and operated by local oil and gas company, State-owned Petrotrin.
No date has been set yet for the arrival of Greenpeace representatives in Trinidad but OWTU president general, Ancel Roget, warned Friday that the union is prepared to observe “no limits” in its pursuit of making the relevant persons accountable for the spills, which numbered around 11 and started offshore Pointe-a-Pierre on December 19, 2013.
The announcement was made by Roget and local environmental activist and principal of the Paideuo Learning Centre, Judith de Verteuil, at a press conference outside the Cipriani Boulevard, Queen’s Park Savannah office of Petrotrin.
De Verteuil, who has worked with Greenpeace in the past, will now work with the union to bring representatives of that group to Trinidad.
The spills affected communities along the Southwestern peninsula, mostly La Brea and Otaheite, coating those shores with oil and putting those fishing communities in the breadline indefinitely.
A National Environment Assessment Task Force (NEATF) has since been appointed by Government to look into the disaster, but Roget said the union believed the task force to be simply a tool for muzzling the affected communities and those calling for accountability as to how the spills were allowed to happen.
De Verteuil warned that this country is in danger of being labelled for its lack of environmental awareness and management and that is has so far failed to work towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goals outlined by the United Nations in 2000.
By the end of 2015, De Verteuil said, this country’s lack of adaption will make it ineligible for funding from the world’s biggest sources, such the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“It is timely for Greenpeace to come here,” De Verteuil said, adding that Trinidad and Tobago has violated many aspects of the MDGs, including in the area of education.
Roget said the union has not seen any measures being put in place to ensure that similar environmental disasters are prevented and that the safety and well-being of the nation ultimately rests with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
The PM has refused to meet with union on the matter, he said, and it is because of this that they “will see no limit in having these issues dealt with appropriately”.
Roget said he was aware that the press conference was held in the midst of the Carnival season but he felt it was necessary to keep the issue alive.
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