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The Polluter Pays Principle

The Water Pollution (Fees) Amendment Regulations, 2006

The Water Pollution (Fees) Amendment Regulations, 2006, require polluters to pay a fixed annual permit fee of $10,000, regardless of their size and without regard to the differentiating aspects of a polluter’s business, and levels of pollution. Application of this standard across-the-board fee is contrary to the internationally accepted environmental principle known as the “polluter pays principle” (or PPP).

The PPP which was formally adopted in 1974, is a universally accepted and established principle, and has also been inducted in international environmental law by its adoption in the Rio Declaration, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and other international environmental treaties.  The sliding scale of the polluter pays principle rightfully charges fees which are positively correlated with the quantum of pollution discharged.

Click here to access Amendments, 2006: http://www.ema.co.tt/new/images/pdf/water_pollution_rules_amendment_rules2006.pdf

FFOS Challenges the Government of Trinidad and Tobago at the Privy Council

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) have approached the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to clarify the meaning and application of the polluter pays principle in Trinidad and Tobago. In February 2016, the Court of Appeal granted leave to FFOS to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

These series of events follow the July 2015 verdict of three appellate judges who overturned the decision of the High Court which, in 2012, ordered the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) not to implement the Water Pollution (Fees) Amendment Regulations, 2006, until the internationally recognized polluter pays principle was properly applied in calculating, and fixing such fees. The EMA in challenging the High Court’s decision in the Appeal Court claimed that it was acting in the public’s best interest. FFOS seek to overturn the Appeal Court’s decision.

The polluter pays principle is one of the fundamental environmental principles in Trinidad and Tobago. It simply means that a polluter must pay the cost of their pollution. FFOS is advocating that if polluters release pollution into the environment, they should bear the cost of cleaning up their pollution.

Under our present law, large industrial or petrochemical polluters requiring a water pollution permit from the EMA pay the same annual permit fee as a small pig or cattle farmer with 20+ animals, regardless of the quantity or toxicity of their pollution. The fee is a fixed $10,000.00 TTD a year. The value was set at $10,000, as this is the EMA’s cost of administering the water pollution permit. This means that it is the tax payer that ultimately bears the burden of the pollution.

FFOS believes that the meaning and application of the polluter pays principle in the management of the environment is of national importance and requires further clarification from our highest court. This case is a novel one and would set a precedent not just for Trinidad and Tobago but other countries worldwide, which have also adopted the polluter pays principle. It is the hope of FFOS that this litigation will encourage a national discussion on how pollution in Trinidad and Tobago should be managed and who should be responsible for that cost.

FFOS will continue to stand guard at the gates of justice.