I wrote about this yesterday – please take a look for a bit more detail. Meanwhile, Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has just posted the following press release:
“This Decision Cannot Be Allowed to Stand,” Says JET
The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is disturbed by the decision of the Hon. Minister without Portfolio Leslie Campbell to overturn the denial of an environmental permit by the environmental technical agencies, the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) for quarrying in a vital natural resource on Jamaica’s north coast at Bengal, St. Ann. Despite solid and substantiated reasons given to deny the permit, this new decision will allow quarrying and mining to go ahead in the area. The reasons given by NRCA/NEPA for their decision were:
1. The proposed development is contrary and not in keeping with the provisions of the St. Ann Confirmed Development Order, 2000.
2. The area is not a designated quarry zone.
3. A quarry of this nature, size, scale and intensity will have a deleterious effect on the environment in general and the surrounding uses including impact and loss of biodiversity and natural resources, and impact on underground hydrology.
4. The development will exacerbate the air quality impacts on the air shed. Also, the development may have a deleterious impact on public health particularly from dust and noise generation.
5. The unprecedented number of objections from residents and stakeholders.
6. The comments from key partner, the Forestry Department, that while the environmental impact assessment “explores the impact of the quarrying operations, it does not propose feasible and effective mitigation measures geared towards minimizing the overall negative impact of the quarry on the forested areas.”
JET has long raised concerns about the provision in the NRCA Act (and many of our laws) that allows for a minister to overturn the decisions of a technical agency.
JET also understands that there is now lack of clarity as to who the environmental minister is, as despite there being a new ministry including “environment and climate change” in the title, led by the Hon. Pearnel Charles, Jr, NEPA remains at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, whose minister is the Prime Minister, the Most Hon Andrew Holness. We further understand environmental functions are spread across the two ministries, which will no doubt lead to even greater regulatory incoherence.
“I have seen the environmental ministry move many times from place to place since the passing of the NRCA Act in 1991, to the point where it has been labelled the “Pilgrim” ministry,” said JET Director, Diana McCaulay. “This refusal to place priority on environmental protection over almost 30 years by both administrations speaks volumes about their sincerity and real intentions. Given the reality of the climate crisis, which Jamaica is already facing, we cannot continue with these short-sighted approaches.”
JET calls on the Prime Minister, who we understand signed off on the upholding of the developer’s appeal, to reverse this misuse of ministerial discretion.