More than $1 million will be pulled from the government’s Environmental Protection Fund to help pay for removing a mountain of used tires at the George Town Landfill.
The proposal, outlined by Premier Alden McLaughlin at a pre-budget dinner last week, does not appear to be in sync with the National Conservation Council’s guidelines, published this month, for how the fund should be used.
The council’s guidelines indicate that the fund, which contains about $58 million, should be used for the creation and management of protected areas and to help conserve endangered species.
Tire disposal fee not used
Christine Rose-Smyth, chairwoman of the council, said the government has already collected coercive environmental fees, including a $2-per-tire charge from consumers, and questioned why this revenue was not used for the tire disposal project instead of the Environmental Protection Fund.
“The council considers that these fees should be applied to any environmental health hazard remediation involving the tires at the landfill,” she said.
Government has previously acknowledged it collects just over $1 million every year from environmental fees on the importation of vehicles, tires and lead-acid batteries.
This money goes into the general revenues of the Department of Environmental Health and is not specifically earmarked for disposal.
Environment Minister Wayne Panton confirmed that the Environmental Protection Fund would be tapped for the tire disposal project.
The council’s guidelines, along with the section of the National Conservation Council Law governing appropriations from the Environmental Protection Fund, have not yet been enacted.
Mr. Panton said government was relying on the originating resolution for the fund, which contains a much broader definition of how it can be used.
In any case, he said, the council’s guidance is not binding.
“The council, at the end of the day, is in a position to make recommendations, it does not make decisions in relation to the Environmental Protection Fund.
“The government’s position in relation to the tire issue is that it represents an environmental risk. It also represents a risk in terms of mosquito breeding and that sort of thing.”
Efforts to sell tires unsuccessful
Government had originally hoped to sell the tires. After five failed attempts to find a bidder, it agreed to help pay for tire disposal.
The Cayman Compass understands that Island Waste Carriers will be awarded a contract this week to remove the tires, with government making a contribution of around $1.2 million to support the project.
The appropriation from the Environmental Protection Fund would need to be approved by the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee.
Government has previously used the fund for projects not specifically related to conservation, including the environmental impact assessment on the proposed cruise port and the formation of a solid waste management strategy.
“These are all environmental-related issues and government has concluded they are quite appropriate for use of Environmental Protection Fund funding,” said Premier McLaughlin, when questioned last year about the use of the fund.
The Environmental Protection Fund, fed through taxes from tourists, was set up in 1997 to help “defray expenditure” incurred in protecting the environment. It accrues around $5 million every year.
It is not clear what difference, if any, the enactment of Section 7 of the National Conservation Law will make.
The legislation states that government has to consider the council’s advice, but it is not obliged to follow it.
The law does state specifically, however, that the fund is designed for protected species and habitats.
It reads, “There continues to be established and managed an environmental protection fund to be used for the acquisition and management of protected areas and for measures to protect and conserve protected species and their critical habitat.”