The Associated Press September 9, 2010, 3:49PM ET

Trinidad gov't drops former leader's smelter plan

Trinidad's new government has scrapped the previous prime minister's plan to build an aluminum smelter and industrial park in a coastal fishing village where many feared it would bring pollution.

Finance Minister Winston Dookeran, during a budget presentation on Wednesday, told lawmakers that former Prime Minister Patrick Manning's $786 million smelter proposal for the southern coastal area of La Brea was an "outrageous expenditure."

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, whose five-party coalition won a 29-12 advantage in May parliamentary elections, had campaigned on a pledge to cancel Manning's smelter proposal for the rural community.

For years, numerous villagers said they feared for their health if the project was built. Environmental groups also opposed the smelter, which would have been a joint venture between state-owned Alutrint and Venezuelan company Sural.

Last year, a judge suspended construction of the smelter in response to a complaint that the Environmental Management Authority did not follow procedure when it gave permission to Alutrint to pursue building.

Dookeran also told legislators that Persad-Bissessar's administration would not pursue Manning's plans for a rapid rail transport system, saying "this nation has suffered enough from bad judgment."

Without providing specifics, he said the government of the oil- and gas-rich Caribbean nation would follow its own energy and transport strategies.

Persad-Bissessar's office and a spokesman for the opposition People's National Movement did not immediately respond to phone messages on Thursday.


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