Thursday, July 07, 2005

ESG encouraged by meeting with EU Commission

Refinery main target of clean-up campaign

Gibraltar’s anti-pollution pressure group the Environmental Safety Group (ESG) has returned from a brief working visit to the EU capital, Brussels convinced that it is beginning to make headway in its campaign to make industrialists in the area reduce their harmful emissions - at least to accepted EU levels.

After a high level meeting with two EU Commission departments, the ESG reported to its members and the public that their well prepared dossier had been noted by Brussels.

Denny Larson - Bucket Brigade and environment veteran campaigner
Apart from enjoying the support of Bucket Brigade veteran campaigner Denny Larson the ESG team also included David Dumas QC who announced that the legal firm Hassans is not only acting voluntarily for the ESG but jointly as it believes in the ESG campaign. But Mr Dumas, backed by ESG founder Janet Howitt, complained that Gibraltar Government has not been supportive and hoped the ESG work would increase its awareness. They hope to be able to get that message to Chief Minister Peter Caruana ahead of Friday’s meeting in Faro with Spanish and UK diplomats.

Mr Dumas said that the meeting in Brussels had been a milestone in that few campaigners are met by high level officials. He said that the encounter had provided useful feedback that will help them plan how they proceed. But they were also told that EU and local courts might not be the best way to proceed since this is a long and expensive route to take.

The importance of Gibraltar managing its ambient air quality was highlighted to the ESG and the Commission were impressed when they looked at the website that reports the recordings at the recently installed monitoring stations. The ESG highlighted the fact that Spain, and the industrial area of the Campo in particular, have yet to comply with such monitoring requirements.

The Commission were provided with reports and pictures illustrating why there are genuine concerns about the emissions form the Campo refinery.

The ESG also stressed the cross-border nature of the concerns and the joint action and protests that have taken place on this issue.

“It would make great reading at the meeting in Faro,” said Mr Dumas, referring to tomorrow’s talks. He said that the issue is the high levels of benzyne. The Commission wrote to Spain and is still awaiting a reply as to what is being done to monitor and control this toxin.

Mr Dumas did not, however, rule out the possibility of civil or criminal procedures and said that there will be an intensified lobbying of Gibraltar MEPs so that the issue reaches the European Parliament. But he also stressed that the campaign was not about putting workers out of jobs but rather making sure public health is safeguarded.

The presentation was reinforced by a presentation from Professor Joan Benach of Barcelona University who has carried out detailed studies on mortality which indicate an above average occurrence in this area. He is behind a move to create a working group involving Gibraltar and Andalucia that could take a public campaign to a new level and will be visiting the Rock in the autumn.

Denny Larson, the Bucket Brigade founder also came back to Gibraltar for Monday’s public meeting. He reported that arguments about lifestyle and smoking levels in this area are not sufficient to explain the problems that have been recorded, according to Professor Benach’s work.

The Professor has described the Campo and Gibraltar as a “public health crisis”. Mr Larson in turn said that independent colleagues agreed with his opinion that the standards at the Campo industrial area were akin to those seen in South Africa. He also believed that the chimneys were billowing out more smoke under cover of dark than in the day time. He hopes that campaigning and increased public awareness will force Spain to act and get the EU to put a timeframe on controlling emissions. Spain, he said, is not currently complying with EU requirements.

Related Links and Articles:

Environmental Safety Group (ESG)

Global Community Monitor

Gibraltar Government Air Quality Monitoring

24 June 2005 - Denny Larson returns to the Bay announce ESG

17 June 2005 - Bay Bucket Brigade visit the Andalucian Ombudsman

27 May 2005 - Junta intensifies efforts to combat Campo Pollution

25 May 2005 - CEPSA emissions within the Law - Confirmed

18 May 2005 - IU express concern in Andalusian Parliament

13 May 2005 - CSIC report confirms high levels of pollutants in the Bay of Gibraltar


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