International Expertise Should Inform Expedited Program for Most Polluting Refinery in EU
European Union Member of Parliament – Expert Meeting with CEPSA Brings Call for Negotiations with Bay Environmental Groups to Reduce Pollution
(Bay of Gibraltar) Following a high level meeting between European Union Member of Parliament, CEPSA officials and an international refinery expert, local environmental groups have called the refinery to begin direct negotiations to rapidly implement a series of improvements aimed at dramatically reducing the most harmful pollutants from one of Europe’s dirtiest refinery.
“While our meeting confirmed that CEPSA officials have started down the path long advocated by Bay environmental activists to reduce the refinery’s most harmful pollution sources, we are calling on management to rapidly increase these efforts through direct negotiations,” said Denny Larson, international refinery expert, working on behalf of the Environmental Safety Group (ESG). “Unfortunately these same officials remain in the dark that their large and unnecessary emissions of benzene, heavy metals and other serious toxins are causing real damage to the health of their neighbors.”
On September 13, 2006, European Union Member of Parliament for Gibraltar, Neil Parish, met with CEPSA refinery environmental officials along with long time international refinery expert, Denny Larson, of the Global Community Monitor/Bucket Brigade for eight hours. The meeting is a follow up to a “toxic tour” of refinery neighborhoods sponsored by the ESG earlier this year. Subsequently Mr. Parish, ESG and Mr. Larson have requested detailed information from CEPSA as to the specific measures in place at the refinery that eliminate or reduce its most harmful emissions. The questions focused on the largest sources of unmonitored and controlled pollution at refineries worldwide: fugitive emissions or equipment leaks and upset/flaring incidents.
Mr. Larson relied on his experience of working on US EPA committees to focus on successful programs not yet in place in regulation in the European Union, but widely used at refineries in America. He made a series of recommendations to Mr. Parish and CEPSA as to how the refinery could rapidly improve leak detection and repair programs as well as prevent accidents and flaring.
“It is important for CEPSA to recognize that their recent pollution reduction efforts have been spurred by the advocacy of the cross border pressure of the ESG and Spanish environmental groups and in order to make further progress, they must sit down and begin a formal process to resolve remaining issues,” said Mr. Larson. “It is time for CEPSA to accept the role of stakeholders like ESG and work to put in place an official ‘Good Neighbor’ program modeled on successes in the USA and elsewhere.”
Larson was not encouraged however by CEPSA officials continued reliance on the existing air monitoring program in the region as evidence of compliance with new EU air toxic standards. While the network includes the components of a satisfactory system, such as real time and continuous reporting to the web, it lacks a sufficient number of monitors and area of detection. Larson criticized the monitors capacity to monitor the huge area CEPSA and related facilities pollute which is dozens of square kilometers in the Bay region.
“Actually the current monitoring stations are only capable of monitoring a few square meters or less than a fraction of the impacted area because they monitor a single point no larger than a few centimeters,” according to Larson. “Point source monitors such as the ones in place in Spain and Gibraltar have become ‘stone age’ technologies in the wake of ‘open path’ systems which can monitor the air over hundreds of meters.”
Larson blamed the lack of comprehensive fenceline monitors and open path systems for the conclusions reached by CEPSA and local officials that the air around the refinery is “safe” for residents to breathe and within EU norms. He called upon the parties to also rapidly improve the monitoring network to assure that programs to reduce pollution are actually making a measureable improvement in the air breathed by residents in the region.