campaigners vowed yesterday to continue piling pressure on CEPSA and
other big industries to cut pollution levels in the Bay of Gibraltar.
They are preparing to intensify a wide-ranging campaign to back their
claim that industrial emissions are causing a health crisis in this
The campaigners are drawing on legal and medical experts to establish their case and force companies to listen. And they believe their efforts could ultimately have wider repercussions across the European Union.
such as CEPSA have repeatedly said that available evidence does not
support claims that pollution is causing a health crisis. On numerous
occasions, Spanish regional and national authorities have backed that
assessment too. Officials blame cancer clusters and widespread health
problems in this region on smoking and lifestyle habits. But the
Environmental Safety Group and its Spanish partners believe the
monitoring systems that collect the available evidence are inadequate.
months the groups have been collecting air samples using methods
pioneered in the US by the Bucket Brigade. The results have often
showed alarmingly high levels of toxic substances in the air.
Now they plan to back these air samples up with a pilot health study in communities close to the refinery. They
hope to draw links between the samples and medical tests on residents,
with the aim of proving that contaminants from industry are having an
adverse impact on their health.
David Dumas QC, a partner at local
law firm Hassans who has worked closely with the ESG, said there could
be legal liabilities for the company if that link is established. Mr
Dumas has been working with Spanish lawyers to piece together the legal
basis for an action of this type in Spain.
importance of that pilot study is to distil the potential for a claim,
and ensure that we only put - fairly - at CEPSA’s door those ailments
or claims that are really their fault,” he said. Although such proof is
hard to establish, international refinery expert Denny Larson said
legal claims had been successfully brought against companies in the US.
Most of these related to acute conditions, including cases involving
In parallel with these local initiatives, the ESG
will continue to pursue its complaint against CEPSA filed with the
The challenge argues that CEPSA is breaching EU
law and is hiding behind a so-called “grandfather clause” that gives
the local refinery greater flexibility in adhering to rules because of
CEPSA denies these claims and says its facility complies with all applicable international rules.
“This is a test case,” Mr Larson said. “The EU regulations are very new compared to what we have in place in the US. There
may be loopholes – such as the way that the grandfather clause has been
applied - that may need to be tightened and closed. This is a case that is much broader than just what is happening in the south of Spain.”