Last week the Tory MEP for Gibraltar and the South West of England, Ashley Fox, let it be known he’d asked the European Commission to look at the pollution levels coming from the CEPSA refinery on the bay at San Roque.
The move came as rumours emerged the refinery has doubled its output over the last 12 months. This apparently has led concerned residents to contact the MEP because they are worried CEPSA may have boosted output at the expense of its environmental standards.
Fox says he has asked the Commission whether the refinery is complying with its operating licence from 2007 which clearly lays out its environmental obligations. He has further requested that if the refinery is found to be in breach of its environmental obligations that the Commission takes steps to ensure that the pollution does not harm both local Spanish and Gibraltarian residents.
So what does CEPSA have to say about all this?
Spokesperson, Amalia Puigdengolas Rosas, told me: “CEPSA has not increased its production in the year 2010. It has increased the arrival of crude which is then sent in smaller tankers to the refinery at Palos de la Frontera but the production has been the same as in other years.”
So is CEPSA keeping its environmental obligations?
Amalia Puigdengolas Rosas said: “CEPSA accounts to the Autorización Ambiental Integrada (AAI) which comes under the Andalucía government and each year it publishes the environmental declaration which is carried out on all aspects of the refinery. This document is certified by AENOR and the declaration for 2010 is published in March.”
Of course it is this same AAI report endorsed by the international standards body AENOR that the European Commission will study as well as receiving the same reply as I did on production levels.
It has to be said refining is never a clean industry. Those of us who live in the bay zone know all too well the CEPSA refinery at San Roque has been dirty in the past but millions of euros have been spent on installing the latest technology to clean up its emissions to meet European standards. Whether CEPSA has met its environmental obligations will be revealed in March.
It is a pity that rather than trying to grab a headline Ashley Fox MEP didn’t do a bit more research and talk to CEPSA directly. The serious point here is that there are enough concerns about the heavy industry in the bay and legitimate reasons to demand action and hold enquiries. This issue would appear not to be one of them. By crying “Wolf!” these legitimate complaints are diluted.
Or perhaps I should have said crying “Fox!”