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  • ESG in the heart of the European Parliament – STRASBOURG

    The ESG, Hassans and Professor Benach have just returned from Strasbourg this time directly lobbying the Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas over the question of cross border pollution caused primarily by heavy industry in el Campo area.

    [David Dumas QC, Henry Pinna, Neil Parish, Janet Howitt, Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas,David Hammerstein, Professor Benach]

    Supported by the energetic commitment of Neil Parish MEP for Gibraltar who organised this meeting, the team was able to press upon the Commissioner the main focus of its complaint lodged with EC legal offices for the last 4 years. Keen to present the matter as apolitical and cross border, the team also invited a Spanish MEP, David Hammerstein, known for his support on environmental problems in other parts of Spain to lend his support. In this light the Commissioner could fully appreciate the efforts made to depoliticise the matter and focus, instead, on the environmental impact from the various commercial and industrial activities taking place within the Bay.

    Fully briefed in a fourteen page document, it is hoped that Mr Dimas will use his position to help bring about the necessary action by the EC legal team against Spain on infringement of environmental directives if it draws similar conclusions to those outlined in the complaint.

    In spite of the clear environmental degradation created by heavy chemical industries like those situated in the Bay and the Refinery in particular, the options for action by the Commission are narrow. Among these are:

    * To ensure that the environmental impact from these industries is clearly monitored and information publicly available (such as was highlighted by the bucket brigade work revealing an absence of such data as required under “Benzene” Directive 2000/69) – and to bring about infringement proceedings if necessary

    * And for the suitability of the “grandfather clause” status claimed by CEPSA, (obviating the need for compliance with current industrial emission standards (until 2007 IPPC legislation)), to be closely examined as the growth of its refining capacity and petrochemical industry over the last 15 years raise some doubts over its qualification for such status – this expansion of capacity and industry was pointed out to the Commissioner in some detail

    The conclusion of the meeting with the Commissioner was that due to the original complaint by ESG and GONHS to the EU in 2002 and continued pressure by the ESG (4 further files), culminating in meeting with personnel of enforcement and technical departments of the directorate of the Environment, we learnt from Mr Dimas that Spain had provided information in response to them and that further information was expected imminently, which they would then assess.

    A further letter drawn up by MEP Neil Parish and the team was drafted in Strasbourg on the meeting outcome and has already been sent to the Commissioner.

    It is clear that after having followed the “Brussels” process directly for 4 years, the ESG can now take full advantage of the backing of such MEP’s as Neil Parish to lobby directly and have a “voice” in the European parliament. Without this, it has been very difficult to access a right to environment justice.