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Revealed: Chevron pollution failure putting workers’ health at risk

Conservation groups have renewed calls for the State Government to take urgent action against WA’s biggest polluter, following revelations that Chevron’s ongoing failure to meet pollution control conditions at its Barrow Island LNG project is leading to workers and wildlife being exposed to toxic airborne emissions, including BTEX and mercury.

IMAGE: Chevron's Barrow Island LNG Project CREDIT: Google

Key points:

  • Documents reveal Chevron’s ongoing failure to meet pollution control conditions on Barrow Island is exposing workers to toxic chemicals, including BTEX chemicals and mercury
  • The company admits that stopgap measures to burn the toxic gases will not solve the problem
  • Chevron has been repeatedly allowed to delay meeting its pollution control commitments, despite a review being called by the Minister for the Environment
  • Chevron is WA’s biggest polluter and its WA LNG operations have been the main driver of Australia’s increasing carbon pollution over the last 18 months
  • Chevron pays no tax or royalties for the gas it is exporting, despite its WA operations earning the company $32 million dollars per day in clear profits
  • Environment groups are calling tougher action by the State Government to control Chevron’s pollution and require the company to comply with its conditions of approval

Documents released last week by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) reveal that Chevron will construct new flaring equipment, in an attempt to burn toxic gases containing 300 parts per million of BTEX chemicals 13,000 micrograms of mercury per cubic metre. The vapors are currently being vented into the atmosphere, exposing workers to health risks.

The stopgap measure to burn the toxic gases is necessary because Chevron has failed to commission its ‘geosequestration’ facility, which is a condition of approval for the Gorgon project. Chevron says it intended to use the facility to bury a cocktail other toxic material under the island, despite there being no provision for this in the project approval. Environment Minster Stephen Dawson has triggered a review of Chevron’s unmet conditions almost a year ago, however despite this, Chevron has been allowed to continue deferring the start date for meeting its conditions.

Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Director Piers Verstegen said the State Government had failed to hold Chevron to its approval conditions, and this has consequences for the health of both workers and wildlife on Barrow Island.

“The lack of action to address Chevron’s ongoing non-compliance is not only causing millions of tonnes of additional carbon pollution, but has now been revealed to have direct consequences for the health of workers who are being exposed to a carcinogenic cocktail of BTEX and mercury vapours on Barrow Island.

“By the company’s own admission, Chevron’s latest stopgap measure to burn toxic gases will not reduce workers exposure to toxic mercury, and will only make the Company’s already appalling carbon pollution issue worse.

“The documents released today are an embarrassment to Chevron and the State Government regulator. They reveal that the company has no intention or ability to comply with its pollution control conditions any time soon, and instead is scrambling to employ stopgap measures which won’t solve the problem.

“It is time WA’s biggest polluter is held to account. Minister Dawson commissioned a review almost a year ago, yet there has been no concrete action to address Chevron’s ongoing refusal to comply with its conditions of approval.

“Chevron’s conditions of approval require the company to capture and bury carbon pollution underground, and a separate DWER-approved pollution abatement plan relies on this same method for disposal of other toxic gases. Despite this, the company is yet to even apply for the license it requires to operate the pollution control equipment that taxpayers help pay for on Barrow Island.

“Chevron’s pollution is getting beyond a joke. The company is being allowed to expose workers and wildlife to toxic chemicals and release millions of tons of greenhouse gases with no sign of when it will be made to comply with its approval conditions.

“Chevron’s WA operations are making the company $32 million dollars per day in clear profits, while the company pays no tax and no royalties for the gas it exports. Addressing its carbon pollution by investing in tree planting, renewable energy and carbon farming would cost the company less than 2% of these profits and deliver thousands of new jobs for West Australians.

“It is a disgrace and an embarrassment that instead this company is being allowed to get away with ignoring its conditions of approval, poisoning its own workers, and destroying our future by making climate change worse.

“If Chevron cannot immediately address its pollution problems then operations at the Barrow Island LNG facility should be suspended until the problems are fixed.”

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