GreenLeft.org (Australia): Shell poisons Corio Bay: “The Shell oil refinery in Geelong has once again been caught out polluting Corio Bay.”: “Clifton Springs — across the bay from Shell — has one of the highest asthma rates in the world, but these big companies don’t care how many people, fish, waterways, trees or whatever they poison, as long as they can take home their massive profits. (ShellNews.net) 15 Nov 04
Sue Bull, Geelong
The Shell oil refinery in Geelong has once again been caught out polluting Corio Bay. On November 4, Shell failed to inform the Environmental Protection Agency that a spill had reached the bay and the company was initially very slow to clean it up, according to EPA chairperson Mick Bourke.
The spill was of such major proportions that Bourke released a scathing broadside on the oil giant, warning Shell not to hide behind its reputation as a major employer.
“Neither the environment nor the community can afford to keep taking hits like this from Shell”, he said. “This company is a major employer of people from the area, but that doesn’t provide [it] with any credibility when the knocks keep coming.”
EPA staff found hydrocarbons had covered 400 metres of the Corio Bay beach. The oil spill, estimated at hundreds of litres, did not evaporate but went out on the tide and coated shellfish, seagrass, inter-tidal sand and mud flats.
The spill has generated a heated debate in Geelong, where community groups monitoring Shell say there are some 30 breaches of EPA regulations by the refinery every month.
Residents in Geelong’s northern and western suburbs say they have noticed a strong acrid smell that spreads all the way from the refinery on many Sunday mornings. No resident would know whether the smell was caused by benzene, propylene or some other chemical from the refinery's catalytic cracker emissions. Both benzene and propylene have been reported as leaking or being emitted from the refinery.
The November 10 Geelong News carried a banner headline on its front page reading, “Shame Shell Shame”. It presented Shell’s sorry record in a “Shell Shame File”. The file showed that the EPA had fined Shell more than 20 times since 2002 for spills, emissions and fires.
Even after the EPA imposed its biggest fine ever on a company — $75,000 against Shell in June of this year — it has made little difference. Perhaps the $815 million profit declared for the previous financial year explains why Shell feels the fines are simply a minor nuisance.
Tim Gooden, acting secretary of the Geelong and Regional Trades and Labour Council and a member of the Socialist Alliance told Green Left Weekly: “Shell has an appalling track record. It’s about time that the EPA and the state ALP government got serious and fined these companies big bucks, commensurate with the crimes they’re committing. Clifton Springs — across the bay from Shell — has one of the highest asthma rates in the world, but these big companies don’t care how many people, fish, waterways, trees or whatever they poison, as long as they can take home their massive profits.
“The James Hardie outrage has shown this. I doubt that Shell is any different.”
From Green Left Weekly, November 17, 2004.