Oceana today offered cautious praise for Occidental Petroleum’s (NYSE:OXY) decision to eliminate mercury technology from chlorine production. While the company has announced its intent to eliminate mercury, it has yet to offer a timetable or plan for how it intends to reach that goal.
“While we applaud Occidental’s commitment to doing the right thing, we need to see specifics,” said Jackie Savitz, director of Oceana’s Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination. “The public has a right to know Occidental’s timeline and plans for completing the conversion to mercury-free technology.”
Occidental owns two of the nine outdated mercury-cell chlorine facilities that Oceana targeted in its campaign for mercury-free chlorine production. These plants are a major source of mercury emissions into the environment, releasing five times more mercury to the air per plant, on average, than coal-burning power plants. In fact, mercury-using plants, including the Occidental plant in Alabama, were the top source of mercury air pollution in seven of the eight states where they operated in 2003. Oceana reports have shown that plants could fix the problem by switching to readily available mercury-free technology, which is already used by 90 percent of the chlorine industry.
Following Oceana’s groundbreaking 2005 report Poison Plants, two of the nine facilities already have committed to stop using mercury. Occidental announced last November that it would immediately shut down chlorine production at its Delaware City, Del. plant, thus eliminating the use of mercury at the plant. PPG (NYSE:PPG) announced plans to shift to a modern, mercury-free production method at its Lake Charles, La. facility by 2007. The Occidental plant in Muscle Shoals would be the third mercury-based plant to eliminate mercury use since the campaign began.
Oceana’s campaign has pressured Occidental to go mercury-free. Oceana’s two reports on the mercury problem have gained considerable media and public attention for an issue that had previously been below the radar even for those who lived near the plants. Activists sent postcards and e-mails to the company and demonstrated outside of last year’s meeting of the Chlorine Institute, a trade group to which Occidental belongs.
“Occidental’s commitment to mercury-free production confirms that what we have been asking these companies to do is entirely achievable,” Savitz said. “Olin Corporation, PPG, ERCO Worldwide, Pioneer, and Ashta Chemicals should watch closely and follow suit.”
To download high resolution photos of chlorine facilities or Oceana demonstrations for publication, click here. B-roll is also available upon request.