Oceana today applauded Occidental Petroleum’s (NYSE:OXY) decision to shutter its Muscle Shoals, Ala., chlor-alkali facility by 2008, a move that will reduce mercury air pollution in the state by at least 17 percent. The group released the following statement from Jacqueline Savitz, Director of Oceana’s Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination, on Occidental’s commitment:
“Oceana has been working for more than a year to get the nine plants that continue to use outdated mercury technology for chlorine production to shift to readily available mercury-free technology. Unfortunately, Occidental has not chosen to go that route for economic reasons, and this clearly has implications for dozens of workers for which we hope Occidental will find a just transition. Nonetheless, Oceana applauds Occidental for its elimination of mercury-based chlorine production in both its Alabama and Delaware facilities. This will lead to tremendous environmental and public health benefits, including the complete removal of the largest single source of mercury air emissions in the state of Alabama. We hope that Occidental will also engage in a careful and complete cleanup of any legacy mercury that may be left on the site, so as not to repeat the mistakes made at the Olin facility in McIntosh, Alabama.”
Occidental owns two of the nine outdated mercury-cell chlorine facilities that Oceana targeted in its campaign for mercury-free chlorine production.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.
Since Oceana’s groundbreaking 2005 report Poison Plants, two of the nine facilities 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 facility. In addition, 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 will be the third mercury-based chlorine plant to eliminate mercury use since the campaign began.
“Occidental’s switch 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.”
Ed Note – To download high resolution photos of Occidental’s Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Newcastle, Del., chlorine facilities or Oceana demonstrations for publication, click here. B-roll is also available upon request.