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Air quality ‘better than ever’

Photo by David Parody

The Gibraltar Government has slammed the “poor calibre of the Opposition” as it hit back at the GSD’s comments on the Rock’s air quality.

In a statement the Government accused the GSD of making “irresponsible” and “misleading” comments on the subject.

“The latest Opposition press release on air quality is both poorly researched and scientifically void,” the Government said, adding that most of the points made were covered over a year ago by the Minister for the Environment, Dr John Cortes, in Parliament in answer to Opposition questions.

“This shows the poor calibre of the Opposition and their latest statement is, therefore, irresponsible as it has issued misleading comments regarding questions which have already been fully answered.”

The Government added that Trevor Hammond’s latest statement dismisses the Government’s data on particulates, which it said showed real improvements over the past few years even though these were the main causes for concern in the WHO report and are among the more dangerous pollutants.

“Mr Hammond fails to recognise this and instead tries to substantiate his claims using Nitrogen dioxide (NO2).”

The Government further slammed the Opposition for using results from the ‘passive diffusion tubes’ instead of the ‘accurate continuous monitoring arrays’. These serve to give general information only and have a 20% margin of error, No. 6 said.

The Government underscored that the results that the Opposition rely on involve so much uncertainty that their use for compliance evidence and reporting to the EU is prohibited. They may indicate trends, but they are useless as evidence.

“Nevertheless, the GSD proffer them as such.”

The Government concedes that 2014 was a bad year for air pollution, as the Opposition had stated.

But, it said: “Whereas levels of NO2 were decreasing consistently from 2011 thanks to the night-time closing of the South District Power Stations, they went up in 2014 because in April that year, as Dr Cortes stated in Parliament in May 2015, ‘Their [the GSD’s] decrepit, old, useless, out-of-date power station blew up’.”

This widely-reported fire resulted in the temporary power plants, including the former MOD and OESCO power stations, polluting and close to the monitoring sites, having to be switched on in order to maintain the power supply to the community.

The amount of NO2 detected by the Rosia monitoring station rose in 2014 as a result. Although, the NO2 detected by the Witham’s Road monitoring station did not.

“Action by Government and the Gibraltar Electricity Authority (GEA) has resulted in decreasing use of the South District plants since that time to the point that, except on a few occasions for operational reasons, both these plants are now permanently switched off.”

This has meant a continuing decrease in NO2 levels throughout 2015 in both monitoring stations, the Government said.

Data for 2016 up to May, while still provisional, show this trend continuing and this provisional data are below the EU 40ug limit in 2016 for the first time ever.

“While it is possible that this may increase as an average at the end of this year, the trend is clear. The Government’s measures to increase energy efficiency awareness and its proactive management of power generation are having real, demonstrable effects despite the significant glitch caused by the old Waterport power station burning up.”

Dr John Cortes said: “I am grateful to Trevor for giving me the opportunity to reveal this good news story. He amusingly asked me in his press release to keep my environmental credibility by demonstrating what actions are in place to reduce pollution.”

“The data we released some weeks ago about particulates (PM10 and PM2.5) were significant – although Trevor seems not have understood them – and our NO2 figures show precisely why we are the Government to look after the environment. And that is all without the full impact of our traffic plan, nor the opening of the new state-of-the-art clean gas power station next year. Just imagine what Gibraltar would have been like in the hands of the GSD, with Gibraltar defaced and contaminated by a polluting diesel power station and no energy policy whatsoever.”

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