Call to investigate ExxonMobil

Esso Bowling 2

The abandoned and polluted Esso site at Bowling pictured from the Old Kilpatrick Hills and from the River Clyde.

By Bill Heaney

Exxon Mobil is the mega rich oil company West Dunbartonshire Council have agreed to “gamble” millions of pounds of public money on by providing the cash to clean up the old Esso tank farm land at Bowling on the River Clyde.

The project is part of the City Deal Project, a series of 20 projects costing £1.13 billion over ten years and aimed to create more than 600 jobs on Clydeside.

A number of senior officers of the Council are involved in this “initiative across services of the Council and as part of the project board”.

Council papers say the Exxon City Deal project for West Dunbartonshire has approved funding of £27.897 million over the next five years. The refreshed outline business case is seeking funding over the next six years of £34.050 million, an increase of £6.153 million.

But should the Council be risking public money on this deal?

Not if you read the other stories on this page of The Democrat, they shouldn’t be speculating without further – much further – investigation into what goes on – and has gone on – within Exxon.

All councils participating are expected to make a 14 per cent contribution – “a key reason for presenting a refreshed outline business case to the council is to satisfy a request from the UK and Scottish governments to the Programme Management Office that all projects fully satisfy HM Treasury Green Book compliance for business case appraisals.”

The report from Jim McAloon, which received overwhelming approval from the SNP administration on Wednesday, said the detailed studies and assessments carried out over the past two years had given the Council a better understanding of the complexity of the site.

“These studies have included flood alleviation, site drainage, road access and egress arrangements, the eastern railway over-bridge, the western railway under-bridge and the quay walls [at Bowling Harbour], together with a market assessment on the value of the site once the project has been developed out.”

An earlier report revealed the financial implications for West Dunbartonshire were £760,000 in 2018/19. As of October this year, the total project capital expenditure was £1.477 million. The approved budget expenditure for the City Deal Exxon project totals £2.948 million over 2017/18/19.

Mr McAloon, the Council’s Strategic Lead, Regeneration, states that “consultation with all key stakeholders is progressing as we continue to work as part of the Glasgow City Region”.

The SNP administration in West Dunbartonshire has stated that one of its main priorities is a strong local economy and improved employment opportunities.

They hope the cleaned up Exxon site will be regenerated as an industrial estate where 600 people would find jobs – “the proposals within this report are specifically designed to deliver on this priority”.

However, with this latest publicity, the Scottish and Westminster governments and West Dunbartonshire Council may wish to investigate this and consider their position in the City Deal.

We have asked the Council to comment on this, but they refuse to take questions from The Democrat.

If Democrats want to seek the truth, they must investigate ExxonMobil

Our era is defined by interlocking crises of truth, democracy and ecology – and ExxonMobil is a major actor at that intersection

Now that Democrats have won control of the House of Representatives, the days of unchecked conservative power and liberal despair may be waning. Congressional committees vested with the authority to hold hearings, conduct investigations and serve subpoenas are likely to look into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, Donald Trump’s tax returns, the bungled hurricane response in Puerto Rico, the firing of former FBI director James Comey and resignation of attorney general Jeff Sessions, and much more.

Exxon Mobile

If Pelosi and House Democrats are sincere about restoring integrity to Congress, uncovering threats to democracy and seeking the truth, they should also investigate a corporation that has done long-term and probably irrevocable damage to our politics and planet: ExxonMobil.

Our era is defined by interlocking crises of truth, democracy and ecology. Exxon Mobil is a major actor at that intersection.

Internal and external documents compiled by InsideClimate News, the Los Angeles Times and researchers at Harvard University reveal that Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest fossil fuel corporation, knew as early as 1977 – and potentially as early as the 1950s – that its business activities could wreak havoc on the climate.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the company outfitted the largest supertanker in its fleet with instruments to monitor the oceanic absorption of carbon dioxide and hired scientists and mathematicians to study global warming. They developed in-house climate change models and published their findings in peer-reviewed journals.

In a 1978 memo, one Exxon Research manager wrote: “This may be the kind of opportunity that we are looking for to have Exxon technology, management and leadership resources put into the context of a project aimed at benefiting mankind.”

But by the late 1980s, the oil giant had changed its stance. In 1988, an Exxon public affairs manager wrote that the company should “emphasise the uncertainty” of climate science. This became the “Exxon position” – and so began one of the greatest conspiracies of our time.

Borrowing from big tobacco’s playbook, Exxon and other oil corporations launched public relations campaigns to sow doubt about the science behind climate change. Exxon took out full-page ads in the New York TimesWall Street Journal and Washington Post, among others. One ad described climate change as “unsettled science”. Another, titled Reset the Alarm, made a claim the company knew to be false: “We still don’t know what role man-made greenhouse gases might play in warming the planet.” 

ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel corporations have spewed emissions into the atmosphere while bearing little or no cost for the damage

A peer-reviewed study of the corporation’s public and private communications by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Orestes of Harvard University demonstrates that ExxonMobil actively misled the public about climate science and its implications. Exxon also hid the implications of climate science and policy from its shareholders, inflating the value of the fossil fuel assets that it would have had to abandon to meet international climate targets.

But Exxon’s deceits run even deeper. Over the years, the company channelled about $30m to researchers and activist groups promoting disinformation about global warming. Documents from the Bush administration reveal the company played a key role in dissuading the former president from signing the Kyoto protocol. In league with other fossil fuel corporations – most notably Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute – Exxon transformed the Republican party into the enemy of scientific fact.

All the while, ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel corporations have spewed emissions into the atmosphere while bearing little or no cost for the damage – and driving us headlong into a climate crisis. The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, informed by thousands of leading studies, makes it plain: to avoid catastrophic warming of more than 1.5C ( humanity must transition from dirty to clean energy by 2030.

Last month, New York state sued ExxonMobil for conducting a “longstanding fraudulent scheme” to deceive investors, analysts and insurers “concerning the company’s management of the risks posed to its business by climate change regulation”. Dozens of jurisdictions and entities across the country, including the state of Rhode Island, Boulder county in Colorado, and multiple municipalities across California have filed suits against Exxon and other oil companies. Last week, crab fishermen in California sued 30 fossil fuel corporations for damaging their fisheries.

ExxonMobil and the other fossil fuel corporations most responsible for climate change should pay their fair share to address this crisis. But if their continuing lobbying efforts are any indication, they will not. Oil and gas interests spent over $100m to stop climate action at the ballot box in the midterm elections – doling out over $41m in Colorado and $31m in Washington to defeat state-level ballot initiatives that would have restricted fracking operations to a safe distance from homes and schools and made carbon polluters pay for their waste.

Recently, Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined youth climate activists in a sit-in at the Capitol Hill office of Pelosi, demanding House Democrats pursue a Green New Deal. In response, Pelosi has reaffirmed that she will revive the select committee on climate change disbanded by Republicans. For the sake of all of us, House Democrats have a duty to use the authority of that and other committees to investigate Exxon.

esso bowling 3.jpg plus edited

The jetty at Esso Bowling was over-shadowed by Dumbarton Rock.

Excerpt From the Democrat on December 5:

A bid to halt large sums of public money being ploughed into clearing the Bowling site owned by a billionaire multi-national company was thwarted by West Dunbartonshire Council.

Community Party member Cllr Jim Bollan wanted to pull the plug on financing the old Esso terminal which owned by super rich Exxon.

Bollan Jim 2Cllr Bollan pleaded with the SNP/Tory/Independent coalition to withdraw from the current City Deal project – “The site is heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals and materials including asbestos, which will not be removed from the site under the proposed ‘remediation’ process.”

The Renton councillor added: “Until an agreement is reached with the Exxon owners that all the contaminated heavy metal and asbestos is removed from the site, at their cost, then West Dunbartonshire Council should not spend any more public money on this land which is not in council ownership and has already cost local taxpayers in excess of £3 million.”

The Council voted by 20-2 to keep financing the operation on the site which lies on the banks of the River Clyde at Dunglass Castle.

They also agreed plans to increase the Council contribution to the development from £3.8million to £4.7million.

See more of this in The Democrat on December 5.

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