Thursday, 19 November 2020

Lafarge CEO explains why company polluted river Seine

Responsible, ethical companies don't knowingly pollute rivers.

So what sort of company is LafargeHolcim, accused of dumping dirty water into the Seine "for years"? 

We have already posted on this subject once, but here is François Petry, CEO of LafargeHolcim France, previously CEO of Aggregate Industries, shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, trying to explain why LafargeHolcim – parent of Aggregate Industries – was found polluting the River Seine in Paris, admitting that the practice was not acceptable, claiming that "strict action plans" have now been put in place to stop it happening again.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Devon quarry operator pollutes River Yealm

On Monday, the Environment Agency received reports of the River Yealm changing colour:
 

The pollution incident was investigated by an environment officer, who: 
 "traced it back to a quarry operation further up the catchment"
Aggregate Industries is one of a small number of operators with quarries in the catchment.  

Aggregate Industries is also the company that wants to quarry Straitgate Farm. A watercourse from Straitgate feeds the mediaeval fishponds at Grade I Cadhay House. Numerous concerns have been raised. Is it any surprise? What would happen if a similar pollution event were to happen here?


EDIT 24.11.20:
A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: "The Environment Agency continues to investigate the incident which affected a large stretch of the River Yealm on 16 November.
"Rainfall had caused contaminated run-off to escape the containment area of a quarry-related operation and enter the river."

Farmer in hospital after falling into quarry

In its plans to quarry Straitgate Farm, Aggregate Industries has made clear that
The applicant is the Landlord of the Agricultural Tenant at Straitgate Farm who has the benefit of an Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 Tenancy Agreement.
Aggregate Industries plans mineral extraction in phases over 10-12 years, during which time dairying operations would continue with cows grazing on remaining pasture surrounding any workings. The Devon Minerals Plan specifies that "the site should be restored to enable resumption of agricultural use... the working and restoration phasing should minimise the area of land not in cultivation". In its Transport Assessment, the company said:
Cow tracks will be installed over Straitgate Farm by Aggregate Industries prior to access being taken for quarrying works to commence to enable the Tenant to continue to farm and carry out their day to day business activities, namely dairy farming.
The mix of quarry and dairy operations would elevate the risks for all concerned, and safeguards would be needed. The dangers were highlighted recently, when a farmer suffered multiple injuries after falling into a quarry while tending livestock.
 

Biden plans to halt Trump’s wall – the one LafargeHolcim was so eager to help build

LafargeHolcim – parent company of Aggregate Industries – showed what sort of company it was back in 2017, eagerly telling the world it was ready to help build Trump’s wall: 
The backlash was swift, with warnings from the French government, and a lost contract in Paris. The French Foreign Minister delivered a public repudiation:  
"It (Lafarge) should reflect upon what its interests are. There are other clients who will be stunned by this. Lafarge says it doesn’t do politics...Very well, but I would say companies ... also have social and environmental responsibilities." 
The Paris Mayor deputy said the decision to drop the Lafarge contract was in keeping with: 
"the ethical commitments that Parisians can expect from the city".
We posted that this is the company looking to profit from Straitgate Farm, with subsequent posts here and here

It was another PR disaster for LafargeHolcim, more so given it was unlikely the company ever benefited from the wall:  
Trump originally vowed to build a strong concrete wall with ‘see-through’ sections, and toured a site filled with prototypes in 2018. But he later settled on repairing and extending the existing barrier using identical steel slats to those already in place.
 Now, President-elect Joe Biden says he will halt construction of Trump’s wall:

Biden says he will not tear down the 400 miles of barrier already built, but added that no further funding will be granted to the project, which was President Trump’s flagship policy.

‘Cracks in cement industry’s CO2 response’

The Financial Times writes that producers of cement – of which LafargeHolcim, parent of Aggregate Industries, is the world’s largest – are “moving too slowly” in adoption of greener methods: 
If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest source of CO2 emissions, behind China and the US, accounting for about 8 per cent of the annual total. 
While the sector’s carbon intensity — the average amount of CO2 gas per tonne of output — has fallen by 18 per cent since 1990, gross emissions increased by roughly half over the same period, according to the UK think-tank Chatham House. If a full-blown climate catastrophe is to be avoided, cement is one area of the economy that will have to shrink its carbon footprint the most. 

Why is LafargeHolcim against the Responsible Business Initiative?

On 29 November, Switzerland will hold a referendum on the Responsible Business Initiative. If the initiative succeeds, Swiss-based firms – including LafarageHolcim parent of Aggregate Industries:  
will be legally responsible for human rights abuses and environmental violations anywhere in the world, caused by companies under their control. Victims of human rights violations and environmental damage will be able to seek redress in Switzerland.
The corporate lobby is fighting hard against the initiative, saying it will make Swiss companies “guilty until proven innocent” for abuses anywhere in their supply chains, and open the door to “blackmail” by activists.
IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said: “For too long, multinational corporations have been able to hide their abuses behind a veneer of respectability, using plausible deniability whenever bad behaviour is highlighted. The Responsible Business Initiative is part of a global movement by unions and civil society organizations to hold companies responsible for their behaviour. “Our message is this: we are coming for you. There is nowhere to hide. We will hold you accountable.” 

The president of the board of Swiss cement manufacturer LafargeHolcim called the initiative’s demands “a gigantic absurdity”.  
Johannes Blankenbach from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre argues:
“Responsible companies… have nothing to fear, and indeed stand to gain from such legislation” 
Florian Wettstein, a business ethics professor at the University of St Gallen says companies’ strong pushback on the initiative says something about their confidence – or lack thereof – in their own due diligence efforts: 
“Companies say they are aligned with the UN Principles, but many know that they aren’t doing what they should when it comes to due diligence”

 

Monday, 9 November 2020

Polluter’s greenwash “backfires spectacularly”

Climate change became news 30 years ago

 At Aggregate Industries, CO2 emissions were – at the last count – still rising.

Clearly, as demonstrated by its bonkers multi-million mile haulage plan for Straitgate Farm, Aggregate Industries expects others to do the heavy lifting of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Claims that "#sustainability is at the heart of our business, and is incorporated in all of our operations... 🌍" seemingly don’t apply in the county of Devon, or to the company's CO2 emissions.  

Shell – another company responsible for our climate crisis – seems to suffer similar delusions. Many companies – cement giant, major CO2 emitter and Aggregate Industries' parent LafargeHolcim included – are now trying desperately to greenwash their operations. This story shows there’s only so much greenwash that polluters can pump out before it can all backfire spectacularly:

Overuse of sand ‘one of the major sustainability challenges of the 21st century’

SandStories aims to raise awareness of the "looming global sand crisis": 
SandStories works to create awareness about the urgent need to manage our consumption of sand as a resource. We aim to bridge the gap between science, policy and industry by identifying and promoting potential solutions to the looming sand crisis.

 A new book is in the pipeline: 

Sand has always been perceived to be a symbol of abundance in many cultures. It is popularly believed to be both renewable as well as inexhaustible. This book will challenge that perception and draw the reader's attention to a common yet surprising phenomenon of the scarcity of sand as a resource. From glass to urban infrastructure, from silicon chips to pharmaceutical products, sand is used in mind-boggling volumes. But extensive consumption has resulted in several social, environmental, economic and geopolitical impacts across the globe. Although specific industries have already begun to find alternatives due to shortage of sand, the gravity of the situation hasn't percolated into the mainstream yet. This book attempts to fill that void and make the subject readily accessible to those who wish to delve deeper.
 

Whilst Aggregate Industries’ business model relies on digging up precious farmland to extract more of this limited resource, some companies are operating in a more sustainable way; we posted about one recently, who stated:
It largely goes unreported that sand is on the endangered natural resource list. Globally around 13 billion tonnes of sand are mined for construction and the impact on the environment is vast and unsustainable. 
Natural resources will not be able to cope with on-going demand, but there are alternative solutions that are sustainable.
Of course, there's another way too:
 

Thursday, 5 November 2020

UK construction

Construction News reports that almost 4,500 construction firms have fallen into financial distress in the third quarter of 2020. The Construction Index reports that profit warnings from stock market listed construction companies have reached a record high:
Most of these warnings (60%) have come from the building materials subsector, as the impact of Covid-19 travelled through the supply chain, rather than from contractors and engineers as found in previous years. 
Meanwhile, today’s Bank of England forecasts show that hopes of a V-shaped recovery have faded. The Bank now predicts the UK economy will shrink by 11% this year – including a 2% contraction in October to December.


In the world of aggregates, the Mineral Products Association points to a recovery over the summer, but now has concerns about winter order books.
 
In the third quarter of 2020, sales volumes were 1.1% lower for asphalt than in the same period in 2019, 6.8% lower for primary aggregates, 14.2% lower for mortar and 14.3% lower for ready-mixed concrete. Industry data on contracts for new construction projects suggest work may be feeding through, but heavy-side building material producers have yet to see a significant pick-up in orders.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

DCC says local plan policy tackling climate crisis should be ‘implemented robustly’

Since Aggregate Industries applied for planning permission to quarry Straitgate Farm – and haul material a staggering 2.5 million miles in total to be processed – Devon County Council has declared a Climate Emergency. We have posted about it. Devon County Council’s Chief Executive Phil Norrey said:

This is not about gestures, this is about action
And it must be about action. The UN warned we have 12 years to limit the climate change catastrophe. That was 2 years ago. Every day, more signs of our global heating calamity are emerging; recently we learnt about the release of Arctic methane deposits adding to the domino effect.


Local plans set out policies used by county councils to determine planning applications. They are not prepared for decoration, for fancy bookends, for pressing flowers, but to inform future development. There is no point going to the lengths and expense of preparing local plans if the policies contained within are to be cast aside whenever they get in the way. 

Local plans are periodically reviewed. The Devon Waste Plan, for example, adopted in December 2014, was reviewed this year, taking into consideration amongst other things the Devon Climate Emergency. A Review of Climate Emergency Declaration implications for Devon Waste Plan was published in August 2020:
The Devon Climate Emergency is considered to be a significant change in local circumstance since the adoption of the Waste Plan which requires consideration. 1.1.5
The review presented within this report has identified that tackling climate change features strongly as a key theme within the current Waste Plan. It is central to its vision, objectives and policies. The Devon Waste Plan policies contain a number of measures which seek to reduce and adapt to the impacts of climate change. 1.6.1
The review concluded that:
...at this stage, the existing measures in the Waste Plan are sufficient in the context of the declaration, providing they are implemented robustly. 1.6.2
Providing they are implemented robustly

Waste planning and mineral planning often go hand in hand. In fact, the Devon Waste Plan was authored by the same person that compiled the Devon Minerals Plan. Like the Waste Plan, the Minerals Plan also contains policies to tackle climate change. The Devon Climate Emergency would again be a significant change in local circumstance since the adoption of the Minerals Plan. According to the Minerals Plan:
One of the biggest challenges facing Devon’s communities and environment, together with the wider world, is climate change driven by global warming. 3.4.1
Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change is a key consideration and statutory duty for the Devon Minerals Plan, and will be a cross-cutting theme for the Strategy. 2.2.4
Rather than being considered as a discrete issue, climate change is treated as a thread running through the Minerals Plan that influences a range of Policies. In particular: (a) the Spatial Strategy (Policy M1) ensures that the distances that minerals are transported by road are minimised... 3.4.7
Distances that minerals are transported by road are minimised.

Clearly, given Devon County Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration, Minerals Plan policies relating to mitigating climate change should also be implemented robustly. What is the point in declaring a Climate Emergency otherwise?

But the Minerals Plan doesn’t only cover general policies; it contains specific policies on specific sites, including for Straitgate Farm. For this site, the Minerals Plan does not say it’s OK to transport 53,000 28-tonne loads of as-dug material 23 miles from quarry face to processing plant – a total of 46 miles for each load – as Aggregate Industries has proposed. The Minerals Plan for Straitgate says:


Minimal transportation by road.

Clearly we can’t rely on Aggregate Industries to employ a moral backbone and do the right thing; as we posted, Climate emergency? Not at Aggregate Industries. CO2 emissions increase again.

So, if Devon County Council is serious about "one of the biggest challenges facing Devon’s communities and environment", if declaring a Climate Emergency is to mean anything at all, it must indeed ensure that policies that seek to reduce carbon emissions do just that, and are implemented robustly. It’s not rocket science. 

 

Aggregate Industries' CEO talks net zero

Aggregate Industries plans for Straitgate Farm must rank as one of the most unsustainable quarry schemes in the UK.

So what do we make of these words from Guy Edwards, Chief Executive Officer at Aggregate Industries, talking about net zero pledges:

With the government committing to producing ‘net zero’ greenhouse gases by 2050, the construction industry’s role in safeguarding the future of our planet has never been more prevalent. In short, it means that, along with other sectors, emissions will have to be avoided completely or offset by planting trees or removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Yes, it is a huge task but the sector has been working hard in recent years to address these issues - we believe that having more stringent local targets in place will only work to drive the industry to cut emissions further and faster.
There is no question about it; the construction industry must become more radical and holistic in its approach to sustainability. In this way, we must deliver the infrastructure overhaul we need to establish real change; from optimising energy efficiencies, embracing new power sources and adopting sustainable supply chains, helping to achieve nearly zero energy buildings (NZEBs) and in turn work towards realising the government’s new pledge.
While the magnitude of the task facing us in achieving ‘net zero’ is clear, we’re confident that a forward-thinking, progressive industry like ours will take up the mantel and lead the way in demonstrating the lengths we can go to reduce our environmental impact, which will positively impact us all.
Working hard to address these issues? More stringent local targets? Radical, further, faster, forward-thinking, progressive? Real change? This surely can’t be the same company wanting to put a new quarry 23 miles away from its processing plant, necessitating a round trip of 46 miles for every load of as-dug bog-standard sand and gravel, 2.5 million miles in total, can it? Surely not!

AI’s proposed 27m high asphalt plant at Hillhead is ‘contrary to landscape policies & grounds for refusal’

Earlier this year, we posted how Aggregate Industries proposed a new asphalt plant at Hillhead, how planning application DCC/4189/2020 sought to build a 24m high asphalt plant with a 27m high exhaust stack at an elevated position of 141m AOD. The plant and exhaust stack would be visible for miles around; 27m is more than the combined height of 6 double decker buses.


Here’s the predicted Zone of Significant Visibility; brown denotes areas of High Visibility.

Devon County Council’s Landscape Officer has now concluded that the application is "contrary to relevant landscape policies" providing "grounds for refusal": 
The proposed asphalt building, stack and plume of emissions together with the lighting and noise emissions from 24-hour operation are likely to erode the tranquillity and distinctive rural agricultural character of the Lower rolling farmed and settled valley slopes (LCT3B) of the Culm Valley Lowlands (DCA). The proposed taller elements would interrupt the undeveloped skyline in many rural views, introducing an incongruous industrial element that would extend the visual influence of modern development at the site to a far greater area than is the case with the existing development. The nature and operation of the proposed development would not enhance or complement the character of the area and would detract from the quality of rural views enjoyed by a considerable number of people in the area as indicated by the ‘Zones of Significant Visibility’ in the LVIA… I therefore consider that the proposals would have a significant and adverse effect on the special qualities, distinctive characteristics of the landscape, and visual impacts could not be mitigated to acceptable levels within a reasonable period, therefore contrary to Policy M18 of the Devon Minerals Plan.

Mining


Filed legal documents claim: 
The public environmental health disaster left behind by Anglo means there are more than 100,000 children and women of childbearing age in Kabwe who are likely to have suffered lead poisoning as a result of pollution caused by Anglo.

Monday, 26 October 2020

Surprise. AI needs yet another extension – ‘to compile additional information’

Aggregate Industries' planning application to quarry Straitgate Farm will enter yet another year. Last week the company agreed with Devon County Council to extend the date for determination to 31 March 2021.

It’s not the first extension. There have been others:
And so, this East Devon pantomime goes on. Will this application be extended ad infinitum, or will Devon County Council finally tell Aggregate Industries to shit or get off the pot

What’s Aggregate Industries' excuse this time? We haven’t done our homework, Miss. We need more time to compile additional information, Miss

Right. Of course. It’s what Aggregate Industries has spent the last decade doing, compiling additional information about quarrying Straitgate – much shown to be inadequate, with faults, omissions and lies

Aggregate Industries began compiling back in 2011. A planning application was launched in 2015. The application was withdrawn. More information was compiled. In 2017 a revised application was lodged. Questions were raised. More compiling. In 2019, questions were still being raised about fundamental issues on sustainability, on drinking water sources and the cattle crossing conundrum; information that should have been compiled with the original application, information still outstanding.

Aggregate Industries now claims a few more months will do it. But what has it been doing in 2020? No one would claim this year has been easy, but the company did find the time and wherewithal to address planning applications at Marshbroadmoor, Hillhead and in the Dorset AONB, to name but three.

But let’s not forget the fundamental issue here: There is no need for any aggregate from Straitgate Farm. Aggregate Industries has millions of tonnes right next door to its processing plant at Hillhead. And whilst the company has been sitting on its hands this year, another operator has recently announced plans to flood the Devon market with massive amounts of cheap secondary aggregates.

And yet, Aggregate Industries continues to peddle its unsustainable CO2 intensive plans for Straitgate – with its 2.5 million mile haulage scheme – despite promises from cement giant parent LafargeHolcim that it really does want to do things differently now, that new priorities have been set, that sustainability sits at the top of the agenda, that – according to the company's Chief Sustainability Officer – "it is a cool club to be part of":


Are we to believe all those claims? Or do we look at Aggregate Industries' ridiculous scheme and conclude it’s all "Bullshit"?


Meanwhile, in other news, Alarm as Arctic sea ice not yet freezing.

Monday, 19 October 2020

LafargeHolcim CEO talks CO2

Aggregate Industries – UK subsidiary of cement giant LafargeHolcim – submitted its first application to quarry Straitgate Farm back in 2015. The application was subsequently pulled, and in 2017 – despite the climate crisis – Aggregate Industries re-submitted plans, which this time involved an outlandish 2.5 million mile haulage scheme.

Aggregate Industries started pushing the phrase "Sustainability is at the heart of our business" in 2016. It still claims that today. They're splendid words, but utterly meaningless if the company's idea of sustainability, the company's idea of action on climate change, is hauling as-dug sand and gravel from Straitgate 23 miles away to Uffculme for processing. No wonder Aggregate Industries' countless pledges to reduce CO2 have come to naught.

But, as we posted, major investors are now starting to demand climate action from big polluters. Here, two cement CEOs discuss CO2 reduction with a senior portfolio manager from Norges Bank:
 

According to the portfolio manager:
Investors are no longer just focussed on words but are also looking at hard numbers and climate-based metrics.
That must be alarming for companies like LafargeHolcim and Aggregate Industries; alarming for companies that have so far thought that words – not actual reductions – might be enough.

One of the cement CEOs involved in the discussion was LafargeHolcim’s Jan Jenisch. He admits that until three years ago, the company hadn’t done enough on sustainability. This was obvious even in East Devon, if Aggregate Industries’ planning application for Straitgate at the time was anything to go by.

Will anything now change? Time will tell:
Jan Jenisch admitted that it was a challenge for himself and LafargeHolcim to get the focus right initially, in terms of agreeing a new way forward on carbon reduction. He explained that, until three years ago, the company hadn’t done enough on sustainability. However the context changed due to the CO2 movement and new scientific evidence, and it became obvious that new priorities had to be set and the agenda had to be accelerated. "It was important to make things happen and I put sustainability at the top of my agenda," said Mr Jenisch.
LafargeHolcim needed to educate itself on the facts, agree a way forward and energise the company to get on board with the new targets. "Communication was missing, and acceleration, which is needed in this situation," he added.
It was important for LafargeHolcim to make people part of the programme. The group's decision to target zero emissions was not an idea generated in the CEO's office. "It was the result of many people around the globe wanting to go on this journey," said Mr Jenisch. 
And, if true, thank goodness they have pushed the CEO to take action.

But why hadn’t LafargeHolcim done enough on sustainability? Why hadn’t it taken climate change seriously enough? This serial polluter – that can trace its roots back to economic collaboration with the Nazis and beyond – will have long been been aware of the harm it was causing to society, year in, year out. Was that not enough to spur action? Did it really need to wait for the money men to raise concerns?

Jan Jenisch points to new scientific evidence, to a conversion 3 years ago, as though anthropogenic climate change is a recent discovery. It might be new to Jan Jenisch, but 1856 was when Eunice Newton Foote showed that the heating effect of sunlight was affected by CO2; 1896 was when Svante Arrhenius calculated the effect of doubling atmospheric CO2 to be an increase in surface temperatures of 5-6°C; 1958 was when measurements confirmed the steady increase of CO2 in the atmosphere; the 1980s was when global temperatures began to rise sharply; 1988 was when the UN established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and 2006 was when even Aggregate Industries recognised that climate change "[is] happening and we have to take action now."

Since then Aggregate Industries' emissions have gone up, and in 2019 – despite new priorities, despite it apparently being "important to make things happen" – LafargeHolcim emitted 148,000,000 tonnes of CO2; more than many countries and still 2% higher than 2017.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Where are we with the cattle crossing issue?

Aggregate Industries' proposal to quarry Straitgate Farm – a dairy farm – would require the introduction of a cattle crossing across the busy B3174 Exeter Road, close to the brow of a hill. This would be used up to four times a day for around 150 cows – in much the same way that cows cross roads elsewhere in Devon and beyond – so they can access pasture to replace that lost to quarrying. 

Aggregate Industries has so far failed to assess the impact of cows on queueing traffic. As traffic consultants Vectos – representing another party – wrote:
The provision of a Cattle crossing over the B3174 may have severe impact on the operation of the B3174, which in the absence of assessment is not known.
Last year, as we posted in Bovine movements revisited – more than 2 years on, Devon County Council – following advice from their Highways Management department – wrote to Aggregate Industries:
The application needs to include the proposed agricultural access (TA 5.5.10) to the west of the existing farm access and directly opposite the existing field gate, to improve upon the current diagonal crossing point. That would enable a shorter traverse of the highway by livestock, effectively reducing crossing times. The Highway Authority also considers that these proposals should include holding pens on both sides of the road to assist in the efficient movement of the livestock. It appears that this would be a betterment of the existing situation and is related to the proposed mineral working based upon the worst case scenario of the available cattle movements, as put forward (TA 3.2.3) in the email from the Tenant Farmer [sic] to the Mineral Planning Authority dated 26 February 2018. The inclusion of the above is, we believe, outside of the application site and therefore it would possibly require a resubmission of the application to include it. However we do not believe that it is sufficient for the applicant to merely offer this to the Tenant Farmer and the Highway Authority without any means of the MPA being able to condition it.
At the start of this year, we made another Freedom of Information request to Devon County Council and learnt that Aggregate Industries informed the Council last October:
[AI’s traffic consultant] remains disappointed that your highways colleagues have done a U-turn from what we agreed with them at our meeting in terms of the cattle/livestock crossing. However, that said it may be in our interests to demonstrate that we have provided betterment that we secure a consent for a new perpendicular cattle crossing and we are currently preparing an application for submission to EDDC. Are you happy with this approach as this would negate altering the red line boundary?
The FOI asked for all Council correspondence relating to the application, but no reply to that communication has yet been provided. We can safely presume, however, that the answer was yes because last December, Aggregate Industries wrote to Devon County Council again:
A planning application for a new cattle crossing over the B3174 Exeter Road is also being finalised for submission to EDDC.
It's hardly a surprise that in 10 months no such application has appeared on EDDC’s planning website.

How would such an application be received? Look what happened last time such a plan was aired: 
Cattle crossing plan labelled ‘outrageous’
Traffic light 'cattle crossing' called 'downright dangerous'
'Outrageous' plans to proposed cattle crossing at Staitgate Farm, Ottery.
Since then, no assessment has been produced to show the impact a cattle crossing would have on the functioning or safety of this main road into and out of Ottery – a fast and busy road linking the town with the Daisymount A30 junction. Aggregate Industries – the company that conveniently forgot to mention the thorny issue of cows in the first place – would obviously rather not assess the dangers, despite claiming – perhaps in jest? – that only they can be trusted to provide data on the movements of cows.

But many will find it surprising that this has not been addressed – given the issue directly results from the proposal, given the issue was flagged to the Council more than three years ago, and given the impact that cow movements – planned and unplanned – seem to have on the roads elsewhere in Devon. As DevonLive recently reported:
It's a proper Devon morning on the roads with warnings to motorists to watch out for sheep, tyres and a whole herd of cows on the roads.
This wasn't an isolated incident. Twitter points us to more:







This Twitter search points us to a multitude of others:

LafargeHolcim features in new documentary

In Nigeria, LafargeHolcim operates a large cement plant. As we posted in ‘LafargeHolcim pollutes with impunity’, this plant has smothered the local community with dust. The local people have started a class action to compensate for the alleged "pollution and destruction of the plaintiffs’ town, farmlands, rivers, air and general environment, arising from limestone mining and cement manufacture for a continuous period of 60 years." LafargeHolcim's response to the allegations can be found here

A new documentary explores how multinationals violate the fundamental rights of local populations and create environmental disasters; two companies are featured, one of which is LafargeHolcim – parent company of Aggregate Industries:

...when multinationals like @Glencore or @LafargeHolcim pollute rivers or suffocate villages with fine particles, they must be held responsible!

Monday, 12 October 2020

Dormice

Dormice numbers in the UK have declined by over 70% in two decades.

Dormice have been found at Straitgate, but Aggregate Industries wants to grub up their habitat – ancient hedgerow up to 4m wide. Little suitable replacement habitat is yet in place. Any that has been planted will take decades to yield anything worthwhile. The PTES "strongly objects":
An extensive amount of important hedgerow will be destroyed. This is completely irreversible. The hedgerows are present on maps dating from the turn of the 20th century and are likely to have existed for centuries before this. Compensation planting (for that is what replanting is – not mitigation as suggested) for losses of irreplaceable habitat should be at a ratio in the region of 30 – 1. Proposed replanting and that already done falls far short of this.
Plainly, Aggregate Industries couldn't care less. It's not bothered about this species. Its business model relies upon trashing nature: digging up the ground, removing everything in its path.

Close by, however, others are bothered, doing their bit to stop this much-loved species from extinction.
 

Monday, 5 October 2020

‘Ask Exeter University to help with your CO2 problem’ – suggested DCC to AI

We all know by now that rather than letting Aggregate Industries – subsidiary of cement giant LafargeHolcim – stand on its own two feet, ‘Devon County Council’s job is to deliver Straitgate’, providing any assistance it can.

But did the Council really suggest – in a time of climate crisis – that Aggregate Industries should greenwash away the carbon emissions connected with its application to quarry Straitgate Farm?

Surely not. But in October last year, in an email about the outstanding matter of "the Sustainability appraisal" uncovered by a FOI request, Devon County Council sent this message of help and advice to its friends at Aggregate Industries:
As I previously mentioned on a number of occasions, I can’t stress enough how important that will be and you might want to consider using a known expert in the field such as Exeter University to check it over, if not to produce it.
I can foresee that the road mileage (amongst other issues) will be a main point of debate so the report should also consider more up to date solutions such as an electric fleet before I am asked to go back to you to assess it?
This is only an observation, but is given in the spirit of helping to address issues that I am almost certain will be raised in the consideration of this proposal by the County Council’s development Management Committee. Any report to them currently needs be extremely clear on the carbon/sustainability issue following the declaration of a Climate Emergency.
In December, in a later email, Aggregate Industries confirmed:
I am in the process of arranging a meeting [with a] Senior Research Fellow from Exeter University to address climate change and sustainability issues.
Perhaps Devon County Council thought Aggregate Industries hadn't quite grasped the severity of our climate emergency – the record temperatures, the wildfires, the melting ice caps. Perhaps they hadn't – if Aggregate Industries’ track record on CO2 emissions is anything to go by.

But people might wonder why, if Devon County Council has declared a climate emergency, its planners – "in the spirit of helping to address issues" – are still suggesting ways to ease the passage for Aggregate Industries’ nonsensical plan. People will rightly wonder how hauling as-dug aggregate 2.5 million miles – to a processing site that already has more than 10 millions tonnes of the same material – contributes to Devon’s net-zero ambitions.

And Devon is not alone with net-zero ambitions. Even cement giants are now jumping on the bandwagon, pushing out press releases, proclaiming they've changed:


So, if LafargeHolcim really has changed its spots, how does the carbon-intensive plan for Straitgate – the one that would be operative until the mid 2030s – sit in a #netzero world?

How does it square with what Guy Edwards, CEO at Aggregate Industries, claimed only last month?
We’re proud to be part of the LafargeHolcim Group as it makes the bold and ambitious pledge to go Net Zero by 2050. By being the first building materials supplier in the world to sign up to the SBTi’s ‘Business Ambition for 1.5°C’ demonstrates our genuine desire to achieve real and lasting change in protecting the environment.
In our capacity as one of the UK’s leading construction materials suppliers, we fully support LafargeHolcim’s pledge and accelerating the use of low-carbon and carbon-neutral products is just one of the initiatives we’re currently working on to help create a greener construction industry.’
Or this statement, from Guy Edwards talking about lowering CO2:
Sustainability remains at the heart of what we do, and our aim is to make a positive contribution to the built environment now and for future generations.
You see, words are easy. Words are cheap. The question is, will any of those words herald anything new? Or is it more greenwash? Will carbon-intensive plans be junked in favour of more sustainable ones? Or will it be more of the same-as-usual?

Because as things stand, such grandes déclarations ring hollow – when Aggregate Industries is prepared to put a ridiculous 23 miles between quarry face and processing plant for bog-standard sand and gravel.

In fact, you wonder if this company has any idea what sustainability looks like. If the company really wanted to "address climate change and sustainability issues", if "sustainability remains at the heart of what we do", if there were any genuine desire, Aggregate Industries would have scrapped its plans for Straitgate years ago.

But as extreme weather grips our planet, Aggregate Industries clearly has no qualms about calling upon Exeter University to "address" the CO2 emissions connected with the Straitgate project, no doubt putting it through some greenwashing cycle to help councillors look more favourably upon its gas-guzzling scheme.

We don’t know what came of any meeting at Exeter University. The Senior Research Fellow in question, with "a background in architecture and building physics", is often called upon by local authorities. In fact, somewhat ironically, he has been called upon to help move Devon to net-zero carbon emissions.