Tougher EU standards needed for offshore drilling

13th July 2011

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Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) should be a precondition for obtaining an offshore oil or gas drilling licence, the European Parliament's energy committee has agreed.

In a draft resolution adopted yesterday (12 July 2012), the committee calls for stricter environmental and safety standards for offshore drilling as a part of Europe’s reaction to the Gulf of Mexico disaster last year.

The report sets out suggestions to prevent accidents, to take swift action if one does occur and to provide clarity regarding liability, according to MEP Vicky Ford, the author of the resolution.

Alongside mandating EIAs as a prerequisite for a drilling license, the resolution proposes that all firms submit site-specific contingency plans two months before drilling is due to start. It also says that operations should only start when national authorities approve the plan.

The energy committee argues that these plans must cover potential pollution sources and effects, as well as a strategy for the drilling of relief wells, which were vital in halting the Gulf of Mexico spill.

The resolution reaffirms the importance of regular outside inspections of offshore facilities, stating that inspectors need to be independent trained experts familiar with the local conditions, and argues for measures to enable whistle blowers to remain anonymous, allowing them to reveal failures without fear of harassment.

While confirming the important role of the public sector in overseeing and coordinating the response to offshore environmental and safety incidents, the committee does not see a role for pan-European regulator, claiming that the creation of such a body would be an unnecessary drain to already scarce resources.

The European Commission is to unveil new draft legislation following the committee’s recommendations early this autumn.


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