Keith Findlay, 23rd June 2012
The Scots Tory MEP tasked with putting together a European Parliament report on proposed EU-wide offshore safety rules has said they must not compromise existing standards in the North Sea.
Struan Stevenson also fears they could shake investor confidence, causing serious project delays and potentially job losses.
The European Commission plans to put offshore safety under Brussels’ control have sparked major concerns in the UK, with trade unions, industry leaders and the Holyrood and Westminster governments all against the idea.
They say world-leading standards already operate in the North Sea and the changes would mean spending huge amounts of time and money reworking safety cases to comply with the rules, with no benefit.
Mr Stevenson is preparing a report on the proposals on behalf of the European Parliament’s environment, public-health and food-safety committee before MEPs vote on them next month.
Speaking from Brussels yesterday, he said he was not opposed to the idea in principle but he aimed to make sure the highest standards of environmental protection were adhered to without any weakening of the UK’s gold standard ability to respond to environmental disasters in its waters.
He added: “The EU currently has no sector-specific offshore oil and gas legislation, and there are considerable disparities and fragmentation among other member states’ laws and practices applying to offshore activities.
“This new legislation seeks to raise standards of control of major-hazard risk throughout the European Union, and that is no bad thing in itself.”
But he said the current proposals are a risk to the UK’s world-class oil and gas safety regime because they would mean key parts of existing laws have to be repealed in favour of a one-size-fits-all piece of EU legislation.
The UK oil and gas industry could also be forced to devote “untold resources” to implementing the new rules, causing “serious project delays and consequences for the economy, investment, jobs and security of energy supply”, he warned.
Mr Stevenson added: “The recent gas leak at the Elgin platform, 150 miles off the coast of Aberdeen, demonstrated that the UK already has the gold standard when it comes to the safety of offshore oil and gas production.
“Initiatives to minimise the threat of a major offshore accident in EU waters are to be welcomed, but the commission must realise that stringent proposals for EU-level action could weaken the UK’s offshore oil and gas regime and impact its ability to safely direct the exploitation of its own energy resources.”