THE European Parliament has overwhelmingly rejected a moratorium on new offshore oil and gas exploration.
The ban on new operations was proposed to allow lessons to be learned from last year’s explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico which killed 11 men and resulted in an oil spill of 4.9million barrels.
MEPs yesterday rejected the proposal by 558 votes to 94 as they adopted a report on offshore oil and gas safety by 602 votes to 64.
It was decided that new oil and gas fields in European seas should only be allowed if a company has prepared an adequate emergency plan and has sufficient funds to repair possible damage to the environment.
The moratorium was interpreted by some MEPs as a power grab by the commission to increase its control over the UK North Sea.
SNP MEP Alyn Smith said the Scottish petroleum industry had nothing to fear from reviews proposed in the report.
“The drilling activities that take place in EU waters do not operate in the same way as those that take place in the Gulf of Mexico, and to suggest they do is mischievous in the extreme,” he said.
“Nobody can afford to be complacent but our safety regime is thorough. It is important to keep these things in constant review, but completely halting new authorisations is not in any way a proportionate or measured response.”
Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon said: “If the safety procedures that the UK is careful to implement had been in force in the US then the terrible scenes in the Gulf of Mexico may well have been avoided.
“A moratorium would cost jobs in the North Sea and have a huge impact on communities across Scotland that count on the industry for employment.”
Malcolm Webb, chief executive of the trade association, Oil and Gas UK, said there was no need for a moratorium, saying: “The industry is not complacent and has carried out a thorough review of its operations and, where appropriate, implemented enhancements.”
Tory MEP Struan Stevenson said: “A moratorium on drilling off the coast of Scotland would have disastrous effects on the Scottish economy when we should be doing all we can to support it. Whilst safety is our main priority, the UK’s regime has been proven and developed over decades, so any ban would be completely disproportionate and would cause widespread problems for the Scottish economy.”