Oil & Gas UK rejects 'blanket' offshore drilling safety rules

New proposals by the European Union's executive body to increase the safety of oil and gas offshore drilling have been rejected by industry lobbying group Oil & Gas UK.

“Oil & Gas UK is opposed to blanket EU regulation of this country’s offshore oil and gas industry, which operates under a fully fit for purpose and robust regulatory regime,” said Oil & Gas UK Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Webb.

“Relinquishing regulatory control to the EU, which has no established competence in this matter and where only 3 out of the 27 member-states have an offshore oil and gas industry of real scale, risks undermining safety and environmental performance here in the UK,” Webb said.

“The EU could take other action…to bring member-states outside the North Sea up to the high standards achieved in this area,” said Webb, who added that, “blanket regulation of the type we understand is now being proposed will not, in our opinion, even achieve that end.”

According to the new proposal by the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, companies will have to submit to national authorities a plan on how they are ensuring safety for personnel and preventing environmental hazards.

They also will have to demonstrate they would be ready to react to any emergency and have the necessary financial and technical capabilities to clean up in case of a major accident.

"The [EC] calls upon the member-states to review all complex oil or gas exploration operations and to ensure that best practice standards are uniformly applied across the EU," said EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger.

Oettinger said while any decision to suspend offshore drilling operations is left to the discretion of member-states, the EC repeats its call on the member-states “to rigorously apply a precautionary approach in the licensing of new complex oil or gas exploration operations.”

Oettinger also urged member-states to examine “whether a suspension of such licensing is needed until the European offshore safety regimes have been assessed in light of the Deepwater Horizon accident.”

The new proposal will have to be backed by the European Parliament and EU governments before becoming law.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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