EU parlamentarians bend to industry pressure, water down EU offshore oil gas safety law

MEPs reject Artic drilling moratorium despite wide consensus that current technology does not allow for safe drilling in this vulnerable area.

Press Release Date: October 9, 2012

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana is appalled by the vote of the Industry, Transport, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee of the European Parliament, which adopted this morning its report on the proposal for a Regulation on safety of offshore oil and gas prospection, exploration and production activities. Following intense lobbying from the oil industry and oil-drilling Member States opposed to stricter obligations, particularly in the North Sea, MEPs opted to largely ignore the recent opinion from the Environment Committee and further weaken the proposal.

Parliamentarians ruled out the legislative form of the instrument, calling for the regulation to be changed to a directive, which will undermine any harmonization of safety standards across the EU by allowing Member States to individually determine what measures to implement to reach safety goals. On the contrary a regulation would have ensured direct application of the same standards in all Member States, without the risk of losing stringency or nuance as a result of national interpretations and transposition.

Furthermore, by failing to require that comprehensive supervision at the EU level be conducted by the independent European Safety Maritime Agency (EMSA), the Committee left enforcement and non-compliance issues unresolved.

This vote shows that our political leaders have aligned themselves both with the simplistic arguments of the industry and with oil-drilling governments that are opposed to improving their own regulatory framework.” said Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “Without EMSA oversight, who is going to ensure that high safety standards are being applied across the EU?”

MEPs also rejected the Arctic drilling moratorium adopted by the Environment Committee, and opposed tightening provisions for activities in extreme conditions. Oceana warns that several authoritative bodies, including regulators and the industry, acknowledge that current technology does not allow safe drilling in icy waters. Last September, the UK Environment Audit Committee published a report, ‘Protecting the Arctic’, which called for greater caution in developing the industry in the Arctic, and demanded a moratorium on oil exploration and drilling until the several conditions are met.

There is compelling evidence of the ineffectiveness of emergency response in the Arctic. Darkness, freezing temperatures, ice, storms, fog and isolation severely hinder rapid response in this extremely vulnerable environment, yet companies are getting drilling permits.” said Nicolas Fournier, Coordinator of Oceana’s Brussels office. “I wonder how MEPs could miss such an opportunity to protect the High North from hydrocarbon exploitation. This is a matter of public interest because as goes the Arctic, so goes the world.”

Learn more: Oceana’s recommendations on Offshore Drilling in Europe