EU Parliament misses opportunity, adopts weak offshore drilling safety directive

Disappointing final text sacrifices fragile ecosystems, tourism and fishing industry for short term economic interests.

Press Release Date: May 21, 2013

Location: Madrid


Oceana Web | email: | tel.: 202.000.0000

Today, the European Parliament formally adopted by a large majority a new Directive on Safety of Offshore Oil and Gas Activities – a legislation initiated by the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Three years after the European Commission proposed an ambitious Regulation to manage the offshore sector and reduce risks of major accidents in European waters, negotiations culminated in the approval of an extremely weak text that does little to guarantee effective protection in case of a European Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

Oceana is disappointed with the Parliament’s failure to grasp this opportunity to comprehensively tighten safety and environmental rules, improve independent supervision and transparency and build an EU-wide offshore safety culture. Until now, the EU has had no sector-specific offshore oil and gas legislation, and while this Directive had the potential to make enormous improvements to the sector, it has resulted in a toothless legislation that will do little to tackle the glaring inadequacies that exist. Moreover, by continuously watering-down the obligations introduced by the Directive, negotiators have created a disturbing loophole allowing EU oil companies conducting offshore operations outside of EU waters to apply lower standards in developing countries for instance.

Xavier Pastor, executive director at Oceana in Europe issued the following statement: “Sadly this new Offshore Safety Directive is the product of political concessions to protect the oil industry and national interests, and will bring about only minor improvements to the safety of offshore operations. The outcome of this vote clearly reveals how short-termism has once again sacrificed prevention on the altar of a multi-million Euro industry. By ignoring civil society’s call for increased scrutiny and the risks of Arctic drilling, the EU has set a dangerous precedent that contradicts its stated commitment to climate change and vulnerable ecosystems.”

The Directive, which will enter into force at best two years after national transposition by Member States, was further imbued with transitional provisions so that the new rules would not be applicable to existing offshore installations until 2019.

Nevertheless, Oceana remains confident that the European Commission is committed to further investigating areas not covered by the Directive. Civil society expects to see improved liability regimes, better handling of compensation claims, and the criminalization of oil spills. Operators engaging in this risky business should demonstrate sufficient financial capacity to cover worst case scenarios, including socioeconomic damages. Oceana therefore encourages the Commission to urgently propose complementary legislation to the co-legislators.