Cautious Welcome For EU Oil And Gas Proposals

27 October 2011

SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has today (Thursday) given a cautious welcome to proposals by the EU Commission on how to deal with the potential environmental impacts of oil and gas exploration.  The Commission has brought forward a number of proposals designed to increase transparency and accountability, but has explicitly acknowledged that Member States are in charge of regulation.

The proposals are a draft regulation, and will now go through the legislative process.  Alyn promised that the SNP government and MEPs will be "all over this" as it progresses through Parliament, and that it is an opportunity to market Scotland's world-leading best practice to other EU nations given 12 other states have (often new) offshore oil and gas activities.

Alyn said:

"I see little in these proposals to dislike, but we still need to be wary this does not grow legs.  We all remember the disproportionate call from the EU Energy Commissioner earlier this year for a moratorium on drilling - an excessive kneejerk reaction with no legal basis - and I'm glad that the Commission thinking has evolved into a workable and sensible set of proposals.

"We have the highest environmental standards in the world in the Scottish sector of the North Sea, but we have no room for complacency and I think it is right we work with our friends and neighbours to ensure we are indeed doing things as well as we think we are.  Last summer's minor leak in the North Sea should serve as a reminder that we can, and should, constantly improve standards.

"The Commission has made explicit that the Member States are in charge, so that is positive.

"Similarly, I like proposals to ensure independent verification of expertise and preparedness of operators, and I see nothing to be afraid of in increasing transparency.  The proposals are clearly designed to raise and share best practice and that is very much to be welcomed. These proposals, of course cover many other areas of the EU territory given 12 other Member States than Scotland have authorised offshore drilling (the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Malta and Cyprus), and I would view each of these states as a market for Scottish consultancy.

"Indeed, we need to ensure that the broad range of states with offshore interests do not succeed in watering down these high standards as the legislation progresses.  Many of the measures would appear, from our advanced viewpoint, to be common sense and we carry them out already."