6 Sep 2012
EU proposals to have a continent-wide approach on oil and gas safety could result in poorer standards in the North Sea.
The UK system is seen as a gold standard on safety, but the EU wants to bring in a regulation to force all member states to conform to the same rules without offering them the required flexibility to adapt the framework to their own national circumstances.
Such a move would cost the industry tens of millions, and see those currently involved in crucial offshore safety checks spending years tied up onshore, learning how to ensure compliance with the new rules.
The cost of implementing the new measures has been estimated at almost £150 million.
Tomorrow, Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson will tell the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee that any new measures should be in the form of a directive rather than a regulation, meaning UK authorities could maintain the current regime and still incorporate the new measures that will have a positive impact on safety.
A final decision is expected in mid-September.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:
“Offshore drilling involves significant risks, and this is something that will increase as new, more complex areas are explored.
“The UK has a proven world-class safety regime, and oil and gas workers based out of Aberdeen know that their working environment is the envy of the world.
“We should be proud of our safety record in the North Sea and we want other countries to bring their standards up to ours.
“But this is a highly worrying, inflexible regulation, which will force the UK to repeal parts of their existing successful framework, and insert European rules in its place.”
Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson said:
“Much of the text for these measures is based on the UK’s current framework, and it is right that others should aspire to our level.
“Retraining workers will have serious cost implications and take a substantial amount of time, and could even lead to a drop in safety standards, as inspectors and drilling professionals are distracted from their critical tasks of assessing safety.
“These proposals could walk us into a legal nightmare, in an industry where we have seen that the results of bad legislation can be catastrophic.
“A flexible instrument that allows us to maintain our tried and tested regime, while offering the opportunity to improve it further is the way forward for the authorities, industry and most importantly, the environment.”