19 Sep 2012
North Sea oil and gas received a major boost today thanks to changes made by the Scottish Conservatives in relation to European red tape.
Operators in the UK have been fighting against controversial EU proposals that would force them to adopt a potentially weaker and more rigid continent-wide safety approach.
But these were voted out today at the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee thanks to an amendment by Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson.
The UK already has the ‘gold standard’ of offshore safety regimes, but the European Commission 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 to cost almost £150 million.
However, today in Brussels Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson received enough backing for an amendment that changes the legal basis of the legislation from a “regulation” to a “directive”.
In practice this would mean that UK authorities could maintain the current regime and still incorporate the new measures that will have a positive impact on safety
The amendment, which won narrowly by 24 votes to 23, will still have to be rubber stamped by an industry committee next month before all MEPs have a chance to vote on it in December.
Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson said:
“While there are still elements of this report we are unhappy with, it was absolutely vital for the industry to get this amendment pushed through.
“If it is ultimately approved by the EU it will save the industry around £150 million and ensure that health and safety workers will continue to work where they are most needed, and not back in onshore training rooms.
“This would have been a legislative nightmare for the industry, and the results could have been catastrophic.
“We still need today’s vote to be approved the highest level, but following today’s result we are confident that will be the case.
“Our safety record in the North Sea is fantastic, and one that other European countries should be looking to emulate, not the reverse.
“Retraining workers would 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 would have walked us into a legal nightmare, in an industry where we have seen that the results of bad legislation can be catastrophic.
Notes to Editors
Today’s amendment which changed the words of the report from “regulation” to “directive” was voted through by 24 votes to 23.
The results will now be sent to Europe’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee, who will take today’s vote on board when it makes a final decision in October.