The SNP has today (Tuesday) helped the European Parliament seal the deal on a package of rules covering the safety of Scotland’s offshore oil and gas sector workers, 25 years after the Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea.
SNP MEP Alyn Smith, the only Scot who sits on the European Parliament’s powerful Energy Committee, has hailed the victory in his fight for an acceptable European safety regime which protects Scotland’s North Sea workers.
The new rules will require oil and gas firms to prove their ability to cover potential liabilities deriving from their operations and to submit major hazard reports and emergency response plans before operations can start.
The new regulations ensure that companies must be able to ensure they have access to “sufficient physical, human and financial resources to minimise and rectify the impact of a major accident”. No licence will be granted unless the applicant has provided evidence that “adequate provision has been or will be made to cover liabilities potentially deriving from its offshore oil and gas operations”.
Companies will also have to provide an internal emergency plan, giving a full description of the equipment and resources available, actions to be taken in the event of an accident, and all arrangements made to limit risks, and give the authorities early warning.
Mr Smith worked closely with the industry and unions on this and, as a result, submitted 18 amendments to make it practicable for Scotland. Most of these amendments were, with others, absorbed into compromise amendments which have made the text not just workable but positively advantageous to the oil and gas sector. Most notable was an amendment which changed the proposal from a strict regulation to a more flexible Directive which will ensure that Scotland’s world-class offshore safety standards are not in any way lowered.
Speaking from Strasbourg after the vote, which passed with 572 votes in favour against 103 opposed, Alyn Smith MEP said:
“We’ve done a good bit of work today. It’s taken a while to get to the point where this Directive would be workable for Scotland’s offshore oil and gas sector and I’m pleased that we’ve now reached that stage.
“This is a fine example of how the legislative process should work. What started off as an unacceptable proposal for Scotland has been transformed with the help of the industry, unions and other stakeholders. They were on the ball with this and worked closely with MEPs to make sure that the incoming EU legislation wouldn’t diminish the oil and gas safety regime in the North Sea.
“These EU rules are largely inspired by Scottish groundwork and form the basis of EU rules which will become the gold standard for operations worldwide.
“As we see increasing operations in other countries it is all the more important that our workers in far off places have a comprehensive set of clear and well tested rules to work with.
“Scotland knows more than most how important safety is for offshore workers. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster and the horrendous consequences of that are still very much in the minds of Scots.
“Our North Sea operators already work under world-class safety standards. Scotland has played a leading role in framing this legislation which makes the EU rules the gold standard worldwide.”