EU commission backs down on banning offshore oil and gas drilling
Oct 13, 2010, 13:45 GMT
Brussels - Acting in the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the European Commission said Wednesday that the European Union needed stricter legislation on offshore drilling, but backed off from proposing a blanked moratorium on the practice.
The April 20 explosion of the BP Plc Deepwater Horizon rig off the United States coast, which killed 11 people and caused unprecedented environmental damage, prompted the EU's executive to examine whether safety standards in Europe were adequate.
In a 15-page review, it delivered the verdict that 'offshore oil and gas activities in the EU are partly governed by a heterogeneous health, safety and environmental regime,' that 'may not provide an adequate response for the risks posed' by the industry.
To fix the problem, EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said concrete proposals to harmonize safety standards across all EU nations would be presented by the summer of 2011.
'We have to make sure that a disaster similar to the one in the Gulf of Mexico will never happen in European waters,' Oettinger stressed.
Notably, EU legislation would force companies to prove they had sufficient financial means to pay for any environmental damage before they can obtain drilling permits, and make them liable to pay for accidents within 200 miles offshore, as compared to the current 12- mile limit.
But the final version of the commission paper made no mention of suspending offshore drilling - a suggestion that is thought to have been considered in previous drafts.
Oettinger himself, speaking after a meeting with industry representatives on July 14, said he was in favour of a moratorium while the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster were being investigated.
'Maybe new drillings are important for the future and the market, but they are not urgent for this year,' he said at the time.
After the oil spill, the US suspended deepwater oil and gas extractions for six months. But the moratorium was lifted Tuesday, after stricter safety legislation was introduced.
According to commission figures, 90 per cent of oil and 60 per cent of gas produced in the EU and Norway comes from offshore installations.
Most platforms are located in the North Sea, but there is also a significant number in the Mediterranean. More are situated in the close vicinity of EU waters off the north coast of Africa, near Israel, Turkey or in the Black Sea.