Committees divided on offshore drilling

Committees divided on offshore drilling

One committee want to widen current scope of environmental liability rules; another will caution against more regulation.


The European Parliament’s environment committee will next week call for a widening of the current scope of environmental liability rules so as to place greater obligations on companies pursuing oil and gas exploration in EU waters.

But the Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee will take a softer line, cautioning against more EU regulation.

The two committees are preparing for a report from Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, who is to present proposals at the end of July on stricter EU-wide safety standards for oil rigs, the granting of drilling licences and the supervision of oil and gas platforms.

The European Commission’s proposals come in the wake of a blow-out at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which caused pollution in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The Parliament’s environment committee will call for member states to apply the ‘polluter pays’ principle to the new rules. Its opinion will be added to an own-initiative report being drafted by Vicky Ford, a UK MEP from the European Conservatives and Reformists group, for the industry, research and energy committee.

Moratorium ‘disproportionate’

An amendment filed by Ford and backed by the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Liberals and the Greens, says that imposing an EU-wide moratorium on deep-sea drilling would be “disproportionate”.

Environmental groups are arguing that the MEPs’ demands for tougher liability and safety rules for offshore oil and gas operations do not go far enough. Jason Anderson, from WWF, said that the new rules should include a ban on drilling in “sensitive” marine areas such as the Arctic. Nicolas Fournier, from Oceana, said the EU’s European Maritime Safety Agency should be given an “independent role” to ensure that oil rig operators live up to stricter EU-wide safety legislation and have sound contingency plans in case of oil spills.

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