“This is an important victory for Bellona. We are pleased that the European Union, through negotiations between the Commission, Parliament and Member States, has reached an agreement on the Directive on offshore safety. It was not unexpected, but it is nevertheless gratifying to note that neither Norway nor the UK have succeeded, given their objections to the Bellona’s position on offshore safety operations,” said Bellona’s President, Frederic Hauge.
Obligatory ex-ante emergency planning secured
The text agreed upon today provides an important progress in the area of offshore oil and gas safety. A strong emphasis is put on operators’ responsibility to respect safety and environmental standards. Companies will be required to prepare reports on major hazards for their installation, and submit them to national authorities who will only afterwards give a green light to their activities. This will ensure that continuous improvements to emergency response and preparedness are made.
Photo: (Foto: Bellona)
Full liability for environmental damages and oils spill response effectiveness
Furthermore, liability for environmental damage will now be strengthened. The directive will require the offshore license applicants to prove that they have sufficient financial resources to remediate potential accidents. Moreover, the oil spill response effectiveness is recognised as key element within the safety and environmental considerations relating to the licensing process.
“What we are most pleased with is that it requires that all offshore operators are to be financially prepared to remediate potential oil spill. Moreover, there is a requirement that operators must prepare contingency plans and report to the government. This is a concrete example of how the EU is now helping to reinforce the existing Norwegian offshore regulations,” Frederic Hauge explains.
“We are pleased that the importance of calculating the oil spill response effectiveness is included in the agreed text. It will allow for quantifying the percentage of time when emergency response is delayed due to difficult environmental conditions, ” adds Paal Frisvold, Chairman of Bellona Europa.
Recognition of vulnerability of the Arctic ecosystems
The agreement recognises that the serious environmental concerns relating to the Arctic waters require special attention in relation to any offshore oil and gas operations. It calls on countries who are members of the Arctic Council to actively promote the highest standards with regard to environmental safety in these vulnerable and unique ecosystems. This could be done through the creation of international instruments on prevention, preparedness and response to Arctic marine oil pollution.
“It is particularly encouraging that the EU recognizes the Arctic as an extremely vulnerable area, as the UN did earlier this week. This shows explicitly that any future oil activities in the Arctic are met with scepticism by international experts in relation to safety, the environment and climate. This lays the foundation for reinforced EU legislation for the Arctic in the future,” says Frederic Hauge.
Photo: (Foto: Bellona)
Enhanced EU oversight
The proposed agreement would still allow for inconsistencies between safety regimes in EU Member states. The European Maritime Safety Agency’s role in supervision and control has not been increased.
“However, we are please that a new important body has been created: the EU Offshore Authorities Group whose members – the offshore inspectors of Member States – will cooperate to ensure sharing of best practices and contribute to developing and improving safety standards,” Paal Frisvold notes.
Transposition into Norwegian legal framework expected
“In light of other EU directives that are already integrated in the agreement in relation to energy and offshore activities, this directive is clearly of EEA relevance for Norway. Now, according to standard procedure the Commission and the EEA Joint Committee shall take this directive further as they are doing with the Gas Directive and any other regulation. We are confident that this new directive will be implemented in Norway through the EEA’ Bellona President Frederic Hauge concluded.
Today’s preliminary agreement must yet be confirmed by the EU governments with a decision expected at the EU Energy Council on 22 February. Plenary vote of the European Parliament is foreseen in April.