The EU’s six year old Offshore Safety Directive, which was introduced in order to strengthen the safety of European oil and gas operations, is currently lying on the European Commission’s table for evaluation.
The directive constituted a welcome supplement when adopted, introducing union wide obligatory ex-ante emergency planning, strengthened liability for environmental damages and oil spill response effectiveness, as a key element in licensing considerations.
“This text is a first step in the direction of establishing an EU oversight over oil drilling activities,” Paal Frisvold, then Chairman of Bellona Europa, stated upon adoption.
First steps have to be followed by more steps however, and the current evaluation offers a chance to look at what is working and what still needs to be done in order to fulfill the aim of preventing major accidents in the wake of the disastrous Deepwater Horizon blowout.
The directive is not implemented in the state where Bellona is headquartered, Norway, which insists that the act is not EEA relevant.
At the Commission’s last evaluation workshop in Brussels, Bellona was the only civil society representative, facing an industry that overall seemed content with things as they are. For high-risk activities such as petroleum production, contentment equals vulnerability. Bellona has therefore joined forces with NGOs situated in petroleum producing states across Europe, in order to point out shortcomings that still needs to be remedied in order to reach the aim of the directive.
Measures that still need to be taken, in order to achieve the aim of preventing major accidents and limiting their consequences, include:
- ensuring real reporting compliance.
- making comprehensive financial security a prerequisite for offshore oil and gas operations.
- prohibiting offshore exploration and exploitation in specific areas such as marine protected areas.
- ensuring full liability for damages to third parties.