Development of new gas or oil fields in European seas should only be allowed if the company has prepared an adequate emergency plan and has sufficient funds to repair possible damage to the environment, says a resolution passed by Parliament on Tuesday.
Site-specific plans for all drilling, which would have to be approved by the relevant Member State before any operation begins, would better protect the environment, says the resolution, which seeks to influence new draft legislation to be tabled by the European Commission this autumn. These emergency plans should identify potential hazards, assess pollution sources and effects and outline a response strategy in the event of an accident.
“Offshore sources is the world’s fourth largest production area and it is crucial to meeting Europe’s energy needs and our energy security. Every site, every operation should be assessed for its specific risk and informed regulators should only allow drilling to occur if they are comfortable that the risks of that site can be and are being managed and this should be the case in the Arctic and indeed in every sea area” said the rapporteur, Vicky Ford (ECR, UK)
The resolution calls for a provision on financial liability requiring all oil and gas operators to show in the licensing procedure that they have sufficient funds to repair any harm done to the environment as a result of their activities. MEPs also suggest that the scope of the “polluter pays” principle and “strict liability” should be extended to cover all damage done to marine waters and biodiversity.
MEPs are not certain that a European regulator for all offshore operations would bring enough added value to justify “draining scarce regulatory resources” from national authorities but they agree that the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) should coordinate responses in the event of an accident.
Parliament also proposes that whistleblowers be protected, enabling employees to declare any security breaches or risks anonymously, without fear of harassment.
The resolution was approved with 602 votes in favour, 64 against and 13 abstentions.
The resolution is Parliament’s response to a Commission consultation paper issued last October in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. It also follows on from an EP resolution in October 2010 on EU action on oil exploration and extraction in Europe. The Commission will unveil new draft legislation early this autumn.