Environment: EU committee drafts offshore drilling rules

no drilling without hazard report, emergency response plans

09 October, 16:05

(ANSAmed) - BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 9 - The European Parliament's Energy Committee on Tuesday endorsed a draft law designed to prevent accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Under the bill, offshore oil and gas firms would have to submit major hazard reports and emergency response plans before getting a license to drill. Licenses would be granted only if the firm could prove it has enough cash to remedy any environmental damage caused.

''Especially today, when many member states with no or little experience in oil and gas operations are looking into starting up drilling operations, a solid legislative framework is urgently needed,'' said Belgian MEP Ivo Belet (European People's Party), who drafted the Energy Committee resolution and will now lead negotiations with the European Council.

The draft passed by 48 votes to 7 with 1 abstention. The serving Cypriot presidency will push to get it before the European Parliament for a plenary vote before the end of the year. Approval of the new directive is a priority for Cyprus, which is oil prospecting in the eastern Mediterranean.

Under the new law, drilling companies would be required to submit special reports to the authorities, describing their rigs, potential major hazards and special arrangements to protect workers, including detailed internal emergency plans.

The draft also puts in place a stronger role for the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in preventing accidents. The three European countries with the most offshore oil rigs are Great Britain (426), Holland (181) and Italy (123). The EU countries plus Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland have almost 1,000 offshore rigs between them. In Norway, the drills reach depths of 1,300 meters. Non-EU southern Mediterranean countries also engage in this kind of exploitation, which aims to delve into the Arctic as well. (ANSAmed).

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