Brussels, 13 October 2010
Offshore oil drilling: European Commission envisages EU safety rules
The European Commission for the very first time envisages comprehensive EU legislation on oil platforms aimed at ensuring the highest safety standards in the world. In the Communication on the safety of oil and gas activities the Commission contemplates new EU standards, including criteria for granting drilling permits, controls of the rigs and safety control mechanisms.
Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Energy, said: "Safety is non negotiable. We have to make sure that a disaster similar to the one in the Gulf of Mexico will never happen in European waters. This is why we propose that best practices already existing in Europe will become the standard throughout the European Union."
In the Communication, the Commission recommends specific EU legislation on oil platforms, indicating that a formal proposal could be tabled early next year. Such an EU wide approach is deemed necessary, as the environmental, economic and social damages caused by a possible offshore accident do not know borders.
The Communication covers standards on the prevention, the response and the financial liability:
Granting permits: When granting licences for new drillings, Member States will have to make sure that the oil companies meet key EU requirements: Companies must have a contingency plan and prove that they have the financial means available to them to pay for environmental damage caused in the event of an accident.
Controls: Oil platforms are controlled by national authorities. These supervision tasks of national authorities should be evaluated by independent experts.
Standards for safety equipment: Technical standards will ensure that only control equipment meeting the highest safety standards will be allowed. This includes in particular blow out preventers.
Damages/Response: Oil companies have to clean up and remedy the damage caused to the environment following an accident within a zone of maximal 200 nautical miles from the coast. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), presently focussing on pollution caused by ships will also help on those caused by oil platforms.
International: The Commission will work for implementing existing international conventions and new common initiatives.
Following the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico on 20 April 2010, the European Commission has screened existing rules on oil platforms. Although safety standards in the EU industry are generally high, the rules often vary from a company to company and legislation differs from one Member State to another. Certain safety aspects are also governed by existing EU legislation, such as the EU environmental Liability Directive, the Waste Framework Directive. The analysis showed however that an overhaul and a more coherent legal framework is needed, if the highest safety standard should be assured.
The 2010 Commission's Report on Environmental Liability can be found here: