Although including a positive call for an extension to the European Liability Directive, the European Commission’s Proposal for action on offshore oil drilling does not go far enough to protect the marine environment and properly safeguard against a Deep Water Horizon-style disaster in European waters.

Although including a positive call for an extension to the European Liability Directive, the European Commission’s Proposal for action on offshore oil drilling does not go far enough to protect the marine environment and properly safeguard against a Deep Water Horizon-style disaster in European waters.

Importantly, the proposal fails to call for an EU role in respect of inspecting and investigating the performance of offshore oil installations, nor any requirement to check on the performance of Member States.

A dedicated EU agency responsible for enforcing EU standards would have been an appropriate response to the revelation in both the US and Europe that national regulators have in the past relied too heavily on the safety claims made by industry.

Despite the Commission’s call for an extension of the European Liability Directive (ELD) to cover all waters under the jurisdiction of Member States, and not just their territorial waters, the ELD would fail to accommodate the consequences of an extreme accident – putting citizens and Member States at risk of paying damages. Something that was equally acknowledged by Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger during a press conference for the launch of the Proposal.

The Proposal also exerts little pressure on EU operators to uphold safety standards in waters outside of the EU, calling simply for a voluntary commitment.

On a more positive note, the Commission makes proposals for increased transparency and for better information sharing amongst Member States.

The European Community needs to properly address the threat of a low probability, high impact oil spill scenario that could result from an incident at an offshore installation. Additional funds would be needed to support such a response but these would be tiny in comparison to the profits made by offshore oil and gas companies or, more to the point, the potential compensation and clean-up costs of a major incident.

It will now be up to the Parliament and Council to amend the proposals and to ensure a more appropriate response is taken to the issues raised by the Deep Water Horizon incident that affected the US Gulf coast last year.

European Commission Press Release

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