Brussels convenes safety talks on deep-sea oil drilling


In the aftermath of the BP oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger and Environment Commissioner Janez Poto?nik will meet representatives of oil and gas companies and national surveillance authorities on 14 July 2010.

"No regulatory regime alone can give us 100% guarantees of safety. Much depends also on the attitude and practices of operators and on having an operational system available," Oettinger said, adding that every possible effort must be made by the industry to avoid a similar accident and consequent oil spill.

The aim of the July meetings is to discuss whether EU legislation should be reviewed.

The EU wants to make sure that member states are regulating deep-water operations adequately and that companies are not cutting corners where safety is concerned.

This is the second meeting Commissioner Oettinger has convened with major oil and gas companies operating in Europe. In a first meeting on 11 May 2010, the commissioner asked representatives to fill out a 12-question survey indicating the preventative measures they have in place.

The answers will be delivered before the second meeting, allowing for concrete discussions to take place.

In case of oil slicks, offshore drilling operations are subject to the relevant EU environmental legislation, including directives on environmental impact assessment, habitats, wild birds and environmental liability, as well as the Water Framework directive for coastal waters.

The EU Environmental Liability Directive (ELD), adopted in 2004, establishes a framework for environmental liability based on the 'polluter pays' principle, with a view to preventing and remedying environmental damage to animals, plants, natural habitats and water resources, and damage affecting the land (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on ELD).

After some delays in transposing the directive into national legislation by the deadline of April 2007, the European Commission is currently drafting a report on the effectiveness of the directive in terms of actual remediation of environmental damage, as well as the availability at reasonable cost of financial security instruments.

The EU executive is also analysing all existing EU and national legislation. Depending on the results, Commissioner Oettinger will come out with new legislative and policy proposals this autumn, said a Commission spokesperson.

The European Parliament held a debate on security and prevention measures on offshore oil platforms in the EU on 18 May. But the House failed to adopt a resolution calling for tighter inspection methods, stronger safety rules and strengthening of international rules for off-shore exploration and drilling.

  • Autumn 2010: Commisison report on implementation of Environmental Liability Directive (ELD) in 27 EU member states.



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