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Stringent rules for offshore oil platforms - 13/10/2010

An oil drilling platform at sea © EU

Safety is non-negotiable. The EU needs common legislation for offshore oil and gas platforms, reducing the risk of an environmental disaster in European waters.

After the catastrophic explosion of a US drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year, the commission took a hard look at EU safety and environmental standards for the oil industry.

It found that safety standards are generally high, though there are gaps in legislation, mostly due to differing standards between countries. Rules often vary from company to company.

Given these shortcomings, introducing common rules across the EU would help prevent oil spills at sea, protecting people and the environment. And if an accident did happen, the rules would ensure that the companies responsible will manage the response and pay for the cleanup.

The new rules would raise standards to the highest level possible, requiring:

  • companies seeking drilling permits to have response plans in case spills occur. They would have to prove they have the means to pay for the cleanup and environmental damage.
  • national authorities’ oversight of safety inspections to be evaluated by independent experts.
  • equipment for oil platforms and mobile offshore drilling rigs, in particular blow out preventers, to meet the highest safety standards.
  • companies to clean up and pay for environmental damage to water and sea life up to 200 miles (322 km) from the coast. The current limit is 12 miles (19 km).

The EU will also negotiate with neighbouring countries to set similar standards for oil drilling and extraction companies.

People living in coastal areas will benefit from the greater protection of their livelihoods and the environment. And common EU rules and standards would help the oil industry – companies would not have to deal with different sets standards depending on where they drill.

The legislation is set to be proposed in early 2011.

More on the EU’s oil policies

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