The European Parliament (EP) on Sept. 13 passed a resolution that would only allow development of oil and gas fields offshore Europe if companies have prepared an adequate emergency plan and has sufficient funds to repair possible damage to the environment.
According to the resolution, passed with 602 votes in favor, 64 against and 13 abstaining, site-specific plans for drilling, which would also require approval by the relevant member state before operation begins, would better protect the environment. The resolution is a means of influencing new draft legislation to be tabled by the European Commission this autumn.
"These emergency plans should identify potential hazards, assess pollution sources and effects and outline a response strategy in the even of an accident," according to a statement by the European Parliament.
The resolution also calls for a provision requiring oil and gas operators to show in the licensing procedure that they have sufficient funds to repair any harm done to the environment as a result of their activities. It also has been suggested that the scope of the polluter pays principle and strict liability should be extended to cover all damage done to marine waters and biodiversity.
While members of European Parliament are unsure if establishing a regulator for all offshore operations would be bring enough value to justify diverting "scarce" regulatory resources from national authorities, they agree that the European Maritime Safety Agency should coordinate responses in the event of an accident.
Parliament also proposes that whistleblowers be protected, enabling employees to declare any security breaches or risks anonymously without fear of harassment.
The resolution is in response to a Commission consultation paper issued last October in the aftermath of the Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. It also follows on from an European Parliament resolution in October 2010 on European Union action on oil exploration and extraction in Europe.
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