EU Proposes New Rules to Boost Offshore Drilling Safety

BRUSSELS (Dow Jones Newswires), Oct. 27, 2011

The European Union's executive body Thursday proposed new rules to increase the safety of oil and gas offshore drilling, in a move aimed at preventing accidents in EU waters similar to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last year.

"The idea is to avoid accidents here, but if there is environmental damage, the idea is that the damage should be compensated for" and cleaned up, Guenther Oettinger, European Commissioner for energy, said during a press conference to present the plan.

According to the new proposal--which will have to be backed by the European Parliament and EU governments before becoming law--companies will have to submit to national authorities a plan on how they are ensuring safety for personnel and preventing environmental hazards.

They will also have to show that they would be ready to react to any emergency and have the necessary financial and technical capabilities to clean up in case of a major accident.

"If there is a spill, the operators are responsible," Oettinger said.

The EU has more than 1,000 oil and gas platforms, mostly in the North Sea, but 13 countries have issued licenses, and the commission is keen to harmonize legislation to the best and safest standard.

The provisions would apply to all platforms in EU waters because they would stretch up to 370 kilometers from the coast, and are widely based on the laws regulating the sector in the U.K., the European country with the highest number of offshore platforms, an EU official explained.

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