6 EU Regulatory Role |
118. The EU legislation on oil rigs currently includes
rules on environmental assessment and safety. The Environmental
Liability Directive (ELD) aims to prevent oil pollution incidents
associated with oil rigs and respond to the consequences. However,
at the EU level, there are no harmonised rules on major accidents
and emergency planning in relation to oil rigs, and there are
no instruments setting up funds or other rules regarding financial
guarantees. Furthermore, the scope of the ELD with respect to
biodiversity damage caused by oil spills is limited to certain
protected habitats. ClientEarth, an organisation of activist environmental
lawyers, describes the ELD in its current state as:
[...] a general system of environmental liability
in the EU but it is badly under-equipped to respond to the kind
of damage which could result from an offshore pollution incident
[...] the gap should be filled by a framework employing a broad
definition of environmental damage, and capable of imposing strict
liability on all potentially responsible parties.
House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee,
in its report on the implementation of the Environmental Liability
Directive, noted that:
Certain types of environmental damage are excluded
from the scope of the Directive. These include damage arising
from diffuse pollution which cannot be attributed to one or more
specific operators, and damage falling within the scope of international
Conventions relating to oil pollution [...] where those Conventions
are in force in the Member State where the damage occurs. The
Directive also provides for 'defences' against liability such
that operators would not bear the cost of remediation in certain
circumstances, such as where a third party was responsible, or
where environmental damage occurred despite the operator complying
with the conditions of a permit.
120. Ms Wilks, of ClientEarth, explained that the
ELD is "supposed to provide [...] some kind of ecologically
sound compensation [...] not just a monetary payment".
KIMO UK (the Local Authorities International Environmental Organisation)
told us "that the polluter [...] [should] pay for any pollution
from oil rigs and the associated clean up operations".
121. ClientEarth argues that "a comprehensive
new regulatory package is now needed that not only amends existing
EU legislation [...] [but] also introduces legislation to fill
the dangerous voids in the current regime".
It argues that these "dangerous voids" could be filled
by extending existing legislation frameworks to include "operational
drilling projects, exploratory drilling, and the period after
wells have been decommissioned".
ClientEarth also calls for a new EU level agency to coordinate
functions in connection with major accident prevention, emergency
response plans, inspections and exchange of best practice, with
the European Maritime Safety Agency as a candidate for this role.
122. We conclude
thatas it standsthe EU Environmental Liability Directive
is unlikely to bring to account those responsible for environmental
damage caused by an offshore incident such as happened in the
Gulf of Mexico. We recommend that the Government works with the
EU to ensure a new directive is drawn up that follows the polluter-pays
principle and unambiguously identifies who is responsible for
the remediation of any environmental damage.
European Commission Calls for
123. In his statement on 7 July 2010 calling for
an EU moratorium on deepwater drilling, European Commissioner
Oettinger also called for European oversight of regulators, suggesting
he would "not hesitate to propose a European framework for
'controlling the controllers' if need be".
DECC acknowledged Commissioner Oettinger's call for a moratorium
on deepwater drilling, as well as his calls for a broader review
of EU regulation of such activities. DECC and the HSE wrote that
they, "will be a key contributor to Commission workshops
to discuss these issues", including a review of how to improve
the capacity for cooperation in terms of response and clean up,
and considerations of the need to strengthen regional and international
Lord Marland, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for DECC,
responded to the question of a European moratorium from Lord Stoddart
of Swindon by saying:
We are not aware of any current provision within
EU law which would enable any EU body to require a moratorium,
or on deep water drilling [...] But HMG remain of the firm view
that these are matters which are properly left to individual member
124. Oil and Gas UK dispute the necessity of EU oversight,
citing a lack of EU competence in offshore exploration and production,
and also highlight the risk that moving to a set of EU standards
could lead to the lowering of UK national standards.
Mr Webb told us that while there "is clearly scope to extend
[...] [oil spill regulations at the EU level] to drilling",
he was still concerned that with increased EU oversight "we
might see a dumbing down as opposed to a raising up of standards".
The Minister told us that "we want to encourage others to
come up to [...] [our] level rather than see any watering down,"
and went on to tell us that he regarded the UK safety regulations
as the best in the world.
He did not want their effectiveness to be unnecessarily diluted
by the unnecessary involvement of EU Member States who did not
possess a coastline. 
125. ClientEarth argued for an EU level agency that
could undertake functions in connection with: major accident prevention
polices; safety reports; emergency response plans; inspection;
and information exchange.
They believed that:
The European Maritime Safety Agency [EMSA] is a clear
candidate for this role, and its capacity should be extended,
with appropriate resources, to cover offshore installations in
addition to its current tasks in relation to shipping.
126. EMSA's main objective as it currently stands
is to provide assistance to the European Commission and Member
States in the "proper development and implementation of EU
legislation on maritime safety, pollution by ships and security
on board ships".
127. We utterly
reject calls for increased regulatory oversight from the European
Commission. We recommend that EU countries without a North Sea
coastline should not be involved with discussions on regulation
of the offshore industry on the UK Continental Shelf.
178 Ev 595 Back
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sixth Report of
Session 2006-07, Implementation of the Environmental Liability
Directive, HC 694, para 9 Back
Q 220 Back
Ev 590 Back
Ev 595 Back
Ev 595 Back
Speech by Commissioner Oettinger, 7 July 2010, http://europa.eu/rapid Back
Ev 596 Back
HL Deb, 20 July 2010, col 1262 Back
Ev 63 Back
Q 23 Back
Q 26 Back
Q 323 Back
Q 326 Back
Q 327 Back
Ev 595 Back
Ev 595 Back
EMSA, www.emsa.europa.eu Back