EU suggests drilling ban in case of safety doubts

AP News
Posted: Oct 13, 2010 1:09 PM
EU suggests drilling ban in case of safety doubts

EU governments should stop deepwater drilling projects if they have any safety doubts, the EU said Wednesday, stopping short of an outright ban such as the one the U.S. imposed after the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger proposed better and uniform safety rules for oil platforms off Europe's shores ensuring "the highest safety standards in the world."

But while his review was inspired by the Apr. 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon platform that killed 11 workers and caused a massive oil spill, Oettinger did not call for a Europe-wide ban on deep-sea drilling due to opposition by some countries, notably Britain.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama ended a ban on deepwater drilling amid intense pressure from the oil industry. The six-month moratorium was to end Nov. 30 but that date was moved up with American officials citing new, better safety measures.

Oettinger said he will draft EU legislation to upgrade safety on the 1,000 or so offshore oil and gas platforms in the North East Atlantic and more than 100 in the Mediterranean, Baltic and Black seas.

Current safety rules on those installations are a mishmash of national rules and regulations.

In a report to EU governments, Oettinger said the Deepwater Horizon accident must "lead to a sincere reflection" about the safety of current offshore oil drilling and emergency response measures. He said EU governments should issue new drilling licenses "in light of the Deepwater Horizon accident."

The EU law he proposed must be endorsed by EU governments and the European Parliament. It would force EU-wide safety standards _ especially for blowout preventers, the parts which failed on the Deepwater Horizon _ on oil and gas companies.

The law would also require companies to pay to undo any environmental damage, through insurance policies or own funds, within 200 nautical miles from any coast.

Finally, it would require national authorities to supervise platforms but accept final oversight by independent safety experts.

After the Gulf of Mexico, the EU reviewed existing safety rules on its oil platforms. While safety standards were found to be high, they vary from one company to another, and legislation differs from one EU nation to another, Oettinger said.


(This version corrects date of explosion and spill.)