Chemical plant faces prosecution
● Report comes after agency receives 900 complaints the most for any single event
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is seeking prosecution over unplanned flaring at the Mossmorran chemical plant in Fife.
The regulator’s Pollution Hotline received a record 900 public complaints in April last year after flaring at the site over a seven-day period.
A report will be submitted to the Crown Office over the unplanned flaring, which could be seen as far away as Edinburgh.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is to seek prosecution over unscheduled flaring at Mossmorran in Fife.
A report will be submitted to the Crown Office over unplanned flaring over a seven-day period in April last year.
More than 900 complaints were made during the unplanned flaring – the highest number Sepa has ever received over a single event.
This came after a final warning letter in 2018 to Exxonmobil for “preventable and unacceptable” flaring in 2017.
Terry A’hearn, chief executive of Sepa, said: “Compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws is simply non-negotiable.
“Over a number of years, communities across Fife have repeatedly endured unplanned flaring.
“Whilst flaring is an important safety mechanism of such facilities, it must become the exception, rather than routine.
“People rightly expect that their lives won’t be impacted by nearby industrial processes and yet again, over an extended period during Easter 2019, communities were impacted by unacceptable and preventable flaring.
“Consequently, following an extensive investigation into the flaring at Mossmorran during April 2019, we intend to shortly submit a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for consideration of prosecution.
“It’s right that we take enforcement action for the Easter 2019 flaring event.
“What is just as important is that Exxonmobil Chemical Limited address the rootcauses of ‘unacceptable flaring’.”
The plant was shut down last year to allow for essential maintenance work, with Exxonmobil saying it had invested more than £140 million of upgrades to the plant.
A spokesperson from exxon mobil said :“We have not yet seen the content of the communication from Sepa, but will consider it with interest when it becomes available to us.
“Wherever we operate, we comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations.”
Scottish Greens environment spokesperson and Fife MSP Mark Ruskell said: “This is a very welcome and unprecedented intervention by Sepa.
“The agency said it received more complaints over this flaring incident than any other environmental event in history, which reflects the level of suffering felt by those who have had to live in the shadow of this fossil fuel relic for years.
“I also heard from so many constituents during this time, families who endured six days of hell and more since, so I’m relieved that their voices have been heard and action taken. If we are serious about the health and wellbeing of our communities, we need this kind of rigour from our environmental watchdog.”
Bosses at the ethylene plant, located near Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly, had cited a “trip” in one of the major compressors as to blame for flaring at the site in March.
The plant began operations in 1985 and has a production capacity of more than 800,000 tonnes of ethylene a year.