Chem­i­cal plant faces pros­e­cu­tion

● Re­port comes af­ter agency re­ceives 900 com­plaints the most for any sin­gle event

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By EMMA O’NEILL

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.

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