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Europe

EU pulls back from oil-drilling moratorium, suggests safeguards instead

Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the European Union has presented its plans for safer deep-sea oil-drilling. But it stops short of imposing a moratorium, leaving that up to national states.

The Norwegian Troll ring in the North Sea

New oil rigs may have to meet tougher standards

The EU's energy commissioner, Guenther Oettinger, admitted on Wednesday, "I'm a realist," as he pulled back from a proposed moratorium on new deep-sea oil-drilling which he had supported in July.

On Tuesday, the US government had lifted its ban on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which had been imposed followed the disastrous consequences of the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The ban had been expected to run until November, but it had met with strong opposition from the oil industry and politicians in the area affected economically.

The decision to prevent new drilling in European water will now be left up to the individual member states, but Britain, the country responsible for most of the oil wells, is strictly opposed.

Polluters to pay more

Oettinger

Guenther Oettinger could not push through his moratorium

Instead, Oettinger proposed standards which countries should adopt when granting licenses.

Under the proposals, companies would have to show that they had enough funds to pay for any environmental damage a disaster might cause. They would be responsible for all damage caused within 200 miles of a coastline, instead of the current 12-mile limit.

"We have to make sure that a disaster similar to the one in the Gulf of Mexico will never happen in European waters," said Oettinger.

The legislation, to harmonize conditions across Europe, would be presented early next year. It would require approval from both the EU ministers and the parliament, and it is already believed that Britain will oppose it.

There are few deep-sea rigs in Europe, but several are planned in the North Sea and the Black Sea. Further wells are planned in Libyan and Egyptian waters, where the consequences of any catastrophe would be felt in Europe.

Author: Michael Lawton (dapd/dpa/AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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