A year and a half after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico led to calls for stricter offshore regulations in European waters, proponents continue to push for greater oversight and a more restrictive drilling environment. However, despite proclamations of support and proposals from the EU, advocates face stiff opposition from political and industry leaders across the Mediterranean.
Beginning late last summer, environmental and political groups across the Mediterranean began calling for local bans on offshore drilling efforts and new rules associated with safety and compensation following the Deepwater spill. Driven by fears about how a similar event could impact the Mediterranean, groups successfully lobbied for localized moratoriums on drilling in Italian waters and further reviews of existing projects, including BP’s efforts in Libya. Led by EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, proponents of a stricter approach to offshore efforts pushed for a complete revision of EU regulations on the topic and the introduction of new industry observers. The campaign resulted in the passage of a draft resolution by the European Parliament in October that included would increase the area subject to protection 16-fold, from 22km from shore to 370km as well as increasing the amount companies would pay for clean-up efforts. The new offshore rules would impact 90 percent of oil and over 60 percent of gas produced in the EU and Norway, according to Bloomberg, though it did stop short of calling for an outright moratorium.
Although the resolution easily passed the EU parliament, setting it up for the approval of all member state governments and application within a year or two, the resolution faces stern opposition from political and industry figures.
The leadership of France’s Total blasted the introduction of new rules to the region, advocating that UK rules on offshore activities take precedent over any novel approaches from the EU.
“In the UK the standards are the best in the world…. We have to be very careful to take the best but not to introduce bureaucracy into the process,” said Total’s senior vice president for Northern Europe Patrice de Vivies, according to Reuters.
Further afield, the new regulations could run afoul of new and revived drilling campaigns in the eastern and southern Mediterranean, including projects initiated by Cyprus, Israel, Greece and Libya. While ostensibly out of European waters, efforts in Libya would be impacted by overlapping issues, making the introduction of much-needed oil and gas efforts difficult to achieve.