FLARING episodes at Mossmorran have prompted the independent watchdog to consider revising its role in a bid to address community concerns.
On Friday, Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, hosted a meeting involving the Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Independent Air Quality Monitoring Review Group, chaired by Professor Wilson Sibbett, of the University of St Andrews.
The monitoring group was established 28 years ago to provide advice and recommendations to local authorities regarding the monitoring of air emissions arising from the operations at the Mossmorran Shell NGL and Exxon/Mobil Fife Ethylene plants and the Braefoot Bay terminal facilities.
The meeting was called to instigate a discussion on whether the Monitoring Group’s remit needs to be refreshed and to reflect on current communication and community engagement practices and those at it included representatives from SEPA, Fife Council and the Institute of Occupational Medicine, as well as plant operators Exxon/Mobil and Shell.
Prof Sibbett said this week: “The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Is our remit today still the right one?
“Community concerns cover a different range of issues than those of previous decades, namely light pollution and the noise and vibration that is associated with the flaring process and, arguably, our overview function could perhaps be extended to allow for assessment of the impact of these factors in addition to air quality.”
Air Quality Reviews are published annually and, in a bid to address public concerns after the flaring incidents last summer and autumn, SEPA now carries up-to-date information on its online ‘Mossmorran Hub’ page.
It was acknowledged at the meeting, however, that more work needed to be carried out to improve communications and re-establish trust in the community.
Representatives agreed to individually review their current practices and then report their findings at a follow-up meeting which will be opened up to include cross-party political and wider community representation.
Pending the outcome of an ongoing SEPA investigation into prolonged flaring periods at Mossmorran in 2017, Ms Laird said residents deserved clear information and this meeting provided a first step in addressing this objective, but there was much work to be done.
She said: “During flaring episodes last year, some residents’ lives were impacted upon severely, with some describing the light pollution at night as being like living next to Mordor, in the Lord of the Rings!
“This meeting is the start of a process which, hopefully, will result in improved and more direct communication with the public which provides up-to-date information when flaring occurs, provides reassurance regarding health concerns and, last but not least, what steps can be taken to minimise flaring in the future.”