Mossmorran chemical plant should be closed for proper maintenance, the Scottish Parliament was told, amid allegations of corner-cutting.
During a debate in Holyrood MSPs claimed that operators had failed to properly look after the plant built near Cowdenbeath more than 30 years ago.
Concerns have grown about the frequency of unplanned flaring at Fife Ethylene Plant, operated by ExxonMobil Chemical, and Shell UK’s Fife NGL Plant.
Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said former employees of operator ExxonMobil Chemical told him of a “corner-cutting culture” at Exxon.
He said: “It’s clear the increase in flaring has happened because Exxon will not shut the plant down for longer periods to allow for proper maintenance and investment.
“There needs to be action, Mossmorran needs to be shut for proper maintenance or it needs to be forced to shut.”
Environment watchdog Sepa issued final warnings to both operators in response to unplanned flaring last June and has launched a joint investigation with the Health and Safety Executive.
Since then, unplanned flaring, a safety mechanism employed during break downs, has occurred three more times, most recently in May.
Many in surrounding towns and villages are worried about the environmental and health impact and suffer severe disruption from the light, noise and vibration.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Alex Rowley, who secured the debate, said communities had lost confidence in the safety of the plant.
He said: “Every time there is an episode of unplanned flaring it means something has broken in the plant.
“It’s simply not acceptable for people to put up with this for this long with little being done to address the problem at its core.
“It’s a 30-year-old plant and we need to know what the issues are and how they can be addressed.”
Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, noted Mossmorran’s contribution to the economy as one of Fife’s largest employers but added: “It should operate in a way that is sustainable and that minimises the potential for adverse impact on the local community and the environment in general.
“The Scottish Government has set a strong framework for the regulation of industrial sites and takes the recent situation at Mossmorran extremely seriously.
“We will continue to work closely with Sepa to understand the steps they are taking to ensure compliance at the site and address the concerns of local residents.”
Operating permit variations were due to be served by Sepa on Thursday, requiring the companies to strengthen controls on noise and vibration.
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