RESIDENTS blighted by air pollution and noise from a petrochemical plant are set for payouts from an oil giant after councillors backed a motion seeking compensation.
In a debate in Fife Council on the future of the Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran, run by ExxonMobil, councillors from all parties condemned the six-day spate of unplanned flaring at the chemical works, beginning on Easter Sunday.
The incident triggered a record number of complaints to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) as local people raised the alarm over huge plumes of black smoke, chemical-smelling fumes and a rumbling noise emanating from the site.
ExxonMobil has insisted the flare posed no danger to the public and blamed the problem on a faulty section of cable.
The firm had already been served with final warning letters in 2018 over a previous flaring incident in 2017, and campaigners said neighbouring communities have been left fearing that the ageing plant will blow, as well as what impact the noise and pollution could be having on their health.
Yesterday, councillors voted by a majority of 32 to 23 in favour of a motion calling for “appropriate and substantial compensation from the companies to individuals and communities affected by flaring incidents”.
It also said it would seek “discussions with the Scottish and UK Governments, the companies and trade unions regarding the long term future of the plant and a possible strategy for its decommissioning”, as well as requesting that the Scottish Government “commission an independent expert study of the environmental, social and health impacts on the surrounding communities” of Mosmorran.
James Glen, of the Mossmorran Action Group, set up two years ago in response to growing local alarm at the increasing incidence of emergency flaring and its impact on local residents, said support for the motion marked a “historic turning pointing” against the ageing plant.
Mr Glen said: “For first time, councillor after councillor stood up to validate the experience of residents around Mossmorran, who have been forced to put up with the adverse impacts of the plant’s operations for 34 years.”
Conservative councillor Linda Holt said: “The original motion for an independent study was put forward by local Conservative councillor Darren Watt in response to a deluge of complaints and rising public anxiety about the safety of the plant.
“You could see the recent flare from Dundee to Edinburgh and hear it across Fife, while locals reported sleeplessness, breathing difficulties and headaches, and not just children were terrified that the plant was going to blow. The council was unanimous in standing with the residents in feeling that enough was enough.”
The Scottish Greens have already called for the Mosmorran plant to be closed down.
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, Fife MSP Mark Ruskell said there was “no sign from Mossmorran’s owners that they are prepared to invest to give the plant a future”. He added lessons should be learned, however, from the the closure of Longannet power station, where 230 direct jobs were wiped out.
Stuart Neill, external affairs manager at ExxonMobil Fife Ethylene Plant, said the firm had already shared with Mr Ruskell its plans for a “multi-million-pound investment programme that will work to further minimise the frequency and impact of unplanned flaring”, in addition to a £100 million investment in maintenance and modernisation in the past five years.
The Scottish Government said it does not have the power to close Mossmorran.
CREDIT: Helen McArdle
Copyright Newsquest (Herald & Times) Ltd May 17, 2019, source Newspapers