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SCOTTISH Government ministers are in close contact with regulators amid concerns of a “crisis” at the Mossmorran chemical plant in Fife.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was “no doubt about the very understandable concerns” of residents after flaring at the plant last week.
Local politicians pressed the First Minister on community concerns about the plant – with Green MSP Mark Ruskell claiming it was in “crisis”.
Challenging Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions, the Mid Scotland and Fife MSP said: “This Mosmorran plant is in crisis, communities are suffering, workers are striking.”
He urged the First Minister to ensure the Scottish Government is represented at a public meeting to discuss issues at the Mossmorran plant, operated by ExxonMobil.
SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing, who represents the Cowdenbeath constituency, highlighted the “major unplanned flaring incident” and the “walkout by some workers over reported concerns over health and safety”.
READ MORE: Mossmorran employees set to return to work after walkout
She told Sturgeon that residents “remain very anxious about safety, and about health and environmental impacts”.
Last week’s flaring occurred during the restarting of the ethylene plant, which closed last August for main-tenance work.
Around 100 workers walked out on Wednesday citing health and safety concerned over the flaring. They are due to return to work today.
In September 2019, ExxonMobil announced a £140 million plan to reduce such occurrences and improve infrastructure at the plant.
That came after the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) launched a formal investigation into unplanned flaring at the plant last April following hundreds of complaints from residents about a chemical smell and rumbling noise.
The body rated Exxon Mobil’s environmental compliance at the Mossmorran site “poor” in 2018
Sturgeon said the site was regulated by both Sepa and the Health and Safety Executive – adding that for that reason it was not appropriate for Scottish Government ministers to be at the public meeting.
“It would not really be in anybody’s interests for ministers to step into territory that is rightly for Sepa and the Health and Safety Executive,” she said.
READ MORE: ExxonMobil apologises for Fife chemical plant’s ‘intense flaring’
The First Minister stressed that “as things stand” data published by Sepa “suggests no breach of UK air quality standards” at Mossmorran.
The First Minister told MSPs: “It is not the case that Ministers are refusing to attend a public meeting because they are not interested in this issue.
“There are regulatory enforcement actions under way right now and it is important ministers respect the independence of that process.”
She added: “Ministers understand and appreciate the seriousness of this issue. We will continue to keep in very close contact with the regulators and take whatever steps lie within our responsibilities to ensure appropriate action is taken.”
Many residents took to social media to complain about the flares from the plant, which could be seen for miles on last Thursday night.
Ewing said on Wednesday: “When workers’ fears over conditions and safety on a site such as this reach such a level that they feel pushed to walk out of the door, then we should all be very concerned indeed.”