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ExxonMobil could be stripped of its licence to operate the Mossmorran plant, an MSP has warned – as Nicola Sturgeon said she is “extremely concerned” by further flaring.
The First Minister was speaking after flaring at the Fife site on Tuesday.
That came just weeks after similar incidents at the site, with environmental regulators at Sepa having launched a formal investigation into unplanned flaring there last April following hundreds of complaints from residents.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Cowdenbeath MSP Annabelle Ewing said that if the situation is not resolved, “the licence to continue to operate must surely be brought into question”.
The SNP MSP added: “Given the further unplanned flaring by Exxon at Mossmorran this week, just a few short weeks after the last major incident, the First Minister will understand how weary my constituents are of the whole thing.
“Does the First Minister agree that we have moved beyond the final warning issued by SEPA last year and that all necessary steps must be taken as a matter of urgency by the regulator and by the operator?”
Ms Sturgeon said the latest incident was “extremely disappointing” and told MSPs that Sepa is “urgently seeking detailed information”.
READ MORE: Action called over Mossmorran flaring after “apocalyptic” scenes
She added: “I am absolutely clear that the operator must take all necessary steps to reduce the impact on residents and fully address their concerns.”
The First Minister was also challenged on the “misery” the flaring causes locals by the Scottish Greens – with the party demanding ministers meet residents and stage an inquiry into the future of the plant.
Green parliamentary co-leader Alison Johnstone branded the plant a “fossil fuel relic”.
— Scottish Greens (@scotgp) March 5, 2020
But Ms Sturgeon – who described the flaring as a “really serious situation” – said the Government must be careful not to prejudice the investigations already under way.
She said: “Sepa, which is an independent regulatory body, is now focused on concluding an ongoing criminal investigation to an evidential standard and are continuing to scrutinise different actions.
“There are ongoing regulatory investigations. So the combination of these things mean it is incumbent on ministers to be very careful that we do not act in a way that could undermine that in any way, shape or form or prejudice it in anyway.
“It is not in any way that ministers are disinterested in this, but we want Sepa to be able to do its job and to be able to do its job properly.”
But Ms Johnstone told her: “Expressing disappointment doesn’t help people in this area sleep at night, it doesn’t do justice to the seriousness of the situation.
“Sepa have issued warning after warning, they issued a final warning as long ago as April 2018, but the situation on the ground hasn’t changed.
“What will you do to end the misery this plant is causing?”
READ MORE: Mossmorran flaring: Over 100 workers stage walkout at Fife plant over safety fears
Ms Sturgeon stressed: “I would not be doing any good to local residents if we in any way acted in a prejudicial manner to the ongoing investigations, regulatory and/or criminal that are under way there.
“My interest is in making sure this issue is addressed, that it is addressed properly and safely and is addressed for the long term.
“I am extremely concerned about the situation and I understand the concerns of local residents.
“It is important that Sepa continues to take the action it thinks is necessary, and it is important the operator takes all necessary steps to reduce the impact on residents and address the concerns.”