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Campaigners have welcomed news prosecution is being sought over flaring at Mossmorran.
Following a lengthy investigation into unscheduled flaring in April last year, Scotland’s environment watchdog announced on Wednesday evening it will submit a report to the Crown Office.
ExxonMobil Chemical operates Fife Ethylene Plant at the petrochemical complex near Cowdenbeath and recently restarted operations after a six-month shut down due to boiler failures.
Reacting to Sepa’s announcement, Mossmorran Action Group chairman James Glen said: “This is extremely welcome news.
“The flaring during Easter a year ago was absolutely unacceptable and communities who had no choice but to suffer it will be hoping the full force of the law is now brought to bear on ExxonMobil.
“However, it should not have taken Sepa over a year to reach this point.
“In the intervening months Exxon have had to shut down operations for six months because two boilers exploded and communities have been forced to endure two further unacceptable bouts of extreme emergency flaring, which remain under investigation by Sepa.
“Either the Scottish Government needs to change the law, or give SEPA the resources it needs to act more promptly to regulate Exxon and give exposed communities the protection ministers promise them.”
The April 2019 flaring episode lasted seven days and resulted in more than 900 complaints – the most Sepa has ever received for a single event.
Those living around the plant suffered from the noise, light pollution and vibrations generated.
ExxonMobil said it has spent £140 million on upgrading the plant.
A spokesman said: “Fife Ethylene Plant works to the highest regulatory standards, is committed to its environmental responsibilities and complies with all applicable laws.
“We fully understand the need to address any community concerns associated with the use of our flare and have already announced a number of initiatives and investments to help us achieve this.
“This includes a 14-step action plan introducing new technology, processes and training that will not only reduce the frequency of flaring events but also noise, light and vibration that can sometimes be experienced when flaring occurs.
“We have co-operated openly and constructively with SEPA throughout its investigation into the flaring event in April 2019, and continue to do so.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”
Announcing the report, Sepa chief executive Terry A’Hearn said: “Compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws is simply non-negotiable.
“Over a number of years, communities across Fife have repeatedly endured unplanned flaring.
“Whilst flaring is an important safety mechanism of such facilities, it must become the exception, rather than routine.
“People rightly expect that their lives won’t be impacted by nearby industrial processes and yet again, over an extended period during Easter 2019, communities were impacted by unacceptable and preventable flaring.
“It’s right that we take enforcement action. What is just as important is that ExxonMobil address the root-causes of ‘unacceptable flaring’.”
Shell UK operates adjoining Fife NGL Plant but is not a subject of the report.