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A Fife MSP has called for any extension to install noise-reducing equipment at Mossmorran to be “extremely limited.”
Annabelle Ewing made the call to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) after ExxonMobil, owners of Fife Ethylene Plant, said the coronavirus lockdown had pushed its programme of works back to 2021.
The plant said that, as a direct result of the pandemic, resourcing and delivery of materials and equipment, as well as the movement of personnel, had been significantly impacted.
It confirmed several weeks ago that its planned programme of work would be extended into 2021.
A request to SEPA to delay installation by up to eight months sparked criticism from politicians.
Ms Ewing, MSP for Cowdenbeath, said: “To say that this news is disappointing is an understatement and there will be widespread and understandable suspicion amongst my constituents that the pandemic is being used as a cover to seek a lengthy extension.
“While I understand that there will have been an impact, I am urging SEPA to put the interests of my constituents first and limit any extension to weeks rather than months. This work needs to be done and it needs to be completed as close to the original timescale as possible.”
Mark Ruskell MSP for Scotland and Mid-Fife, a long standing opponent of the plant – he called it a “fossil fuel relic” – and called on the regulator to “hold firm.”
He added: “What about the safety of those who endure sleepless nights during flaring episodes? SEPA must hold firm and not allow any more than a couple of months delay to the completion of the flare tip upgrade.
“The communities impacted in Fife need a safer, cleaner future with new jobs in alternative industries, not be endlessly strung along by those who want to maximise oil and gas extraction, whatever the cost.”
The Green MSP’s criticisms were dismissed by the plant’s spokesman who said the politician “continues to speak on areas that he would appear not to fully understand and has not sought clarification of the facts.’’
The statement from Mossmorran continued: “We will work towards completing this programme as soon as it is practical to do so.”
“Our plant continues to operate safely and to the highest regulatory standards, and existing annual maintenance activities will continue to maintain those safe operations during this time frame.”
Mossmomorran Action Group (MAG) was also critical of the delay, with spokesman, James Glen, saying: “Exxon is using Covid as an excuse to delay implementing essential noise mitigation because their only interest is in protecting their bottom line. “
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