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Environment watchdogs say they are disappointed by ExxonMobil’s request for an eight-month delay on the installation of noise reducing equipment at Mossmorran.
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) was responding after it emerged the company had asked to postpone the requirement to fit new flare tips at the Fife Ethylene Plant until August 2021 due to coronavirus.
That would replace the original 2020 deadline set as part of a £140 million programme designed to reduce the impact of light and noise pollution during flaring at the site.
Local campaigners have also hit out at the delay.
Chris Dailly, head of environmental performance at Sepa, said it was in talks with ExxonMobil to determine if the reasons for the delay are acceptable.
He said: “Sepa is firmly focused on ensuring the company addresses the root causes of ‘unacceptable flaring’ with a clear plan and pathway to compliance.
“Whilst disappointed by the application by ExxonMobil Chemical Limited, we recognise the current pandemic has significantly affected workplace practices and the supply of some equipment and materials, in line with public health restrictions.
“Sepa continues to work with the company to understand more about the reasons for the delay, and whether that is acceptable given the current public health emergency.
“This is likely to take a short number of weeks and we will ensure that local communities are kept fully informed in due course.”
An ExxonMobil spokesperson said it remained committed to the programme and would work towards completing it “as soon as it is practical to do so”.
But James Glen, spokesman for Mossmorran Action Group, said Exxon was “using Covid as an excuse” to delay implementing essential noise mitigation.
“Their only interest is in protecting their bottom line,” he said.
“Communities are being exposed to such extreme levels of noise that residents are left terrified, condemned to sleepless nights, with their homes subject to visible vibration.”
He said locals were also awaiting the outcome of Health and Safety Executive investigations into maintenance regimes at the site.
“For too long, regulators have allowed Exxon to get away with operations which harm their neighbours, and Sepa should now live up to its mantra that environmental compliance is non-negotiable,” he added.