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PROTESTERS demanding Mossmorran’s closure gathered outside watchdog offices as they “brought the flare to SEPA”.
They made their voices heard in rallies at Scottish Environment Protection Agency branches across Scotland last Sunday and Monday.
Climate Camp Scotland, Mossmorran Action Group and other activists have long campaigned against the Mossmorran plant, calling for it to be closed over noise and air pollution.
The protests come as ExxonMobil, who operate the Fife Ethylene Plant, asked SEPA for an eight-month delay in a £140 million investment programme to reduce the impact of flaring.
It had been anticipated to be completed by the end of this year, but the company have now said that the fitting of flare tips will not culminate until August 2021.
James Glen, spokesman for Mossmorran Action Group, said Exxon was “using Covid as an excuse” to delay implementing essential noise mitigation because “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.
“Exxon’s deplorable record of skimping on maintenance continues to be under major investigation by HSE (Health and Safety Executive). 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.”
SEPA’s Ian Buchanan said: “As Scotland’s environmental regulator, SEPA is clear that compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws is non-negotiable.
“We are utilising the powers given to us by the Scottish Parliament, including the conclusion of our regulatory investigation and a referral to the Crown Office for consideration of prosecution.
“The referral is part of a package of measures to ensure the site operators invest in mitigation technologies and address the root causes of unacceptable flaring, ensuring that in future flaring becomes the exception rather than routine.
“We work closely with the Health and Safety Executive, which has responsibility for site safety as part of the competent authority under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations, with Fife Council and NHS Fife on areas where they have responsibility.”
While Shell UK, who operate the neighbouring Shell Natural Gas Liquids plant, did not wish to make a comment on the protests, ExxonMobil highlighted their value in providing jobs to locals and their contribution to Fife and Scotland’s economy.
A spokesperson said: “Our company alone has provided stable, skilled manufacturing roles to Fife for over 35 years, with some 250 dedicated team members and their families relying on us for their livelihoods.
“In addition, over 120 companies in the supply chain provide our site with goods and services, and we estimate that we contribute tens of millions of pounds annually to the local economy.
“Looking more broadly, our plant supports the production of key products that are consistent with low-carbon initiatives e.g. lightweight plastics for electric vehicles and charging stations.’ “From those calling for the closure of Mossmorran, we have yet to see any meaningful proposal to replace the loss to the hundreds of people and their families who rely on the facility, or the major economic contribution made to Fife and Scotland.”