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FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to consider an independent inquiry into Mossmorran following the latest case of flaring at the chemical complex.
The Press told you last week that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) received more than 740 reports from nearby residents after the Fife Ethylene Plant started to flare on Sunday morning last week.
The environment watchdog submitted a report to the Crown Office earlier this year seeking a prosecution for a prolonged period of flaring in April 2019; a case which attracted more than 900 complaints, the most SEPA’s pollution hotline has ever received.
Plant operators ExxonMobil apologised for the three-day flaring and cited a faulty part on their compressor as the cause of the incident, which came to an end on Tuesday afternoon.
Ms Sturgeon was challenged on the flaring issue at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday by local MSPs Mark Ruskell and Annabelle Ewing.
It was highlighted that the number of people who had written to Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham calling for an urgent independent inquiry into the plant’s future via the Scottish Greens website had reached 5,565.
Green MSP Mr Ruskell raised these calls with the First Minister who said she could “absolutely understand their views of frustration and anger”.
She went on to state that an independent inquiry was just one option being considered by the Scottish Government.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I will, as a result of Mark Ruskell’s question, have a further discussion with Roseanna Cunningham about the call for an inquiry and about any further action we can take, or support and encourage SEPA to take.
“It’s not any help to people who are living with this, I understand that, for me to say I understand what they’re saying.
“But there are processes, legal processes, that we cannot simply cast aside, both from SEPA and from the Crown Office.”
Ms Ewing, of the SNP, then asked the First Minister for the Scottish Government to consider all options to “bring such blatant disregard by the operator for interests of the local community to an end”.
In response, Ms Sturgeon said she could “completely understand” the community concerns and anger over flaring at Mossmorran, before adding: “SEPA is currently looking at the cause of the flaring and how it was managed over the full duration of the incident.
“The concerns locally are clear and well understood both by government and by regulators and the Crown Office is currently considering a report submitted by SEPA into a previous incident of flaring.
“I hope it is an indication of the seriousness with which SEPA is treating flaring incidents at the plant.”
Jacob McAlister, plant manager of Fife Ethylene Plant, apologised on Wednesday last week for the flaring.
He said: “As previously advised, the issue was caused by a faulty part on our compressor. This resulted in our safety systems isolating the machine and routing gas via the flare.
“Our teams identified and replaced the part and then conducted comprehensive checks to ensure a safe and reliable re-start of the machine.
“We will finalise our own investigation into the root cause but can confirm that, contrary to misinformation, weather was not a contributing factor.
“We absolutely understand and apologise for the frustration that the use of our flare can cause.
“We will, therefore, continue to work to reduce future occurrences.”
ExxonMobil announced last month that its delayed £140 million investment project at Fife Ethylene Plant (FEP) will begin in April.
Plant bosses confirmed that the investment – which includes the installation of a new noise and vibration-reducing elevated flare tip – is on schedule for next year.