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Fife Council is to look at setting up its own mechanism to examine all options for the short, medium and long-term future of the Mossmorran chemical complex.
The commitment by Fife councillors comes after further unscheduled elevated flaring from the plant last month was followed by an extended period of ground flare operation, prompting weekly protests outside the site’s gates.
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With a Just Transition Board established by the Scottish Government for nearby Grangemouth but not, so far, for Mossmorran, Fife Council will now explore setting up its own board to cut the complex’s carbon emissions, map out the plant’s future, including phased decommissioning, and what can be done to support workers into new green industries.
An emergency motion to that effect, lodged by local councillor Mary Lockhart, was backed by Fife councillors by 39-26 on Thursday, with the authority also reaffirming a previous call for the Scottish Government to commission an inquiry into the health and social impacts of operations at Mossmorran.
Health authorities have similarly been asked to set up a dedicated facility which can record and monitor flaring-related health complaints of residents.
“As a council, we cannot sit back as ExxonMobil seeks extension after extension to make the changes it has promised and that Sepa has insisted reality,” she said.
An SNP amendment lodged by Councillor Ross Vettraino had expressed many of the same sentiments but specifically called for Fife Council and NHS Fife to commission a further report into the plant’s impacts, and also for the council to work with the Scottish Government and unions to establish a Just Transition Board – with a further suggestion that the council could set up a working group in the interim period.
However, it was voted down, with Labour councillor Gary Guichan among those suggesting the amendment was designed to let the Scottish Government “off the hook”.
Ms Lockhart added: “We need action and we need it now, and in the event the Scottish Government fail to act then Fife Council will do something off its own bat.”
The motion comes after Fife Council co-leaders David Ross and David Alexander confirmed that a further request for discussions about Mossmorran’s long-term future – in light of recent announcements about Grangemouth – had been declined by the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government says it would not be appropriate to support a Just Transition Board for Mossmorran at this time as the Crown Office continues to consider a Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) report into flaring at the complex.
Mr Ross also confirmed that a letter to Mossmorran’s operators asking about possible compensation for affected residents had been responded to, with the reply citing the many benefits the plant has brought the community over the years.
However, he told councillors: “It’s really back in our court now to go back to them and suggest that we probably want a bit more.”
The discussions have taken place in a week which also saw a new planning application for enclosed ground flare technology registered with the council.