Mossmorran: we need action, openness and transparency

Residents have voiced anger after yet another spell of flaring at the Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran.

The incident, which came just a day after the Mosmorran Working Group met, reportedly involved “very loud booms” and a strong chemical smell on Saturday morning.

The plant could be seen visibly flaring on a number of occasions, prompting an apology from the plant operator ExxonMobil.

Lesley Laird MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath said: “This episode shows is there is much work still to be done in terms of communication and trust and confidence at a number of levels.

“The plant’s rushed community statement on Sunday is out of kilter with the normal notification process for shutdowns, and the updated flaring statement suggested this maintenance was initially rushed and not thought through in terms of the best way to mitigate its impact on the community.

“Communication around two other recent flarings still showed gaps in terms of how the company gets it message out in a timely way.

“It also brings into question the current operation of the plant’s permit, and whether or not it is fit-for-purpose given the various events we have seen over the last two years.  While SEPA has issued a final written warning, there has been at least three events since and communities are quite rightly asking what the consequences are of permit non-compliance now.   While acknowledging that SEPA has upped its game in terms of community engagement the real issue is: does SEPA have the appetite to take further action in the face of ongoing impact on the community?

“At the working group on Friday, progress was certainly made in identifying future Best Available Techniques (BAT) investment which will mitigate flaring, and associated light, vibration and noise.  But that’s down the road and the situation here and now requires decisive action, openness and transparency. 

“Planned shutdown schedules for Exxon and Shell should be made available now and I have called on Fife Council to review and reconstitute the Mossmorran and Braefoot Bay Liaison Committee,  including the appointment of an independent chair.

“The Working Group was not satisfied with the Cabinet Minister’s refusal to conduct an independent review of Mossmorran until SEPA’s investigation is concluded.  There is no reason, given the ongoing issues, that this could not be done in parallel with any SEPA investigation.  It’s for all government agencies to step up and support communities affected by Mossmorran.”