The flames have subsided but public sentiment towards Mossmorran after its latest flaring episode has definitely not.
While nearly a year had passed since the previous incident, the volume of smoke emitted for two hours on the first day and the intensity of the flaring over the week was highly unusual.
It was hardly surprising, therefore, that local residents, scunnered by a series of events in 2017/18, picked up their phones or wrote to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to complain. Over 900 of you – a record high number.
The plant and SEPA both maintain the flaring, while fierce, posed no health risk and while the public is yet to be convinced on that fact, the appalling impact by way of light, noise and vibration pollution was incontrovertible.
After I was elected I was determined to tackle this issue and set up the Mossmorran Working Group to bring the ExxonMobil, Shell, safety authorities, elected and community representatives together for the first time.
Progress was made on the back of that breakthrough. Communication from the plant improved, parties became more accountable, a significant air monitoring exercise had begun.
It was highly ironic and hugely disappointing, therefore, that a Best Available Techniques (BAT) report which had been months in the making, was issued in the midst of that flaring; a report designed to review the entire plant’s structure and processes with the aim of preventing or minimising unplanned flaring.
This latest episode was caused by a cable which developed a sudden fault and an investigation has been launched by SEPA, who issued the Mossmorran a final written warning last year.
As things stand now, I believe this is no longer just a reputational issue for the companies concerned but also a reputational issue for SEPA and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
There are too many open questions for communities and calls for a full independent enquiry comes out of sheer frustration at ongoing safety and health concerns simply not being seen to be adequately addressed.
A Public Meeting is due to take place at Lochgelly Town Hall this Friday (May 17) at 7pm and I’ll be there as a member of the panel, alongside representatives from the Mossmorran Action Group (MAG) and SEPA.
Communities will have an opportunity to air their views and seek some answers.
One question the community will no doubt want answered in the short-term is: what decisive action are the regulatory authorities going to take now?
SEPA’s investigation process is far too long, and in the eyes of the public has not delivered an outcome that addresses the very real concerns they have.
SEPA and HSE must now show they are on the side of the public and be prepared to deliver some tangible outcomes. Nothing less will do.