MP writes to head of SEPA on Mossmorran

Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath has written to the Chief Executive Terry A’Hearn calling on SEPA to up its game in relation to its regulatory role with Mossmorran.

Lesley said “There are issues with the operators in relation to trust and confidence and now there is a real test for SEPA as the regulatory authority to be seen to be truly safeguarding the communities that they say they are here to protect.

The issue of the Final Written Warning from April 2018 was seen as a break through in terms of the regulator showing some teeth but there have been various unplanned events since then. Investigations just seem to be endlessly going on and there comes a point where frankly you have to ask why does it take so long?”

“Communities need answers and actions now, and that is why I am calling on SEPA to bring forward some conclusion to these ongoing investigations – even as an interim measure there must be some form of action that can be taken now in relation to breaches of the permit otherwise what was the point of even issuing the Final Written Warning?”

The companies say that they operate on a planned maintenance schedule. In the interests of transparency these should be published now so that the public can see when they are likely to be presented with any further planned episodes of flaring.”

While the BAT report potentially offers a way forward there is still much work to be done and there is now an issue in terms of SEPA’s credibility in addressing these long standing issues with tangible actions.”

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Letter to Terry A’Hearn below.

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Dear Terry

Further to our recent discussions I am writing to formally express my ongoing concerns regarding the operation of the Exxonmobil plant, and their communications with the community.

As we discussed I have a number of concerns about the ongoing communication and management of the site, which I have shared with you directly and also which have been raised through the Working Group.

We have been informed now by Exxonmobil that there will be planned flaring from Thursday 4th July for up to five days. If this episode of flaring as Exxonomobil claim is planned, why couldn’t the community have been informed well in advance of this planned flaring event?  I know that you have sought answers to that question, but at the time of writing I am unaware of any update on this.

Since SEPA’s final warning letter in April 2018 there have been a number of flaring episodes. As you know from your own experience the biggest issue remains one of trust and confidence.  Given the other episodes of flaring, when does SEPA intend to take further action?  While investigations are constantly ongoing, there never seems an end point where any definitive action is actually taken.  This is a cause of concern for the local communities who increasingly feel that SEPA is not addressing or acting on their concerns.

As I indicated to you in our call people also expect trust not just from the companies that are providing the information about their operation but also how government agencies, such as SEPA are fulfilling their obligations in ensuring that compliance to their operating permits is maintained, and that when breached meaningful, timely and appropriate action is then taken.  I have looked on your website today and cannot find the current copy of the sites operating permit, or the variations that were imposed.  Can you please advise where this permit can be accessed, and if not in the public domain, why not?  I would also appreciate a copy if not available via another source.

Most plants of this nature operate on a planned maintenance schedule.  It would be helpful if the two companies were required to publish their planned maintenance schedules that will result in use of external flaring.  This would also address the concern about the most recent episode that it was not planned.

With respect to the most recent flaring episode when were SEPA notified that it was taking place – not just by the letter sent to community representatives?  Was this in compliance with your notification procedure for such events – and given that the company say this was a planned event was the process compliant with the permit?

Is it possible for SEPA to request Exxonombil to publish future planned flaring schedules for the benefit of the communities around Mossmorran? I feel that these are important questions to prevent the current approach to flaring happening yet again.

While I feel there has been progress made on the long-term solution to these issues through the BAT report and the Mossmorran Working Group, there is much work to do and I feel that there is now an issue in terms of SEPA’s credibility in addressing these long-standing issues with tangible action.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

Lesley Laird MP