MSP Ross Geer continues to raise questions in the Scottish Parliament about the lack of an EIA. Referring to information unearthed by the Friends of the Firth of Clyde (FoFoC) Ross asked the minister during a session of Portfolio Questions on 6th March ’19 why an EIA was not required for the decommissioning project at Hunterston when there is evidence that both Marine Scotland (MS) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) were of the opinion that an EIA would be required if the project was considered in its entirety.
MSP Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, explained that due to changes in the project which have arisen since the original decision was made, the need for an EIA is currently being reviewed.
Ms Gougeon reiterated her answer when strongly challenged by MSP Kenneth Gibson. Shockingly, in defence of there being no EIA required, Mr Gibson referred to the fact that the £10m grant funding recently awarded by Scottish Enterprise to Clydeport would have to be returned if environmental damage is caused, apparently ignoring the fact that once irreparable damage is done to the SSSI and the surrounding marine environment it is done.
In addition, we understand that the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has applied an extension until the end of March 2019 to decide upon the Waste Management License (WML) application submitted by Clydeport in October 2018.
The following press release was issued by the office of MSP Ross Greer on 7th March 2019:
Green MSP Ross Greer has welcomed a statement from a minister that, following significant changes to the proposals for oil rig decommissioning off the coast at Hunterston, the Scottish Government are revisiting their decision not to require a full Environmental Impact Assessment. The facility, which would require an estimated half a million tonnes of dredging on a site adjacent to the Southannan Sands, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), received planning permission last year. Following Freedom of Information Requests from local residents, it emerged that two government agencies, Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, had advised North Ayrshire Council that they would expect a full EIA. NAC decided that a full impact assessment was not necessary, a decision backed by the Scottish Government until this week.
In response to a question from Greer during Wednesday’s (6th March’19) Environment Portfolio Questions, the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon conceded “Since the time the proposal was initially introduced… the proposals that have come forward have substantially changed, so officials are considering whether revised plans… require an impact assessment.”
Ross Greer, Green MSP for the West of Scotland, commented: “I’m delighted to hear the government are reconsidering the need for a full environmental impact assessment, give how much the plans have changed. Decommissioning is a great way to create jobs as we move away from fossil fuels but there’s no need for it to come at a cost to the local environment, residents and workers. There’s certainly no reason not to even bother assessing that risk before such a huge project.
“I hope that the Scottish Government and North Ayrshire Council recognise this and finally listen to what many local residents and experts have been saying all along, that an EIA needs to be carried out and considered in detail. These checks exist for a reason. Two government agencies thought they were a good idea. It’s time to follow through on that advice.”
In December the FoFoC sought the advice of Douglas Armstrong QC and wrote to MS putting forward our serious concerns about flaws in the original decision not require an EIA and outlining the case for reviewing the decision before the Marine Licence application is considered. We are cautiously encouraged to hear that the plans for oil rig decommissioning at Hunterston appear to be being more thoroughly scrutinised at this point in time.
The FoFoC will continue to press all regulatory authorities and all interested stakeholders for an EIA.