Comment: A question of trust for ExxonMobil and Mossmorran

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Fife Free Press editorial comment: ExxonMobil has a real challenge on its hands to regain public trust. It is one it must address.

The only time Mossmorran hits the headlines is when the plant flares.

ExxonMobil has a real challenge on its hands to change perceptions – but it is one it must address.

The global organisation is in real danger of losing the PR battle as it comes under fire from a well organised community group, politicians across the board, and SEPA.

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Deciding not to attend a public meeting was simply the wrong move. Regardless of any inconvience of its timing or any concerns over how it was c alled, the company had a responsibility, and a duty, to be at that top table, listening, responding and taking the flak that comes its way.

That’s what senior executives are paid to do.

The fact Fife Council is calling for a report into the plant’s decommissioning underlines how fast the court of public opinion has turned, and the onus is on the company to do more – much more – not just to answer its critics, but to understand why it finds itself so far out on a limb. It won’t learn much if it heads to its bunker.

ExxonMobil is a major employer and contributor to Fife’s economy. Instead of calls to decommission the plant – there IS a debate on the life of the plant, but it’ll be interesting to see politicians fight over who picks up the hefty tab for that work – leading the agenda, it ought to be about making the plant as safe as possible, and ensuring that investment is maintained and, if necessary, increased.

SEPA also came in for a rough ride at the public meeting over its monitoring of flaring incidents – but, at least it turned up.

The debate over Mossmorran isn’t going to go away.

Another unscheduled flaring may well be the tipping point from which ExxonMobil may find it hard to recover the trust the community says has been lost.

And once the trust has gone, it’s a long, difficult road back.