Mossmorran inquiry call ‘kicked into long grass’ by Scottish Government

Unplanned flaring at Mossmorran perto chemical plant in Fife Sunday April 21 2019 (pic Neil Henderson)
Unplanned flaring at Mossmorran perto chemical plant in Fife Sunday April 21 2019 (pic Neil Henderson)

The Scottish Government has kicked a call from Fife Council to launch an independent inquiry into flaring at Mossmorran into the long grass.

It told councillors the move was premature - and could prejudice enforcement action by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

The response came from Roseanne Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for environment, climate change and land reform.

She was replying to a letter asking her to kick-start the inquiry which could, ultimately, lead to the de-commissioning of a plant which employs 250 people and injects some £40m into the Fife economy.

In May, the local authority took the surprise step of backing a motion which called on the Scottish Government to commission an independent inquiry into the impact of flaring at Fife Ethelyne Plant

Last week it followed up with a letter to the Scottish Government Minister .

Now, councillors have responded with an emergency motion which compels co-leaders., Councillors David Ross and David Alexander to ask her to think again.

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The political rumblings come at a time when Mossmorran is set top flare once more.

On Saturday the plant flared briefly and thick black smoke was seen belching into the sky.

Work was delayed and it will now flare for five days, starting on Thursday.

The move – an essential safety feature – is designed to allow vital maintenance work to take place.

The plant has said it will minimise any flaring.

Stuart Neil, external affairs manager at FEP said: “We have taken a decision to finalise additional actions that will further optimise the process plan and with the intent to reduce the level of flaring.

“It is anticipated that this work will take no more than five days.

“As we have always indicated, we strive to avoid the use of flaring but there is a need to do so on this occasion.”

The flaring will almost certainly spark a backlash among campaigners who have stepped up the pressure on Mossmorran over the past 18 months.

It has backed calls for an independent inquiry into the plant, but, who pays for such a probe remains unclear - or how much it would cost.

Fife Council confirmed this week it was unable to put a figure on it at this time because “there are too many factors to consider. “

It also said an invite would go to Ms Cunningham to visit the plant.

Nigel Kerr, Interim chief officer, protective services said: “The Scottish Government has confirmed that ongoing investigations are being undertaken by SEPA and work underway within NHS Fife to identify the most effective way to address the most common health concerns of communities around Mossmorran.

“The Scottish Government has stated, however, that the possibility of an independent study remains an option.

“Any review would need to take account of the number of complex and connected factors, both within the site and in the local community.