MP says ‘no sound reason’ to veto Mossmorran investigation

Mossmorran
Mossmorran

Political pressure over the future of Mossmorran has resurfaced.

Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy, has said there is “no sound reason” why the Scottish Government cannot hold an independent enquiry into the plant which has been shut since August – and won’t be re-opened until possibly November.

She has urged Roseanne Cunningham, Environment Minister, to reconsider her decision not to intervene.

And Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid Fife and Scotland, urged the Minister to meet local people and hear their concerns.

The moves come as Fife Ethylene Plant’s giant complex at Mossmorran remains inactive.

Mossmorran shut down initially for four-week period on August 12 following after a break down of two of its three boilers.

That timescale was then extended to the last quarter of the year, with November the most likely date for a return to operations.

The closure – which owners, ExxonMobil, say is “a significant commercial and operational impact” on the company – is to carry out a significant “repair and replace” project which should lead to more reliability in the plant’s performance.

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Calls for an inquiry have been raised before, but Ms Cunningham said she had significant doubts as to what it would add to SEPA and HSE’s on-going probes.

The town’s MP disagreed, stating: “There is no sound reason, given the number of incidences and the severity of them, and especially given current circumstances where catastrophic failure has raised questions about the future competency of the plant, not to run a Scottish Government investigation.

“In fact, speed is now of vital concern and valuable time could be saved if the Scottish Government intervened providing the proper resources to ensure this work is focused and delivers the clarity communities expect”

Ms Laird said the current closure was “an unprecedented situation” told the Minister: “The situation is far more serious than you are acknowledging.”

She added: “During talks with SEPA last week I learned that while this arrangement is workable at this time, given lower levels of demand.

“However, as the weather gets colder and demand on the National Grid increases, questions need to be asked as to how the plant will able to cope over the winter months and how this risk is being managed?

“This in conjunction with recent significant developments brings into sharp focus the changing picture of performance of this site, the escalating list of issues and the level of investigation in the round that is now required to give reassurance to surrounding communities.”

Meanwhile, Mark Ruskell has called on the Scottish Government to begin planning now for alternative jobs and investment to replace Mossmorran.

He said: “No one is suggesting that oil and gas producers should cease production immediately, but it is incumbent on government to make long-term plans to decarbonise our economy.

“This is why Nicola Sturgeon’s programme for government lacked ambition.

“We owe it to the workers at Mossmorran to begin planning for alternative jobs and investment in the area now, the climate emergency won’t wait.

“The plant needs a clear investment plan to make it less polluting and as low carbon as possible, or it needs a managed closure.

“The closure of Mossmorran shows it is not currently meeting the standards required to play a part in a low-carbon economy. If the operators believe in a long-term future for the plant they need a big investment plan for de-carbonisation.”