Comment: Mossmorran apologies are fine, but residents want answers

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When is a final written warning not a final written warning?

When there are two further incidents still to be investigated, perhaps.

The decision of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to take a stern line with ExxonMobil and Shell over unscheduled flaring at Mossmorran is long overdue.

But any impact it may carry is surely negated by the fact it relates to flaring in June 2017, and the same agency has two further incidents, in October last year, and March 2018, still to consider.

SEPA appears to be treating each one in isolation.

The reasons behind each unscheduled flaring may be different – and merit separate investigations – but the impact is pretty much the same in terms of noise, intrusion and upset to the local communities.

SEPA simply must study the bigger picture when it comes to dealing with Mossmorran.

Its final written warning won’t be worth the paper it was written on if it fails to then raise the bar in the event of finding further faults in the two other investigations.

Mossmorran is a major employer and a key part of Fife’s economy, but it must be held to the highest safety and maintenance standards possible – and that process must be wholly transparent.

SEPA’s letter to the plant bosses gives an insight into the failings which led to the June 2017 flaring. It should now release the full report.

It also needs to speed up its investigation procedures.

It took ten months to deliver its June 2017 findings.

It is simply not acceptable to expect our communities to wait until, potentially, February 2019 to find out what caused the flaring in March.

SEPA and the plant operators have all raised the bar in terms of PR. The community wants more than just soothing apologies.

It wants answers.