Mossmorran Natural Gas Liquids Plant (Unplanned Flaring)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 5th December 2019.

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Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

3. The First Minister knows of the misery that is being inflicted on the people who live in the shadow of the Mossmorran ethylene plant, which is operated by ExxonMobil Chemicals Ltd—one of the world’s most notorious corporate promoters of climate denial. ExxonMobil has failed to maintain the plant and, as a result, local residents endure regular unplanned flaring. The plant’s operating permits have been breached, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has issued final warning notices and, in view of health impacts, NHS Fife has called the flaring “unacceptable”.

The plant is currently shut down, but a restart is imminent, and the Scottish Greens have called for the community to be given a break at least over the holidays. So far, ExxonMobil has committed only not to restarting from Christmas eve to boxing day. Will the First Minister join me in calling on the operators to commit to no flaring over the entire Christmas and new year period?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

On Patrick Harvie’s specific question, I will undertake to ensure that the suggestion is discussed with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, and that it is, in turn, discussed with ExxonMobil. I do not think that that is an unreasonable request from the local community. I appreciate their very understandable concerns and anxieties about flaring at the Mossmorran complex.

The frequency of unplanned flaring recently has been completely unacceptable, and SEPA and the Health and Safety Executive are monitoring developments closely as the plant restarts. That has to be done with minimum impact and in a way that reduces the anxiety of the local community. I am happy to take that request forward, and to feed back to Patrick Harvie once I have had a chance to do so.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

The community will think that the request is more than reasonable; they will think that it is absolutely necessary that we get that commitment from the plant operator before the Christmas holidays.

On Channel 4’s climate debate last week, the First Minister stated:

“We are in the transition”.

Mossmorran is the second biggest polluter in Scotland, and many local people in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath know that that is not the future that their community deserves. They demand climate action, to see the just transition taking place now, and to have a green new deal for Fife.

Can the First Minister tell the communities that surround Mossmorran, and the plant’s workforce, when a just transition for Cowdenbeath will actually be under way? What investment will be provided for an alternative future and for lasting green jobs, rather than corporations profiting from wrecking people’s lives and our climate?

The First Minister:

The just transition is under way. It was exactly in order to look at the justness of the transition that we established the just transition commission. Currently, 170 or so jobs are provided at Mossmorran. Of course we all want to move to a greener energy system, but it is important that we do so in a way that provides new jobs, which is why we are investing so much in support for renewable energy. We need to accelerate that. I am absolutely in agreement with Patrick Harvie about that.

However, in terms of the transition, we have seen from past economic transformations what happens when we do not take people with us and instead leave them behind. We must not repeat those mistakes, which is why accelerating the transition, but doing so fairly and justly, is so important.