THE EUROPEAN Parliament’s energy committee has rejected attempts to introduce a moratorium on offshore gas drilling in the Arctic, overruling a contrary vote by the EP’s environment committee last month. Instead, the committee proposed new amendments to a proposed law on European Union (EU) oil and gas exploration, ensuring that companies have ‘adequate financial security’ to cover liabilities from any drilling accidents in all EU waters. Under the proposed changes oil and gas companies would also have to submit a safety hazard and emergency response report to authorities at least 24 weeks before the planned start of operations. The full parliament will vote on the proposed law on December 11. The energy committee wants this to be a directive, allowing national governments some leeway on implementation.

Other EU oil and gas news:

*The EU Council of Ministers has approved in principle expanding the role of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to help EU governments deal with pollution from oil and gas pipelines and rigs as well as from ships.

*The European Commission has approved Italian government support for a Sardinia project where a gas distribution system will be built alongside a high speed broadband network. Brussels says the plan meets EU state aid rules and the BULGAS/FIBRESAR is good practice regarding building energy and telecoms networks.

*The European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) is lending Polish Zloty PLN300 million (EUR75 million) to Poland’s national gas company Gaz-System SA to help finance the first Polish liquefied gas terminal, at Swinoujscie on the Baltic. It will start receiving liquefied gas in 2014.

*A regulation has been proposed by the European Commission that would ban, restrict or monitor sales to the public of products that contain chemicals that could be used to make explosives – this includes sales of kerosene, fuel oil and other petroleum-associated products.

*The EU Council of Ministers has now formally approved the EU energy efficiency directive that aims to make the EU 20% more efficient in how it uses energy by 2020.

*The European Commission approved the purchase by Hong-Kong based investment companies Cheung Kong and Cheung Kong Infrastructure of Britain’s MGN Gas Networks, which owns, operates and maintains Wales and south-west England’s main gas distribution network.

*The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee has proposed strengthening a draft EU law insisting oil and gas companies disclose payments to foreign governments. The European Commission had proposed that companies keep such information confidential where required by local laws. But the committee tabled amendments saying EU companies should disclose such payments anyway.

*EU member states will have to submit all existing energy intergovernmental agreements with third countries to the European Commission, after the order was approved by the EU Council of Ministers. Brussels may demand changes if it deems the agreements breach EU energy market laws.

*A shake-up of the EU’s tariff system of generalised tariff preferences (GSP) could see EU oil and gas import duties rise for purchases from countries such as Russia who are now deemed too rich to be given special access to EU markets under the scheme.

*Russia has been trying to force Moldova to abandon its membership of the EU-linked Energy Community, saying it is a precondition for possible talks over cheap Russian gas supplies.

*EU ministers have been discussing imposing a ban on imports of Iranian gas, to strengthen the existing oil embargo and prohibition of investment in the Iranian gas industry.

*Parallel motions from the European Parliament’s energy and environment committees have called for “robust regulatory regimes” on natural gas fracking. And the environment committee added that EU member states should be “cautious” about approving fracking projects while the EU considers whether EU-wide legislation is needed to regulate the practice.

*EU Energy Commissioner G√ľnther Oettinger has welcomed the signature of a political agreement allowing the go-ahead of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline project (TAP): the planned 20 billion cubic metres per annum (bcma) pipeline linking Italy, Albania and Greece.