Oil Leak 23…….what RSPB said……

You can read RSPB Scotland’s full response HERE. But they kind of get to the point on page 1 of their 22 page submission:

RSPB Scotland objects to CFPA’s application in its current form…..

Hmmm……another statutory consulted that doesn’t like the CFPA’s plans? Some of their highlights:

  • There is no oil spill risk-assessment: consequently, it is impossible to evaluate the adequacy of measures currently proposed to mitigate the risk/impact of oil spill
  • The oil spill modelling in Appendix B is based on highly questionable assumptions and consequently does not cover anything that could reasonably be described as a realistic worst case scenario
  • A complete lack of detail as to how the proposed highly generic mitigation measures will in fact offset the impacts identified in the report (we find detail on impacts and mitigation to be equally lacking)
  • We note the similarity in many places between the current application and that prepared in support of Orkney Islands Council (“OIC”)’s 2014 application for an oil transfer licence for Scapa Flow. In our view, CFPA’s current application differs fundamentally from OIC’s in that the Scapa application involved no change in the type, volume or location of oil to be transferred and the major issue was whether OIC’s new ballast water management regime would protect European wildlife sites from invasive species. CFPA’s application involves a new location for oil transfers and a significant increase in the volume of oil to be transferred. Because the risk of oil spill tends to increase in proportion to the number of operations and to the total volume of oil transferred, in contrast to Scapa Flow the current application requires (but fails) to demonstrate that the increased risk is adequately mitigated.

Well the RSPB seem to be “jumping up and down”  – lack of oil spill risk assessment, oil spill modelling based on questionable assumptions, lack of detail on impacts and mitigation, and “similar” application to that put in for Orkney. On the last point it would be harsh to describe it as a “cut and paste” but they do have a point on the “similarities”.

We won’t go into the full detail of the 22 page response, life’s too short – you’ve probably got the idea by now that STS in the open water of the Inner Moray Firth would seem to be a bad idea – RSPB Scotland highlighted many issues and deficiencies – here’s some interesting points:

  • The maximum annual quantity to be transferred per year is approximately seven times the actual average annual quantity specified in Table 5-1 (that  gives the levels transferred at Nigg jetty). If such a level of increased activity was realised, we consider it would have a significant effect on the risk of oil pollution incidents, on the basis that, in the absence of adequate mitigation, the likelihood of an incident occurring will increase roughly in proportion to the increase in oil transfer activity

Not what Bob Buskie would have us believe is it? He’d have us think its no different from what they’ve done for 30 years and no riskier. The RSPB carry on:

  • The proposed cargo transfers will be similar to previous shipping operations within Cromarty Firth harbour waters.”  This avoids addressing the fact that the proposal is to carry out an activity in a new location and at up to seven times the current intensity. Although this statement is made under the heading of “Nuisance”, a similar attitude appears to underpin the application documentation as a whole. In fact, the new location for STS makes a difference to the potential environmental effects on birds, marine mammals and coastal habitats, as a consequence of new parameters affecting the likelihood of accidental oil spill, the severity of its consequences, and thus the overall risk. These consequences of this proposed change are not recognised let alone assessed in the application documents, which in turn means that no detailed attention has been paid to the mitigation methods that would be appropriate for new or altered environmental effects arising from the new location.

This statement is rightly identifying that the new location for STS changes the overall risk! Here’s a bit on the Oil Spill Contingency Plan (OSCP):

  • There is a circularity of logic in relying on both the “track record of the harbour” and the “likelihood of an accidental spill occurring [being] very low”, the first of these being in large part a consequence of the second. As stated above, we consider the main application document to lack clear explanation of the detailed ways in which specific attributes of “best practice” will minimise the likelihood of an accidental spill – i.e. render an unlikely event even less likely to occur. Similarly, the main application document also lacks a clear and compelling explanation of how the OSCP will minimise the severity of a spill, should one occur. Regrettably, we remain extremely uncertain that the risk of environmental impact (and in particular to European wildlife sites and their qualifying features) can be shown to be acceptably minimised by means of the high level and generic measures referred to in the application documents.

It would appear that the explanation of how the OSCP would mimimise the severity of a spill is less than convincing and that the risk of environmental impact cannot be acceptably minimised from the measures proposed.

  • In our view the presence of vessels carrying out STS at the proposed new location raises the question of whether bottle-nosed dolphins that are the qualifying interest of the Moray Firth SAC might be disturbed; in our extensive experience of development casework involving European sites this is a “likely significant effect” that cannot be screened out – and an appropriate assessment is required. Consequently, we cannot agree that: “The potential for the proposed cargo transfers to cause disturbance above what exists at present is considered negligible and a significant effect on designated sites and protected species is not likely. Therefore, this impact is not considered further.” We do not consider that this is a safe basis on which to issue an oil transfer licence for the new location.

RSPB Scotland didn’t like the throwaway assumption made about the impact on European designated sites. There is much more in the response – it raises some very good points and is well worth a read!