The Commission has spoken. No EU civil liability regime for offshore oil and gas operations.

The 2013 Offshore Safety Directive is the EU’s response to the ‘Deepwater Horizon’ incident in 2010. Although article 4(3) requires Member States to require the licensee to maintain sufficient capacity to meet their financial obligations resulting from liabilities for offshore oil and gas operations, and to put in place compensation procedures, the Directive does not address the question of civil liability in the event of pollution from an offshore installation. This remains to be dealt with by national laws. However, article 39 mandated the Commission to prepare three reports on liability: (1) on the “availability of financial security instruments, and on the handling of compensation claims, where appropriate, accompanied by proposals”; (2) on the “assessment of the effectiveness of the liability regimes in the Union in respect of the damage caused by offshore oil and gas operations”; (3) on “the appropriateness of bringing certain conduct leading to a major accident within the scope of Directive 2008/99/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on the protection of the environment through criminal law.”

On 14 September 2015 the Commission produced a single report on all three issues COM(2015) 422. It proposes no new EU legislation in these areas. With regard to financial security, although there were currently only two compensation mechanisms in the EEA, namely OPOL and Norway’s Oil Pollution Act 1998, the provisions in art. 4 of the OSD should lead to significant improvements. With regard to civil liability, it was not currently appropriate to broaden liability provisions through EU legislation, noting that in certain cases, the Brussels I and Rome II regulations would prevent differences in national regimes from disadvantaging claimants from other EU Member States. Also the financial security requirements of the OSD might lead some Member States to reappraise their existing liability regimes for offshore accidents. The Commission would be able to conclude on the need for further steps by the time of the OSD’s first implementation report in 2019. With regard to criminal liability, given the transposition deadline for the OSD of 19 July 2015, it was too early properly to assess whether EU criminal law measures were needed for achieving effective levels of offshore safety in the Union

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