New draft legislation from the European Energy Committee calls for the submission of major hazard reports and emergency response plans by offshore oil and gas firms before being issued a drilling licence.
Ivo Belet, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), drafted the new law, which will now be negotiated with the Council.
The draft law was endorsed by the Energy Committee by 48 votes to seven, with one abstention, and is now expected to replace the EU member states’ current laws and practices for offshore drilling activities.
The law states that licences would be granted only if the firm could prove it has enough cash to remedy any environmental damage caused. The new law is meant to prevent accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
MEP Ivo Belet said Europe’s intention is to limit the safety risks of offshore oil drilling.
"Especially today, when many member states with no or little experience in oil and gas operations, are looking into starting up drilling operations, a solid legislative framework is urgently needed," said Belet.
The new directive calls for stricter licensing procedure, liability and financial guarantees, plus mandatory risk assessment and emergency plans by the operators, as well as a greater role for the European Maritime Safety Agency in case of a gas or oil leak.
The legislation rejected a moratorium for oil drilling in the Arctic, claiming it had no majority for the proposal for a ban.
"Calling for a moratorim is not the right approach. The EU has no waters in the Arctic. Only Norway, that cooperates with the EU via the European Economic Area, carries out drilling in the ice-free area above the Arctic Circle.
"Therefore, it makes much more sense that the EU countries Sweden and Finland ensure that the highest safety standards are observed by all members of the Arctic Council."
Oil & Gas UK chief executive Malcolm Webb said: "We strongly believe this is the best way to achieve the European Commission’s objective of raising offshore safety standards across the EU, to the high levels already present in the North Sea."