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Oil and gas operators seeking licenses to drill offshore Europe would have to prepare major hazard reports and prove they have the financial strength to repair any environmental damage under an offshore safety proposal advancing in the European Parliament.

But in a change welcomed by offshore operators, a draft law approved by the Industry, Research, and Energy Committee Oct. 9 would take the form of a directive rather than a regulation.

European Union agencies have been working on a centralized approach to offshore safety regulation since the Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

An original proposal would have established a regulation directly binding EU member states. A directive would establish goals but leaves achievement of the goals to individual states, a measure of flexibility considered crucial operators in countries with active offshore industries and established safety regimes.

Oil & Gas UK Chief Executive Malcolm Webb welcomed the change, which follows a similar move by another committee.

“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,” he said. “A Regulation would do exactly the opposite and weaken the UK’s already world-class offshore health and safety regime.”

The initiative remains subject to negotiations before a vote of the full European Parliament.

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