The European Union’s energy commissioner said Wednesday he is preparing new legislation aimed to sharpen safety rules for oil rigs and increase oil companies’ liability.

“We want to prevent such an accident ... from ever happening in Europe,” Guenther Oettinger noted in remarks coming one year after the catastrophic explosion of a Gulf of Mexico platform.

BP Plc’s leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers. The wellhead safety valve failed to contain the disaster, and crude oil gushed for three months into the Gulf of Mexico and fragile coastline just 80 kilometres away.

It eventually became the worst oil disaster in US history.

Oettinger said he intends to bring forward his proposal, nicknamed “Lex Offshore,” in July. It would have to be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament to enter into law.

Some 900 offshore oil rigs are currently in European waters.

Oettinger’s proposal seeks to implement stricter safety rules and authorization procedures.

Oil companies would also face greater liability. Under current regulations, they have to pay damages for accidents that occur close to shore — no more than 12 miles out at sea.

Oettinger wants to expand that zone to 200 miles, so that all oil rigs in European waters would be covered, his spokeswoman said. Their operators would then have to pay for water, fauna and flora cleanups in the wake of spills.

The European Commission also wants to make sure that oil rig operators have sufficient liability capital, use equipment that meets the highest safety standards and report all incidents on the platforms for inclusion in a new European database.

It will additionally seek to have its regulations also apply to mobile offshore rigs, in addition to stationary facilities.

Calls for a European deep-sea drilling ban, however, go unanswered in the new proposal, with the decision left to individual member states. Britain had led the opposition to such a measure.

However, no EU country has approved deep-sea drilling projects since the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, according to the commission.

RELATED NEWS

Anger as BP plans to drill again in Gulf April 30, 2011

More In: Sci-Tech