European business briefs: Chemical comment, Abestos rehearing denied, Irish yearbook, Barents oil drilling resumed, Professor praises Irish regeneration

Judith Hackitt, Director General of the Chemical Industries Association (CIA), spoke at a European Parliament Public Hearing on REACH this week, welcoming the start of this important phase in the process by restating the industry's support for the aims and objectives of this regulatory programme. She described it as a real opportunity for the industry to demonstrate its genuine commitment to Responsible Care and Sustainable Development. She went on to say that REACH can simplify regulation for chemical manufacturers and deliver significant benefits to downstream industries, consumers and the environment. Chemical manufacturers want REACH to be workable and effective. "We have come a long way already but the true workability of the regulation must be addressed. It will mean additional work and cost for chemical manufacturers, but that's okay as long as we remain competitive. Workability and timely implementation are now key. Continued delay and uncertainty are bad for industry and postpone the achievement of REACH's laudable objectives," she concluded.

Swiss engineering firm ABB’s request for a rehearing on parts of its US $1.2 billion asbestos legal settlement proposal has been denied, knocking the value of its shares following new uncertainties over the final outcome. In December, ABB had asked the court to review parts of the original deal to include its US divisions Lummus and Basic in the overall asbestos settlement plan for ABB’s Combustion Engineering unit. The company’s asbestos plan was aimed at capping potentially ruinous asbestos claims.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr Batt O’Keeffe TD, this week launched the 2005 yearbook and diary of the Confederation of European Councillors in the Mourne Country Hotel, Newry. The Confederation of European Councillors is a partnership body that comprises local councillors of various political persuasions from all parts of Ireland, established to develop and enhance cross border and North-South co-operation. The Minister was particularly pleased to note this co-operation within the broad local government family in Ireland. Minister O’Keeffe, in launching the diary, praised it for its wealth of useful and practical information that not only benefits councillors but ‘will be a valuable reference source for all those with an involvement in politics on this island’. The Minister also took the opportunity to highlight the importance of councillors jointly pursuing matters of mutual interest for the benefit of local communities everywhere.

Oil and gas exploration in the Norwegian sector of the Arctic Barents Sea has been resumed this week after a three-year ban. While local oil firms are keen to get drilling for new oil supplies, environmentalists have strongly opposed any drilling. Norway’s Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has estimated that one third of the undiscovered resources on the Norwegian shelf lie under the Arctic seabed, and has great expectations for the area as fields further south off Norway begin to mature. Three wells are set to be drilled in Norway’s part of the Barents Sea this year, and the Norwegian government has confirmed its intentions to include the south Barents in a new licensing round that will be opened during the course of this year. However, environmental groups are still vigorously protested the resumption of activity in an area they say is extremely fragile and should be subject to more environmental impact studies.

And finally, Dr Anne Power, Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics has described the regeneration of Ballymun as a unique project and an international model of innovation. A renowned international expert on regeneration, she is visiting Ballymun to review progress on one of the biggest regeneration projects in Europe and is meeting with local residents and community leaders. She addresses the Board of Ballymun Regeneration Ltd and the Dublin City Council meeting of the North West Area Committee Friday 21 January. “What’s been achieved in Ballymun to date is very impressive. It is a unique experiment. What has been done here over the last eight years has already changed the landscape and 800 families are already living in new homes, with another 800 homes under construction and more at design stage,” she says. “The emphasis from now on must clearly combine the social, economic and environmental regeneration of the area. The challenge now is to turn an area with a poor reputation into a popular and mixed town for up to 30,000 people, with all the infrastructure and services they will require and expect. Everyone should want to come to Ballymun.”

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