We need to talk about the Northern Ireland oil & gas policy, especially in light of the IPCC report out this month. August 2021
Petroleum licensing is how our oil and gas resources are accessed by private companies and/or the Government. All the oil and gas in Northern Ireland is vested in the Department for the Economy [DfE], who, may grant a licence to a company like Tamboran or EHA to explore for and then to extract petroleum (i.e. oil and gas).
The policy, under which the Department works, is political guidance for their decision-making. The policy dates from the Faulkner Government of the 1960s and today is expressed as below, DfE’s policy objective is to maximise successful and expeditious exploration and exploitation of Northern Ireland’s oil and gas resources, and all decisions will be made with regard to that policy. The Petroleum (Production) Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 gives DfE discretion to decide whether or not to grant a Petroleum Licence and, if so, to whom and on what conditions. DfE has full discretion to make decisions on applications for Petroleum Licences, but will make them in line with the legislation, published policies, objectives and criteria. DfE is also entitled to refuse to grant a Petroleum Licence, but must ensure that, in doing so, it does not discriminate unfairly against any one applicant.
The above comes from the document entitled “how-the-department-assesses-petroleum-licence-applications” which was part of the bundle of documents giving the public information during the 2019 consultations on Tamboran’s and EHA’s petroleum licence applications.
The wording of the policy is very strong and unless this policy is changed then the Executive / Department leaves itself open to legal challenge if it decides not to grant a licence.
The Executive are to hold a special meeting in relation to climate change in light of the recent IPCC report. That report is very clear that we must tackle Methane emissions as well as CO2 emissions. The biggest contributor to the rise in Methane emissions globally recently has been the oil and gas industry. The Oil and Gas industry are keen to point the finger at Agriculture. There will be much more of this to come.
Here, in Northern Ireland, we don’t yet have an oil and gas industry. We don’t yet have a competitor to Agriculture in relation to methane emissions. We need the Executive to change policy and to stop the promotion of oil and gas exploration and extraction. We need the Executive to say they will no longer support the creation of an oil and gas industry in Northern Ireland.
We need different policy in place and we need action taking now.
The Minister for the Economy may object and highlight that his Department are using the Hatch report for policy proposals, but the Executive need to be objective in their decision-making. The Hatch report is being written by an Oil and Gas consultancy. The IPCC report is written by and then reviewed by the world’s leading climatologists. It has been reviewed by the UK Government. If the Executive parties are to have any credence with their climate policies, they must act now, immediately to change this policy. Anything less and it is pure greenwash, and they are going to have to explain their reasoning, along with their party’s oil and gas policy, to the electorate in the near future.
It is very simple. Words such as below now need to come from the Northern Ireland Executive.
“The Northern Ireland Executive has reversed the policy in relation to an indigenous oil and gas industry. In light of the IPCC report, and in line with the need for action to curb emissions and protect our planet, we no longer support the exploration for, development of, or extraction of Northern Ireland’s oil and gas resources. It is now policy that we will leave those resources in the ground.”
Belcoo Frack Free, LAMP, Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network, Love Leitrim & Safety before LNG.