Petition to get MLAs to insist on a ministerial vote to ban petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland

Petition to get MLAs to insist on a ministerial vote ban petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland

The clocks are ticking and time is running out for the climate and our politicians. Our MLAs must now decide who they represent; either their constituents or the Oil & Gas [O&G] industry and their petroleum licenses. If MLAs vote for petroleum licenses, we will not vote for them.

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FFAN have joined with several other concerned groups to get the Northern Ireland [NI] Executive to ban petroleum licensing. The Stormont vote by MLAs in 2019 for a moratorium on petroleum licensing is not legally binding. That legality can only come from a majority vote by the NI Executive Ministers. Currently, a ban is not one of the options on the Executives agenda.

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Remember that, in NI, a petroleum license equals fracking. O&G companies may say they will not use fracking during their exploration phase, but they have to use it during the extraction phase in order to make the process profitable. Methane/Natural gas is a fossil fuel, it is not a green gas or a clean gas or a ‘transition fuel’. Methane is 86 times more potent as a GHG [greenhouse gas] at damaging the climate than CO2. The latest IPCC report [Intergovernmantal Panel on Climate Change Aug 2021] is the most definitive research document relating to climate change and fossil fuels. That report states that we are already in a ‘code red for humanity’ and the burning of fossil fuels should stop as quickly as possible.

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Many other countries are faced with the huge difficulty of winding down their O&G industry and trying to create new jobs for those workers. Northern Ireland is in the bizarre situation of trying to start up, from scratch, an O&G industry in the middle of this climate emergency. The O&G industry is neither wanted or needed in NI. It is very likely these companies will cost the NI taxpayer billions of pounds in compensation. If they are granted petroleum licenses, then in a few years time the NI Executive may try to limit/ curtail the industry to achieve our net-zero carbon targets. Then the O&G companies are highly likely to sue, and win, against the NI Executive.

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The text of the letter we wish you to sign is below:

Owing to their unique position in Executive, we call on Sinn Fein to ACT IMMEDIATELY to avert another cash-for-ash type scandal and avoid creating a right to sue taxpayers (in the form of Government).

Despite solid international scientific evidence the Dept of Economy refuses to suspend its 1960s policy and say no to onshore fossil fuel exploration and extraction in NI.

Their petroleum licensing policy options they plan to bring into the executive SOON may allow the Petroleum Licence applications for oil and gas PLA1/ 16 and PLA2 / 16 they already validated during Stormont suspension to become granted oil and gas onshore exploration and extraction licences. This will create a right to sue if industry cannot progress to explore. Any exploration carried out may create a further right to sue the government. A fracking ban may not stop any of this.

Industry will proceed to court with policy, licence and exploration on board and seek to have their extraction rights vindicated based on all The Executive allowed so far. This will be at the expense of our human rights as outlined in reports by the Irish Centre for Human Rights.

EVIDENCE is clear that this will also increase the risk of serious adverse impacts on health, environment, human rights, tourism, agriculture, NI economy and climate for NI and communities elsewhere vulnerable to climate change.

The failure to act now on petroleum licensing policy options will be extremely damaging, expensive, permanent and irreversible.

There is a strong lobby for fossil fuel extraction in the Dept of Economy. Several staff moved to work for Tamboran one of petroleum licence applicants. We believe our representation and democracy is at risk from their influence on, and control over evidence shown to elected representatives. Time is running out for democracy to function. MLAs must listen to and represent the community who elected and fund them now.

Please sign the petition here:

Everyone needs to act now signing and sharing this petition to protect all we value from damage and exploitation by those seeking personal financial profits at the expense of industry pollution costs for the community for generations to come. Evidence shows moving to renewable energy is both possible and essential now. This is what we need Michelle O’Neill and SF Ministers, and MLAs to do now:

1. Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill must write immediately to the Minister for the Economy Gordon Lyons and demand to know if a ban on Petroleum Licensing is going to be one of the options brought by Department for the Economy (DfE) into the Executive. If a ban on petroleum licensing is not one of the options, then we need this appalling move by DfE stopped and blocked by Michelle O’Neill. She must use her power as Deputy First Minister, who must agree the Executive agenda, to not agree to allow it onto the executive agenda. She must not allow it into the executive unless Sinn Fein MLAs together with UUP and Alliance Ministers have the power in the Executive to ban petroleum licensing at that point. DfE will bring only one policy option to public consultation. It must be a ban on petroleum licensing. Sinn Fein must Stop it, block it or ban it now or a new oil and gas extraction industry will become unstoppable.

2. Sinn FĂ©in must bring forward amendments to both climate bills to ban petroleum licensing as per the assembly motion they supported. IPCC evidence and UN demands are as per SF policy – ‘No new fossil fuel exploration’. The UN said ‘No Excuses!’ Actions speak louder than words.

3. Respect our human right for information regarding health and environmental matters, crucial to the protection of all other rights to clean air and water, health, life, food and a clean, safe, healthy environment. Demand the release of the Hatch report which is being used by the Dept to form policy options and that DfE are refusing to release. Allow the community to feedback on Hatch report with evidence on omissions or anything misleading before any preferred policy option is brought to the executive. This industry cannot be regulated, managed or made safe. Suppression of information by our civil service departments only fosters distrust of government and our elected representatives making decisions based on secret reports. Without that transparency Sinn Fein and the Department are gambling behind closed doors with our rights to a clean and green environment, with our public health and permanent damage to our sustainable tourism and agriculture industries.

4. This is simply requesting that SF follow their policy to keep fossil fuels in the ground and the SF supported motion in assembly to ban petroleum licensing. We need SF to keep their promises and represent the community and respect our human rights. Implementation is the true test of policy. Sinn Fein need to make a commitment and act now so they do not compromise on protecting communities from oil and gas extraction industries.

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Thank you. FFAN Oct 2021

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Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN)