Wednesday 23 October 2019

Oil to play for: Firms seek clarity on ban

Crackdown: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during this week’s UN Climate Action Summit
Crackdown: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during this week’s UN Climate Action Summit

Cormac McQuinn in New York

Representatives of the oil and gas industry are seeking a meeting with the Government for full details of a plan announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to end the search for oil in Irish waters.

The Taoiseach said in New York yesterday that the proposes ban will initially apply to 80pc of Irish waters because "existing licenses and options" still have to be honoured.

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Mr Varadkar announced the halt on oil exploration in a speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit. The reason it is not a total ban is "a bit technical", he said, and "any existing licenses and options will still be honoured."

He said that there will be no new licences in most Irish waters "what we called the closed area, essentially the Atlantic". Legislation will be needed for this.

"We'll continue to accept licenses for the 20pc which is the Celtic Sea and the Irish Sea, while we get the legislation together."

The Government has yet to provide a timetable for when all oil exploration will be ended off the coast of Ireland.

Oil company Providence Resources said yesterday that it does not think the decision will affect its existing licences.

Still, the company said it will seek clarification through the Irish Offshore Operators' Association (IOOA), a representative body for the industry.

IOOA said it wanted a meeting with the Government in the coming weeks and "looks forward to receiving the exact detail of the proposed implementation" of the policy.

The Government's decision to phase out oil and gas exploration is a turnaround, after it earlier this year blocked the Climate Emergency Bill, a law proposed by People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith to ban oil and gas exploration and restrict new licences for the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels.

The latest move comes despite heavy lobbying in recent years. Mandy Johnston, a former Government press secretary in the Bertie Ahern era, was appointed CEO of IOOA earlier this year, while Enda Kenny's former Government press secretary Feargal Purcell, who is now a senior director in public relations firm Edelman also lobbies on behalf of IOOA.

Irish Independent

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