Dublin Bay oil drilling is put on hold

Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 00:00

Plans to drill for oil in Dublin Bay have been put on hold after Providence Resources Plc announced it was surrendering its foreshore licence.

The move followed a legal challenge to the granting of the licence by An Taisce.

The oil and natural gas exploration company was awarded the licence last September, and intended drilling an exploration well off the coast of Dalkey in the Kish Basin.

In a statement yesterday it said it was surrendering the licence because elements of an EU directive on environmental impact assessments (EIA) “were not transposed correctly in 1999 by the Irish government”.

Tony O’Reilly jnr, chief executive of Providence said the company had complied fully with all environmental and planning regulations but the Government’s “failure” meant the licence, and subsequent exploration activities, could have been subjected to legal challenges and undue delays.

“Whilst it is frustrating that this situation has arisen and caused a delay to our planned activities, we feel it is in the best interests for all concerned to surrender the licence and allow the Government to make the necessary amendments.

“We can then make a new application to carry out our planned programme. Despite the delay ... we remain very excited about the potential of this exploration prospect.”

High Court

In December, An Taisce had challenged the granting of the licence in the High Court. It alleged the Government acted unlawfully in granting it. It said the Government wrongly concluded an EIA was not required prior to awarding the licence, but under Directive 2011 92 EU it was.

It also sought a declaration that the Government had failed to properly transpose the directive into Irish law. The case was due back in court next week.

In a statement yesterday Minister of State for Planning Jan O’Sullivan said she would review the EIA regulations in question “with a view to removing any difficulties that may exist”.

‘Entirely vindicated’

Last night An Taisce welcomed the surrender of the licence. Chairman John Harnett said An Taisce’s decision to institute proceedings had been “entirely vindicated”.

He raised concerns that the Minister had characterised the transposition errors as merely “difficulties” to be amended. “The EIA directive is there to ensure adequate environmental protection, and An Taisce trusts that any new application will be dealt with in strict accordance with the directive.”

There had also been strong opposition to the drilling from local organisations including Protect Our Coast, Dublin Bay Concern and Save Our Seafront. Stephen Vard of Dublin Bay Concern said he had contacted Ms O’Sullivan’s office “some weeks before the licence was issued and spelt out clearly how it was in breach of the directive”.

“We asked to meet her but were told she doesn’t meet groups prior to making a decision on a licence application.”

Local councillor Jane Dillon Byrne (Labour) said the announcement was “fantastic news for Dún Laoghaire”.