Oil company not informed of Dalkey designation proposal

 

Providence Resources, the company prospecting for oil off Dalkey in Dublin Bay, yesterday said it had not been given advance information of a Government proposal to designate an area from Dalkey Island to north of Swords as a Marine Special Area of Conservation.

Maps provided by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht showing the location of six proposed marine special areas of conservation appeared to show an overlap between Providence Resources’s location for a seismic survey and an area called Dalkey Island to Rockabill, which is earmarked for special conservation.

Designation as a special area of conservation (SAC), or even a candidate area, means development would be extremely problematic.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan yesterday proposed more than 27,000 hectares from Dalkey Island northwards across Dublin Bay to north of Swords be designated such an area. The location was one of six designations made under the EU habitats directive.

The others are the Blackwater bank off Co Wexford; the west Connacht coast; Hempton’s turbot bank off the north Donegal coast; Rockabill to Dalkey Island; the Porcupine bank canyon; and southeast Rockall bank.

Notes to the announcement said certain Irish habitats and species had been identified as “insufficiently represented” on a list of Irish marine special areas of conservation. Following a seminar in 2009, the Irish government “agreed a series of further actions with the [European] Commission concerning the designation of additional areas to protect more habitats and species”.

The announcement said the six areas would constitute Ireland’s contribution to that process. The habitat and species to be protected in the Dalkey Island special area are local reefs and the harbour porpoise.

Regulation

A Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht spokeswoman said activities in the special areas were regulated by several different departments. She said “no activities” were prohibited but the relevant department must ensure there was no risk to the integrity of the areas before granting consents.

Each department has different consent procedures for the issuing of licences but all are obliged to screen each licence application for its potential impacts on the habitats and species protected in the SAC and to undertake an “appropriate assessment” as required under the directive if there is a risk to the habitat.

Last month the Department of the Environment awarded a foreshore licence to Providence Resources for exploratory drilling 6km from the Dalkey coast.

Providence has argued the project would be of significant economic benefit to Ireland, with up to 40 per cent of profits from production accruing to the State. But groups such as Dublin Bay Solidarity, which organised protests, have raised concerns about environmental issues and taxation and have criticised the level of public consultation on the licence.

A Providence spokesman said it had “heard nothing” of the proposed designation and would consider a response when it had time to assess the move.