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Group asks Irish government to streamline licensing

Citing environmentally related delays of two oil and gas projects, the local branch of the Energy Institute, London, has urged the Irish government to address “uneasiness with the adversarial nature and the lack of robustness of the licensing and consent processes.”

In a submission to the government, the Energy Institute Republic of Ireland (EI Ireland) said the government has addressed some of the problems that have kept production from starting at Corrib natural gas field, a 1996 discovery off northwestern Ireland. Shell E&P Ireland operates the development, which environmental groups have long resisted.

But the group cited the February relinquishment by Providence Resources PLC of a license in Dublin Bay as evidence that problems remain. Award of the license triggered environmental opposition and a court case alleging the government failed to comply with European Union requirements for formal assessment of environmental effects.

“The legacy and reputational damage associated with the development of the Corrib Gas Project is substantial and more far-reaching in its impact than many concerned citizens might appreciate,” EI Ireland said. “The saga of regulatory attrition and stranded investment has discouraged medium and major oil and gas companies from choosing to invest in Ireland.”

Concerning the Dublin Bay relinquishment, EI Ireland said: “The risk that the necessary public service reform process could derail progress is evident and mounting: The litigants in the Providence case, in an echo of Corrib, expressed their satisfaction at having delayed the process by a year. Such uncertainty serves no good.”

Recommendations

EI Ireland made these recommendations:

● “Actively promote public discourse on how the development of our natural resources, and not excluding refining, can help to contribute to sustainable development in Ireland.

● “Recognize that the current dependence of Ireland and Europe on fossil fuels cannot be ignored on the promise of early renewable energy development. The truth is that Ireland needs both, and a central purpose of current policy is to provide a “no regrets” bridge to a sustainable future.

● “Communicate with the international oil and gas community and the oil industry majors the seriousness of its policy intent with actions to “make this the best small country in which to do business.”

● “Champion an institutional infrastructure that enables development of Ireland’s natural resources and which fully respects the legitimate interest and concerns of stakeholders, in harmony with Ireland’s international and EU obligations and the rule of law.

● “In the face of enormous pressure to downsize the public sector, devise front-loaded actions and administrative efforts toward priority areas, such as natural resource development, that have the potential to yield a strategically important and robust return.

● “Widen the scope of its energy discussions with the UK government and authorities to increase the capacity to meet the expectations of the citizens of Ireland for natural resource development.”


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