THE DEPARTMENT of the Environment has given an oil company a licence to drill a single exploratory oil well off Dalkey in Co Dublin.
The licence, granted by junior environment minister Jan O’Sullivan, has been awarded to Providence Resources which is already drilling for oil off the coast of Co Cork.
The foreshore licence will permit a single exploratory well and is subject to 22 conditions which include measures aimed at environment and ecological protection as well as human health and safety.
Drilling can go ahead once Providence secures the necessary consents from the Department Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
O’Sullivan said any application to proceed with a full commercial exploration of the oil would require clearance from several bodies including two government departments, the EPA, an Bord Pleanála and the possibility of a public inquiry.
Local TD Richard Boyd-Barrett condemned the licence and said it was now likely to be a matter of routine that a full extraction licence would be awarded, as there had not been any previous example of an extraction licence being refused once an original exploratory licence was granted.
“It is before the granting of the foreshore licence that an environmental assessment impact should have been done,” he said.
“In Norway, one of the world’s biggest oil producers, every application for an exploratory licence is accompanied by a public inquiry, why do we not follow this ‘best practice’?”
Boyd-Barrett voiced concerns that any environmental disaster could have an immediate and dreadful impact on the coastline, and said the location of any oil or gas could see the full industrialisation of one of Ireland’s most beautiful coastlines.
He also criticised the current tax regime under which Providence would be entitled to write off the costs of finding any oil against the tax payable on its sale, and the fact that explorers are under no obligation to sell some of their findings to the Irish state.
The environmental protection group An Taisce also expressed concern, saying it believed the potential threats to Dublin Bay “have not been adequately assessed”.
“Overall, the assessment of the potential impacts of this exploration and drilling licence were not adequately evaluated to ensure the protection of a number of species and habitats,” the group said, saying an environmental impact assessment should have been conducted before any licence was granted.