Money Message for fossil fuel Bill challenged in Dail

Published by Kayle Crosson on

June 14th, 2019

A challenge has been brought forward by People Before Profit against the Government’s “money message” requirement for a Bill that would stop the issuing of new fossil fuel licences.

Speaking in the Dail yesterday, Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett argued against the legitimacy of the Government’s request, saying that it was “fabricating costs which do not actually exist”.

The Climate Emergency Measures Bill seeks to amend the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act to restrict the issuing of new licences for the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels.

Last month, a four page letter sent by the Minister for Natural Resources Sean Canney to the Ceann Comhairle stated that the Bill would have cost implications for the State, following which Sean O Fearghail made the decision to seek a money message.

Several estimated costs were outlined in the letter, including the repayment of application fees to licence applicants and acreage rental fees for existing licences, as well as legal fees for potential challenges by exploration companies.

Unless approval is received for a money message, a Bill cannot progress to Committee Stage, as the Climate Emergency Measures Bill was set to do on 11 June.

Extinction Rebellion Ireland protest on 11 June Photo: Kayle Crosson

Referencing the Department for Climate Action’s Licencing Terms for Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Development and Production 2007, Mr Boyd Barrett yesterday argued that the document’s licencing terms do not contain references to fees.

He said that the terms “explicitly give the Minister power to halt any and all exploration, exploitation, production and processing activities in relation to oil and gas and goes on to say claim for compensation can be made”.

Under existing law, Oisin Coghlan of Friends of the Earth Ireland said,the Minister could decide not to allow for licence renewal from one stage to the next. “If he can do it already, then there’s no reason that he can’t do it under a new law,” he added.

The Bill was previously held up for several months at the pre-legislative scrutiny stage as a grouping of Fine Gael and independent politicians voted against a report on the Bill proceeding to the Dail.

Speaking to The Green News, climate researcher Sadhbh O’Neill said the state has a “legal and moral responsibility” to end the demand and supply of fossil fuels.

“Any estimate of the cost of compensation claims needs to be balanced against the cost of climate damages associated with additional emissions arising from exploration activities in Irish waters,” she continued.

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Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.