New oil licence ‘slap in the face’ to climate movement

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

May 2nd, 2019

The State is undermining the climate movement by granting new licences for oil and gas exploration to the fossil fuel industry, People before Profit (PBP) has said.

Referring to the Government’s newest exploratory drilling licence handed to CNOOC Petroleum Europe and ExxonMobil, Deputy Bríd Smith described the move as “a slap in the face to climate movement”.

“Despite the rhetoric, despite the PR and spin it shows this Government does not get climate change and doesn’t understand what is happening, this latest licence round is a slap in the face of both the movement in Ireland and the global movement on climate,” she said.

The Department of Climate Action (DCCAE) received an application last November from CNOOC Petroleum Europe and ExxonMobil for permission to drill an exploratory well in the Porcupine Basin area.

The proposed well falls within a 1,300 km2 area where CNOOC and ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Ireland (Offshore South) Ltd already have a frontier exploration licence that runs until February 2033.

The DCCAE recently ran a press notice in the Irish Independent, revealing its intention to grant the exploratory licence to CNOOC and ExxonMobil in line with the country’s Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act of 1960.

Ms Smith called on Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton TD to reconsider the issue of exploratory drilling as such licences may “undermine” the efficacy of future bills aimed at banning oil and gas exploration.

“Both the Department and the industry know the game is up, the Climate Emergency Measures Bill is coming through the Oireachtas and will ban future licences like this,” she said.

Ms Smith said that the Government’s “continued support” for the fossil fuel industry needs to be highlighted and rebuked.

A spokesperson for DCCAE did not immediately reply to The Green News’s request for comment.

Brid Smith speaking at climate vigil for her Bill Photo: Kalye Crosson
Brid Smith speaking at outside the Dail Photo: Kalye Crosson

The Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News recently revealed that Exxon understood that its product was contributing to global warming in the 1970s but did not pass on the information to the public.

According to documents obtained by reporters, Exxon’s own scientists informed company executives that the doubling of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere would increase global temperatures by between two and three degrees Celsius.

 The company also found itself in hot water earlier this month when its failure in sending a representative to an EU hearing led to calls to strip its lobbyists’ access to the European Parliament.

 In a recent statement issued to Agence France-Presse, ExxonMobil said that it was “constrained” from attending the session due to “ongoing climate litigation in the United States”. The company said that it feared its participation in the EU hearing “could prejudice those pending proceedings”.

“That this company could face an EU Parliament ban for its failures speaks volumes. But the State has no problem handing over vast swathes of the Irish ocean to such a company to facilitate continued exploration for fossil fuels,” Ms Smith said.

During Dáil proceedings in March, Ms Smith asked the Minister of State with responsibility for Natural Resources Séan Canney TD if any departmental officials have held discussions with ExxonMobil about the license application with CNOOC.

Mr Canney said that officials would naturally meet with representatives of companies holding licenses in the Irish offshore in “fulfilling their functions in respect of the regulation of oil and gas exploration and production”.

He said, however, that neither himself nor Mr Bruton has held discussions with ExxonMobil or CNOOC in respect of this application.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.