AQW 8470/11-15

Mr Steven Agnew
Green Party
North Down

Tabled Date: 17/02/2012
Answered On Date: 05/03/2012
Priority Written: No

To ask the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, pursuant to AQW 7217/11-15, whether she intends to undertake a strategic environmental assessment for the current or next round of onshore oil and gas licensing.

Applications for petroleum licences in Northern Ireland may be made at any time and are not subject to licensing rounds (in accordance with “the open door procedure” described in Article 3 (3) of the Hydrocarbons Directive 94/22/EC). The establishment of an initial window for applications to be submitted by 27 August 2011 in Notice (2010/C169/4), published by the Department in the Official Journal of the European Union, was solely for the purpose of ensuring that initial applications for petroleum licences were treated in a non-discriminatory manner, following the introduction of The Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 and The Petroleum Production (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.
Regulation 11 of The Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 amended section 1 of the Petroleum Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 to include the strata beneath the internal waters adjacent to Northern Ireland. A strategic environmental assessment will be carried out before the internal waters are made available for petroleum licensing because the policy decision to vest the property in petroleum in DETI, to enable the Department to grant petroleum licences in these waters, would be considered a separate plan or programme for energy as defined by the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004. The internal waters of Northern Ireland have not previously been available for petroleum licensing under either the Northern Ireland or UK offshore licensing regime.