Council clarifies position with regard to submission on petroleum licensing policy research

26th March 2021

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council is aware of online commentary on the Council’s engagement with the consultants, Hatch Regeneris, appointed by the Department for the Economy to undertake independent research to inform the Department’s review of its current petroleum licencing policy.  The Council wishes to clarify its position and address some of the points and misconceptions raised in the online commentary.

Correspondence from the Department for the Economy in relation to its review of  current petroleum licencing policy was considered by Council at its Regeneration and Community Committee meetings on 14 December 2020 and on 9 February 2021.

As agreed by Council, an informal meeting with representatives of Hatch Regeneris and DfE Minerals and Petroleum Branch, was held on 25 February 2021 which afforded elected members the opportunity to voice their concerns.   At that meeting, Members unequivocally stated their opposition to unconventional hydrocarbon extraction (fracking).

The issues raised at the meeting and noted by the Consultants were supplemented by a written response to the Department which was shared with Hatch Regeneris. The Council’s written submission restated its corporate position opposing unconventional hydrocarbon extraction (fracking) and confirming the Council’s endorsement for the views and actions outlined in correspondence from the Chair of Belcoo Frack Free considered at the Council’s Regeneration and Community committee meeting on 14 December 2020.  This included calling on the NI Executive to implement a moratorium on petroleum licensing in line with the NI Assembly motion of 13 October 2020.

Further to the concerns expressed by members during the initial meeting, the Department agreed to facilitate a further meeting at the request of the Council, which remains outstanding at this point.

The Council has clarified the process being undertaken by the Department for the Economy to review its policy which will include a number of stages, ie,

  • The stakeholder engagement undertaken by Hatch Regeneris will inform the initial research findings, with the consultant’s report being completed by the end of April;
  • The Department for the Economy will use this report to inform the development of policy options;
  • The Department has indicated that, as part of the policy development process, there will be an opportunity for further stakeholder engagement and a full public consultation will be undertaken.
  • A decision on the proposed future policy with regard to petroleum exploration and extraction will be taken by the NI Executive.

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council will continue to reinforce its opposition to fracking and, through the informal meeting and the subsequent written response, the Council has clearly outlined its position on this matter.