Seanad debates

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Bill 2010 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages.

 

2:00 am

Photo of Pat MoylanPat Moylan (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Mary White, to the Seanad. I congratulate her on her appointment and wish her well. This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 113, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question "That the Bill be received for final consideration", the Minister of State may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For the convenience of Senators, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendments. The Minister of State will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the proposed grouping in the House. Senators may speak once on each grouping. I remind Senators that the only matter which may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil. I call the Minister of State, Deputy White, to speak on the first group of amendments.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

Photo of Donie CassidyDonie Cassidy (Fianna Fail)
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We are waiting for the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to come to the House to deal with this Bill.

Photo of Pat MoylanPat Moylan (Fianna Fail)
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There has been a mix-up in the jerseys.

Photo of Donie CassidyDonie Cassidy (Fianna Fail)
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I apologise for the confusion.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Why can we not deal with this straight away?

Photo of Pat MoylanPat Moylan (Fianna Fail)
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We have the wrong Minister.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to the House. I invite him to address the House on the first group of amendments, comprising amendments Nos. 1, 3, 8, 9, 39, 43 and 46. These amendments relate to the compatibility of existing and new functions in terms of jurisdiction.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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): The Electricity Regulation Act 1999, as amended, established the Commission for Energy Regulation and set out its functions, powers and duties with respect to the regulation of electricity and downstream gas. This Bill proposes to amend that Act by inserting a new Part which will confer additional similar functions, powers and duties on the commission with regard to the regulation of petroleum safety. These amendments do not represent a policy change in relation to the provisions of the Bill. They propose to ensure that in jurisdictional terms, these new functions, powers and duties are compatible with the existing functions, powers and duties set out in the legislation underpinning the role of the Commission for Energy Regulation.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Does Senator O'Reilly wish to comment on this group of amendments?

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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No, I am waiting for the next group.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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We will move on to the second group of amendments, comprising amendments Nos. 2, 5 to 7, inclusive, 10, 12, 16, 17, 24 to 27, inclusive, 32 to 34, inclusive, 37, 38, 40 to 42, inclusive , 44 and 45. These are technical drafting amendments.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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These minor technical drafting amendments represent no policy change in the provisions of the Bill. The majority of these amendments were made for the purposes of renumbering or reformatting provisions of the Bill consequential on the insertion of new provisions, while the remaining amendments address minor issues of consistency and clarity of language and terminology.

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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I would like to refer specifically to amendment No. 2 which deals with the decommissioning of petroleum infrastructure. As a result of the amendment, the Bill now defines "decommissioning", in relation to petroleum infrastructure, as "taking the facility, structure or installation or any part of such facility, structure or installation permanently out of use with a view to its abandonment in situ or removal". I presume inherent in this definition is a requirement that such infrastructure be left in a safe condition. Perhaps it is specified elsewhere in this legislation. Efforts should be made to ensure the decontamination process is fully effective. It is obvious that decontamination is a huge issue when one of these facilities is being decommissioned. I assume it is understood in this legislation that such a facility should be left in an environmentally acceptable condition. Perhaps it is specified in the Bill. I have to say I would prefer the Bill to be prescriptive in this regard than to define "decommissioning" in a loose manner. It is one of the issues and thoughts that have occurred to me. I have some small knowledge of the issues that can arise when petroleum installations are decommissioned, especially when they are left in situ. I am concerned when they are left in situ because proactive steps need to be taken immediately to ensure decontamination takes place. If that is not done, vapours can present risks to people who might enter the sites involved legally or illegally. I would like the Minister of State to provide some clarification on this issue.

4:00 am

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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I welcome amendment No. 2 because it will ensure there is monitoring of the aftermath of works that are done. This favourable change in the legislation will ensure there is safety after drilling and other works are done. I welcome that. I appreciate the points made by Senator Walsh. I would welcome the Minister of State's response to them. I welcome amendment No. 2 as a response to points made on my behalf by my colleague, Senator Donohoe. He raised this issue with great competence and eloquence when I was absent for the Second and Committee Stage debates. We are happy with this amendment as a response to our arguments. I support its inclusion and I think it represents a change for the better in the legislation.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Senator for his positive support. I reassure Senator Walsh that there is no question of decommissioning and leaving facilities in situ if they are at variance with our environmental legislation. We have to deal with the safety plans as well. I take on board what he is saying with a certain degree of scepticism. I deal with fish farms under my own brief, and there is a problem in Bartra Bay in Connemara where fish tanks are floating around the bay and causing a hazard to marine navigation. The relevant authorities have not tidied up the situation, even though some of the companies involved were funded by the State through Údarás na Gaeltachta. Their fish tanks are lying around the bay and they represent a potential hazard. I brought this matter to the attention of the relevant authorities, but I am not convinced that action has been taken. We cannot leave ourselves in a situation where structures are left in a marine environment or another environment and are not being addressed by the relevant authorities.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Group 3 deals with the risk assessment nature of the safety framework and is the subject matter of amendments Nos. 4 and 21.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The core objective of these amendments, together with a number of further amendments that I will also be discussing today, is to provide the maximum level of clarity for everyone with an interest in the development of the new safety regulatory framework. The primary purpose of the Bill is to establish a national risk assessment safety framework based on international best practice, as recommended by Advantica following its safety review of the Corrib gas pipeline. A risk assessment framework is a regulatory mechanism that will require petroleum undertakings to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the commission that they have reduced and are managing safety related risk to a level that is as low as reasonably feasible.

Having reflected on this core purpose and to ensure clarity for all parties interested in the formulation of the new safety framework, I consider it necessary to make explicit reference in these amendments to risk assessment, in both the definition of the petroleum safety framework and in the reference to that framework in the body of the Bill in section 131. This hardens up the definitions in response to a number of issues raised by Opposition Members on Committee Stage.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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I welcome that, but I would like an assurance from the Minister of State that there will be clarity for the public and that all of these risk assessments and documentation will be presented to the public at all stages. We need constant confidence building and awareness for the public.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Commission for Energy Regulation will be as open as any other State body in respect of the safety framework documents. Clearly, the safety plans are another matter. They are not published internationally, because they involve commercially sensitive operational information.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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In so far as possible-----

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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In so far as possible, of course we would like to reassure the public on the safety of these issues.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Group 4 deals with bodies to be consulted and is the subject matter of amendments Nos. 11, 18 to 20, inclusive, 22 and 30.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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There was some debate on Committee Stage and Report Stage in the Dáil as to which bodies would be specified for the various consultation processes required by the Bill, such as the designation of petroleum activities, the establishment of the safety framework and the safety case guidelines. These amendments have two purposes. First, they clarify further which bodies should be consulted when the commission is designating petroleum activities, developing the safety framework and developing the safety case guidelines. Second, they will ensure it will always be possible to consult the appropriate bodies. I propose to provide with these amendments that the Minister may, by order, add an additional body he considers appropriate to the specified bodies to be formally consulted.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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Will there be a clear provision for consultation for local community interest groups? Fine Gael was very concerned about the inordinate 15-year delay that occurred in respect of the Corrib pipeline. There was a lack of transparency and awareness, and if there had been a better public education and consultation campaign at the outset, it might have helped.

It would be welcome if the Minister of State said on the record of the House that he viewed that properly organised and elected local interest groups, such as local community councils, local environmental action groups and so on, would be part of a consultation process as well as the industry and all relevant safety authorities, public authorities and scientific bodies. There should be a democratic dimension to this in terms of public consultation with local interest groups. That would be a confidence-building measure and would make for a better delivery of energy in our country. Had this been the case following the Corrib gas find, we would not have had the inordinate delay and the fraught situation that has ensued.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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No doubt mistakes were made on a number of fronts in respect of the Corrib pipeline. The public discussion on the safety frameworks will involve public consultation to the maximum extent. Local interest groups can also be represented at the oral hearing stages of An Bord Pleanála. The Commission for Energy Regulation will be present at those to fulfil the democratic mandate and answer the relevant questions from interested bodies at the oral hearing stage.

We are not entertaining a new level of public consultation. International investors are highly critical of the possibility of exploring in Irish waters because they believe our systems are too arcane and bureaucratic. Part of this Bill is about reducing the red tape associated with trying to explore off Irish waters. We are not adding an extra dimension of consultation but we will clearly draw the lessons from the Corrib controversy. I am sure local groups get involved early in the safety framework, but also in the planning process. Many people say this is only the oral hearing process, but it is a democratic process and it involves the presence of the relevant safety authority, namely, the CER. Therefore, people will be able to challenge the safety information presented by the relevant bodies.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Group 5 deals with the clarity in respect of the key objective and is the subject matter of amendments Nos. 13 and 14.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Commission for Energy Regulation is being conferred with a number of functions under this Bill. The intention of these amendments is to clarify that the core objective of these functions is to protect the public by fostering and encouraging safety where undertakings are carrying out designated petroleum activities.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Group 6 deals with the clarity in respect of the role of codes and standards and is the subject matter of amendments Nos. 15 and 31.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The aim of these amendments is also to increase the clarity of the intention of the Bill in the context of the formal consultation process associated with the establishment of the petroleum framework. This amendment provides that codes of practice and technical standards used in setting the minimum safety benchmark to be achieved by developers will be specified in the safety framework. The individual details will be set out in the safety case guidelines specific to each designated petroleum activity. By specifying codes and standards within the framework, the Commission can outline recognised best practice which must apply at a minimum to a petroleum undertaking. This does not obviate the responsibility placed on petroleum activities to reduce their safety related risks to a level that is as low as reasonably feasible. An additional benefit of setting out the relevant codes and standards in this manner is that it will remove any ambiguity as to which appropriate codes are standard for each activity.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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I welcome amendment No. 17E to provide safety information for the public when appropriate. However, Fine Gael would have preferred a more formal consultative process with local communities. In our view, we should not merely give interested persons, organisations and other bodies an opportunity to make representations, but should also be proactive in informing and consulting people and listening to what they say. Avoidable major problems arise in large development projects because local communities do not have involvement at an early stage, and thus develop a resistance to the projects later. This resistance is sometimes valid and sometime not, but can be dealt with by having an early public consultation process. While I would have preferred the amendment to go further, I welcome it nonetheless. The democratisation of the consultative element cannot be overstressed. It is crucial to a peaceful and harmonious approach to the delivery of energy in future, which is in everybody's best interests.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I also welcome these amendments, particularly in light of the valiant fight of the people in the Shell to Sea campaign. They stood up for the justifiable rights of Irish citizens in protecting their homes. They were vilified and calumniated all over the place, including in this House, in newspapers and on television programmes. I recall with horror a particular television programme, which was extremely biased and slanted. All the television critics said, "Oh yes, this was biased and slanted, and what a good thing, too." The Shell to Sea campaigners were not permitted to make their concerns felt, but they have subsequently been justified by a series of reports dealing with safety questions, including pressure in the pipeline and its proximity to domestic housing.

In welcoming these amendments, I am glad of this opportunity to record my admiration for the brave people who were involved in that campaign. This is despite the fact that a very large multinational corporation, with a record that stinks to high heaven in places like Nigeria, was able to enlist the support of State agencies to brutalise some of these people. I am glad of the opportunity to record my admiration for them. Attempts were made, for example, to discredit people on the basis of guilt by association. I was told that I was consorting with extreme republicans and splinter groups, but I was not.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I am sure the Senator has.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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It does not make the slightest difference to me if people who have a very different perspective also share the same objective on one instance. This is a good, positive and forward-looking amendment. I wish it had been tabled before that situation arose in the west.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I am certainly not going to characterise people involved in the Shell to Sea campaign as all being angels of some kind, as depicted by Senator Norris. I think I will leave my response at that.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I used the words "calumniate" and "vilify", but I do not think I used the word "angels". One does not have to be an angel to be the subject of calumny and vilification.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Group 7 concerns the introduction of a specific public consultation process on the safety framework.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The desire to provide for an appropriate level of public consultation in this Bill has been a common theme of the debate both here and in the Dáil. Having listened carefully to the views expressed by Members, I have proposed amending the Bill explicitly to require a formal public consultation process to be carried out by the commission when it is establishing the safety framework. While the Bill, as published, had envisaged that the commission would consult widely when developing the safety framework, it is now proposed to include a specific requirement that the commission carry out a formal public consultation when developing the safety framework. It is my view that the overall regulatory framework relating to upstream petroleum activities will now provide sufficient scope for any concerns members of the public might have to be addressed.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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As amendment No. 23 is something that my party stressed on Second and Committee Stages both here and in the Dáil, I welcome it. It is important to provide for the publication of such matters in newspapers, as planning permissions already are. The notification of a public consultation process within a specified time in newspapers is also important, as is this transparent dimension. It is well incorporated in amendment No. 23B, which I welcome and support. We campaigned for that strongly, both here and in the Dáil. It makes good sense and as my party's spokesperson in this area, I am certainly proud of our achievements in this respect.

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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I add my voice in supporting this good amendment. The consultation process on the safety framework should obviate difficulties down the line, which have emerged concerning the Corrib. I also welcome the introduction of timelines, whereby people must make their submissions within a specified time. I presume the commission will also have to function within a timeline, subsequent to getting those commissions from the viewpoint of finalising the safety framework. The general public must have confidence in the process as well as having a mechanism for their views to be taken into account in the safety statement. We must, however, get away from this idea that everybody in the State has a veto on any sort of development. We have seen examples of that. There is a lot of obstruction of all sorts of development, including our natural resources. We need a more incentivised policy of encouraging the exploration and production of those natural resources. The Minister and his Department could do a lot to give effect to that. We should perhaps examine the licensing mechanism and the charges we apply. From the citizen's viewpoint, rather than seeking licence fees up front, we should perhaps look at taking a benefit down the line if the exploration is successful and leads to oil or gas production. I would like to see us developing a policy along those lines. If we are successful in identifying such fields, we will obviously benefit through employment and an important revenue stream to the Exchequer at a time when we are looking at serious and tight fiscal constraints in the medium term. I would like to encourage such an approach. I welcome this provision because it might reassure reasonable people that positive steps are being taken in their interests.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Members for their support.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Group 8 concerns a shortened timeframe for ministerial direction, the subject matter of amendment No. 28.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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This amendment also has its origins in the Dáil during the debate on Committee Stage with regard to the appropriate timeframe for the introduction of the new petroleum safety framework. Having listened to the views of Deputies, and in the interests of ensuring the framework will be introduced without undue delay, I am proposing to reduce the timeframe by which the Minister may give a direction to the commission with respect to the publication of the safety framework. This amendment now proposes that where the safety framework has not been published within six months of the commencement of the safety framework provision, the Minister may direct the commission in writing to publish it no later than the date specified in the ministerial direction. I thank Fine Gael and Labour Party Members for their suggestions in this regard. I understand this was specifically suggested by Deputy McManus and I was delighted to respond to it.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Group 9 concerns the key objective of petroleum undertaking, which is the subject matter of amendment No. 29.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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This amendment is in the interests of endeavouring to establish as clearly as possible what the Bill is to achieve. The purpose of the amendment is to set out clearly that while petroleum undertakings are to be subject to a number of obligations under this legislation, the principal duty of a petroleum undertaking would be to ensure that petroleum activities are carried out in a manner that reduces any risk to safety to a level that is as low as is reasonably feasible.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Group 10 concerns the transitional nature of established petroleum activities, which is the subject matter of amendments Nos. 35 and 36.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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These amendments also arise out of the debate on the Bill during its passage through the Dáil. On Committee Stage, I introduced the amendments aimed at removing any ambiguity from the transitional nature of "established petroleum activity". Established petroleum activity is a petroleum activity being carried out by an undertaking at the time this Bill becomes law. The purpose of this amendment is to introduce further clarity to the scope and intentions of the Bill.

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the passage of this Bill, but I wish to raise a question. I note the onus will be on the applicant to provide its safety case within a certain timeframe so it can be adjudicated upon for the issue of a safety permit. I can see difficulties with specifying timeframes for the commission because the complexity of the safety case may vary from applicant to applicant.

The State is always great at specifying timeframes for everyone else but is not so wonderful at doing so when it comes to its own operations, if the Minister of State does not mind my saying so. In that regard, is there any redress for an applicant who feels the commission is tardy in dealing with their application? What recourse does the applicant have to have their case expedited? I am not seeking to have safety relegated in importance but, nonetheless, it is important we perform to a level commensurate with the requirement of the applicant. I do not think I saw such a provision in the Bill.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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I support the point made by Senator Walsh. We want efficiencies on both sides - from the point of view of Government, the companies and the public making submissions. The entire process needs to become more efficient, transparent and inclusive. The Minister of State mentioned earlier that we must learn the lessons of Corrib. The lessons of Corrib are that efficiency and tight timeframes, within reason, are necessary.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Members for their support and their suggestion that tight timeframes be imposed on State bodies. State bodies include regulators, and that is why the Taoiseach met all the State's regulators in Farmleigh recently to discuss the need for better and speedier regulation. In addition, some regulators - I do not want to single out the Commission for Energy Regulation in this regard - have not been taking a developmental approach to their work. Such an approach is important in view of the economic crisis, and should be adopted by regulators when they consider the timeframes they apply to such cases. That is why the specific measure put forward by members of the Opposition was welcome. We had pencilled in an eight-month process, followed by recourse to the Minister.

Senator Walsh asked to whom a promoter can appeal if they feel a regulator is not doing its job properly. They can appeal to me as Minister of State or whoever occupies this position in the future. The Minister of State can then enforce a timeframe if the regulator has not been efficient in dealing with the case. That is irrespective of complaints or the mention of resources and so on. If a promoter has a worthy proposal and believes the process has been too slow, I or my successor as Minister of State can order the regulator to complete the process within a specified time. That is how it should be. Many people within and outside the House are sceptical and believe we set up regulators and then let them go off and do their own thing. The political system ultimately must be in command. People elect Members to this and the other House with the expectation that we will put pressure on the system and ensure it performs to a high level.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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): I thank everybody for their constructive suggestions as the Bill made its way through both Houses.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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On behalf of the Fine Gael Party in the Seanad, I thank the Minister of State for his co-operative and proactive approach in listening to what was said and in seeking to improve the Bill. The legislation ultimately will be of benefit to our economy as it involves the rationalisation and centralisation of regulation of safety standards and the elimination of a multiplicity of agencies and bodies adjudicating on safety. The focus of the process is now in the regulator's office. It is important that a public consultation process has been established and the lessons of Corrib have been learned.

I welcome the Bill and the Minister's approach and attitude to our suggestions, which were aimed at bettering the legislation. We have no difficulty with the legislation in principle. In fact, the needs of our economy dictate that it be passed.

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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I join Senator O'Reilly in commending the Minister of State and his officials on the introduction of the legislation and the manner in which debate has been engaged in this House and in the Dáil, as can be seen from the many amendments that have come back to us. The Minister has been incisive and constructive and has taken a businesslike approach to the various suggestions, including those which may have been outside the ambit of the Bill but were certainly related to its functioning and operation. I welcome this. An injection of efficiency is good for the public service because it leads to greater public regard for the manner in which the organs of the State do their business. I compliment the Minister of State in this regard.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I played only a minor part in the passage of this Bill but, listening to the debate, I was impressed by the fact that the Minister considered suggestions from parties other than his own to strengthen the Bill. I also welcomed the opportunity to make my little intervention about the Corrib situation. I was entertained by the Minister of State's attempt to escape early because it seemed he was giving practical expression to the amendments in group 8, which were entitled: "Shortened timeframe for ministerial direction".

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Senator and wish him well in the presidential election.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I will be grateful for the Minister of State's support and hope it is on the record of the House. If the party gives me the opportunity, I shall certainly run.