Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 29 Nov 2012

Vol. 784 No. 4

Priority Questions

Gas and Electricity Disconnections

Michael Moynihan


1. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the need to ensure that energy prices are kept under review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53547/12]

I have no statutory function in the setting of gas or electricity prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated parts of these markets. Responsibility for the regulation of the retail electricity market is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, which is an independent statutory body. Since 4 April 2011 prices in the electricity retail market have been fully deregulated and business and domestic customers can as a result avail of competitive offerings from a number of electricity supply companies. Price setting by electricity suppliers is a commercial and operational matter for the companies operating in the retail market, including Electric Ireland which is ESB’s electricity supply business.

The Government is most concerned at the impact of higher electricity prices on residential and commercial consumers. Ireland is at the mercy of international fossil fuel prices which dictate the retail price of electricity.

There are a number of avenues open to consumers to try to mitigate rising electricity prices, and measures are also in place to assist them. Accordingly, consumers can shop around to get the best possible price and service deal from suppliers bearing in mind that other suppliers can and do offer competitive prices and products. Consumers can also take steps to improve the efficiency of their electricity usage which delivers demonstrable savings. The CER is also working with energy suppliers to ensure that vulnerable customers are protected through, inter alia, the installation of pay as you go meters.

As regards keeping electricity prices under review, the CER publishes a report every quarter on information on the retail markets in electricity and gas. It includes metrics on market share, switching rates, the rollout of pay as you go meters, debt flagging and customer disconnections. The report can be found on the CER website.

As this is the first time I face the Minister across the Chamber in my new role as spokesperson I hope we can work in a constructive fashion. There is no doubt the issue of energy and energy prices is a matter of concern for many people. An issue that arose recently was the granting of a price increase to Electric Ireland by the Commission for Energy Regulation and later it emerged that its half-yearly profit was of the order of €230 million heading for €0.5 billion in a full year. The hard-pressed householder and business people note that the Regulator has granted a price increase to the ESB while it is making huge profits. I am aware that the statutory body, the Commission for Energy Regulation, makes periodic reports. Can the Minister comment on those reports internally and put pressure on the Commission for Energy Regulation to ensure price increases are not granted? The public perception is that price increases are granted when they are not necessary in view of the fact the companies concerned are making huge profits.

I welcome the Deputy to his role as spokesman in this area and wish well and also a long stay there. I look forward to working with him and counsel him not to sign any statements prepared over quiet weekends in the Fianna Fáil head office as he did last weekend on "The Frontline" programme because the assertions in that statement about my role were not true.

The Deputy raised a good point in respect of energy prices and particularly the issue of the profits returned for the first six months by the ESB. Obviously it is regrettable that as price takers Ireland is a victim of prices on the oil and gas market. The weakness of the euro against the dollar is a particularly acute reason for the upward trend but there is some misunderstanding about the six-monthly returns by the ESB. I would be as surprised as the Deputy if a similar performance was returned for the second six months of the year. There are very particular accounting reasons that figure was returned for the first six months. It will not, unfortunately, survive until the end of the year. In addition, a significant and far-reaching restructuring programme has been concluded in the ESB which will have to be funded by the company next year.

It is vitally important in all the sectors that are independently regulated that the consumer has confidence in the Regulator. What has transpired in recent months has led to some people losing confidence in the regulation of the energy market. It is important that clarity is brought to the issue of companies making profits on the backs of others. If there are issues in respect of returns for the second half year performance they should be in the public domain.

I am looking at a note on the voluntary severance package to which I have referred and that will close by year end. The associated costs are forecast at €137 million due to approximately 500 staff exits being anticipated. It is good on the one hand to see a strong Irish multinational State company turning in a strong performance. When the 12 months returns are available they will give less cause for alarm. The Regulator does a very rigorous monitoring and policing job on prices and probably had an eye to the yearly out-turn.

Offshore Exploration

Michael Colreavy


2. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the tax percentage the State would take from a company (details supplied) following oil extraction from the proposed site off Dalkey, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53500/12]

Standard Exploration Licence 2/11, which was issued last year, is held by a consortium comprising Providence Resources Plc and PSE Seven Heads Ltd. over an area of approximately 380 square kilometres in the Kish Bank Basin off the Dublin-Wicklow coast.

The licence is for a six-year period with an obligation to drill an exploration well by August 2014. The licensees have not as yet submitted detailed proposals for drilling to my Department for approval and at this early stage of exploration activity it is far too soon to anticipate a commercial discovery that could potentially lead to a petroleum production project. In the event, however, that the proposed drilling on the licence was successful and resulted in a commercial discovery, profits would be subject to a tax rate of between 25% and 40%, depending on the profitability of the field.

Ireland's tax terms for oil and gas exploration and production are set at a level which seeks to maximise the financial return to the people of Ireland from our indigenous oil and gas resources while at the same time encouraging exploration companies to invest in exploration in the Irish offshore.

Ireland’s tax rate for oil and gas production is set at a level similar to countries such as France, Portugal and Spain which, like Ireland, have limited petroleum production and with which we compete for investment, rather than at a level comparable to countries such as the UK and Norway which are major petroleum producers.

Sometimes I wonder why people and parties which have good plans and policies, as soon as they enter government with a larger party have those good plans and policies watered down. I do not know whether it happens during the negotiations around forming the Government or if it is a question of continuing as before with the Civil Service; that phenomenon could probably be called civil subservience. However, the Minister will recall that in the 1970s there was an active campaign seeking reform of the tax take from oil and gas.

A former Labour Party Minister, Mr. Justin Keating, introduced a 50% maximum stake in any commercial find, production royalties of 8% to 16% and bonuses on particularly significant finds. These terms were dismantled by Mr. Ray Burke and Mr. Bertie Ahern-----

A question, please.

I am aware that the Joint Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has issued a report on a pricing structure for oil and gas finds. When does the Minister propose to implement it, or does he propose to do so?

The joint committee published its report on offshore oil finds in May. The report recommends an increase in the tax rate to 80%, but it does not address the continuing low level of offshore exploration and makes no suggestion on how it can be improved. It also makes it very clear that even if there were to be changes from its perspective, they could not apply retrospectively.

The key point I would make to the Deputy is that we have had something like 146 wells drilled off the Irish coast to date compared to over 4,000 in the United Kingdom and over 1,200 in Norway. We have to compete with these countries to get companies to come here to find oil and gas and exploit it and bring it ashore. The reality is they are not investing here compared to the level of investment in other countries where there is certainty of finding oil. We have to attract them to come here. The big bonus, if and when oil and gas are found, is the spin-off to the economy in terms of job creation.

This is the best deal we have available. We believe it is at the right level to attract more companies to prospect for and find oil and gas. Our terms are comparable to those on offer in other countries such as France, Spain and Portugal and we have exactly the same take.

The Minister of State is as aware as I am that the jobs, income and oil security promised in the non-negotiations in this development are illusory. All exploration costs can be written off against any tax rate we set. Surely, we need to button down our expected return from these companies. We need to know in advance that this return will be made. Otherwise, we are risking our environment and people's enjoyment of life for very little or no return.

I reject all of those assertions because they do not make sense. As I said, we have had a very small number of drills off our coast compared to the numbers in Britain and Norway because of the fact that there is a much better chance of finding oil off their shores. We have to get companies to invest here and we are getting them. However, during the years, the graph showing the number of companies coming here has not gone up but down. We want companies to come here, but they will not come if there is an 80% tax regime in place because there is no certainty of finding oil and gas and there is a much greater certainty of finding them at other locations. We have to be in the marketplace to attract them. There are companies which I hope, will find oil next year. However, we do not know if they will do so and they do not know either. It costs at least €60 million to drill a well. We have to provide the seismic knowledge they need. In that regard, a major seismic survey will take place on the Atlantic margins in the next two years. It will inform companies in the next Atlantic margins round and I hope as a result that more companies will come here to drill.

Better Energy Homes Scheme Applications Refusal

Catherine Murphy


3. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the fact that his plan of phasing out the subsidisation of home energy retrofit without a suitable pay as you save replacement facility in place has had a detrimental effect on employment in the construction and retrofit sector which has created sustained employment for 5,000 people over the past four years; his plans to expedite the introduction of the planned pay as you save home retrofit scheme; if so, if he will offer details of the scheme; if he has had any consultations with the Deprtment for the Environment, Community and Local Government in terms of the utility such a programme can offer as part of a national CO2 emissions reduction plan in the context of climate legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53528/12]

The Government, through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, has invested over €145 million in Better Energy Homes and its forerunner schemes since 2009. The existing scheme is demand-led, with €76.146 million committed in Exchequer funding this year.

Better Energy Homes provides financial assistance for improving the energy performance of older homes built any time before 2006. The scheme enables homeowners to save money, while improving comfort and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. It also promotes employment in the construction sector. The programme for Government commits to a phased transition from grants to a "pay-as-you-save" scheme after 2013. Following on from work completed last year, a project team has been established to bring forward a scheme design for the Government’s consideration by the middle of next year.

It is important to note that no measure has as yet been removed from the list of those supported since the Greener Homes scheme was subsumed into the wider Better Energy Homes scheme. Reductions in grant value have been made, but this is to ensure grant supports are in line with the reduced market prices. Clearly, it is essential that the transition from an Exchequer supported industry to one that is sustainable takes place in an orderly manner and it is the case that the SEAI will continue to operate its current schemes during 2013. Central to this will be engagement with stakeholders, including the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. The project team put together draws heavily on industry expertise.

The Better Energy Homes scheme has successfully supported the creation and retention of a large number of jobs in the past few years. These jobs have been underpinned by Exchequer capital funding provided via my Department’s Vote. In the light of the general pressure on all Exchequer expenditure and other demands on my Department’s Vote, including in future years in the area of broadband provision, new and innovative funding models must be pursued to ensure maintenance and enhancement of energy efficiency schemes. What is required is a retrofit model that is both sustainable and attractive to the consumer, which is why my Department is working closely with industry and stakeholders, including the banks, to design a scheme that does both. The protection of jobs is a key objective of the pay-as-you-save scheme and underlines the importance of a strong value proposition for consumers in the scheme’s final design.

This scheme has the potential to be a winner on three fronts: job creation, the environment and in making it more affordable for people to heat their homes. Essentially, as the Minister said, the Better Energy Homes scheme replaced three other schemes. Within that context, there was a reduction in the amount available and, in fact, the grant rates were cut twice last year. I have several questions. The changes taking place and the lack of certainty seem to be impacting on the level of confidence in the scheme. For example, there has been a considerable reduction in the number of calls and inquiries to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland from some 500 to 100 a day. This suggests something to us. The absence of continuity and certainty in transitioning from one scheme to another is impacting on people's ability to plan to employ themselves in this market. Is all of the €76 million committed to be drawn down this year? Does the Minister have information readily available on how many grants this sum would cover? It is as if we have stopped in the middle and are transitioning to something else, yet at the same time it appears that while the scheme to move towards the industry model was ready prior to the Government taking office, it will now be 2014 before it is rolled out. This has not provided the confidence people involved in the industry and those who would potentially employ themselves in it want.

The Deputy is right to draw attention to the value of these schemes and also to point to the fact that there has been a decline in the number of applications this year. However, she is wrong in somehow persuading herself, as she has done in the question, that it is due to a lack of continuity. Whatever it is, it is not due to a lack of continuity and it is not the case that the pay-as-you-save scheme was ready before we went into government.

The scheme is still not ready. It is a complex issue. In any event, we did not want it to be ready because we are still operating a grants-based incentive scheme for people to insulate and retrofit their homes so they make energy savings, and as Deputy Catherine Murphy said, that they can live in their homes with more comfort. I accept the grant was moderated this year, but it was done because the price of doing that kind of job is now less than it was three to five years ago. We are trying to ensure that the money goes as far as possible. I remind the House that I invested an additional €30 million into the scheme last year. Far from cutting it, we put in €30 million extra in the jobs initiative in the middle of last year. A total of 5,500 people were supported last year.

I suspect what the Deputy is really interested in finding out is the reason for the apparent fall-off in applications. That is her net point. I am interested in it too. I find it difficult to come up with experts who can provide a reason. Two major reasons have been advanced. The first is that last year there was a particularly mild winter. Anytime there is a particularly harsh winter such as the two previous ones, there is a spike in demand and then it falls off. The second reason is the recessionary climate where people are reluctant to put their hand in their pocket. Even if one gets grant funding one still has to fund the work by a factor of 2:1. If one gets a grant, for example of €4,000, one is expected to come up with €7,000 or €8,000 to do the job. In the present climate people are reluctant to spend that kind of money. That is one of the advantages of the pay-as-you-save scheme. The idea of the pay-as-you-save scheme is that householders are not expected to put money upfront. They repay it from the energy savings that have accrued over a period. We must try to make the product attractive to the householder.

Will grants still be available once the new scheme is fully rolled out? People might wish to take up the other type of scheme.

I do not know whether the Minister has been listening to the pre-budget discussions from around the country on “Morning Ireland”.

Oh my God, Deputy Murphy would not inflict that on me.

Utility bills are coming up as a key issue every morning. It strikes me that the grants scheme is precisely the type of measure the vast majority of people would want if it were put in place quickly. While the scheme might not save people money immediately, they are conscious of the cost of energy and the scheme is a means of eventually saving. I am not convinced by the weather argument.

I listen to Lyric FM in the morning. It is one thing having half the population of the country being depressed by the unending dirge of misery and negativity one gets from 7 a.m. until midnight, without me being depressed because we would have no hope at all if that were to happen. I did not hear the programme but I will take Deputy Murphy’s word for it that it was as dismal as she suggests.

She is correct; this is one thing that could be done. In a country that imports its fossil fuels what we can do to affect the price of oil or gas on the world markets is limited, but we can make savings in energy and we can use energy more efficiently. That is what we are trying to do.

There is no doubt that the scheme will continue. I am currently locked in mortal combat trying to hold on to as large a budget in this area as I can for next year. I do not see it being a clear ending on 31 December 2013 and on 1 January it is a brave new world. I do not think it will happen that way.

I am worried that there is a third factor at play in the point raised by Deputy Murphy, namely, that the category of householder who like her is energy aware and wants to get the job done, is gone in the first flush of applications, and that we will have to evangelise to get the next tier. That is an issue as well.

Broadband Services Provision

Michael Moynihan


4. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he proposes to ensure fair treatment of rural consumers in the provision of telecommunications services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53548/12]

I accept that the widespread availability of reliable telecommunications services in both voice and data are imperative in a modern economy and society. As a result of targeted Government interventions through initiatives such as the national broadband scheme, basic broadband services are now widely available across the country. In addition, the State-funded metropolitan area networks, MANs, are available in approximately 94 centres, including a number of small rural towns and they help facilitate the roll-out of higher speed broadband in these centres. The challenge now is to accelerate the roll-out of high speed services to all areas.

The national broadband plan, which I launched in August last, aims to change radically the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed services of at least 30 Mbps are available to all of our citizens and businesses, well in advance of the EU’s target date of 2020, and that significantly higher speeds are available to as many homes and businesses as possible. These ambitious targets apply to the entire country, including hard-to-reach rural areas. It is intended that the private sector will be the key driver of investment with potential State intervention confined to areas where the market is unlikely to invest.

The national broadband plan contains actions for investment, demand stimulation, infrastructure barrier removal, spectrum policy, potential contribution of State entities, and policy and regulation. This approach seeks to achieve a step-change in the level of services available throughout the country by accelerating private sector investment through a range of actions by public stakeholders, and particularly with regard to rural areas where the State expects to co-invest with the private sector in areas where the commercial case for infrastructure investment does not exist.

One of the first steps in delivering on the 30 Mbps and 40 Mbps commitments will be the completion of a formal national mapping exercise to determine the exact position in relation to commercial service providers’ existing and planned broadband services throughout the country. Preparatory work has commenced within my Department to expedite this mapping exercise.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The mapping exercise will identify the areas of the country where there is market failure in the provision of high speed broadband services. It will also identify where the market is expected to succeed and fail in the delivery of high speed broadband over the coming years. This process is expected to take at least a number of months to complete. It will identify the precise areas of the country which will require State intervention to ensure the Government’s commitment that a minimum of 30 Mbps be available throughout the country is realised. It is also expected that the spectrum rights in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz and 1800 MHz released following ComReg’s recent auction will play an important role in helping achieve these goals. The leveraging of this spectrum will be particularly important in radically improving mobile broadband speeds. In summary I can assure the Deputy that through implementation of the national broadband plan I am committed to tackling the digital divide decisively and to ensuring that much higher speed broadband is available in rural areas.

My question relates to the schools broadband initiative. We have schools that do not have any broadband connection. As the Minister outlined in his reply, broadband connectivity is of importance. A school in Milford in north Cork has no access to broadband which puts the pupils at significant disadvantage as they progress to second level and beyond. It is vitally important that we examine the issue.

Nothing is as divisive at the moment as broadband connectivity. One sees in the property pages of newspapers that houses in rural areas use broadband connectivity as a selling point. It is a great advantage to have it. Heretofore, it was important for working from home but as technology has moved on it has become essential.

ComReg regulation 11/72 is complete gobbledygook. It has allowed telecommunications companies to sell bundles at a higher price to rural dwellers compared to urban dwellers. The matter must be examined.

I agree with the Deputy that availability of high-speed broadband in the schools system is transformative.

I have seen the impact not only on the pupils but also on teachers. It really transforms the learning environment. For that reason, I am very proud that last year I was able to persuade the Department of Education and Skills - even if my Department has to pay for it - that every second level school in Ireland should be connected to industrial-strength broadband. So far we have completed this work in 297 schools. I realise selecting sites is a delicate business in politics, but I selected 13 western counties that are not in my constituency. Deputy Boyd Barrett should not look at me like that.

I did not say anything.

The 13 western counties were chosen because the reception they have is poor, as is the case in many areas. That job is now finished, and the second tranche is being prepared and will be completed by the beginning of the academic year in 2014. It really makes a difference. For example, there is a school in Warrenmount in Dublin, with which Deputy Joan Collins will be familiar, which is in a working-class urban area and never offered honours mathematics. Now there are five young women taking the subject in a virtual arrangement with another school. It is exceptional.

Notwithstanding the difficulties with investment at present, my Department pays for installation and running costs for a year, after which the Department of Education and Skills takes on the project.

Judging by the body language of the Minister, I wonder whether we should be fearful about the future of this programme. It is vital that broadband is at the top of the Government's agenda. This is as important to the present generation as rural electrification was in another time. Will the Minister look also at the sale of bundling in other spheres as they relate to rural communities?

Again, I agree with the Deputy. As described, this is the equivalent of the rural electrification scheme of the 1950s and is hugely significant. As the Deputy noted, if we are not careful there is a danger of creating a digital divide. I hope the national plan for broadband, which I published immediately after the summer recess, will remain an objective within the lifetime of this Government and that by 2016 nowhere in the country will have less than 30 Mbps. It is an ambitious target but one we intend to meet. As I stated in my formal answer, it is ahead of the digital agenda for Europe and ten times better than what certain rural areas have to put up with at present.

I will be glad to draw Deputy Moynihan's second point to the attention of ComReg, which, as he will understand, is an independent statutory body.

Petroleum and Gas Exploration

Joan Collins


5. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether the current process of granting exploration licences complies with the EU Directive 2003/4/EC on access to information on the Environment and EU Directive 2003/35/EC on public participation in environmental decision making and access to justice; and his views in relation to the granting of the licence to a company (details supplied) to drill in Dublin Bay. [53546/12]

I confirm to the Deputy my satisfaction that the current exploration licensing process is fully compliant with the requirements of both European and domestic law with respect to public participation in environmental assessment, including the requirements of EU Directives 2003/4/EC and 2003/35/EC.

The environmental assessment process implemented in Ireland is as follows. In advance of licensing rounds for the granting of exploration licensing options, a strategic environmental assessment, SEA, which is subject to public consultation, is undertaken at regional level. An SEA of the Celtic and Irish Seas was undertaken during 2010, the final results of which were published at the end of 2011. Once a drilling location has been identified and on receipt of a specific drilling proposal, an environmental area assessment is undertaken to identify all relevant potential environmental impacts and to decide whether the proposed mitigations are sufficient to ensure the application will not have an unacceptable environmental impact.

An environmental impact assessment, EIA, must be undertaken for all activities that may have a significant adverse effect on the environment, including major infrastructure projects such as crude oil refineries, railways, motorways and wastewater treatment plants. It should be noted that exploration drilling for oil and gas is not amongst the activities listed in the annexes to the directive. Proposals for a petroleum development to progress to the production stage must be supported by an environmental impact statement, which is assessed in accordance with the requirements of the EIA directive and includes full public consultation.

I confirm I am satisfied that the current licensing process is compliant with all relevant aspects of Directive 2003/4/EC, which deals with access to environmental information.

I beg to differ with the Minister of State. The SEA made the point he quoted, but the public consultation in question amounted to four public meetings, one of which took place in a pub in the Dún Laoghaire area. The Minister of State describes that as full public consultation. The people who have come to the Visitors' Gallery today - fishermen and residents of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown - would find that an insult, because they believe public consultation should mean that information concerning all meetings will be published in every newspaper. The foreshore advertisement appeared in one daily newspaper and at two Garda stations in the area. This certainly did not amount to proper public consultation in accordance with the Aarhus Convention and the directives mentioned by the Minister of State.

The fishermen in the area are deeply concerned that explorative drilling will have an enormous effect on their livelihoods because the drill used crushes down into the floor of the bay and would have an impact on fish. Will the Minister of State make a commitment that when Providence makes an application for a licence to conduct a site survey or takes out a drilling licence he will have a proper consultation process in accordance with the Aarhus Convention? Will he also order a full EIA on the area?

I fundamentally disagree with the Deputy, who has the matter completely wrong. I have in my hand a list of 100 organisations, all of which were written to, in direct and personal letters, in connection with the EIS document, which is a report on the consultation process. Among those consulted directly were Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire Harbour Authority, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Friends of the Irish Environment, the Health and Safety Authority, the Irish Chamber of Shipping, the Irish Coastguard, the Irish Fish Producers' Association, the Irish Fishermen's Organisation, the Irish Maritime Development Office, the Irish Port Company Association, the Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish South and East Fishermen's Organisation, Irish South and West Producers' Organisation, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, the Irish Wildlife Trust, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and South Dublin County Council. There is a complete and thorough list of organisations consulted on this issue. Therefore, I refute everything the Deputy said in regard to consultation. She did not get it right; her research was wrong, and she does not have the facts. The next time she comes into the House I ask her to ensure she researches the subject properly in order to tell the truth to the people in the Visitors' Gallery and in that constituency. The fact is everybody was consulted. In this democratic Chamber the Deputy is the elected representative of those people. I ask her to do her research properly in future.

The fishermen were not informed and the people did not know. This is a very broad report on a huge area of Dublin Bay and it does not reflect the specific area we are discussing, the Kish Bank basin. It does not cover that area and is too broad. The people in Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey did not know that a foreshore licence would be given to Providence to explore a specific area 6 km away from the land. The Minister of State was not correct in what he stated.

On the next occasion on which Providence makes an application to conduct a site survey or secure a drilling licence, there should be proper consultation. Advertisements should appear in all of the newspapers and leaflets should be distributed in order that people will be informed that such consultation is taking place. This would give them access to the process and justice.

If the Deputy examines the report to which I refer, she will see that the public consultation process was advertised in the Irish Independent, the Wicklow People, the Wexford People, the Waterford News and Star and the Southern Star. In the advertisement interested parties were invited to read the environmental report and provide feedback and notice was given of the location and dates of meetings. For the Deputy's information, some five consultation meetings were held during the week commencing 18 July. There was also a walk-in informal process, etc.

That was not specific to this drilling exercise.

I did not interrupt the Deputy's colleague or anyone else.

We are almost out of time.

Let us get the facts right. I want people to know the full facts and be fully and properly consulted. We are referring to commercial exploration rather than commercial exploitation of the resource. I reassure everyone that if a hydrocarbon discovery were to be made, planning consent from An Bord Pleanála under the strategic infrastructure Acts would more than likely be required; a safety case would have to be approved by the CER; an integrated pollution prevention control licence would have to be granted by the EPA; a petroleum lease, a plan for development and consent for a gas pipeline would be required; and consent under the Gas Acts would be necessary. In addition, directives establishing a framework for community action would be required; registration, evaluation and authorisation of all the chemicals covered under the REACH directive would be also necessary. There is a complete, accountable and public process in this regard and the Deputies opposite should engage in it.

What about the fishermen and the seismic survey?