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Energy: Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing

Volume 696: debated on Wednesday 7 November 2007

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Energy (Malcolm Wicks) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to inform the House that I am today inviting applications for petroleum exploration and development licences (PEDL) for unlicensed blocks in parts of England, Scotland and Wales which will form the 13th round of landward petroleum licensing.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)—Post Adoption Procedures

BERR's draft plan to offer licences for onshore oil and gas exploration and production through a thirteenth licensing round has been the subject of a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) initiated in 2005. The SEA is documented on the department's website at htm.

The SEA considered the alternatives to the draft plan and the potential implications of resultant activities in the context of the objective of the draft plan, the SEA objectives, the existing regulatory and other control mechanisms, the existing environmental problems and their likely evolution over time, and in the light of scoping feedback provided by consultation bodies and others. The conclusion of the SEA was to proceed with the licensing programme but with some licensing conditions. It was recommended that BERR place an explicit expectation on licence applicants to demonstrate understanding of the environmental sensitivities and potential constraints on blocks both at the application stage and during any subsequent operations.

The assessment was documented in an environmental report which was subject to a three-month public consultation. The start of the consultation was widely advertised in newspapers and by e-mail.

All responses received from statutory and other consultees on the draft plan and the environmental report have been considered by BERR and a post consultation report prepared and placed on the department's website (link above). This report summarises consultee comments and BERR responses to them.

In deciding to proceed with a 13th onshore licensing round, BERR has considered the conclusions and recommendations of the SEA environmental report together with feedback received from consultees.

Under the terms of a PEDL, licensees may not conduct activities such as the drilling of wells, installation of facilities or production of hydrocarbons without the authorisation of the Secretary of State and licensees are required to provide proof to BERR that the relevant planning and other permissions and consent(s) have been obtained.

Once block applications have been received, the department will undertake a plan level appropriate assessment (AA) screening or full assessment (as appropriate) of the potential for likely resultant activities in the blocks to adversely affect the integrity of Natura 2000 conservation sites. This AA will consider specific blocks and provides BERR with a further opportunity to identify if there are overriding reasons not to offer a licence for a particular block.

In addition to the website above, a copy of the SEA environmental report and post-consultation report can be reviewed at Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H OET.

Arrangements to view these reports can be made by telephoning 0207 215 5032.