Children Talk About Hydraulic Fracturing/Fracking-Animation

Questions on Fracking in the Dail 17th July 2013

Sandra McLellan (Cork East, Sinn Fein)

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if in view of the fact that a company holds a 100% prospecting licence in the Clare basin, an area of 495 sq. km which includes the entire Loop Head peninsula, and that it now plans to apply for a shale gas exploration licence, his views on the compatibility of sustainable tourism and fracking; and if he will make a statement on the matter

Fergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
Three onshore licensing options were granted by the previous Minister of State at the Department, Conor Lenihan, in February 2011 immediately prior to the general election. Two were over parts of the north west carboniferous basin of Lough Allen and one was over parts of County Clare. These licensing options conferred upon the holders the first right to apply for an exploration licence. I can confirm that two of the three companies have submitted applications for a follow-on exploration licence.

The Government has made it clear that any application for an exploration licence for hydraulic fracturing as part of unconventional gas exploration would be subject to an environmental impact assessment. It has also made clear that such assessment would be informed by the findings of further research to be commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and that absolutely no decision would be made on any proposal for the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling in Ireland until there has been time to consider the outcome of this further research.

Earlier this year the EPA announced the draft terms of reference for the more extensive second stage of its research, the final results of which are expected in early 2015. The key questions to be addressed by this research are whether this technology can be used while fully protecting the environment and what the best environmental practice in using this technology might be.



Michael Colreavy (Sligo-North Leitrim, Sinn Fein)

I wrote to the EPA on this when the terms of reference were published. I am not at all happy adequate socio-economic impact analysis has been done on hydraulic fracturing, including on the impact on the tourism and agrifood industries. Last year, the Minister, Deputy Deenihan, very graciously came to us in north Leitrim and we went up Boleybrack Mountain to see a red grouse management project. When we were on top of Boleybrack Mountain I pointed over to Thur Mountain, which is a beautiful hillside, and told the Minister it would be the centre of fracking if it is allowed in Ireland and asked him to imagine a tourist coming to look at an industrial wasteland. The Minister's honest answer was that he could not imagine a tourist doing so. I think the very same about the Clare basin. I am not at all convinced the work which will come from the EPA will include the detailed socio-economic research and analysis required before a decision of such import is made for the people of Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo, Clare and Donegal.



Fergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)

Hydraulic fracturing is not an industrial wasteland. I have been to the United States and looked at a site after hydraulic fracturing had taken place and it looks like any normal rural landscape. The assessment which must take place must consider the potential impact of the project on the population, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, the architectural and archaeological heritage, the landscape and the interrelationship between all of these factors. Under an EU directive it will not be possible to permit any such project unless it can be determined following assessment that it would not have an unacceptable environmental or social impact. The findings of this EPA research will provide a benchmark for assessment of these requirements. More than 1,308 submissions were received and are being considered. It is expected a call for tender will issue shortly in this regard. We must deal with facts and science in the issues raised. It is wrong to raise issues about industrial wastelands when no such facts exist anywhere.


Michael Colreavy (Sligo-North Leitrim, Sinn Fein)

The Taoiseach was generous in his praise of fracking in Pennsylvania last January 12 months. I have letters in my file from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection advising people the waters were poisoned and there was a risk of explosion in their houses because of escaping methane gas. I ask the Minister of State not to lecture me on hydraulic fracturing. Nobody is speaking to the people who were affected by fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the United States. The Government is speaking to industrialists and those making money from it but not to the people affected by it, who are the very people the Government should be speaking to because they are the type of people who will be hit here.


Fergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)

I spoke to the environmental secretary in Pennsylvania, the person charged with this, about the issue. We must deal with facts, and we will not have the facts until the research is done. All of the issues the Deputy mentioned including the people, the population, the economic conditions, the flora, fauna, the archaeology, the heritage and the landscape are being studied and this is a fact. This is the only fact, and until we have the report, which will not happen until 2015, no decision will be made. People must understand and appreciate this fully, absolutely and categorically. Nothing will happen until this report is in and no other application will be considered by the Department in the meantime. I want absolute clarity on this.

This is from a searchable archive of what is said in the Dail. See for this debate

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