Licence not yet given for 'fracking'

 

THE DEPARTMENT of Energy has said it has not yet given a licence for the controversial method of onshore exploration drilling for natural gas involving hydraulic fracturing known as “fracking”.

If it were to be approved, applications would be subject to environmental impact assessment, including “appropriate public consultation”, the department said.

It was responding to a call on Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte by environmental group An Taisce to hold a public consultation on the practice.

An Taisce chairman Charles Stanley-Smith said there was a question mark over whether the practice could be regulated successfully here to ensure it was “environmentally, socially and economically safe”.

“Fracking” involves injecting large volumes of water, chemicals and sand into rock formations to break them open and extract previously inaccessible fossil fuel deposits, such as shale gas.

The French national assembly voted to ban the practice, following months of protest and claims by environmentalists that it could pollute the water table, and the US state of New York has put approval on hold, pending environmental assessments.

Onshore petroleum licensing options allowing for “shallow geological sampling” have been awarded by the Department Of Energy to three companies for the Lough Allen and Clare basins, covering 8,000sq km over parts of counties Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Mayo, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Clare, Cork, Limerick and Kerry.

One of the three firms licensed for onshore research has told residents in the Lough Allen area that it believed hydraulic fracturing was “essential to the success of natural gas exploration in Ireland”.

Clare Labour TD Michael McNamara said he had received “assurances” from Mr Rabbitte that exploration activity in Lough Allen and Clare was at an “early stage”.