No 'fracking' decision until 2014


NO DECISION will be made about commercial shale gas exploration or “fracking” until 2014 at the earliest. Minister of State for Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd told the Dáil it would be 2014 before further research on the issue was ready for publication.

He said the research, consultation with relevant parties and consideration of international studies could take more than 12 months, leading to a “potential publication date in 2014”. Until there was time to consider the research “I confirm the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling will not be authorised”.

The Minister was responding to Sinn Féin Sligo-North Leitrim TD Michael Colreavy in whose constituency exploration company Tamboran Resources conducted research, which it said showed the existence of a substantial natural gas field. The controversial exploration method involves drilling rock and injecting water, sand and chemicals to release gas inside.

The Sinn Féin TD expressed concern that despite a recommendation by the European commissioner for energy regulation that EU members should not make a decision on fracking for a number of years, the EU was offering €400,000 to public authorities for public consultations on the issue.

He asked why such a campaign was being organised when “we cannot answer simple questions as to whether fracking will damage agriculture, tourism, animal or human health”.

Mr O’Dowd said he had not been briefed on the EU consultation process. The previous government had issued a licensing option and that “started the clock” on the process in Ireland. That clock runs until November this year when Tamboran resources had to present its work programme. It also had to decide by February next year whether to apply for an exploration licence. “Such a licence does not allow fracking for commercial exploration.”