Rabbitte orders 'fracking' study


Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a study on the effects of fracking.

The process, which involves using water to fracture rocks to drill for natural gas, has caused concern in the northwest recently after two companies stated interest in tapping into reserves in the region that could potentially be worth tens of billions.

Mr Rabbitte said the issue had been raised with him by several Oireachtas members who were concerned about the potential environmental and health considerations related to the activity.

“We need to have debate on this subject who is well informed on many dimensions including the scale of valuable resource reserves that may lie under Irish soil as well as the various impacts of extraction,” he said.

“At present there is currently very little European experience of the process. For this reason I have asked the EPA to examine the area and advise me and colleagues in Government on the environmental implications of fracking.”

He urged the public not to be worried about the process, adding that his department had not yet received any applications or licensed any onshore hydraulic fracking.

There are concerns that the process could allow water contaminated by fracking fluid or natural gas to seep into the water supply.

Two firms -Tamboran Resources and Lough Allen Natural Gas Company (Langco) - have been granted options licences permitting them to carry out preliminary testing in the Lough Allen basin in Co Leitrim, but anti-fracking groups have said instead of granting full exploration licences the Government should impose an outright ban on this method of extraction.

More than 500 people attended a public meeting on the subject, organised by the Lough Allen Conservation Association, in Co Leitrim last month.

It heard the Shannon water system could be at risk of pollution if the Government granted exploration licences in the Lough Allen basin, which stretches across Leitrim, Sligo, Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan, Roscommon and Fermanagh.

Tamboran Resources chief executive Richard Moorman has insisted that chemicals would not be used in the process.