EPA report on fracking says further research is required
The report, which was published on Wednesday and was undertaken by a consortium of independent organisations, including the British Geological Survey, University College Dublin and Ulster University, found that many of the activities associated with unconventional gas exploration and extraction could go ahead in Ireland. However, it also concluded that there are three main effects where the data and/or experience do not permit a reliable assessment of their consequences and these would require clarification before environmental protection and human health can be ensured.
These three main impacts are the pollution of groundwater aquifers by (1) well drilling and (2) fracturing of shale rocks, and (3) stray gas leakage from oil and gas wells.
The report states that “prior to any authorisation for fracking in Ireland, these issues should be resolved”.
End of the road for fracking
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme on Thursday morning, Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Denis Naughten, said that despite the report’s call for further research, as far as the state is concerned, the question on fracking is closed.
“We’ve completed the scoping document – that research has now been completed and it is not my intention to carry out further research in this area,” he said.
Fracking is not going to happen while I am minister and I don’t think it’s the intention of any future government to go down that road
“If funding does become available to carry out further research, it should be carried out in relation to aquifers and in particularly in relation to aquifers that are public water supplies or where there are problems with flooding.
“Fracking is not going to happen while I am minister and I don’t think it’s the intention of any future government to go down that road,” he continued.
The minister added that his focus at the moment is on energy efficiency.
“That means removing oil and gas from our energy network over the next period of time – that should be our focus rather than going down the fracking road,” he said.
Friends of the Earth said it welcomed the minister’s comments that the research “justifies the continued prohibition of fracking in Ireland”.
Kate Ruddock, deputy director of Friends of the Earth, said: “The Paris Agreement (COP21) commits governments to keeping global warming well under 2°C, and aiming for 1.5°C. In energy, and in Ireland, this means taking steps to ensure our future energy comes from clean, renewable resources. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with extracting and burning fracked oil and gas are as polluting as with coal. Government policy is for a carbon-free future. There is no place for fracking in a carbon-free future.”
Fracking provides no upside for farmers but potentially a lot of downside in terms of our clean, green food image
Although it did not comment on the EPA research, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has previously expressed its opposition to fracking through welcoming the passing of the anti-fracking bill through the Dáil in late October.
Commenting on the bill, ICSA president Patrick Kent said that fracking offers no tangible benefits to landowners or rural communities: “Fracking provides no upside for farmers but potentially a lot of downside in terms of our clean, green food image,” he said. “Instead, we need the Government to strongly favour renewable energy sources which can bring multiple benefits to farmers, the environment and to rural communities while also helping the economy and climate change objectives.”