A clear message was given to an Oireachtas Committee on last Wednesday, October 10th, that the Government must make a clear commitment that further licences will not be issued for on-shore shale gas exploration or development in Ireland and Government must adopt as policy that high-volume hydraulic fracturing will be prohibited in Ireland.

This message was given by Dr Aedín McLoughlin, Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI), at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications, attended by representatives from the Petroleum Division of the Department of Energy and the EPA. Local representatives included Eddie Mitchell and Liam Breslin, GEAI.

“People still do not realise the scale of what is proposed,” Dr McLoughlin said in her submission. “The risks of contamination of ground water are high and any rumour of contamination could have a catastrophic effect on agriculture and Ireland’s reputation abroad. The nine most common chemicals found in fracking fluids ALL have serious effects on human and animal health. This does not include what comes up from below – salts, heavy metals, petroleum products, radioactive substances. We still do not know the long-term effects as the kind of fracking proposed is only in large-scale operation for seven years. The health effects are only now being studied.”

Dr McLoughlin concluded her submission by stating that current technologies and practices are not safe or desirable. “Fracking must not be allowed to go ahead in Ireland,” she declared.

Michael Hanrahan, senior geologist with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources petroleum division, told the committee that the quality of information given out by Tamboran regarding volumes of gas reserves could be questioned. “The seismic data is very old and its quality is questionable,” he said, and would need more evaluation.

Ms Laura Burke, EPA Director General, said that no fracking would be allowed in Ireland until after the new EPA study was completed and considered. This would not happen before 2014 at the earliest and would include public consultation. She also emphasised that the EPA does not a function in overseeing the exploration phase of shale gas extraction.

The Joint Committee agreed to write to the EPA to request that GEAI would be included in the current process to decide the Terms of Reference for the new EPA research report.