We can't drink moneyRecently, the EPA carried out a public consultation and invited submissions on the proposed Terms of Reference (ToR) for a research study on the Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Extraction (fracking).  Over 1,300 submissions were received, the majority of these calling for a study on the impacts of fracking on public health.
Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI) has now learned that this initiative has been successful.  A spokesperson for the EPA explained that the purpose of the consultation was to ensure that the terms of reference for their research reflected the concerns of civil society.  “They are going through the submissions at present and issues of major concern such as health will be included in the new ToR,” he said.
He said they would not be able to take on board every issue that that had been put forward in different submissions but those which had been raised by a large number of submissions such as health “would definitely be in the new ToR”.  There will be no further consultation with the public and tenders will be sought for the study in June through the e-tenders process.
“This is an important result that shows that advocacy can work in this country,” said Aedín McLoughlin, Director of GEAI.  “From the beginning of this process, GEAI urged individuals and organisations to engage in the consultation process and show the strength of their views.  The fact that over 1,300 submissions were received, the majority calling for a study on health impacts, showed the level of concern about the proposal to introduce fracking into Ireland.  We are delighted that, according to the EPA, they are paying attention to what the people said and are implementing our demands, to some extent at least.
However, we still have concerns over the lack of engagement by the EPA and the study’s North-South Steering Committee with the communities in the target areas.  We will not get an opportunity for further discussion on the Terms of Reference or the development of the research study.  We consider that the community should be represented during the entire process from beginning to end, in accordance with the spirit of the Aarhus Convention.  We now call on Minister Pat Rabbitte to ensure that the democratic process applies to this very important issue and that a Forum is set up whereby there can be regular opportunities for discussion between the politicians, statutory agencies and the communities involved.”