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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 26 Oct 2011

Vol. 211 No. 2

Access to Central Treasury Funds (Commission for Energy Regulation) Bill 2011: Committee and Remaining Stages

Section 1 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

I thank the Minister for his commitment to the Shannon LNG project, for which County Kerry is waiting. It has been in the pipeline for a number of years. This is the language being used by the company in opposition to the levy. I wish the Minister well in seeking a speedy resolution of the problems caused by the imposition of the levy — the language used in the Bill — on future development. I refer specifically to the Shannon LNG development project in that regard. I wish the Minister all the best in his negotiations and hope we will see the beginning of the development sooner rather than later. I would like it to start in the very near future.

I reassure the Senator that the measure being introduced in the Bill will have no implications for the Shannon LNG project. As it is an upstream development, it will not be encompassed by this legislation. I accept, however, that there is concern in County Kerry about the project. I share that concern and the Government is determined to provide whatever assistance it can.

The last paragraph on page 3 refers to the natural gas safety regulatory framework. Will the framework include fracking? I have heard concerns expressed in this House about the evils of fracking. Is it hideous or beneficial? If there are concerns about this aspect of the gas industry, perhaps they might be allayed by including fracking in the natural gas safety regulatory framework. This would assist the House greatly in its deliberations on and consideration of whether fracking is good or bad for the country.

The Senator is right. There is much concern in both Houses of the Oireachtas about the issue of hydraulic fracturing. This concern is shared in some parts of the country more than others. I would like to clarify that no process of fracking or hydraulic fracturing is under way. Licences were awarded last February to permit some surveying work and desktop studying of the possibilities to be undertaken, but that is as far as it has got. A couple of companies have indicated their wish to apply for drilling licences if that is the outcome of the work being surveyed. In that event, a rigorous process will surround the hoops through which they will have to jump in order to receive such licences. In the interim, I have asked the Environmental Protection Agency to compile a report on the issues to which the Senator referred. It will be an independent assessment of this phenomenon which is not well known in this country. We do not know a great deal about it. Even where there is some knowledge of it, I am not sure it is based on fact. I am conscious of an American film being hawked around the place which is giving rise to concern. It has supposedly been shown to 500 or 600 people in town halls and other places. The reasons for concern have to be examined and I hope the EPA study will be helpful in allaying fears.

Question put and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.
Sitting suspended at 2.50 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.