I propose to take Questions Nos. 391 and 392 together.
I understand that on 4th February, 2012, German politician and scientific advisor Helmut Fehr presented a talk at a public meeting in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, on how fracking might affect rural areas.
I understand that amongst other views, he expressed his belief that the Environmental Protection Agency should have the last word on whether fracking goes ahead and that its German counterpart is due to release a comprehensive report in November of this year. He is also understood to have indicated that there should be no further fracking until certain questions are answered and gaps in knowledge and legislation are addressed.
As the Deputy may be aware, as I have made it clear on a number of occasions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has commenced a process to issue a public call inviting interested parties to tender for the offer of funding from both the EPA Strive Programme and my Department to conduct detailed research on the use of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction in Ireland, in particular with regard to the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology. The study follows on from the preliminary research into the environmental aspects of shale gas extraction, conducted by the University of Aberdeen, which was published by the EPA in May 2012.
The proposed terms of reference for this study, which includes consideration of the regulatory approaches of other countries that have extensive experience with this activity, have been developed and are currently the subject of a Public Consultation Process, which was launched on 11 January 2013. Interested parties have been invited to submit written comments by 8 March 2013. Further details are available from the EPA website (www.epa.ie). The final results of this study are expected in early 2015.
As I have confirmed to the House on a number of previous occasions, no decision will be made on any proposal for the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling in Ireland until there has been time to consider the outcome of this further EPA research.