Earlier this year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced the draft terms of reference for the more extensive second stage of its research into the use of hydraulic fracturing, the final results of which are expected in early 2015. The key questions to be addressed by this research are,
-To establish if shale gas exploration and extraction involving the use of the fracking technique can be carried out in a manner that will not cause significant environmental pollution.
-To identify all possible environmental risks associated with the fracking technique and to ascertain if these risks are manageable; and,
-To identify best practice with respect to environmental protection for the use of the hydraulic fracturing technique for the exploration and extraction of shale gas.
The proposed terms of reference were the subject of a Public Consultation and I understand that in excess of 1,300 submissions were received. These are currently being assessed by the Steering Group established by the EPA to oversee the appointment of the appropriate experts to carry out in-depth scientific research into the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracking. It is expected that a call for tender will issue in this regard shortly.