Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Questions (380)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

380. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding fracking (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4859/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Three onshore licensing options were granted in the term of the previous Government for the two year period from 1 March 2011 to 28 February 2013, over parts of the North West Carboniferous (Lough Allen) Basin and parts of County Clare. The licensing options conferred upon the holder the first right, exercisable at any time during the period of the option, to an application for an exploration licence or licences over all or part of the area covered by the option.

Two of the three companies, Tamboran Resources and Enegi have submitted applications for a follow-on exploration licence. My Department has carried out a preliminary examination of these applications, however further consideration has been put on hold pending the outcome of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies in relation to the use of hydraulic fracturing, the results of which cannot be expected before early 2015.

I have made it clear that should the EPA studies conclude that this technology can be used in a manner that protects the environment, that any application for an exploration licence that proposed the use of hydraulic fracturing as part of an unconventional gas exploration programme would be subject to a full environmental impact assessment. An environmental impact assessment entails consideration of the potential impacts of a project on population, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, including the architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the inter-relationship between the above factors. Under the EIA Directive, it is not possible to permit a project unless it can be determined following assessment that it would not have an unacceptable environmental or social impact.