While the EPA is managing the study into the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing under the STRIVE programme, the research programme is being co-funded by the EPA, my own Department and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. While the call for tenders for the appointment of the appropriate expertise to carry out the research programme has been completed, the appraisal of the tenders received is still underway and appropriate experts have yet to be appointed. It is, therefore, difficult to be definitive at this juncture with regard to final costs.
It should be noted that the scope of this study is considerable with its key objectives being to ascertain if Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction projects and operations can be carried out on the island of Ireland while also protecting the environment and human health and what is best environmental practice in relation to Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction projects and operations. In order to conclude on these matters, the appointed experts will consider baseline characterisation with respect to groundwater, air and seismicity, together with potential environmental impacts and mitigations of hydraulic fracturing, along with a consideration of best international regulatory practice. It is expected that the total cost of the research programme will be in the order of €1m.