Irish Times
21 Feb 2012

FIANNA FÁIL energy spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív has called on Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte to initiate a far more extensive review of fracking than that already commissioned.

Mr Ó Cuív said he also believes there should be a moratorium on any State licensing related to the activity, pending publication of such a review.

The study of the technique’s impacts, which Mr Rabbitte commissioned late last year from the Environmental Protection Agency, has been contracted to the University of Aberdeen. That study is due shortly, but opponents of the practice in the northwest say the university’s close links with the oil and gas industry compromise its independence.

“Fracking” involves injecting large volumes of water, chemicals and sand into rock formations to break them open and extract previously inaccessible fossil fuel deposits, such as shale gas.

It has not yet been licensed here, but onshore petroleum licensing options allowing for “shallow geological sampling” have been awarded by the energy department to three companies for the Lough Allen and Clare basins, an 8,000sq km area covering 12 counties.

Mr Ó Cuív said that a “policy examination of fracking in terms of its impact on society, community, the environment” and the “long-term effect that an extractive industry might have on other industries in an area” needs to be carried out.

Jessica Ernst, a biologist and environmental consultant to the oil and gas industry, yesterday warned that there is no safe way to conduct fracking.

Ms Ernst, who has launched a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the exploration firm Encana for contamination of her property and drinking water from its fracking programme in Alberta, Canada, is in the country to speak at a number of events organised by the umbrella group Good Energies Alliance Ireland.

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin yesterday, she said, “communities need to look at what they stand to lose rather than at what companies are promising”.