Public Consultation on proposed Terms of Reference for a Programme of Research on Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration & Extraction

Date released: Jan 11 2013

Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction is an emerging issue in Ireland, in particular with regard to the use of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) technology.  Recognising the need for detailed scientific information, the EPA initially commissioned preliminary desk research which was published in May 2012.  This information has been used, along with other sources such as European Commission reports, to assist in a scoping exercise for a more extensive and comprehensive study of the process.  A steering committee has developed proposed Terms of Reference for an extensive and comprehensive programme of research and the EPA has now launched a public consultation on the draft Terms of Reference document on behalf of the Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee comprises the EPA; Department of Environment, Community & Local Government; Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources; the Geological Survey of Ireland; Commission for Energy Regulation; An Bord Pleanála; Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland.

Interested parties are invited to submit written comments by 8th March 2013.  The public consultation will ensure that this programme of research delivers a thorough and robust examination of the issues.  It is proposed to award funding for research in three areas:

  • Baseline Characterisation;
  • Fracking Operations, Impacts & Mitigation Measures;
  • Regulatory Framework for Environmental Protection.

Outputs from this research will assist regulators (North and South) in fulfilling their statutory roles regarding this activity.

Public Consultation Process
A dedicated e-mail address, UGEEconsultation@epa.ie, has been set up to receive all submissions on the Terms of Reference document.  Interested parties and individuals are invited to submit comments to the EPA using this e-mail address only.  Submissions cannot be considered if:

  • They are submitted after the deadline of 8th March 2013;
  • They do not relate to the contents of the document;
  • They contain personal accusations, irrelevant or offensive statements/material.

A sub-group of the Steering Committee will assess all valid submissions and take them into account when finalising Terms of Reference for the research programme. All valid submissions will be made available upon request (individuals who wish to remain anonymous should note this point).
 
The EPA expects to commission the programme of research in mid-2013 and intends publishing a number of interim reports while the programme is underway.  It is likely that the research programme will take two years to complete. A final report will then be published.  The research programme will be co-funded by the EPA, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. 

The document, Proposed Terms of Reference for EPA/DCENR/NIEA Research Programme on Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration & Extraction, is available on the EPA website.

The preliminary desk study report, Hydraulic Fracturing (‘Fracking’): A Short Summary of Current Knowledge and Potential Environmental Impacts, is also available on the EPA website.  It provides a general introduction to the environmental aspects of fracking, including a review of regulatory approaches used in other countries, and areas for further investigation and research. 
 
ENDS

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie