A Short Summary of Current Knowledge and Potential Environmental Impacts
Summary: EPA-STRIVE Small Scale Study Report by David Healy, University of Aberdeen.
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The extraction of shale gas on a commercial scale is an activity that is licensable by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Ireland. While such activity is not likely to occur in the near future, it is likely that permits for exploration in the Lough Allen basin may be sought from the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources (DoCENR) in the next 2 years, which may seek to perform extraction on a small scale as part of the exploration. Such permit applications may seek approval to use hydraulic fracturing techniques, known as ‘fracking’.
This method of gas extraction has never previously been used on a commercial basis in Ireland. It is envisaged that the EPA will be a statutory consultee with respect to any Environmental Impact Assessment required for shale gas projects at the exploration stage, and will therefore be required to gain expert knowledge on the environmental impacts in order to fulfil this role. Such knowledge would also be required to assess any licence applications for commercial gas extraction in the future. This preliminary report aims to constrain this knowledge base by documenting what is currently known and understood about fracking and the potential environmental impacts, and will help to form the basis for a larger and more detailed research study.
1) For the purposes of clarity, the following text was added to the report in July 2012...
This report was peer-reviewed before release by internal (EPA) reviewers and by an academic expert based in Ireland. The EPA managed the peer-review process.
2) This EPA-commissioned report contains a number of references to a 2012 study report, “Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development”, published by the University of Texas. Subsequent to the publication of both reports, an independent review of aspects of the University of Texas fracking study was commissioned by the University on foot of revelations concerning non-disclosure of interests by the Principal Investigator for the study, Dr. Charles Groat. The review concerned the process of preparing the study report and the dissemination of its content, and was not concerned with the merits, risks or impacts of hydraulic fracturing per se.
The review panel has now published the results of their examination of the University of Texas fracking report , and concluded that there were significant failings in governance aspects of the fracking study. The University of Texas has now withdrawn its report until it is peer-reviewed. The EPA has examined the independent review report, and will have due regard to its findings with respect to planned EPA-funded research in this domain. The Agency will also have regard to the outcome of the peer-review of the University of Texas fracking report when it is released.