FEARS about the potential effects of fracking on the county were expressed at a recent meeting of Ennis councillors where it was proposed that the town council support Clare County Council’s ban of the controversial process.
Councillor Brian Meaney urged that Ennis Town Council “support Clare County Council’s and other councils’ prohibition of hydraulic fracking for the extraction of shale gas, otherwise known as unconventional hydrocarbons, and if passed, that this motion be circulated to all other town councils in Clare and beyond.”
Ger Dollard, town manager responded, “In 2012 the EPA published a preliminary desk study report Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking); A Short Summary of Current Knowledge and Potential Environmental Impacts. 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 on fracking and the EPA has just completed public consultation on the draft terms of reference document.”
The steering committee comprises the EPA; Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Department of Communications, Energy and 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.
He went on, “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, with a final report being published at the conclusion of the programme. Public statements issued by Government representatives have indicated that fracking will not be permitted while this research is ongoing. Given the above, the serious nature of the issue and the need for it to be dealt with comprehensively from a legal and technical point of view, the matter will be kept under review and can be revisited following the completion of the EPA commissioned research on the subject. The county solicitor has issued legal advice to Clare County Council on the matter.”
Councillor Meaney told the meeting that councillors were entitled to pass a motion supporting Clare County Council. He outlined, “Fracking involves a high pressure injection into the ground and it has led to huge problems in the US. Loophead has recently been named one of the best places to visit in Ireland and that is the very area that is proposed for extraction.”
The motion was seconded by Councillor Johnny Flynn. Clare County Council voted to ban fracking in its development plan last January. However senior planner Gordon Daly stated that an examination of case law has shown such a ban would be legally questionable.