A licensing ban on fracking is justified, the environment minister said yesterday as a report by the Environmental Protection Agency warned of risk of contamination, including water, and potential gas leaks.
The EPA asserted a number of issues about fracking had to be resolved before it could approve the use of the controversial measure in Ireland.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process of drilling down into rock before shattering the shale rock below with a high-pressure water mixture to extract gases. The EPA has published the findings of a research programme which examined the potential impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction, or fracking, on water, seismicity and air quality.
“The programme concluded that many of the activities associated with Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction projects/operations could proceed on the island of Ireland while protecting the environment and human health,” the research programme report’s authors wrote.
“However, there are three main impacts where the data and/or experience do not permit a reliable assessment of their consequences,” the report warned. “These would require clarification before environmental protection and human health can be ensured.”
They include the effects fracking would have on the quality of groundwater should there be a compromise in the integrity of the wells. Further concerns are that fracking activities could cause cracks in the underground, water-bearing, layers of rock which would lead to contamination while a third major impact could be the unknown level of emissions caused by gas leaks.
“Prior to any authorisation for hydraulic fracturing, these issues should be resolved,” the report’s authors said.
Environment Minister Denis Naughten welcomed the report’s findings saying it justified the continuing prohibition on the licensing of hydraulic fracturing.
He said he had raised concerns about long-term well integrity; potential release of toxic chemicals from the ground and the potential implications of the technology for people in rural communities.
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