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Written Answers - Prospecting Licences

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 296.  Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath  asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  when exploration licences for hydraulic fracturing were granted; to whom they were granted; the locations for which they were granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6222/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd): Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I can inform the Deputy that my Department has not received applications for, nor licensed the use of hydraulic fracturing in the Irish onshore at this time. In February of last year my Department granted onshore Licensing Options to Tamboran Resources Ltd over parts of Cavan, Leitrim and Sligo, the Lough Allen Natural Gas Company Ltd over parts of Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo and to Enegi Oil Plc over parts of County Clare. The licensing options are for a two-year period from 1st March 2011. Exploration drilling, including drilling that involves hydraulic fracking is not permitted under these licensing options.

Before the companies concerned could apply for an exploration licence and proceed to an exploration drilling phase, they must first complete the licensing option work programme agreed with my Department. These work programmes are primarily based on desktop studies of existing data and should be completed by February 2013. When they have completed their work programmes each company will then have to decide if it wishes to move to the next stage and apply for an exploration licence.

Any application for an exploration licence that proposed using hydraulic fracturing would be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). That assessment would include a Public Consultation Phase, of four weeks or more, which would be advertised on my Department’s website and in the local press. This would provide an opportunity for the public to input into the decision making process. My Department would also seek and be guided by the expert advice of other relevant statutory authorities such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Local Authorities. The outcome of the EIA would help determine whether or not an Exploration Licence would be granted.

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