No fracking for ten years - says EU Commissioner for Energy

EU Commissioner for Energy Gúnther Oettinger has informed Drumshanbo Senator Paschal Mooney that no decisions should be taken on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for ten years.

EU Commissioner for Energy Gúnther Oettinger has informed Drumshanbo Senator Paschal Mooney that no decisions should be taken on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for ten years.

The Commissioners opinion was in response to a serious of questions from Senator Mooney at a meeting of Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport Energy and Communications which the Commissioner attended during his visit to Ireland last week.

In a series of questions submitted by Senator Mooney to the Commissioner about the EU Commissions Policy on fracking Commissioner Gúnther Oettinger replied that he believed no decisions should be taken until the environmental impact of fracking was established and that could take between five and ten years. He further informed Senator Mooney that he was already in discussions with scientists and those with technical expertise and has opened a dialogue with the Polish Government where fracking has already commenced. The Commissioner revealed that the extraction of shale gas could be chemical free in a number of years which is a major point of controversy and he intended visiting the United States next Spring to see at first-hand how shale gas is extracted.

“I welcome this recognition by EU Energy Commissioner of the sensitivities involved over this controversial process” stated Senator Mooney. “The Commissioner is obviously aware of the adverse environmental impact of current practices associated with the extraction of shale gas. The Commissioner is proceeding cautiously before coming to any conclusions. I am delighted that the person charged with Energy Policy in the European Union is consulting widely with the scientific technical and political community as part of an on-going process and I am now confident that the Energy Commissioner will not rush into a decisions that would harm the environment as a result of the fracking process” concluded the Leitrim Senator.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MEP and Environment Committee member, Martina Anderson last week voted in the European Parliament against the exploration and extraction of shale gas.

Speaking from Brussels she welcomed the outcome of the vote. “Among the encouraging proposals voted by the Environment Committee are; mandatory environmental impact assessments for fracking projects, the exclusion of EU funding for the shale gas industry and the obligation for fracking companies to declare which chemicals are used in the fracking process.”

“Given the associated risks with the process used to extract shale gas known as hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’, it is baffling that a more robust system of regulation is not already in place. Local communities’ concerns regarding the environment and public health must outweigh any commercial and monetary incentives for large gas companies.”

“The very real and dangerous risks of water contamination and noise pollution from fracking have the potential to seriously damage both agriculture and tourism - two very important sectors of Ireland’s economy. Even before exploration of the gas begins an Environmental Impact Assessment should be an absolute necessity. There is too much at stake to continue with these risks.”

“Indeed, at a time when we are quickly heading towards a point-of-no-return with climate change and the environment, it seems that we’re missing the bigger picture. With an agreed upon need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is essential that we move away from the business-as-usual use of fossil fuels and towards renewable energies and a greener, safer and more sustainable economy.”