In response to the Prime Minister David Cameron’s call to get Britain fracking, Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan MLA, has argued that no decision should be taken in Northern Ireland, until all facts and scientific evidence are established.
Despite the prospect of significantly lower heating costs for consumers in a region which has the highest level of fuel poverty in the UK, the Londonderry MLA claims that fracking in Northern Ireland could not take commence without his say prior approval.
Minister Durkan said, “At present there is no planning application for fracking in Northern Ireland. If and when any application comes in, it will be for me to decide, not David Cameron. I am not going to make any decision until all the facts and scientific evidence are established. To do otherwise would be reckless and irresponsible.
“Do we need to extract shale gas? Can it be done safely? Would it be done responsibly? These are the responsible questions. All facts are not in. The scientific evidence is far from being established. No fracking for Fermanagh, no fracking for Northern Ireland, as things stand.
“I am not though sitting on my hands here, simply waiting for a planning application to come in. I have asked my officials to get us to a position of best knowledge possible here. This means reviewing existing research, analysing new studies, studying case studies from other parts of the world and liaising with counterparts in other Environment Agencies in Great Britain and (the Republic of) Ireland. Remember also, there is a big cross border issue here – shale gas beneath the surface will not follow the meanderings of a border above ground.
“So decisions based on fact, a process ensuring best possible knowledge is acquired, is my strategic way forward”.