Hydraulic Fracturing (Continued)

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 882 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White] The programme is managed by the EPA and co-funded by the EPA, my Department and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, with oversight from a broad-based steering committee that includes my Department.

As is normal in major and broad-ranging projects such as this, the project team involves a wide range of expert institutions and companies. CDM Smith is the lead consultant in the consortium engaged to carry out the programme of research, and the consortium includes the British Geological Survey, University College Dublin, Ulster University, Queens University Belfast, Amec Foster Wheeler and Philip Lee solicitors, each offering a particular specialism required by the project scope. The contract for the programme of research was awarded following a robust evaluation process in compliance with public procurement guidelines, where the tender submitted by the CDM Smith headed consortium was evaluated as being the strongest bid.

I am aware that there has been some recent focus on the fact that CDM Smith has provided expert advice to oil companies involved in the development of unconventional gas resources. CDM Smith has also provided advice to State bodies and regulatory agencies across its area of expertise. As the Deputy will appreciate, it is common that a broad range of parties will seek to draw on the specialist expertise available from a firm such as CDM Smith. The fact that disparate entities seek to draw on such expertise is generally seen as an indicator of a company's recognised experience.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Although I do not doubt CDM Smith's experience in the area and I understand why people would garner some information from it my point remains the same. The company is involved seriously at the coalface of fracking and would almost promote it. Recently, New York State changed its fracking moratorium into a full ban based on its department of health's review of the latest evidence. CDM Smith's response to this effort by state legislators to protect their drinking water, clean air, the global climate and the public health of their communities was one of condemnation. These people have a vested interest in telling us fracking is good for us. The Minister does not need to have fracking researched. There is enough research to prove to most ordinary people that fracking is bad for our health. A couple of months ago, a Minister said to me here that we were burying our heads in the sand if we ignored the energy potential from fracking. It might not be a bad idea if we did, given that our health would be much better.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White I do not know who said that. It was not me.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace It was someone from the Minister's party who had the job before him.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White While I understand what the Deputy is saying, I respectfully disagree with him when he says there is no need to have the matter researched. We should have it researched here and have expert scientific evidence available to us in this jurisdiction. That is why the EPA has commissioned the study. The science is critical and there is a consortium of parties involved - I read out the list - including reputable, scientific institutions and universities. There is also legal advice and advice across the board so the Parliament and Government can have the best scientific evidence available to us. Evidence is evidence, not opinion. Evidence is about the science, and I would like to see the science as, I am sure, would the Deputy.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Some science experts are climate change deniers and are well-known and are perceived to be very knowledgeable. People can form opinions and very often, sadly, some people have a vested interest in the opinion they form, even if it is based on so-called expert research. Natural gas is a fossil fuel which produces heat-trap carbon dioxide when combusted as well as generating other global warming emissions. At every stage of the fracking process there are methane leaks, and methane is more than 30 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. I am even more worried about the water table.

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