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// Clare fracking protest group to step up campaign
OPPONENTS OF fracking are to leaflet-drop 6,500 homes in west Clare in coming days as a Uk-based company steps up investigation work on 495sq miles locally to establish its potential for a commercially viable deposit of shale natural gas.
The recently formed Clare Fracking Concerned group is distributing the literature in advance of a proposed vote on fracking by members of Clare County Council at its January 9th meeting.
Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is a controversial technique to extract natural gas from shale. A delegation from the group is to make a short presentation to councillors before the vote.
The move comes in response to Canadian-owned, UK based, Enegi Oil securing a licence from the Department of Energy for an onshore licensing option in the Clare Basin.
The basin stretches from Loop Head in west Clare, north along the coastline to the Cliffs of Moher and east to mid-clare. It is within the same fault system trend as Enegi's prospect/ leads and discovery in Newfoundland, Canada.
According to company executive chairman and chief executive Alan Minty, the area contains Clare shale, an organically rich source rock that may contain shale gas.
Work is scheduled to be completed on phase two of the firm's study of the area's potential before the end of this month.
Mr Minty said: "Whilst this is still a very early stage, we believe that the Clare Basin area has great potential and are looking forward to seeing the results from our work programme, which we hope will confirm this."
In a Dáil response to a question on the issue, the Minister, Pat Rabbitte, said exploration drilling is specifically excluded under the licence awarded.
He said the licence will be used to assess the natural gas potential, largely based on desktop studies of existing data on previous petroleum exploration activity.
Mr Rabbitte said: "In the event hydraulic fracturing was proposed as part of a possible future exploration or production programme, then that activity would be subject to an environmental impact assessment, including an appropriate public consultation phase."
A spokeswoman for the antifracking group said yesterday: "Too many times in the past we have seen public consultation at such a late stage cause long-lasting divisions in rural communities and we do not want to see that happen in the strong, resilient communities of west Clare and further inland. It is vital that farmers and landowners are fully informed before they make any decisions to allow a company access or lease their land.
She added: "We also found inspiration from people in Leitrim, Sligo, Roscommon, Donegal, Cavan and Fermanagh who have come together in their towns and villages throughout these counties, waking people up to the threat of fracking to their areas."
She said the group would hold information meetings across west Clare "to make farmers and residents aware of what exactly fracking is and why they should be deeply concerned about it".
Acknowledging that a vote by councillors to ban fracking in Clare would not result in a ban, she said: "At least we know that the public representatives of the county are actually representing the public's opinion on this issue."
30 Dec 2011
The Irish Times