Fracking poses too high a risk of pollution warns EPA
A ban on fracking should remain in place to protect the environment, after a major report found it presented risks to water quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that, although fracking was possible, there was a widespread risk and further study was required before it was allowed.
Climate Change and Energy Minister Denis Naughten said the report's findings justified the continued ban on fracking in Ireland, which has been in place since 2013. The Dáil has recently agreed to a permanent ban in principle.
"I believe the report's findings justify the continuing prohibition on the licensing of hydraulic fracturing," he said.
"I am on record as having raised concerns with regard to the use of hydraulic fracturing. I am pleased that these matters of concern have been addressed in the report."
Fracking involves drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure mixture of water and chemicals is used to shatter shale rock to release natural gas.
Deposits of shale gas are believed to be available in Leitrim, Clare and Fermanagh, but no exploration has been allowed until the research programme from the EPA was complete.
The Joint Research Programme on Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE) looked at the impact of fracking on water, seismicity and air quality, as well as a review of operational practices around the world.
The work was commissioned and funded by the governments in the North and the Republic.
The EPA noted that the work was being carried out in the context that Ireland had committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and eliminating use of oil and gas over time.
It found there was a lack of data or international experience which "did not permit" a "reliable" assessment of consequences. These included concern about groundwater aquifers being polluted if wells failed, with cracking in rocks potentially allowing pollutants and gas to flow into water.
There was also a concern about gas escaping, even after wells were capped. These issues needed to be resolved prior to any fracking being allowed.
But the Green Party said the EPA had "entirely missed the point" and failed to take into account the need to tackle climate change and called for a "wider debate" on the use of fossil fuels.