A DUP councillor has come out in support of the environment minister’s decision to reject Tamboran’s proposal to drill an exploratory borehole for shale gas.
Fermanagh District Council chairman Bert Johnston said Mark H Durkan was right to take a precautionary position after the fracking company applied for permission to drill a 750 metre deep borehole in Belcoo.
His comments are at odds with some DUP colleagues who yesterday accused the environment minister of denying the North the opportunity of investing in “hundreds of jobs”.
The councillor added that he has yet to take a stance on fracking and would await the findings of the Environmental Impact Assessment which will accompany a full planning application, a process which could take up to a year to complete.
He added: “I would be happy to wait on the results of the Environmental Impact Assessment to see what it comes up with.
“I’m not an expert in fracking so I will wait on the impact statement says.
“We don’t want fracking here if it will do harm but if it doesn’t and it will provide jobs and a future for a lot of people in Fermanagh then I will wait and see.
“I think he (Mr Durkan) is right to take the precautionary position but I’m not anti-fracking and I’m not pro-fracking. If it’s dangerous then I will be against anything happening but if it will be beneficial to our industry then I will be for it.”
A spokesperson for Tamboran expressed their “deep concerns” following the announcement.
“The company is currently reviewing its position and will release a further statement in due course,” he added.
Tamboran refused to comment on whether they will consider launching a full planning application or a judicial review of the minister’s decision.
However in an interview with the Fermanagh Herald prior to Monday’s announcement, Dr Tony Bazley, Director of Tamboran, stated that the people of the North have a right to know if there is natural gas in Fermanagh.
“We are operating strictly under the terms of the licence we were granted by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in 2011,” he added.
“This scientific borehole for the collection of rock samples is a key requirement and we are determined to meet our obligations to DETI. We believe if there are commercial reserves of natural gas in County Fermanagh then the people and the Northern Ireland Executive have a right to know.
“I can assure you that we will be operating at all times to the highest possible environmental and health and safety standards and plan to work closely with all government and regulatory bodies. Health, safety and environmental protection are our main priorities.”
SDLP councillor Brendan Gallagher welcomed the minister’s news stating that drilling was the first step to fracking in Fermanagh.
“Local people are fearful about the impact hydraulic fracturing may have on our environment and our health with worries about noise and air pollution, water contamination, irreversible damage to our landscape and the link between fracking and seismic activity as seen in Blackpool,” he explained.
DETI Minister Arlene Foster said she did not want to make a comment as the matter is still with the DOE.
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