Environment Minister Mark Durkan says Prime Minister is encouraging “reckless and irresponsible” behaviour
By Sophie Yeo
Cameron’s attitude to fracking is reckless and irresponsible, the Environment Minister for Northern Ireland says.
Responding to Prime Minister’s support for the controversial technology, Mark Durkan reassured the public that agreeing to start fracking would be irresponsible until all the facts have been established, and that no decision would be taken until then.
He said, “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.”
He also insisted that his promises were not simply because of the fact that, at present, there are no planning applications for fracking in Norther Ireland.
He said, “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 Britain and Ireland.
“If and when any application comes in, it will be for me to decide, not David Cameron.”
He told RTCC, “Fracking has generated much concern within Northern Ireland, and around the world, over its potential impact upon the environment, particularly in relation to water quality, air emission issues, seismic impacts, matters of public and personal health and environmental impact to name but a few.
“On a personal level, I am acutely aware of the concern and anxiety these proposals are creating. I will continue to adopt an open door policy in terms of meeting public representatives, community groups, concerned individuals and others who can contribute to this issue.”
But he faces opposition. Sammy Wilson, MP for East Antrim, also released a statement responding to Cameron’s in which he specifically expresses concern about Durkan’s approach to fracking.
He said that he was concerned that Durkan shared the “same short-sighted, green-tinted views of his predecessor, Alex Attwood, on the issue, and said that the opposition to fracking was the product of “the views of an anti-development, anti-growth group of green romantics who think that we can generate our energy by ruining the countryside with 300ft wind turbines.”
He said, “As the national debate about fracking heats up, and after the Prime Minister has weighed in indicating that all areas of England should be open for the exploitation of shale gas, it is important that Northern Ireland does not lose out on the opportunities which will exist as the Government gives tax incentives for the exploration of this natural resource.”
Responding to Durkan’s comments, Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland Campaigner Declan Allison said, “Mr Durkan’s measured comments are in stark contrast to the ‘drill baby drill’ attitude of the Prime Minister.
“The questions the Minister asks about safety and energy policy are the right ones, but sadly David Cameron’s mind seems to be closed.”
Red: Labour Party
Yellow: Liberal Democrats
Green: Green Party
Purple: Oil & Gas license