Anti-fracking campaigner challenges research contract

A LOCAL anti-fracking campaigner has lodged a complaint against a Department for the Economy (DfE) contract which would research the potential effects of oil and gas production, including fracking, claiming the study does not look at the concerns of public health.

Diane Little, of LAMP, said the requirements for awarding the contract did not take into account the potential effects that fracking would have on the health of the public.

The DfE website states several general aims of the research. These include to inform understanding, based on a current knowledge of the resources that might exist in Northern Ireland, of the potential economic, social and environmental benefits and disbenefits of onshore oil and gas development for conventional and unconventional gas development, in both the exploration phase and commercial extraction stages.


The research also has several further aims which, broadly speaking, include to inform identification of the key economic, social and environmental variables that may be impacted by conventional and unconventional gas development.


It has been speculated that the Department’s Director of Corporate Governance, Colin Woods, has asked for the awarding of the contract to be delayed as he investigates the complaints from Ms. Little.

When contacted by this newspaper to confirm whether the awarding of the contract had been paused, a DfE spokesperson said: “In 2019, the Department for the Economy began a wide-ranging review of petroleum licensing policy.

“An initial high-level review identified that, although a large amount of research is already available into the impacts of petroleum production, especially unconventional oil and gas production – including high-volume hydraulic fracturing – the information is not directly applicable to the unique position in Northern Ireland.

“The Department is therefore seeking to commission independent research into the economic, societal and environmental impacts of onshore petroleum exploration and production to ensure that there is sufficient knowledge of these issues, and the interaction between them, to inform the formulation of evidence-based future petroleum licensing policy options.”

When asked to further clarify whether the process had been stalled, the Department would not provide any more information.