Minister persists with compromised study at taxpayers expense, despite withdrawal of Queens University from the study and the failure of CDM Smith to declare a conflict of interests and out of date terms of reference.
To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the potential conflict of interest by the inclusion of a company (details supplied), which has been involved in fracking projects in the United States as a participant of the Environmental Protection Agency’s two year study into hydraulic fracturing; the action he has taken to address this. – Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 10th November, 2015.
(8 Received on 3rd November, 2015.)
Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Joe McHugh)
The multi-agency trans-boundary programme of research on the potential impacts on the environment and human health from Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction projects is administered by the EPA and co-funded by the EPA, my Department and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, with oversight from a broad based Steering Committee that includes my Department.
As is usual in major and broad ranging projects such as this, the project team involves a wide range of expert institutions and companies. CDM Smith is the lead consultant in the consortium engaged to carry out the programme of research and that consortium includes the British Geological Survey, University College Dublin, Ulster University, AMEC Foster Wheeler and Philip Lee Solicitors, each offering a particular specialism required by the project scope.
The Terms of Reference for this research programme were agreed by a broadly based Steering Group following public consultion which yielded more than 1,300 submissions on the draft Terms of Reference. The EPA and the Steering Committee reviewed the submissions and the draft Terms of Reference were amended and strengthened after this public consultation. I understand that the contract for this programme of research was awarded following a robust evaluation process in compliance with public procurement guidelines, where the tender submitted by the CDM Smith headed consortium was evaluated as being the strongest bid.
I am aware that there has been some comment on the fact that internationally CDM Smith has provided expert advice to oil companies involved in the development of unconventional gas resources. I should point out that CDM Smith has also provided advices to State bodies and regulatory agencies across its area of expertise.
As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, it is common that a broad range of parties will seek to draw on the specialist expertise available from a firm such as CDM Smith. The fact that disparate entities seek to draw on such expertise, is generally seen as an indicator of a company’s recognised experience.