Deputy Denis Naughten has voiced concern about the potential impact on the environment if 'fracking' is allowed in Ireland.
A decision on whether or not Ireland will allow the controversial method of natural gas extraction known as 'fracking' won't be taken until 2014 at the earliest.
That was the message from Minister of State for Natural Resources, Fergus O'Dowd, when he was questioned about the issue in the Dáil last Thursday.
The possibility of hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') being introduced in the Lough Allen basin has led to concern being voiced by some local politicians who fear the environmental impacts it could cause.
Speaking in the Dáil last year, local TD Denis Naughten warned that 'fracking' would cause "mini earthquakes that could have an impact on ground water."
And, at an Athlone Town Council meeting, Cllr Aengus O'Rourke was accused of "scaremongering" when he expressed concern that 'fracking' could impact on water quality in the Athlone area. Roscommon County Council also wrote to the Government to seek an outright ban on this gas extraction method.
Last Thursday, in response to a Dáil question, Minister of State O'Dowd said further research on 'fracking' was being carried out and it "could take in excess of 12 months, leading to a potential publication date in 2014."
He confirmed that "the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling will not be authorised" until this research was considered.
The Minister acknowledged that there were "national and international concerns" about the fracking process.
"Key issues such as well integrity, the pollution of groundwater, the consequences of leaks and blowouts, fracking fluid leaking into aquifers, the disposal of methane, local geology knowledge, the carbon footprint and so forth must be considered," he said.
"No decision will be made on commercial fracking until all of these issues are understood and the various studies completed. The earliest we expect the information to be on our desk is 2014. Nothing will happen until this information is available."
Last year, licences were awarded to three companies to explore for commercial gas in the Lough Allen basin (which incorporates areas in the North West including Roscommon) but any gas extraction which might follow on from the exploration process is not imminent.