6th April 2017
A national ban on fracking moved a step closer this month as an Oireachtas Joint Committee unanimously agreed to support a Private Member’s Bill on the matter.
The Bill from Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin was referred to the Joint Committee on Climate Action and Environment for pre-legislative scrutiny after the Dáil passed the first stage of the Bill last October.
Mr McLoughlin’s proposed legislation has received widespread support from all political parties. The Bill is expected to be brought to Committee stage later this month.
A moratorium on fracking licensing has been in place in the Republic of Ireland since 2013.
Fracking is used to extract onshore natural gas from areas rich in shale rock. It involves the pumping of a high-pressure mix of water, chemicals and sand into the rock to create openings so that gas can seep out into deep wells.
However, a recent Environmental Protection Agency study indicates that fracking has the potential to damage both the environment and human health.
The report states that potential issues include groundwater pollution from gas and other pollutants escaping through the cracked rock.
The Oil and gas company Tamboran had expressed interest in fracking in a cross-border area between south Fermanagh and north Leitrim.
The Australian company was forced to halt any investigatory work at a former quarry in Belcoo, Co Fermanagh in 2014 following heavy protests at the site.
The company was also not granted an extension to its licence for test drilling. It is believed to have permanently abandoned the Belcoo site earlier this year.
Mr McLoughlin said that his Bill would ensure that every corner of the country will be free from the “potentially harmful effects” associated with the fracking industry.
“Be it in Co Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, or Clare, this legislation will ensure that no onshore exploration or extraction can ever occur,” he said.
Sligo county councillors also unanimously voted last week to include a fracking ban in the county’s new development plan.