Ban on fracking gets Ministerial support – major victory for people and the planet

Published by Ian Carey on

December 1st, 2016

The ban on fracking will continue in Ireland the Minister for the Environment confirmed this week.

Minister Denis Naughten confirmed his support for the prohibition on the back of the EPA sponsored report into the controversial practice.

The findings “justify the continuing prohibition on the licensing of hydraulic fracturing”, said Mr Naughten.

This comes a major victory for the campaign groups who have worked hard to highlight the health and climate impact of fracking.

Environmental groups welcomed the statement by the Minister saying that it was the “right thing to do to protect the health and well-being of communities around Ireland”.

The Environmental Pillar, which is a coalition of 28 Irish environmental NGOs, said the decision is an important marker of Ireland’s commitment to stopping climate change and moving to a sustainable low carbon economy.

The report which was published yesterday claimed that some of the impacts of fracking could be dealt with.

It also highlighted three areas where they saw risks:

  1. Fracking wells could pollute ground water due to well failure or deterioration over time. They claim this could be mitigated against by better design but to do this they need better understanding of aquifers.
  2. The crack created in fracking could contaminate ground water. Again they claim that better understanding of aquifers is needed.
  3. Gas leaks can occur from wells that have been closed and this could be a public health risk.

Environmentalists welcomed the Minister’s support for continued prohibition of fracking.

Aedín McLoughlin spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar said:

“Fracking is a deeply damaging practice. It damages the climate, the environment, and ultimately communities.

“It has serious potential impacts on water and air quality; its long-term impacts are largely unknown and current regulations are inadequate to ensure good practice in the development of this industry.

“The decision not to pursue fracking in Ireland is needed to protect communities from the damaging impacts of fracking such as the contamination of water and the health impact of gas emissions.  It also is needed to meet our climate change commitments.

“We welcome the publication of the report from the Joint Research Programme on the Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction.

“The report makes three very important points: 1. Fracking wells can fail and contaminate the water table 2. The cracks generated during fracking can contaminate ground water and we don’t know enough about the location of underground aquifers to prevent this. 3. Even wells that have stopped production can (and do) leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

“This makes it very clear that the risks to the environment and public health from this practice are significant.

“In addition to the direct environmental and health impacts the use of fracking would also contribute to climate change.

“We believe renewable energy, energy savings and a significant reduction of CO2 emissions provide the only viable path to an environmentally sustainable and healthy future.

“Exploiting unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas, shale oil and coal bed methane will increase total greenhouse gas emissions since further development of these fuels will increase the world’s dependency on fossil fuels and consequently slow down the large-scale deployment of clean energy renewables and energy savings.”

The report will be referred to the Joint Oireachta Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment for consideration by the Minister.

“I hope this will assist at the committee stage debate of the proposed hydraulic fracturing legislation to be progressed by the Oireachtas next year,” Minister Naughten said.

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Ian Carey

Ian is the editor of the Green News. He works as Communications Manger with the Irish Environmental Network.