Bill to ban fracking expected to pass through the Dáil today

Published by Niall Sargent on

May 24th, 2017

A Bill to ban fracking is strongly expected to pass through the Dail this evening in a major win for campaigners across the country, according to Friends of the Earth Ireland.

The Bill – first brought by Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin – is expected pass the final stage of the Dail this evening, with support from across the political spectrum.

If passed as expected, the Bill will move on to the Seanad for scrutiny before becoming law.

It passed committee stage in the Dail earlier this month following amendments from the Government.

The amendments to the Bill provide clearer definitions of the activities to be banned and outline offences and penalties for potential breaches of the Bill.

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.

Large shale and other tight sandstone deposits are found across counties Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal and Clare.

A recent Environmental Protection Agency study states that fracking has the potential to damage both the environment and human health.

The Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment also found that fracking opens up the potential for chemical spills, leaks and groundwater contamination.

The Bill has also received widespread public support. A public consultation launched earlier this year received around 8,000 submissions, with only one letter opposing a ban.

The passing of the Bill will be a “testament to the strong public and grassroots opposition to fracking in Ireland”, according to Kate Ruddock, Deputy Director of Friends of the Earth Ireland.

“When this Bill becomes law Ireland will join a number of progressive countries and states that have already banned fracking, including New York, Bulgaria, France, and Victoria, Australia,” she added.

Options licences for to explore for oil and gas in the Lough Allen Basin and the Clare Basin with a view to using hydraulic fracturing were granted to three petroleum companies in 2011.

While the licenses did not permit fracking, they allowed for desktop studies of the licensing area, shallow drilling up to 200 meters and seismic studies to be carried out.

Licences for the Lough Allen Basin covered the counties of Roscommon, Sligo, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh and Leitrim.

The licenses expired in 2013, the same year a moratorium on the licensing of fracking came into effect.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London