Bill to ban fracking passes committee stage in the Dáil

Published by Niall Sargent on

May 10th, 2017

A historic Bill to ban onshore fracking in Ireland passed committee stage in the Dail yesterday following amendments from the Government.

The private members Bill brought by Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin is the first of its kind to pass committee stage in the current Dáil.

The amendments to the  Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016 provide clearer definitions of the activities to be banned and outline offences and penalties for potential breaches of the Bill. The Bill now changes to an Amendment Bill which the Government will lead going forward.

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

Last month, the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment warned that it would be irresponsible to give fracking the go-ahead in Ireland. The committee’s report found that fracking opens up the potential for chemical spills, leaks and groundwater contamination.

Speaking yesterday, Mr McLoughlin said that he was delighted the Bill has progressed so quickly following two years of hard work. “This is a major win for Irish politics and for the communities on the ground who I have worked with and listened to for over six years,” he said, reserving special praise for Love Leitrim, Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI), and Friends of the Earth Ireland.

“My anticipation from here is that now that the Government have accepted this Bill and have formed their own amendments in order to improve it, that it will now move to the report and final stage rather quickly and that this Bill could be progressed substantially by the summer recess,” he added.

Aedín McLoughlin, Director of GEAI, welcomed the decision and reiterated Mr McLoughlin’s call for the Bill to move forward swiftly. “It’s now time to crack on and pass the straightforward Bill currently before the Dáil,” she said.

“The long-term impacts of fracking are largely unknown and current regulations are inadequate to ensure good practice in the development of this industry. This makes it very clear that the risks associated with fracking are just too significant to ever let the practice take place here.”

If the Bill is passed, Ireland could become the third European country to ban fracking after France and Bulgaria.

Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, recently signed a fracking ban into law, becoming the first US state with known gas reserves to ban the practice.

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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