Irresponsible to allow fracking in Ireland, says Oireachtas Committee

Published by Niall Sargent on

11th April 2017

The Oireachtas environmental watchdog has warned that it would be irresponsible to give fracking the go-ahead in Ireland and backed calls for a ban on the practice.

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

Following months of analysis, the Committee’s finding will be released in a report on Wednesday morning.

The report, seen by The Green News, warns that even a “vigorous regulatory regime” may not be able to prevent contamination issues if a fracking industry developed in Ireland.

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 moratorium on fracking licensing has been in place in the Republic of Ireland since 2013.

While accepting potential economic gains from fracking, the report states that uncertainty about the long-term greenhouse gas emissions of the industry is “adequate in itself” to justify a ban.

The Committee also took into account a recent Environmental Protection Agency study which outlines the industry’s potential impact on both the environment and human health.

“It is in the interest of the public, as evidenced by the submissions received by it, and in the interest of the State, especially given Ireland’s international commitments in an environmental sense, that legislation in the area be enacted,” the report adds.

The report outlines the Committee’s general support of the Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016 introduced by Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin.

The Bill has received widespread support from all political parties and is due back before the Committee in May.

Mr McLoughlin said that he was glad to receive the backing of the Committee which brings the country “one step closer” to an outright ban on fracking.

“I have no doubt that when enacted, my Bill will ensure that the people of this country are not subjected to the potentially harmful effects that are associated with hydraulic fracturing,” he added. “This legislation will ensure that no onshore exploration or extraction can ever occur.”

While backing a ban, the committee recommended that the legislation should be revised to include penalties for breaches of the Bill and for enforcement powers to be granted to a specified body.

Fracking is currently banned in two European countries – France and Bulgaria. Earlier this month, Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, 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