The Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016 will now move on to the President for signing after passing through the Seanad this afternoon.
The Bill brought by Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin has received widespread support from across the political spectrum and was the first private members Bill to pass through the current Dáil.
The Environmental Pillar – a coalition of 26 Irish environmental NGOs – says today’s decision will help safeguard our water quality, natural environment and the health and well-being of communities across Ireland.
The Pillar is delighted that the Bill can now be added to the burgeoning global move against fracking, and highlight to the world Ireland’s acknowledgment of the significant risks and negative impacts associated with unconventional fossil fuel extraction.
The Bill has also received widespread public support, with a public consultation launched earlier this year received around 8,000 submissions. Only one public letter opposed a ban.
Many Pillar members, namely Good Energies Alliance Ireland and Friends of the Earth Ireland, campaigned relentlessly with grassroots movements across the country to get the prospect of a ban put on the political agenda.
The historic move now puts Ireland in the top tier of the global movement to ban fracking, becoming only the third European country to ban the practice after France and Bulgaria, and is an important marker of our commitment to tackling climate change and moving to a sustainable low carbon economy.
Authorities in New York state and Victoria, Australia have also banned the practice, while in March 2017 Maryland became the first US state with known gas reserves to ban fracking. (1)
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 (2) states that fracking has the potential to damage both the environment and human health. An April 2017 report (3) from the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment also found that it would be irresponsible to give fracking the go-ahead in Ireland.
Kate Ruddock, Environmental Pillar spokesperson and Deputy Director of FoE Ireland, said:
“This ban is a great victory for the local campaigners who have mobilized and educated themselves, their communities and their elected representatives on the threat fracking poses to local water, regional employment and global climate.
“All around the world communities are campaigning to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to put citizens at the heart of a new, clean, healthy energy system. This victory is a tribute to their solidarity and is a shot in the arm for our common cause of a fossil free future.
“Ireland has a reputation as a climate laggard and too often our lack of climate action is a cause of embarrassment internationally, but today we can be proud of our parliament for putting Ireland in the vanguard of the movement to ban fracking.”
“We salute all those TDs who have worked to progress and improve this Bill, in particular Tony McLoughlin who has sponsored this Bill for the last year. The passage of the Bill shows that ‘new politics’ can produce progressive results when deputies from all parties and none work with each other and those who elect them to tackle the challenges we face.”
Aedín McLoughlin, Environmental Pillar spokesperson and GEAI Director, said:
“We are delighted with the decision which makes it very clear that the risks associated with the deeply damaging practice of fracking are just too significant to ever let it take place here.
“The long road is travelled and we have come successfully to its end. For six years we have looked forward to this day, when the Irish government would ban fracking and protect our rural environment and communities from this industry that poisons drinking water and air.
“We congratulate everyone involved – our fellow campaigners who never gave up the struggle to make this issue a national one; our local and national representatives who spoke out against fracking in Councils throughout Ireland as well as the Dáil; and our TDs and Senators who unanimously supported the Bill.
“Ireland may now hold its head high as it joins the ranks of countries that have banned fracking.”
(1) Washington Post, 10 March 2017, Maryland House overwhelmingly approves fracking ban, https://goo.gl/oAywBP
(2) EPA, 2016, Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE) Integrated Synthesis Report, https://goo.gl/JpmdcG
(3) Houses of the Oireachtas Climate Action and Environment Report of the Joint Committee on the Detailed Scrutiny of the Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016, 12 April 2017, https://goo.gl/sGHuZp