ANTI-FRACKING BILL WELCOME, BUT NOT ENOUGH


An amendment of the Petroleum and Minerals Act 1960 has been brought to the floor of the Dáil byand publicised as a ban on fracking.  The approach is to redefine Petroleum as “does not include any gas extracted through unconventional gas exploration and extraction methods “.  If this bill was passed, any petroleum licences for exploration or extraction of natural gas by fracking would not be permitted.

Leslie O'Hora - Green Party candidate

Leslie O’Hora – Green Party candidate

“I welcome any initiative to look for legislation to ban fracking.  However, I have a problem with this amendment, first published in 2013,” said Leslie O’Hora, Green Party candidate for Sligo/Leitrim and member of GEAI.  “The wording does not include oil, which is a major omission, given the current drilling in north Belfast, expressly looking for oil deposits.  Legislation based on this bill could allow fracking to extract oil”.

“In my view, and the view of other anti-fracking campaigners, any legislation banning fracking must be mirrored north and south.  We are one island and the oil and gas industries know no border.  In Northern Ireland, proposals to use unconventional methods (“fracking”) to extract oil are currently being explored.”

“I also have a problem with the terms “unconventional”.  There is no standard definition of this and the industry changes definitions all the time.  This term would need to be defined carefully if it was to be used in legislation.  In fact, the Green Party position is that ALL exploration and extraction of on-shore petroleum (including oil and gas) should be prohibited in the context of Climate Change and our obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

DRILLING IN WOODBURN FOREST

They have started to drill!

Infrastrata announced on Tuesday that they have started to drill the well in Woodburn Forest, north of Belfast.  The site is 400 metres from water reservoirs serving Belfast homes.  The well will go down more than 6,000 feet and will explore for oil and gas. The drilling will continue for six weeks. This is a sad day for all the campaigners who have worked so hard to keep drilling out of Northern Ireland.

Woodburn Forest drill

The finger now must be pointed at those politicians who are doing nothing to stop this drill. It is totally disgraceful that such a huge operation could commence without an Environmental Impact Statement or, indeed, proper planning permission. Why was the loophole of “permitted development” not plugged long ago? Shame on you all!

In particular, the silence from Sinn Féin is deafening.  Having canvassed saying that getting a ban on fracking is their Number 1 priority, there is no statement from them, no action from them, no presence of them.  If this is the kind of (in)action we can expect from our politicians, God help the people of Northern Ireland!  Once fracking starts, nothing will stop it.

154 GE16 CANDIDATES SIGN THE PLEDGE AGAINST FRACKING

…and counting

The “Sign the Pledge” campaign, coordinated by Fracking Free Network, is a big success.  154 candidates in this year’s General Election have so far personally signed the pledge against fracking!  From all parties and from all constituencies, candidates have committed to support legislation that will ban fracking in Ireland. There is no doubt that the issue of fracking is now a national rather than a local issue.  Candidates from Cork and Kerry, from Donegal and Dublin, from Galway and Wexford have indicated that they will work to ensure that fracking will never be introduced to Ireland.

However, the response of the major parties has been disappointing.  Two out of the three Fine Gael candidates from Sligo-Leitrim, Tony McLoughlin and John Perry, signed the pledge.  (Gerry Reynolds, the 3rd FG candidate, didn’t sign.) However, no other FG candidates nationally have signed.  Only 14 Fianna Fáil candidates have signed the pledge despite supporting a ban on fracking in their Energy Paper last year.  And only 16 candidates from Sinn Féin have signed so far despite their public opposition to fracking.

“It was the smaller parties and independents who gave us this amazing result”, said Jamie Murphy, from Fracking Free Network.  “The Green Party and Anti Austerity/People Before Profit parties gave wholehearted support to the pledge, as did many Independents.  It is very worrying that the major parties, who are likely to form the next government, still will not commit to supporting legislation to ban fracking.”

The “Sign the Pledge” campaign continues until Thursday evening (votefrackfree.org).  Even at this stage, candidates are being contacted and urged to sign the pledge.  “It’s very clear that our work is not over”, Jamie concluded. “The campaign against fracking must continue, after the election it will focus on getting legislation to ban fracking passed by our future government.”

Members of European Parliament wants more rules for shale gas

In the European Union, each country is free to exploit shale gas. However, the member states must have “robust regulatory regimes”. It is the aim of the resolution approved* by The Energy Committee and the Environment Committee yesterday, at the European Parliament.All aspects of shale gas and shale oil are concerned. For the ‘licensing rules to be adequate, “a thorough analysis” of EU regulation on unconventional fossil fuels is needed, the Members of Parliament considered.
In a press release it is stated that “special plans for water use should accompany any fracking activities and as much water as possible should be recycled”, is included in the Environment Committee resolution. Also, “companies must disclose which chemicals are used to comply with EU legislation”. Martina Anderson welcomed the outcome of the vote. She is Sinn Féin MEP and member of the Environment Committee in Northern Ireland: “Given the associated risks with the process used to extract shale gas known as hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’, it is baffling that a more robust system of regulation is not already in place. Local communities’ concerns regarding the environment and public health must outweigh any commercial and monetary incentives for large gas companies.”
* and not adopted, like it is written in the text. The resolution will be adopted by plenary in October.

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