Updated: 26/10/16 : 05:15:44
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McLoughlin's anti-fracking Bill set to succeed

A Bill proposing a ban on fracking oil and gas in the State looks as if it will be voted through in the Dáil on Thursday.

The proposed legislation has been brought by Fine Gael Deputy for Sligo-Leitrim Tony McLoughlin. It proposes the prohibition of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) to obtain shale oil and gas.

This method relies on high-pressure water to fracture rocks which contain deposits of the ore.

According to The Irish Times, no extraction has taken place using this method in the State. The EPA is concluding a study into the issues for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Energy. Its findings are due later this year.

Deputy McLoughlin’s constituency forms part of the region around the Border that has been identified as having the most potential for fracking. Local and national groups are campaigning against the controversial extraction method.

The Prohibiting of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016 is likely to be backed by the Government and all other groups and parties when it is tabled tomorrow, Thursday.

To coincide with the Bill, the Sustainable Water Network (Swan) published research into the impact of the method. The report concluded there were numerous impacts on water bodies including increases in salinity, methane and heavy metals. Leaks from the machinery used also has the potential to contaminate water, it found.

One of its authors, Dr Kieran Craven, said that over the past decade there were many documented impacts to water bodies. “Degradation of the water environment has occurred in regions of the US, where regulation has typically lagged behind industry.”

“not fit for purpose”

Another author, barrister John Kenny, said: “The concern is that once viability [of a find] has been established and drilling occurred, the perception would be the companies would have their foot in the door.”

Mr Kenny said the evidence is that the regulatory regime in place at present is “not fit for purpose” for shale gas. He said it was “true irrespective of what view you take”.

Sinéad O’Brien of Swan said it had commissioned the research because it was concerned about the potential issues that fracking might pose for Ireland’s waters.

“We were really taken back at the risk this academic study found. And this risk arises throughout the entire life cycle of a shale gas well,” she said.

Kate Ruddock of Friends of the Earth listed other countries and US states which had banned fracking including France, Bulgaria, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand and parts of Austria, as well as New York state.

“Governments have decided that fracking is not acceptable and the risks it poses to people’s health is unacceptable,” she said.