Fracking ban gains ground after Fianna Fáil opposes delay to legislation

Attempts to get the Government to ban fracking look set to pass their first hurdle, it has emerged.

Legislation put forward by Fine Gael backbench TD Tony McLoughlin was due to be put on hold for at least eight months to allow for an independent report on the controversial gas extraction to be completed.

But the proposal may progress more quickly after Fianna Fáil refused to support the delay.

Mr McLoughlin's legislation had been accepted by Government this week but it attempted to add a clause to stop it from further parliamentary scrutiny until after June 30 next year, potentially delaying an outright ban until 2018.

The TD for Sligo Leitrim, one of the three regions identified for potential shale gas exploration, sought to ban energy companies from using high-pressure water and other additives to extract raw fuels from rocks, sands and coal seams.

The legislation will be brought before the Dáil later today.

It is understood the Government cancelled proposals to stall the legislation until next June after Fianna Fáil warned it would not vote in favour of any delay.

Oisin Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth Ireland, had expressed concern that the Government was trying to slow the reform.

"I hope that reports Fine Gael will now drop their motion to delay the bill to ban fracking are true," he said.

"On the day the Dáil voted to ratify the Paris Agreement Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fine Gael risk being on the wrong side of history.

"All party agreement tonight to progress the bill without delay would be a sign that Ireland is finally getting serious about climate action."

If the legislation progresses it will be the first step in enforcing a nationwide ban on fracking and it will give the Government 12 weeks before it goes before further parliamentary scrutiny.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, involves drilling into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is forced into rock to release gas.

Three exploratory licences were granted in Ireland but no extraction has taken place.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commissioned a report on the impact of the controversial gas extraction on the environment and human health. It is due in the coming months.

Eamon Scanlon, Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim, said the Government was trying to push the legislation back for at least a year.

"It said it wanted to wait for the EPA to report. There are many people I've spoken to in relation to fracking who have no confidence in the EPA report," he said.

"We were supporting the Bill as it was. There was no question about that.

"And I would like to see a ban in the next year."


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