Shale Gas Bulletin - Issue No. 107 - July 1, 2017
Ireland has become the fourth European country to ban hydraulic fracturing (after France, Bulgaria and Germany). On June 28, the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill passed the final legislative stages in the Seanad.
The session included the committee, report, and final stages that took place in the Seanad chamber, where the gallery was full of supporters of the ban. It now requires only the signature of President Michael D. Higgins to become law. This is expected in the coming days.
Following the second stage discussion and vote in the Seanad on June 21, the fracking ban bill returned to the Seanad for the committee and final stage debate and vote.
The debate opened with the presentation by Senator Grace O'Sullivan (Green Party) of an amendment to the bill to extend the ban to include the "exploration, extraction, production, or prospective of petroleum onshore or offshore". The proposed amendment was seconded by Senator Alice Mary Higgins (Ind.). Representing Fianna Fail, Senator Terry Leyden said he would vote with the government against the amendment, so as not to delay the passage of the onshore fracking ban, which would not likely be passed before the autumn if the proposed amendment were accepted.
While Senator Rose Conway Walsh (Sinn Féin) said she agreed with "every word" of the proposed amendment, she said she would not support the amendment in view of the urgency of passing the onshore fracking ban. Senator Tim Lombard (Fine Gael) also agreed that while the issue of offshore fracking was a debate that "needs to happen", he would not support the amendment. Senator Higgins spoke in favour of a general shift in Ireland's energy policy away from fossil fuels, and expressed her support for divesting Ireland's public funds from fossil fuels. Senator O'Sullivan was asked to withdraw her motion, but she pressed for a vote, which was held.
The debate in the Seanad touched on a number of other issues related to fossil fuel use in Ireland, including the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Shannon estuary. Senator Higgins noted that Minister Denis Naughten had indicated support for the LNG terminal and noted that this "could lead to a situation in which Ireland is importing and processing fracked liquid natural gas" and that "fracking which is happening anywhere is contributing to climate change." She also said that Ireland should follow France's lead and not allow any new licenses for hydrocarbon exploration.
Minister of State Seán Kyne referred to natural gas as a "transition fuel" and mentioned the possibility of burning natural gas or a renewable biogas at the Moneypoint power station in the future. He also mentioned the possible future use of the Kinsale gas field for carbon storage. A number of senators commented on the need for further discussion of a ban on offshore fracking and the need for Ireland to improve its record on climate change.
The proposed amendment to include an offshore fracking ban in the current bill was defeated. The bill in its entirety (without the proposed amendment) was then put to a vote, and it passed unanimously.
Cited in the Irish Independent, Eddie Mitchell of Love Leitrim commented:
"We by nature are close to the land, and maybe we have become watchdogs like our parents before us. We have a responsibility to the land and each other and the life that the land nurtures.
"We feel privileged we can make a difference in our own small way in dealing with bigger challenges. We all have to be able to come together for the biggest fight the planet now faces, climate change.
"We hope that our successful campaign here will be a catalyst for other communities and show what can be achieved."
Caption: Seanad Éireann, 21 June 2017, Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing Bill 2016