Understanding “Fracking” and why it should be opposed.

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Agriculture/Animal Welfare, Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Environment, National

by Jacob Richards

Many of us will have noticed the ever-increasing use of the term “fracking” that is coming up for debate in various media locally and nationally. It seems that “fracking” is now a hot topic that inspires controversy wherever it is said. “Fracking” in very simple terms is a process whereby highly pressurised fluid often containing hundreds of chemicals, is pumped until it bores into the layers of rock thousands of feet under the earth’s surface. By doing this the rock becomes fractured releasing pockets of gas which are then pumped back to the surface to be used as a means of fuel. The process has taken off particularly in the United States over the last ten years. This sounds well and good but in reality the process has caused great damage to local environments and also posed health risks to local communities.

The issue lies around the fact that firstly, contamination has taken place due to the various chemicals used in the process leaking into water supplies including drinking water. There is also an issue in that due to the nature of the process various toxic chemicals and emissions are released back into the atmosphere posing a further health risk to surrounding communities. Finally the process can prove detrimental to the geography of an area by creating disturbances in the rock underneath. This can potentially cause land shifts and in some cases earthquakes.

As a result of these harmful effects fracking has been banned outright by some countries such as France. Other countries have pushed the issue down the line without ruling out its introduction to their jurisdiction. Britain on the other hand has pursued a policy of endorsement for fracking with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne even offering tax breaks to companies who take up the activity. In Northern Ireland a number of Licences have been granted for fracking operations around Fermanagh, the Larne Basin, Rathlin Island and Rathlin Basin. Unfortunately, Ireland appears eager to follow in these footsteps. Reports have been commissioned under Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabitte, and have been undertaken by the EPA, which will consider the issue of Fracking.  These reports are due to be publlished by the end of 2014. This suggests that the Irish government is seriously considering fracking as a viable option.

It also means is that now is the time to act and exert public pressure on the issue. Those of us who are opposed to fracking and its harmful effects must act now and over the coming months. For there to be any chance to sway the government against allowing this hazardous activity to take place they must feel the heat and the threat of political fallout on the issue. There are  two ways in which public pressure can be cranked up as outlined by anti-fracking campaigners Jessica Ernst and Eddie Mitchell and relayed to me by Paul Barbara (Thanks Paul!)

 1.  The Department of Energy have set up a steering group to look into the granting of licenses that would allow fracking. There are no representatives from the department of Health or the department of Agriculture on this steering group. We need to demand that there should be because of the grave concerns we have with regards to animal and human health.

2.  People need to write to Minister for State Fergus O Dowd or Minister  Pat Rabbitte and tell them that they do not want him to grant any exploration license to any company that would allow them to carry out hydraulic fracturing (Fracking) in Ireland.

These two options are relatively simple to follow up. All they take is a phone call, an email or letter to the departments concerned of which contact details are listed below. Yet if the public can follow these steps in large numbers we have a chance to derail potential plans for fracking in Ireland, protect our environment, our water supplies and atmosphere. Seems worthy of a phone call to say the least.

You can contact Minister Pat Rabbite at pat.rabbitte@oireachtas.ie and the  Minister of State Fergus O’ Dowd at fergus.odowd@oireachtas.ie