There’s gas in them there hills…
We have always known that there was gas underneath the rolling countryside of Leitrim. There were stories of bogs “bubbling” and it was known that the bubbles could be set on fire. The “will of the wisp” was common on those bogs as well. In the ’60s, several exploratory wells were drilled in fields around Dowra, Glangevlin and Blacklion. None of those wells proved to be commercially viable and interest waned.
Then in 2004, there was talk of a new way of getting gas that would require dozens of drills around Lough Allen. This certainly caught the interest of the local people. A public meeting was called in Dowra where residents were promised jobs and money – music to the ears of people mainly living at subsistence level. A well in Glangevlin was drilled, vertically fracked (see later) and flared, much to the astonishment of local people, who saw flames shoot hundreds of feet into the air and took some time to bring under control. However, again, the data showed that the operation proposed was non-viable and nothing became of this proposal.
Tamboran comes to town
In 2010, everything changed. A Canadian company called Tamboran came to town and publicised a project that made people’s eyes water – 150 jobs, billions of Euro revenue and no downside admitted. This project would include 3,000 wells to be drilled in a 30 mile radius that spanned the border between Leitrim and Fermanagh. The forecast was for construction of infrastructure – drilling pads, access roads, pipelines, and the extraction and distribution of XXX litres of gas. All made possible by a new technology called Fracking. A presentation was made to Leitrim and Cavan County Councils whose members were a bit overwhelmed but willing to consider the proposal given the obvious economic benefits to the area. Tamboran executive, Richard Moorman commenced a promotional campaign locally and nationally.
Transatlantic stories about fracking
While Richard Moorman was doing his charm assault on national and local politicians, stories began to filter through from Pennsylvania on the impacts of fracking on the environment and human health. A small group was formed locally who started some research on the subject. What they found was serious enough to cause them to propose a campaign opposing this project. The numbers were small to start with, then the film Gasland was produced in 2011, with vivid images of contaminated drinking water, tap water going on fire, destruction of natural landscapes and disruption of rural communities. The grassroots movement against the project grew.