Legislation to ban fracking
By Autumn 2016, Fracking is a national issue
The “Stop the Study” campaign had resulted in putting a halt to the CDM Smith-led study. This paved the way for the introduction of no less than three Private Members Bills proposing to ban fracking, all of which had input from GEAI. One was by Michael Colreavy (Sinn Féin), the second by Richard Boyd Barrett (People Before Profit), and the third by Tony McLoughlin (Fine Gael).
In October 2016, due to new rules set by the new minority government, all private members bills went into a “lottery”. Tony McLoughlin’s Bill was drawn! A frenzy of political campaigning was started by GEAI, Love Leitrim, Friends of the Earth and other organisations. Thursday 27th October saw the culmination of all of this effort – the McLoughlin Bill that sought to prohibit the process of fracking was supported by every party in the Dáil and by every TD who spoke during the debate on 27th.
“After five years of continuous campaigning against fracking, all the organisations involved in our campaign can celebrate a huge milestone. To have such unanimous support for this Bill is an incredible achievement for local communities threatened with fracking. It shows the strength of the united people’s voice backed with the tools of advocacy and social media. We thank everyone involved and especially Tony McLoughlin TD who brought the bill forward and fought against an amendment that would have delayed the debate. We are delighted that one of our Directors, Eddie Mitchell, was involved in the wording of the Bill, together with Kate Ruddock from Friends of the Earth.”
(Aedín McLoughlin, Director GEAI)
The Bill that banned Fracking in Ireland
The Bill that Tony McLoughlin, Fine Gael T.D., put forward was actually an amendment to the Petroleum and Minerals Act. This endeavored to ban any further on-shore exploration or extraction of oil or gas from rock or coal in the Republic of Ireland.
The original Bill went through several committee stages between October 2016 and May 2017, approved at each stage. After the final committee stage, the Bill was brought to the office of the Attorney General, Máire Whelan. On her advice, the original wording was substantially changed. The essential parts of the final wording:
‘hydraulic fracturing’ means the generation of mechanical fractures in rock below the surface by means of the physical process of pumping fluid at high pressure into the rock via a petroleum wellbore for the purpose of enhancing the flow of petroleum between the rock and petroleum wellbore.
Notwithstanding anything in this Act or any other enactment or rule of law it shall not be lawful for a person to search for, get, raise, take, carry away or work petroleum by means of hydraulic fracturing.
Full wording: Prohibition of Fracking Bill 2017
This simple wording won the day! After approval by both houses of the Oireachtas (by the Dáil on May 31st and by the Seanad on June 28th), the President, Michael D Higgins, signed the bill into law on July 6th.
The campaign against fracking in Ireland is highly significant. It is seldom that a small group of people in rural Ireland can influence national policy to the extent that new legislation was enacted. But not only that, our campaign was so successful that the whole Oireachtas – Dáil and Seanad – voted unanimously to support that new legislation; something beyond our wildest dreams!
Of course, GEAI was not on its own; many organisations and individuals supported the campaign, notably Love Leitrim, Friends of the Earth and FrackAction (New York). To all those who helped with the campaign in any way, we can all congratulate ourselves. We have achieved what seemed at first to be impossible; big industry and statutory powers were all against us and our resources were few. However, people power and sustained awareness raising and advocacy won out. Ireland has banned Fracking!
A heart-warming David vs Goliath story with a happy ending!