Leitrim County Councillors decide policies on fracking.
Members of GEAI (in particular Aedín and Eddie) have been really busy this month. The first (pre) draft version of Leitrim County Development Plan, which was not at public consultation stage, was given by the officials to our Councillors and, needless to say, copies managed to find their way into the hands of some campaigners. We were dismayed – a whole section on “Hydrocarbon Exploration and Extraction” and the wording amounted to a pathway to fracking. No ban on fracking, emphasis on hydraulic fracturing rather than the whole life cycle of unconventional gas development and no mention of Health Impact Assessment (HIA).
What to do? Obviously, all campaigners against fracking would like to see a ban on the whole process. Many kept calling for this and said that nothing less would suffice. However, the Council officials, backed up by legal advice and the results of a court case in Mayo where a ban on mining was disallowed, insisted that the Plan could not include a straightforward ban.
So – members of GEAI and others went about the situation in a different way.
Campaigners insisting on a ban were asked to research the issue and come up with a way to include a complete ban in the Plan.
An alternative view was that if a ban could be included, that would be great. However, if a ban could NOT be included or could be overturned in the future by a Minister, policies had to be put in place that would, as much as possible, safeguard communities and the environment from any adverse impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration or Extraction (UGEE).
This major task was taken on – the background to the Development Plan was researched and a paper was produced that summarised the background to the situation in Ireland at the moment regarding shale gas and made sure everything relevant was included in the introductory section; various people and organisations were consulted and policies were then worded that, in the view of those involved, went as far as possible to prevent any UGEE projects taking place.
Information sessions and discussions were held with Councillors to make sure that they understood and agreed with what was being proposed.
The main policies proposed in the paper can be summarised as follows:
- Precautionary principle on all proposals for UGEE projects/operations (this includes preparatory work and deep drilling) where risks are not “determined with sufficient certainty”.
- Comprehensive HIA on national policy and on local UGEE proposals.
- No UGEE projects/operations unless “it is scientifically and credibly demonstrated that those projects can be undertaken sustainably whilst also fully protecting the environment and human health”.
Constant contact was kept with Councillors from all parties throughout the process. The paper was also scrutinised by Council Officials. Our understanding is that all the policies suggested may not be accepted (for various reasons) but significantly, a Health Impact Assessment may now be included. The final draft will be debated by Leitrim County Council on 16th January and will then go forward for public consultation.
The Public will have until end March 2014 to make submissions on the draft Plan.
Full text of submitted paper CLICK HERE