How has Donegal prevented fracking while Leitrim is advised that a ban is not feasible? READ ON…
The Leitrim County Development Plan 2015 – 2021 is at draft stage and does not in its present version impose a ban on fracking. At present, its policy on mineral and extrative industries (Policy 69) is “”It is the policy of the Council to promote the mineral, gas and oil extractive industries where such development does not adversely impact on the environment, existing infrastructure and the amenity value of neighbouring lands.”
It is the view of GEAI members that this policy statement is not strong enough and does not give the message that proposals for fracking in Leitrim will not be allowed to go ahead.
It has a section (188.8.131.52) that emphasises the “significant public concern in respect to the social, economic and environmental impacts that may be associated with hydrocarbon exploration and extraction by means of fracking.” The piece goes on to talk about adopting the precautionary principle in respect of development where significant environmental implications are involved… It also points out the wish of the Council to “Safeguard and nurture the ‘unspoilt/green’ image and reputation of Leitrim…”
Is this enough? We do not think so – the issue of Fracking is far too serious to be addressed by generalised comments on “image and reputation”, no matter how well-meaning. In New Brunswick, there were many discussions that focussed on precautionary principles, but these have not stopped fracking from commencing (Chief Medical Officer’s Report).
The Councillors have had advice both from the County Manager and outside legal advisor that Councils cannot put into their Development Plan policies that go against Government policies. The absence of a national policy on Fracking is considered to be an indication that it cannot be banned unilaterally. However, Donegal County Council have managed to get around that problem. They have inserted the following policy statement into their Development Plan:
“It is a policy of Donegal County Council that the process of Hydraulic Fracturing (or fracking) will not be permitted within the County of Donegal. Therefore, this Council will not allow the intrusive shale gas extraction practices.”
What this does is specify the process of hydraulic fracturing in Donegal ONLY. This is very clever. By focussing on the process in its own territory, it is not contravening Government policy, while (of course) completely preventing the shale gas industry from operating in Donegal, since they cannot do that without hydraulic fracturing!
LEITRIM COUNTY COUNCIL SHOULD FOLLOW DONEGAL’S EXAMPLE.