Gas fracking would 'split community'

 

THE CONTROVERSIAL method of gas exploration known as fracking is set to divide communities across the northwest if it gets the go-ahead and will effectively end a rural way of life, according to campaigners.

About 500 people who attended a public meeting organised by the Lough Allen Conservation Association were told the Shannon water system could be at risk of pollution if the Government grants exploration licences in the Lough Allen basin, stretching across Leitrim, Sligo, Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan, Roscommon and Fermanagh.

Two firms, Tamboran Resources and Lough Allen Natural Gas Company (Langco), have been granted options licences permitting them to carry out preliminary testing in the Lough Allen basin, but anti-fracking groups have said instead of granting full exploration licences the Government should impose an outright ban on this method of extraction.

Tamboran executives are due to address members of Leitrim County Council next Monday, and the company will host a public information meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon next week. Opponents of fracking are to stage a protest to coincide with the council meeting.

Dr Aedin McLoughlin, a resident of Ballinaglera, Co Leitrim, told Thursday night’s meeting that as someone with a science background,

her concerns were about the consequences for water, land and the community if this method of shale gas extraction is used.

She described as “misinformation” an assertion by Tamboran that it would not use chemicals to extract the gas, saying she believed this part of the process would be subcontracted to other companies. “I think they are being very clever saying ‘we’ will not be using chemicals, because they do the exploratory stage – but they are not saying that the company who will produce the gas won’t use chemicals,” she said.

Yesterday, however, Tamboran chief executive for Ireland Richard Moorman rejected this claim. “Neither we nor anyone associated with our operations will use chemicals in hydraulic fracturing. We are not using toxic or non-toxic chemicals in our well and our sub-contractors will not be using chemicals in Ireland or Northern Ireland,” Mr Moorman said, from the company’s offices in Canada.

Dr McLoughlin, the “rural enabler” for Co Leitrim under the EU-funded Peace III programme, which supports reconciliation projects in the Border area, said the region, known for its natural beauty, would effectively become an “industrialised zone” comprising a series of shale gas pads every 2km to 4km. Each pad would have a flattened concrete foundation of 2.5 acres, with eight wells, access roads for trucks, 60 ft drilling towers and water pits the size of soccer pitches, she said.

She also warned communities would be “horribly divided”, just as Rossport had been divided by the Shell controversy.

Leitrim County Councillor Gerry Dolan said he believed tourism and farming industries could be “wiped out” if gas exploration companies get the go-ahead.

Mayor of Roscommon Cllr Eugene Murphy (FF) noted fracking was banned in a number of countries and called for “an absolute and total ban” here.

Independent TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan, who is opposed to fracking, warned of its impact on the tourism industry, which in Roscommon and south Leitrim had potential to grow by €90 million.

Leitrim Councillor Martin Kenny (SF) said tax incentives had helped bring a building boom, but the lesson from that was “a fast quick buck just does not work”.

He believed gas firms had met quarry owners and local trucking firms regarding potential for business. “They might think that in Leitrim we are poor, and maybe we are – but we are not cheap and we will not be bought off,” he said.