Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton has been urged to intervene and stop plans by the Port of Cork to work with an American company planning to import fracked liquefied natural gas (LNG) into Ireland.
The call came after Cork County Council backed a Green Party motion seeking that the Port of Cork moves to end plans to develop facilities in the harbour with US company Next Decade to import fracked gas in the form of LNG.
Green Party councillor Alan O’Connor said there were good public health and environmental reasons for the banning of “fracking” in Ireland and importing fracked gas from abroad was contributing to the same problem globally.
He said the council had signed up to both the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy as part of its commitment to tackling climate change.
“In 2017 the Port of Cork signed a memorandum of understanding with a US company to explore the feasibility of constructing storage and terminal facilities for the importation of liquefied natural gas to Cork,” said Mr O’Connor.
"This gas, which would be obtained through 'fracking', would have a huge impact on the health and day-to-day lives of the people living in relative proximity to the fracking – in this case, in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. "
Mr O’Connor said the impact of importing fracked gas through Cork Harbour would extend beyond the immediate community in the Rio Grande Valley and have global consequences.
“Importing fracked gas into Cork Harbour would also have an impact on the climate globally through the addition of powerful greenhouse gases to the atmosphere via things like methane leaks,” he said.
Mr O'Connor pointed out that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, as minister for transport in 2013, had said the government needs to be a more active shareholder in the Port of Cork and needs the transport sector to be more "climate aware".
“Ireland has signed up to agreements surrounding climate change, like the Paris Agreement, which state we need to change certain aspects of our society if we are to avoid the potentially catastrophic events of the climate crisis,” he said.
“If Ireland is to abide by the Paris Agreement in good faith, we must, as rapidly as possible, transfer to low carbon sources of energy such as wind, and solar. What we can’t do is build new fossil-fuel infrastructure.”
The move by the Cork County Council to seek to have Port of Cork end its association with Next Decade follows the passing of a similar motion by Cork City Council earlier this month.
Green Party councillor Oliver Moran had urged Cork City Council to ask Mr Bruton to ask Port of Cork to cease developing any facilities in the harbour to "enable the importation of LNG extracted using hydraulic fracturing".
Mr Moran said locating a storage terminal in Cork would be a test of the Government’s credibility in meeting the challenges of the global climate and biodiversity crisis.
“The Port of Cork is a state company with two shareholders, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Finance. I want those two shareholders to now make clear that they don’t want the Port of Cork associated with it either.”
Contacted by The Irish Times for a response to the motions being passed by both councils, a Port of Cork spokeswoman said the port would not be commenting at this time.
In 2017, Next Decade said it signed a memorandum of understanding with the port “to advance a joint development opportunity . . . for new floating storage and regasification unit and associated LNG-import terminal infrastructure”.
It said: “The development would provide competitively priced energy solutions to Ireland and its regional partners under long-term contracts. If constructed, the project would substantially increase and diversify Ireland’s supply of natural gas.”
Ireland’s gas supply has come under scrutiny following the 2016 Brexit vote in the UK with several commentators referring to the geographical disadvantages the country faces after the UK leaves the EU.
The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies reported in March 2017 that Ireland could be placed in a difficult situation if the UK no longer has to abide by the EU security of supply regulation when it leaves the EU.