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Ban on fracking should not be lifted, says Oireachtas report

Areas in Clare, Leitrim and Fermanagh have been identified as suitable for fracking

Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton chair of committee on communications, climate action and the environment. Photograph: Dave Meehan

The ban on hydraulic fracturing of gas and oil should not be lifted due to the risks associated with the practice, a parliamentary report has concluded.

The Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment published its report into whether the technique, commonly known as fracking, should be allowed in Ireland.

Fracking involves water being pumped at high pressure into rocks to split them and release gas and oil deposits. A large fracking industry has grown up in North America in recent years but has been condemned by environmentalists for the harm it causes to land, waterways, the climate and human health.

In recent years, the Clare Basin in the midwest and the areas around the border between counties Leitrim and Fermanagh have been identified as suitable for fracking.

The joint committee, chaired by Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton, has been scrutinising the issue for several months, following an earlier study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency. In its report, it raises concerns about surface chemical spills and leaks, of groundwater being contaminated, accidental spills and the consequent risks to human health, and of damaging the environment. Because some other possible risks have not been quantified or scrutinised, the committee has also stated it would be irresponsible to proceed with any project.

Ms Naughton said: “The committee accepts while there may be economic advantages and enhanced energy security for Ireland in allowing unconventional oil and gas exploration, the committee is of the view that these benefits are outweighed by the risks to the environment and human health from an as yet relatively untried technology.

“The committee also feels that further investment in exploitation of fossil fuels would in all likelihood reduce investment in sustainable sources of energy, mindful of Ireland’s commitments in relation to climate-change mitigation.”

Environmental campaign groups Friends of the Earth and Love Leitrim welcomed the findings.

Kate Ruddock, deputy director at Friends of the Earth, said: “We welcome the committee’s recognition that fracking could have a harmful effect on the environment and humans and that any investment in fossil fuels would reduce investment in sustainable sources of energy.”

She pointed out that of the 8,000 submissions received by the committee in relation to this Bill, only one was in favour of fracking.