Law proposed that would see liquefied natural gas terminals banned

Bill put forward by Green Party TD ‘builds on the Government’s work to ban fracking’

The construction of infrastructure for liquefied natural gas (LNG) would be banned in Ireland under a proposed law being put forward by Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan.

The Programme for Government says the Coalition does not believe it makes sense to develop LNG import terminals importing fracked gas as Ireland moves towards carbon neutrality.

However, the Government has also said that while it does not support plans for an LNG terminal in north Kerry, the project will not be blocked either.

Ms Hourigan’s Bill, which is backed by activist group Not Here Not Anywhere (NHNA) among others, aims to ban such projects.

The Dublin Central TD said: "The Bill builds on the Government's work to ban fracking within the wider context of the phasing out of fossil fuel extraction.

“It is an important step to prevent Ireland being locked into fossil energy which would damage our ability to fulfil our climate action commitments.”

Campaigners have criticised the use of environmentally damaging fracked gas for LNG and have claimed that terminals are dangerous and cause pollution.

The NHNA group which is behind the “Keep Ireland LNG Free” campaign says the Bill would stop the granting of planning permission for LNG, terminals in Ireland.

NHNA highlighted recent Dáil comments by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on the Shannon LNG application, which is currently being considered by An Bord Pleanála.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil last month there was a planning application in from a private company, New Fortress Energy, to build an LNG terminal in north Kerry.

He said: “The Government is not supporting that project because we believe the future is in renewable energy and hydrogen, but we are not going to block it either.

“There is a planning process and if the company gets planning permission and can finance its project then it will be able to proceed.”

NHNA activist Brian Cuthbert said the Government has said it is powerless to stop LNG terminals, and added: "The future is in renewable energy. If we're serious about our climate commitments we need to say no to LNG. We need to pass this Bill."

Ms Hourigan conceded that her Bill would not prevent the Shannon LNG project going ahead if permission is granted.

She said planning law does not operate retrospectively, An Bord Pleanála is due to make its decision on Shannon LNG on March 7th, and “with the best will in the world the Bill wouldn’t be passed by then”.

She said Private Members’ Bills (PMBs), which she expects to introduce in the Dáil within weeks, rarely get adopted in full but she was optimistic of making progress with the proposed legislation.

She said: “There’s a huge interest in the Green Party around ensuring that the island . . . becomes LNG free and stays LNG free,” and PMBs are “very much about opening a debate and putting it up to the Government to see if they are open to the discussion”.

Ms Hourigan said: “I do think given that the Programme for Government states that we are against LNG, that we don’t see it in our future, given that the Minister in the area [Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan] is fully briefed on this and is open to the discussion, I am hopeful that we’ll be able to make headway on the Bill.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times