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For Immediate Release
Press Release November 12th 2020: 


Legal opinion adds momentum for world's first fracked gas import ban in new Irish Climate Act

-  The Irish Government coalition, now officially opposed to fracked gas imports, is expected to move quickly to legislate for fracked gas import ban following window of opportunity presented two days after High Court rejects Shannon LNG/New Fortress Energy Fracked Gas Import Terminal

The End Game for the Irish Government decision on a legislative ban on  fracked gas imports is now fast approaching following the publishing of legal opinion supporting a ban in the new Climate Bill currently being assessed.

Climate Minister Eamon Ryan's Green Party holds the balance of power in the coalition, which came to power on the clear understanding agreed in the Programme for Government that the 3 coalition parties  "do not support the importation of fracked gas". We expect the government to implement its policy and get a legislative ban on fracked gas imports across the line.

Legal opinion was submitted yesterday by researchers at the highly-respected Human Rights Law Clinic at the Irish Centre for Human Rights of NUI Galway to the Joint Committee on Climate Action tasked with pre-legislative scrutiny of Ireland's new Climate Bill.
It confirmed that the world's first  fracked gas import ban in the Climate Bill would be compatible with legal EU, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and World Trade Organization (WTO) trade rules.

Ireland already has a ban on fracking. The Irish Government has stated consistently since the coalition was formed in June that it no longer supports the importation of fracked gas.

Two days ago the High Court quashed all consents for an LNG  fracked gas import terminal leading to a situation where no LNG infrastructure consents now exist in Ireland. With no acquired rights to consider, the government now has a window of opportunity to implement a fracked gas import ban unhindered.

Ireland can now assert its climate leadership position and be the first country in the world to ban the importation of fracked gas.

The legal opinion now facilitates the bringing of a ban on fracked gas imports into Irish law to protect public health of affected communities not just in Pennsylvania but also in Northern Ireland as it is a message to the world that Ireland will not be a market for fracked gas.  Simply put, a fracked gas import ban is the right thing to do for Ireland and the World.

Click here to download the full legal opinion.

The Journey to a fracked gas import ban as campaigners has been one of a growing national consensus from all levels of Irish society building up for years as outlined in Annex 3 of the legal opinion as follows:

Annex 3: Evidence of Public Concern

 

Programme for Government 2020

 

The 2020 Programme for Government provides as follows: 

 

“We will:... 

Support the tightening of the sustainability assessment rules prior to the approval of any projects on the EU PCI list. 

…As Ireland moves towards carbon neutrality, we do not believe that it makes sense to develop LNG gas import terminals importing fracked gas, accordingly we shall withdraw the Shannon LNG terminal from the EU Projects of Common Interest  list in 2021. 

We do not support the importation of fracked gas and shall develop a policy statement to establish that approach.   

We will ensure that local development plans are developed to stimulate economic activity for those areas which were expecting economic development arising from new fossil fuel infrastructure. As part of that we will consider the potential of the Shannon Estuary in terms of regional economic development across transport and logistics, manufacturing, renewable energy and tourism, and develop a strategy to achieve that potential with support from the Exchequer.  

…We are conscious of the limitations of examining greenhouse gas emissions solely on a production basis. We will conduct a review of greenhouse gas emissions on a consumption basis, with a goal of ensuring that Irish and EU action to reduce emissions supports emission reductions globally, as well as on our own territories”.  

 

Other political pledges and statements

 

The 2017 legislative ban on domestic fracking passed with widespread public support and cross-party political support. The Sligo County Council County Development Plan 2017-2023 contains a written policy against fracking. The Donegal County Development Plan 2018-2024 also contains an explicit policy against fracking. These are indications of how seriously the health and environmental impacts of fracking are already taken in Ireland.

 

Regarding the importation of fracked gas:

 

On 5 November 2018, Leitrim County Council unanimously passed the following motion:

“That Leitrim County Council support the community in Ballylongford, Co Kerry that are concerned about the construction of a regasification terminal that will bring shale gas from America into Ireland."

On November 11th, 2019 Cork City Council passed a motion stating:

“That Cork City Council will write to the Port of Cork requesting that it ends all memorandums of understanding to jointly develop facilities in Cork Harbour to enable the importation of Liquefied Natural Gas extracted using hydraulic fracturing anywhere else in the world and that this letter be copied to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.”

On November 25th, 2019 Cork County Council passed the following motion:

 

“The public health and environmental reasons for the banning of ‘fracking’ in Ireland, legislated by Dail Eireann through the 'Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Act 2017';

 

The international scope of adhering to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, reaffirmed in the Climate Charter signed by all local authorities in Ireland in October 2019;

 

 The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, to which Cork County Council is a signature party:

 

“That Cork County Council will write to the Port of Cork requesting that it ends all memorandums of understanding to jointly develop facilities in Cork Harbour which would enable the importation of liquefied natural gas extracted via hydraulic fracturing, and that this letter be copied to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.”

 

 

Almost half of the TDs elected to the Dail in 2020 signed a pledge stating that they were "opposed to the importation of US fracked Gas into Ireland via LNG import terminals". Before the 2020 General Election, in their #Pledge4Climate campaign, environmental NGOS 'Love Leitrim' , 'Friends of the Earth' and 'Safety Before LNG' obtained support from at least 193  candidates for the General election held on February 8th, 2020, for the pledge which stated: 

 

"I am opposed to the importation of US fracked Gas into Ireland via LNG import terminals. If elected, I, as a T.D., will work to find a way in the next Dail to prevent fracked Gas from entering the Irish energy mix via fixed or floating LNG terminals. I am opposed to fracking in Northern Ireland. If elected, I, as a T.D., will work constructively in the next Dail to prevent fracking from taking place in Northern Ireland". 

 

74 of those candidates were elected and this included all the elected T.D.s from the Labour Party, The Social Democrats,  People Before Profit, The Green Party, Independents for Change, and Sinn Fein,  along with leading elected Fianna Fail and Fine Gael T.D.s Eamon O'Cuiv, Marc McSharry and Frank Feighan.  

 

These numbers were boosted by the clear positions against Fracking taken by Fianna Fail in the Dail on October 3rd, 2019 "in recognition of the health and climate impacts of exploiting shale gas reserves". 

 

Also on October 3rd 2019, the Majority of Ireland's MEPs told the European Commission not to allow fracked gas into Ireland via the Projects of Common Interest list. The Irish MEPs were supporting a motion co-signed by 44 TDs initiated by Brid Smith TD, submitted to the Dail on September 26th, 2019 calling on the Irish Government: 

 

"to remove any project from the proposed list of Projects of Common Interest that could support the building of an LNG facility in Ireland that will act as a gateway for fracked gas entering the Irish energy mix; and − to build support in Europe to prioritise sustainability criteria in the assessment of candidate PCI projects, that will address fossil fuel lock in and the long-term impacts of fracked gas in the European energy mix, given the expected change in climatic conditions." 


On November 27th, 2019, in a signal of Government attention to the issue, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, speaking in the Dail
stated

 

"The Government banned fracking in Ireland, through a Private Members' Bill introduced by my colleague, Deputy McLoughlin. I am not sure whether we are in a position to ban the import of fracked gas from other jurisdictions. I will have to check it out". 

 

On February 12th, 2020  the majority of Irish MEPs (including Fine Gael's Maria Walsh) voted against the 4th PCI list which included the proposed Shannon LNG fracked gas import project. 

 

On July 14th, 2020 South Dublin County Council passed by a majority of 24 votes to 5 the following motion:

 

“That this Council, in line with the recently declared Climate and Biodiversity Emergency, calls on the Minister for Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport to remove the Shannon LNG terminal from the Projects of Common Interests List and to use all powers at his disposal to bar any further new LNG terminal projects from commencing.”

On October 13th, 2020 The Northern Ireland Assembly unanimously passed a motion stating: 

 

“That this Assembly recognises the moratoria, in various forms, on fracking in England, Scotland and Wales and the ban on fracking in the Republic of Ireland; notes that this motion builds on the 2015 Strategic Planning Policy Statement presumption against the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction in Northern Ireland; acknowledges its responsibility to protect public health and the environment; and calls on the Executive to instigate an immediate moratorium on petroleum licencing for all exploration for, drilling for and extraction of hydrocarbons until legislation is brought forward that bans all exploration for, drilling for and extraction of hydrocarbons in Northern Ireland”  

 

On October 22nd, 2020 Fermanagh and Omagh District Council passed a formal motion against fracking and fracked gas imports, as follows:

"That this council restates its opposition to shale gas exploration and extraction by the process of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as 'fracking' and further opposes the importation of fracked gas to the island of Ireland.

Furthermore, that this Council, having already recognised that we are in a climate emergency; being aware of the environmental damage caused by fracking and all forms of exploration and extraction of fossil fuels; and furthermore aware of our duties under the Paris Agreement to drastically decarbonise to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, again calls on the Minister for the Economy to place an immediate moratorium on the issue of all petroleum licenses, acknowledges the Minister for Infrastructure amending the regulations around permitted development rights and calls on that Minister to now place a ban on prospecting for oil and/or gas and update the 'Strategic Planning Policy Statement accordingly."

The Social Democrats published, on November 9th 2020, a press release entitled “Government must legislate to ban imported fracked gas following High Court ruling on Shannon LNG”. 

 

Other evidence of public concern

In February 2018 over 1,000 people and 23 Environmental Groups objected to the Shannon LNG Extension of Planning to An Bord Pleanala, stating:

 

"We oppose the building of an LNG terminal on the Shannon: We banned fracking in Ireland, it would be absurd to import fracked gas instead. It would lock us into fossil fuel dependence and blow our chances of containing climate change. An Bord Pleanala should not extend the planning permission for Shannon LNG. The Government and the EU should not support or subsidize it."

 

On November 15th, 2019, at  the Youth Assembly on Climate Change held in Dail Eireann, Roisin Keegan-O'Rourke made an appeal to the Irish public on behalf of communities in America and said it was "a justice as well as a climate issue". The ban is currently now one of 10 recommendations included in Ireland’s First Youth Proclamation on Climate. A ban means justice for those communities, that their words have been heard and it is an acknowledgement of the work of Ireland’s youth movement, including its Youth Assembly and climate strikers. Roisin Keegan-O’Rourke informed the House that the Youth Assembly was proposing: "for Ireland to ban the importation of fracked gas and invest solely in renewables".  

In early 2020, over 150 NGOS and academics supported an NGO-proposed LNG energy policy statement wording to be included in the 2020 Programme for Government which is: 

 

"Liquefied Natural Gas 

The new Government is not supportive of new fossil fuel infrastructure in the form of LNG import terminals that could facilitate the entry of unconventional liquefied natural gas into the Irish energy mix. Such imports may create a functional interdependence between Irish energy consumption and global warming due to the high levels of non-territorial methane emissions linked to the exploitation of global shale gas resources." 

 

A call for an immediate ban on Fracking in Northern Ireland was signed by over 80 groups in October 2020: see https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mrQIU-97eJFYBpBRi-1R0csqdtB09jOwyp9olLezto4/edit?usp=sharing  

The No to Shannon LNG petition has gained 2,733 signatures:
https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/no-to-shannon-lng-terminal

 

The No to Cork LNG petition has gained 3,712 signatures: https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/stop-cork-lng

 

A letter of support against Cork LNG was signed by 50 civil society groups in Ireland and around the world.

 

Since November 2017 to date there have been at least 11 protests, demos or events around the country organised against Shannon or Cork LNG.

 

Stop Shannon LNG was also one of Extinction Rebellion's 4 asks for Rebellion Week in October 2019.

 

 





End.
Contact:
John McElligott
Safety Before LNG
(087-2804474)
SafetyBeforeLNG@hotmail.com