Friday, 26 September 2014

Call for Minister Foster to Act Now to Stop Fracking

I want to ask Arlene Foster to close the door on Tamboran’s plans to frack for gas in Fermanagh. In April 2011 her department, DETI, gave Tamboran a five-year license for the field with a deadline of three years to complete exploratory drilling and make a ‘drill or drop’ decision on the field. The license issued is the only one in NI which explicitly references hydraulic fracturing despite the fact that there was absolutely no local consultation or any assessment of potential adverse Environmental or Health impacts.
Minister Foster
In the intervening three years, Tamboran failed to take the steps necessary to meet the deadline for submitting its drill-drop decision. In March of this year they were forced to request a six-month extension which the Minister’s department unilaterally granted. This decision flew in the face of mounting awareness and opposition to this industry and concerns about its impact on our county.

Only three Stormont MLAs (two UUP and one Green Party) – not one from this constituency – signed a Petition of Referral of the extension. This petition offered a mechanism to escalate the decision and subject it to the mutual vetoes at the Executive table. This came despite the fact that the Council and Assembly as a whole had both backed a demand for a moratorium on fracking – but were both powerless to enforce their decision.
Following the decision of the Department of Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan to require a full Environmental Impact Assessment on proposals to drill at Cleggan Quarry outside Belcoo following mass protests onsite, it is clear that Tamboran will fail to meet even the extended deadline for the completion of exploratory drilling.

No doubt by this stage, the company has already requested another extension from DETI. Therefore, the power now rests in the hands of Arlene Foster to halt fracking permanently. I am asking that she stands up for the interests of everyone in our county. This is too important to be a political football. It is not an issue affecting only one community. Fracking will change this county irrevocably and I fear its adverse impact will be felt for generations. Minister Foster is well aware of concerns in regard to the threat posed by this industry to public health, the environment and jobs in fishing, tourism and farming. She must act.

Should Minister Foster fail to act, it is only right that we make the same demand to all MLAs – in particular all local MLAs and those from parties who say they are opposed to this industry –to sign the Petition of Referral which will be raised over her decision. The opportunity exists to stop this industry.

Tamboran has repeatedly refused to engage concerned communities; their approach in Belcoo belied their attitudes to us; they have proven incapable of meeting Departmental three-year deadlines, even with a six-month extension. We can have no confidence in them or their empty promises and there will be no public confidence in politicians who fail to act when the power is in their hands to do so.

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