Suspicious call for submissions

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Why is the goverment calling for submissions?
Why is the bill moved to the Joint Committee of Communication, Climate Action and  Environemnt and not to the Select committee as agreed in the Bill?
According to Brid Smith, TD and member of the Joint Committee calling for submissions is very unusual.
Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members]

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 926 No. 3

Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members]

Deputy Marc MacSharry: Information on Marc MacSharry Zoom on Marc MacSharry Yes. I will be sharing no less than three minutes with him. If I get that far, the Ceann Comhairle might, as the man says, cut me off.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to the Bill and commend Deputy Tony McLoughlin from Sligo, without whose work it would not have got this far. It is important that the praise from all round the House for him is given. Often we are pitched on opposite sides of debates and issues that cause division, but that is not so in this case for those throughout the north west. Some of the campaigners are in the Visitors Gallery and I welcome them. It is a victory for the campaigners that we see the Bill which was proposed by Deputy Tony McLoughlin before us. It is with great pride that we on this side of the House support it. I also pay tribute to former Deputy Michael Colreavy of County Leitrim. He scarcely spoke in the House or to the media without mentioning fracking. I know that his successor, Deputy Martin Kenny, will be no different in his time in the House. It is important that this be acknowledged as Mr. Colreavy certainly played his role in getting us to this point.

Many of the points have been made about the science behind this issue by Deputy Tony McLoughlin, in particular, in his extensive address. Other points were made by Deputy Eamon Scanlon and others. I have some concerns. First, I am pleased that the Government withdrew its amendment. We would have voted against it and it is important that it was withdrawn. Notwithstanding the fact that it was withdrawn, I am mildly concerned about some of the language used by the two Ministers. Deputy Tony McLoughlin is not providing us with a forum for debate or a forum to talk. He has proposed legislation for which we intend to vote. The Bill is unequivocal and unambiguous: in seeking to ban fracking. That is what we want to achieve.

While the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, has left the House for now, perhaps on his return, either he or the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Kyne, if replying on his behalf, might clarify why he mentioned pre-legislative scrutiny. My understanding is that when we vote on the Bill next Thursday, we will be voting to send it directly to a select committee. It will proceed to Committee Stage, to be followed by Report and Final Stages in the House, and it will be the law of the land.

Like Deputy Eamon Scanlon, I, too, have huge concerns about the EPA investigation into these matters. That it is using CDM Smith to advise or inform its deliberations is a little like getting the fox to advise on the security of the henhouse. It does not inspire much confidence. In advance of publication of its report, I have serious doubts about its credibility. One wonders how many reports from all over the world we need to read on this issue. We do not know enough about fracking. In 300 years time there might be a safe extracting method, but for now there is far too much doubt. There is far too much evidence that clearly shows us that there are health and environmental concerns. This is of concern in the north west of the country, in particular, where farming, tourism and people’s lifestyles are very much under threat.

We will not be able to return in 100 years time and say we are sorry, that we got it a little wrong and will go back and reverse the effects of climate change. We will not be able to say sorry about the earthquakes in the north west or that we will clean the water table. We will not be able to do that because it will be too late. To those who say here is a bunch of loonies from the north west who do not want to see development, we do. The potential of our tourism and agritourism resources can be realised. Renewable energy sources off the coast are another example. I would love to see the focus of speculators on them rather than on something that is fundamentally unsafe. Countries throughout the world have already banned it, while others are thinking of doing so. The obligation is on us to ensure we ban it.

The foundation of the Bill is that the community in that part of the country does not want fracking to take place and they are entitled to be consulted. In the past seven to ten years, since it was first mooted, we have heard time and again from the community in the area. It has stated it does not want to see it happen, that it is afraid of it and that its fears are absolutely justified, based on research available throughout the world.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the Deputy giving five minutes to Deputy Aindrias Moynihan?

Deputy Marc MacSharry: Information on Marc MacSharry Zoom on Marc MacSharry I proposed giving him three minutes. I am nearly finished.

A forum for debate is not what Deputy Tony McLoughlin is providing. He has proposed legislation. Deputy Eamon Scanlon has said it also, but from the Ministers’ contributions, it appears that the Government’s position is to wait and see what the EPA has to state and that perhaps there is a way. I do not care what the EPA concludes. It is using a company that is a strong advocate of fracking in other parts of the world. I used the analogy of the fox and the henhouse. It is an appropriate one to use. I hope that following the vote next Thursday we will move quickly to refer the Bill to the select committee and that if there are improvements that can be made such as those suggested by Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, we will deal with them on Committee Stage. I will not, however, celebrate or commend the Government, notwithstanding my absolute commendation for Deputy Tony McLoughlin on the leadership he has shown on this issue, until such time as the Bill is passed. That is what the people want and deserve and it is the only logical, reasonable and prudent approach a nation such as this can take when we are shown so much research from all over the world that indicates that we really do not know the outcome when it comes to these processes. When in doubt, leave it out. I commend the Bill and Deputy Tony McLoughlin for introducing it.