The historic Bill to ban onshore fracking in the Republic of Ireland was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins today.
The Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill brought by Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin received widespread support from across the political spectrum.
Fracking is used to extract onshore natural gas from areas rich in shale rock. It involves the pumping of a high-pressure mix of water, chemicals and sand into the rock to create openings so that gas can seep out into deep wells.
Large shale and other tight sandstone deposits are found across counties Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal and Clare.
Mr McLoughlin previously expressed his delight that the Bill will be made into law to “protect hundreds of thousands of people from the harmful and damaging effects of hydraulic fracking”. He added that it was a “special moment” for him and the people he was elected to represent.
The historic move now puts Ireland in the top tier of the global movement to ban fracking, becoming only the third European country to outright ban the practice after France and Bulgaria.
Commercial fracking was banned in Germany in 2016, although four exploratory boreholes are permitted for scientific purposes to assess the environmental consequences of the practice.
Authorities in New York state and Victoria, Australia have also banned the practice, while in March 2017 Maryland became the first US state with known gas reserves to ban fracking.
The passing of the Bill has also been lauded as a great victory for local campaigners and a boost for the global climate movement by the Environmental Pillar, a coalition of 26 Irish environmental organisations.
In a statement, the Pillar said it is delighted that the Bill can now be added to the “burgeoning global move against fracking”.
A study published by the Environmental Protection Agency states that fracking has the potential to damage both the environment and human health.
An April 2017 report from the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment also found that it would be irresponsible to give fracking the go-ahead in Ireland.
According to the Pillar, its members Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI) and Friends of the Earth (FoE) Ireland campaigned “relentlessly” with grassroots movements, such as Love Leitrim, across the country to get the prospect of a ban put on the political agenda.
Deputy Director of FoE Ireland, Kate Ruddock, said that the ban is a “great victory” for campaigners who mobilised and educated themselves on the issues around fracking.
“All around the world communities are campaigning to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to put citizens at the heart of a new, clean, healthy energy system,” she said.
“This victory is a tribute to their solidarity and is a shot in the arm for our common cause of a fossil free future.”
Aedín McLoughlin, the Director of GEAI, also heaped praise on the campaigners who “never gave up the struggle to make this issue a national one”.
“The long road is travelled and we have come successfully to its end,” she said. “For six years we have looked forward to this day when the Irish government would ban fracking and protect our rural environment and communities from this industry that poisons drinking water and air.
“Ireland may now hold its head high as it joins the ranks of countries that have banned fracking.”