It is now one year since the magnificent community campaign organised by anti-fracking activists in Belcoo succeeded in forcing Stormont to intervene and halt drilling by the exploration company Tamboran. Since then, while the case against fracking has only strengthened internationally, the companies and their political backers are working hard to justify the introduction of this poisonous industry.
The UGEE (Unconventional Gas Exploration & Extraction) cross-border study currently being undertaken could put fracking right back on the agenda for Fermanagh and other areas under threat. The consortium contracted to conduct the study is being led by CDM Smith, a known cheerleader for fracking.
Anti-fracking activists are asking land-owners to refuse access to anyone wanting to carry out tests on behalf of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS) in Leitrim, Fermanagh and Cavan. These tests intend to determine if the area could become a zone for long-term carbon sequestration. While DIAS have stated in their communications “We are not affiliated with any exploration company involved with shale gas exploration”, there will be nothing to stop the geophysical survey data they are collecting being used by shale gas exploration companies at a future date.
However even the fracking companies’ closest allies, the Tory government, in a recent DEFRA report (only released after a freedom of information challenge), stated that leakage of waste fluids from fracking processes has resulted in environmental damage in the US. The document described the impact on water-resource availability, aquatic habitats, and water quality as “uncertain” and accepted that fracking could effect human health indirectly through consumption of contaminated wildlife, livestock or agricultural products
These points are crucial, as in Fermanagh any chemical leaks will eventually find their way to Lough Erne (which is the county’s drinking water source). In Antrim, an area the frackers are seeking to exploit is in close proximity to a major reservoir! Key local industries such as tourism and agriculture/agri-food could be devastated by the despoliation of the countryside and leaks of toxic chemicals such as benzine. Activists need to remain vigilant and challenge fracking at every step.