North Down Green Party MLA Steven Agnew is tabling a motion in the Assembly today calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — or ‘fracking’ — in Northern Ireland.
Ahead of the debate on the controversial process for extracting gas, Mr Agnew will be presenting a petition to the Speaker signed by over 2,000 people opposed to fracking in Northern Ireland.
The Green Party leader wants to see the brakes applied to fracking after the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment granted licences to Australian company Tamboran to explore and potentially drill for gas in Fermanagh.
“Evidence from America shows that fracking is damaging to both the environment and human health,” Mr Agnew said.
“There has not been enough research into its short and long-term effects to give me or many people in Fermanagh any confidence this process is safe.
“There are many unanswered questions regarding fracking but pumping water laced with carcinogenic chemicals into the ground which then come back up through the water table and are dispersed into the air cannot be good for human, animal or environmental health.
“There is substantial evidence that there are serious environmental health risks associated with shale gas production including the potential for contamination of groundwater.”
The practice of 'fracking' involves forcing up to ten million gallons of fluid up to 500 metres below the surface to crack open the rock formation and channel natural gas into an onshore well.
A 'New York Times' investigation found the waste water in some such wells contained dangerously high levels of radioactivity.
It was being sent to treatment plants that were not designed to deal with it or was discharged into rivers that supply drinking water.
An award winning 2010 film Gasland exposed the health ill-effects suffered by many US residents living near gas wells, the destruction of landscape and instances of water, soil and air pollution. It features flames coming out of taps on land that was "fracked".
Much of the harmful effects associated with fracking are caused by the toxic make-up of the frack fluid, which can contaminate groundwater.