Belfast Telegraph

AMs call for moratorium on fracking

Assembly members have called for a freeze on gas exploration in Fermanagh to avoid the controversial system dubbed "fracking".

A Green party and Alliance party motion against the potential use of hydraulic fracturing, which pumps water into the ground to release shale gas, was passed with the support of Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

But the DUP rolled in behind its Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, accusing critics of scare-mongering, while pointing out that licences had not been issued for drilling, and could not be until rigorous checks were completed.

Mrs Foster said it was correct to pursue the possibility of identifying a source of locally obtainable fuel, but Green MLA Steven Agnew said there was no guarantee Northern Ireland would benefit from such a find, which he said he opposed anyway, urging emphasis on alternatives to fossil fuels.

Mr Agnew presented the Assembly with a petition of more than 2,800 signatures ahead of the debate on fracking. He said groups of worried residents had travelled from as far as Fermanagh and Sligo, with areas of both the north and south of Ireland affected by potential fracking operations.

Mr Agnew said: "Fracking, hydraulic fracturing of rock, is a method used to extract natural gas from the ground.

"The process involves pumping millions of gallons of water mixed with toxic chemicals thousands of feet deep into the ground."

He said fears over environmental damage and health concerns had seen the process halted in parts of the US, Germany, South Africa and France.

Assembly members cited tremors in an area of the north of England where fracking was being employed.

He said: "The people of Northern Ireland need a full review of this decision and a ban on this process. This process could severely impact our tourism industry, agriculture, our water quality, environment and our health."

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