Delaying fracking ban decision 'contradicts climate change commitments'
The Government has been accused of contradicting international commitments on climate change by stalling a proposed ban on fracking.
Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, has agreed to the reform but it has been put on hold for at least eight months.
The legislation was put forward by Tony McLoughlin, Fine Gael TD for Sligo Leitrim, one of the areas identified for potential shale gas exploration.
It aims to ban energy companies from using high-pressure water and other additives to extract raw fuels from rocks, sands and coal seams.
While Mr McLoughlin said it has been accepted by ministers, it will not come under committee scrutiny until after June 30 next year following an intervention by the Government, potentially delaying an outright ban until 2018.
Oisin Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth Ireland, said: "Our concern with the Government amendment is that it looks like an attempt to delay the progress of that bill by a year or more.
"There's no need for a delay that long."
Fracking is banned in France, Germany and New York among others. Scotland has a moratorium on it and the Welsh parliament has voted against it while licences have been granted in England.
The proposed legislation is being raised in the Dail on the same day as a debate is held to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change which aims to keep global temperature rises to 1.5C.
Mr Coghlan said: "It really would be a positive symbol of Ireland's intention to act on climate change if, on the same day, it progressed without delay a bill to ban fracking.
"But it would be an obvious contradiction if they ratified the Paris Agreement and on the other hand delayed a ban on fracking."
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, involves drilling into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is forced into rock to release gas.
Three exploratory licences were granted in Ireland but no extraction has taken place.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commissioned a report on the impact of the controversial gas extraction on the environment and human health. It is due in the coming months.
Mr McLoughlin explained the reasons for the eight-month delay.
"I believe that this is in order to allow due process to take place with regard to the EPA research process and to allow the department time to consider its findings before the committee stage commences," he said.