Northern Ireland's environmental governance is not up to the challenge of regulating fracking, Friends of the Earth has warned.
The environmental pressure group says the province is already littered with illegal landfill sites and quarries with no planning permission – and if these risks cannot be regulated, it is difficult to see how Northern Ireland could manage a controversial and potentially dangerous activity like fracking.
In a new briefing paper on fracking in Northern Ireland, FoE said water contamination is a particular concern as the current petroleum exploration licence areas cover wetlands, river catchments such as the Bann, Loughs Neagh and Erne and coastal zones such as Belfast Lough, Larne Lough and the Causeway Coast.
Four petroleum licences have now been issued for Northern Ireland and a fifth licence zone is under consideration for an area covering south Antrim and north Down, including Belfast, Lisburn and Dundonald.
The report said contamination could have serious and far-reaching implications.