Northern Ireland Places Fracking Moratorium Pending Environmental Assessment
Northern Ireland's Assembly has approved a Green Party/Alliance motion for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, pending an environmental assessment.
The vote passed by by 49 votes to 30, with the Ulster Unionist Party abstaining.
The Democratic Unioist Party voted in opposition. Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster told the assembly that motion was "fundamentally flawed."
The Minister reiterated that the licences that had been issued todate were not for fracking but desk-bound research into the potential for hydraulic fracturing and sought to reassure the assembly that she had "full confidence" in Northern Ireland's planning process and other regulatory frameworks to deal with the issue.
The motion stated “the process of fracking can cause serious well blowouts, which put both workers and local communities at risk; considers that the production of hard-to-reach fossil fuels is not compatible with efforts to achieve carbon reduction targets; and urges the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to give greater support to the generation of energy from renewable sources.”
Minister Foster said that embarking on the fracking process should not and was not intended to slow down investment in renewable energy, but that shale gas production could instead be a possible replacement for imported fossil fuels such as coal.
Alliance MLA Anna Lo cited pollution concerns by Northern Ireland Water and potentially catastrophic damage to fisheries.
Stephen Moutray of the DUP said: “It is worth pointing out that some of the concerns outlined in the motion were experienced in the USA.
“However, that was largely as a result of poor regulation and should not be exaggerated." “Lessons have been learnt from any mistakes, and I am confident that they will not be repeated.”
Licences have been issued for Central Larne - Lough Neagh Basin, Lough Allen Basin including Fermanagh, Rathlin Basin and Rathlin Island.