Excerpts from speech by Anna Lo MLA (subject to change on delivery): “I welcome the opportunity to bring forward this motion and urge members to embrace our responsibility as public servants to protect our society and our environment from the uncertain impact of a process that has a severe deficiency of research. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of the members of the public who have written to me about this issue. The response has been overwhelming.
“This motion is not an attempt at ‘scaremongering’. Hydraulic Fracturing, or as it’s more commonly known as ‘Fracking’, has been either banned or placed under moratorium in France, areas of Germany, Australia and South Africa and in several States in the USA. Now, with the potential for fracking in our back garden, we need to be extremely cautious in how we progress with this type of energy extraction.
“I believe it would be irresponsible not to place a moratorium on fracking especially in light of the gaps in research abroad and, more importantly, the lack of research relating specifically to our own specific case. “This is not only a call for a moratorium but also for a comprehensive, detailed environmental impact assessment.
“The concerns regarding fracking are wide-ranging and I would first like to focus on the issue of water. Fracking is a process dependant on water. In fact, between 50,000 and 350,000 gallons of water are required to fracture a one single horizontal well in a shale formation. It cannot be denied that the sheer volume of water used has the potential to cause great water stress in the areas concerned and could seriously deplete our resources.
“Fracking does not just use water. A wide range of worrying chemicals are employed in this process. “The threat from well-blowouts is not a benign one. Water deposits may be affected if there are weaknesses or cracks in well-casing. Fracking would require very stringent health and safety mechanisms to test well-casing integrity according to the Energy and Climate Change House of Commons Select Committee.
“The US in particular has seen several worrying well blowouts resulting in thousands of gallons of contaminated and untreated water flowing through neighbouring land resulting in families being evacuated or, in some circumstances relocated. The leak of contaminated water and back flow fluids has resulted in the death of nearby aquatic life and posed serious health risks to the local communities.
“The link between seismic activity and fracking urgently requires investigation before any exploration proceeds.
“The last line of this motion is crucial. Why are we here discussing permitting further fossil fuel exploration and use instead of putting our efforts into increasing our environmental and economic sustainability? We must start working harder to incorporate renewable energy into our economy and our way of life. In Northern Ireland we have the benefit of excellent natural resources which could catapult us to world leaders in developing renewable energy. The Green New Deal would not only help our environment, create jobs, but also make us the forerunners in green innovation and technology.”
Here is the motion:
Motion: Hydraulic Fracturing Proposed:
That this Assembly believes that a moratorium should be placed on the onshore and offshore exploration, development and production of shale gas by withdrawing licences for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), at least until the publication of a detailed environmental impact assessment into the practice; notes that hydraulic fracturing can put local water sources at risk of contamination; further notes that, amongst a variety of adverse environmental impacts, 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 instead.
[Mr S Agnew Ms A Lo Mr C Lyttle Mr S Dickson]