Thursday, 3 October 2019
Development of a Liquefied Natural Gas Facility in Ireland: Statements
The issue of fracking is pertinent for my constituents in Sligo-Leitrim and for those who live in County Fermanagh because there was a significant campaign for many years to ban fracking. In that context, people in the community, politicians and much of the wider public became experts on what the impact of fracking would be on the ecology, the ground water, the geology of the area and so on.
We had a steep learning curve over a couple of years. I remember attending a public meeting in Drumshambo where 99% of people did not know what fracking was. Within six months, people could give one details of mini earthquakes and other things one could hardly believe would be visited on a community in rural Ireland. They were getting this information from other countries in which these things were happening. One of the main places was Pennsylvania along with other parts of the USA. That is exactly from where it is now proposed we should use this terminal to import gas.
Gas is currently being imported and used in Ireland all the time and we do not have this terminal. While people can quote science on both sides and there will be different scientific views, just as there will be different political views, one has to be able to assess those positions and determine the most logical approach to set us on the right trajectory with regard to where we want to be in future. Anyone looking logically at this will recognise that the stated policy of the Government and the House is to move to a situation in which we no longer deal with any fossil fuels, including gas. We are supposed to be removing these fuels from our sources of energy. The proposal to build a new terminal to import fossil fuels flies in the face of that logic. If we are to spend money in the State on anything, it should be to build the infrastructure to source renewable energy and eliminate fossil fuels. Such infrastructure should not require the importation of any gas, in particular fracked gas. That is something that has been put forward by all the community and environmental organisations which are keen to see the Government stand by its word on this.
I note the many Ministers who wear the little badge associated with the UN's sustainable development goals. Those goals are about many things which many of the policies of the Government and its counterparts internationally fly in the face of. One of those things is looking after our environment and the future of the planet. If we are going to look after the future of the planet, fossil fuels cannot be part of our energy production. That means we must stop looking down for our energy and start to look up for it. If we are going to start looking up for it, we must consider solar, wind and other forms of energy supply which do not have that negative impact on our environment. This debate is really about where the emphasis will be. Will it be on continuing to use fossil fuels under the guise that it is part of some kind of transition or will it be on making the clear switch to renewable sources and energy development? If it is the latter, this proposal for the Shannon Estuary is not a sensible one. It might have ten or 15 years ago, but that is not where we are now. We are in a different place. We have declared a climate emergency and, in that context, it is time to recognise that this proposal must be taken off the table.