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The purpose of the Bill is to ensure no fracking can take place in the North of Ireland by banning the issuing of any further licences from the Minister for Economy for the exploration, extraction, and production of fuels extracted by hydraulic fracturing (fracking). 

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is an environmentally destructive form of fossil fuel extraction that multiple international scientific studies have linked to a string of deeply worrying public health issues. 

It remains an accepted practice here, despite having been banned in the rest of Ireland as well as Britain and several other countries and regions around the world.  

Fracking is a method of extracting oil and gas from subterranean rock by injecting fracturing fluid (a mixture of water, sand and/or chemicals) int boreholes. The fracking fluid opens fractures in the rock allowing gas or oil to be extracted.  

Numerous scientific studies from highly respected bodies such as the EU's Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) and the US' Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have shown that fracking can have significant negative impacts on both the environment and the health and wellbeing of nearby populations. 

The practice has been shown to cause groundwater contamination, soil corruption, earthquakes, noise pollution and significant increases in airborne radioactivity as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions.  

These studies have also linked it to a host of health problems including birth defects, cancer and asthma. 

Even its economic benefits are often overstated. Like any industry based on a finite resource it is prone to a “boom and bust” economic model. While investment in renewable technologies can create long-term jobs, the nature of fossil fuels means that once the well has been tapped dry, fracking companies simply pack up and leave.  

Fracking also has the potential to impact on important local industries such as tourism and agri-food.  Even the public perception of the air, soil and water contamination caused by fracking could cause serious damage to areas that rely on tourism and agri-food. 

As we learn more and more about the effects of fracking, more and more national and regional governments are re-evaluating their approach to it. 

Fracking has been banned in several EU countries, while Canadian and US provinces and states such as Quebec, Washington and New York have also put a halt to it. 

All this is taking place against the backdrop of a severe and existential climate and biodiversity crisis.   

Since the industrial revolution, a surge in CO2 emissions, which get trapped in the atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect, has sent global temperatures rising, resulting in melting ice caps, rising sea levels, habitat destruction, desertification and acidification of the ocean. 

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a global warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius if we are to avoid irrevocable climate consequences.  We are already at 1 degree Celsius according to the IPCC and our current trajectory means we may have already missed avoiding the 1.5-degree Celsius upper limit. 

All of this demands an urgent and radical programme of action against the further exploration, extraction and production of fossil fuels. 

Just by utilising all existing fossil fuel reserves, we would create catastrophic and irreversible change to our climate and damage to the natural environment. 

If we are to protect our planet and preserve a clean environment for future generations, then we must invest in green, renewable forms of energy production and our fossil fuels must remain in the ground.</

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* 1. There is a growing body of evidence and peer reviewed science that raises serious questions about the safety of the fracking industry. In Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Queensland people have been exposed to toxic, carcinogenic and hormone disrupting chemicals via both air and water, with symptoms from headaches and breathing difficulties to neurological impairment. It has also been linked to increased risks of cancer and birth defects.

Are you concerned about the potential adverse impacts on human health either during exploration and/or extraction of shale gas?

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* 2. A wide variety of dangerous pollutants, including ozone, aromatic hydrocarbons and silica dust are produced by the drilling and fracking process. The ozone levels in previously pristine areas of the U.S. are now higher than in central Los Angeles. Additional air pollution is created by construction work, drill rigs and machinery. There is a growing catalogue of human and animal health impacts associated with this invasive industrial activity.

Are you concerned about the potential for air to become contaminated by fracking?

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* 3. Massive volumes of toxic water are returned to the surface during fracking. Known as flowback, or produced water, it is contaminated with chemicals used in the fracking process and materials leached from the shale rock including heavy metals and radioactive elements. Additional pollution of aquifers and surface water is caused by methane migration, leaking wells, spills, and accidents.

Are you concerned about the potential for water to become contaminated by fracking?

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* 4. A single frack uses 5 – 10 Olympic size swimming pools of water. The fracking industry removes water from the water cycle and turns clean water into polluted water that must be treated and disposed of. In the U.S., water auctions see farmers bidding against the oil and gas industry for water.

Are you concerned about the quantities of water required in the fracking process?

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* 5. Contamination of soil can occur through spills of fluids during drilling and fracturing processes; during transport by truck or through wastewater pipelines; failure of well casings; equipment failures and corrosion of pipes and tanks.

Are you concerned about the potential for soil to become contaminated by fracking?

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* 6. Scientific studies have shown that fracking causes pollution by toxic synthetic chemicals, salt, and radionuclides. It also increases traffic, fragments the landscape, and alters the hydrology of streams and wetlands. This affects freshwater organisms like trout and mussels. Animals and crops have been killed in fracking zones as a result of exposure to chemicals from fracking and drilling operations.

Are you concerned that fracking would have a negative impact on biodiversity? 

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* 7. Fracking brings a boom-bust cycle, which can leave communities worse off than before. With fracking, the booms may be short-lived since 98% of the work occurs in the period during which the well is prepped, drilled, and fracked. Fracking requires highly specialised workers which means companies will bring workers in rather than employ local people. As is common in other communities where extractive industries boomed, once the frack jobs are complete, the areas left behind can suffer from long-term poverty.

Do you think fracking would significantly benefit our local economy?

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* 8. Ireland has a thriving tourism industry because of the many natural beauty spots and picturesque views available. Fracking has the potential to spoil our landscapes and damage beauty spots.

Are you concerned about the impact of fracking on our landscapes and beauty spots?

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* 9. Onshore gas exploration and production by both fracking and conventional means in the North of Ireland are likely to have significant adverse environmental consequences South of the border. These include but are not limited to impacts on shared water bodies, EU-protected habitat areas, air, and human health. The Fermanagh/Leitrim border region in particular, has the potential to become a fracking site. In this region many of the lakes and streams straddle the border and form part of the water supply for both jurisdictions. Fracking has been banned in the South since 2017 and is also banned in Britain.

Do you agree that there should be an all-Ireland approach taken to the exploration and extraction of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing?

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* 10. Homeowners in fracking zones can find themselves trapped in a house they cannot sell, re-mortgage, insure or develop. A recent US study found that homes worth $250,000 or more and located within 1,000 feet of a drilling site saw their values drop by up to 14 percent. Residents in fracking zones often have to live with the consequences for many years.

Do you think residents in an area where exploration and/or extraction of shale gas is proposed to take place, should be consulted?

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* 11. The Minister for the economy has the power to issue licenses to private companies for the purposes of exploration for shale gas by means of fracking. Recently the Minister awarded two private companies with licenses to explore.

Do you agree with the Minister for the Economy awarding licenses to private companies for the purposes of exploration for shale gas by means of fracking?

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* 12. This Private Member’s Bill if passed, will place a ban on the Minister for the Economy from issuing any further licenses to private companies for the purpose of exploration, extraction and production of fossil fuels by means of hydraulic fracturing, which will prevent any fracking from being carried out.

Do you agree that there should be a ban on the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels by means of hydraulic fracturing? 

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* 13. Climate scientists have said that climate change brought about by global warming is having a devastating impact on our planet. An increase of just 1.5 degrees Celsius will have an irreversible impact. Extreme weather events have become more common such as hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, forest fires and flooding. The polar ice caps have melted quite significantly causing a rise in sea level of 20cm, and the rate is increasing exponentially.

Are you concerned about the threat of climate change?

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* 14. When fossil fuels are burned, they produce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which get trapped in the atmosphere and prevent heat from escaping, thus creating a greenhouse effect, warming the planet.

Do you agree that climate change is caused by certain human activity, such as the consumption of fossil fuels? 

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* 15. Fossil fuels account for over 80% of total final energy consumption in Britain and Ireland. This amounts to hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere every year.

Do you think we as a society should be moving away from the consumption of fossil fuels as a means of producing energy? 

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* 16. Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, including carbon neutral sources like solar, wind, waves, and geothermal heat. Currently, In the North of Ireland, 42.3% of electricity is produced via renewable methods.

Do you think as a society we should be producing more energy by Renewable “greener” methods?

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* 17. Do you have any comments to make in terms of the exploration and extraction of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing?

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* 18. Do you have any comments to make about exploration and extraction of fossil fuels?

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* 19. If you do not agree with this proposal, what alternative would you propose to stop fossil fuel exploitation in the North?

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* 20. If you do not agree with this proposal, what adjustment to the proposal would win your support?

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