FRACKING in Fermanagh could become a real possibility if or when the UK leaves the European Union, it is feared.
Concerns are growing that without the environmental protections afforded by the EU the UK Government would be free to allow the controversial drilling practice the length and breadth of the land, and only strong political will from Stormont could stop it.
The issue was raised at a public Brexit meeting in Lisnaskea last week, were people expressed their concerns about the issue. Their fears are not unfounded, according to anti-fracking campaigner and Green Party Fermanagh representative Tanya Jones.
“It’s a real possibility,” she said, when asked about whether a Brexit increased the chances of fracking in the county. “There’s no [UK] legislation on fracking. The Petroleum Licensing Regulation basically dates back to the 1960s and so it doesn’t have any environmental protection. That was before people were aware of climate change then, so under that it was just ‘get it out as fast as possible.’
“Really, the only protections we have are through European directives. Things like the environmental impacts assessments, the habitats directive, water framework directive, all of these relating to fracking to some extent and they’re not secure without being in the EU.
“There’s obviously a strong push from Westminster for more fracking. England’s in a much worse position at the moment than we are. There’s really very little hope environmental legislation would be a high priority for them.
“In fact, there’s been some suggestion from think tanks this is exactly the opportunity the Government would like to have over bonfire of health and environmental legislation.”
Ms Jones said there could be some hope from Stormont, however: “There are various ways [they could stop it]. Some of the relevant powers are devolved, and some of them aren’t. Certainly, if the Assembly saw it as a priority and they acted together then effectively, they could keep us safe from it.”
Agreeing that post-Brexit pressures on small farmers here, who she said would “not be a high priority for Westminster”, could lead to more landowners being open to allowing fracking on their land, Ms Jones added the environmental implications of leaving the EU could have wide-reaching consequences in Fermanagh.
“In general, obviously we’re a very rural county,” she said. “Our landscape is absolutely critical to everything we do and we have a lot of areas of special scientific interest and so on. Any failure of environmental legislation is likely to impact us badly.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition
Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere