"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
Companies involved in the controversial process of fracking have a bad record in removing toxic waste associated with drilling operations, according to a leading opponent.
Jessica Ernst, a biologist and environmental consultant to the oil and gas industry, warned today that there is currently no safe way to conduct fracking and advised communities in Ireland to oppose attempts to allow the process to go ahead here.
Ms Ernst, who has launched a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the exploration firm Encana for contamination of her property and drinking water from its fracking programme in Alberta, Canada, is in the country to speak at a number of events organised by the umbrella group Good Energies Alliance Ireland.
Speaking at a press conference in Dublin yesterday, Ms Ernst said the impact of fracking on the community outweighted any benefits.
"Communities need to look at what they stand to lose rather than at what companies are promising," she said.
Ms Ernst highlighted her own experienced of being 'fracked,' saying that as a result of water pollution, she had been unable to take showers due to her skin burning. She now also has to trek over an hour away to access clean water.
Ms Ernst said that in addition to concerns over water contamination, fracking was also associated with a number of other environmental issues including air and noise pollution.
The Australian-owned oil and gas exploration firm Tamboran Resources has estimated there could be over two trillion cubic feet of natural gas locked in shale beneath the surface of north Leitrim and adjoining counties.
Tamboran has said initial indications from exploration drilling in the northwest show there could hold be enough gas to supply Irish needs for a number of years and create some 3,000 jobs.
Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, has proved controversial over the past few years with widespread claims that the process, which includes pumping down thousands of gallons of chemicals into the wells, has contaminated groundwater supplies in some areas.
The process has been suspended in France, South Africa, North Rhine Westphalia, parts of Australia and in a number of US states pending more detailed investigations.
In January, Clare County Council became the first local authority in Ireland to agree to put in place a ban on fracking in its county development plan.
Ms Ernst said that while Tamboran has stressed that it can conduct fracking here without using chemicals, there would still be environmental issues resulting from drilling such as disposal of waste.
"When you're fracked there's no after-care and tax payers are the ones who are pick up the bill for the environmental and social problems resulting from the process," she warned.
Also speaking at the press conference, Dr Aedin McLoughlin of Good Energy Alliance Ireland said fracking was unsafe and should not be allowed here.
"Agri-food and tourism are the cornerstones of the Irish economy, not the false promises of a dirty industry that doesn't keep its promises and doesn't heed regulations," she said.