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Taoiseach unsure if ban on foreign fracked gas would breach international trade law

Concerns have been raised about imported fracked gas being brought in to Ireland through the Port of Cork.

Image: Shutterstock/Donal O'Dwyer

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he is not certain if he can move to ban fracked gas being imported into Ireland. 

In the Dáil today, Varadkar was asked to intervene and stop an American company from importing fracked liquefied natural gas (LNG) into Ireland thought the Port of Cork.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Mick Barry told the Dáil that a memorandum of understanding had been signed by a US company in 2017.

He said fracked gas from Rio Grande in south Texas near the Mexican border is due to arrive in the harbour in the coming years, adding that plans are underway to submit a planning application before the end of this year.

“Fracking is more harmful for the climate than the burning of coal. The methane emitted from fracking is second only to carbon in the damage it does to our environment. Yet, the government has not closed the door on using fracked gas at Shannon or Cork,” said Barry.

He accused the Taoiseach of holding the “door open” to foreign fracked gas stating that it could be part of the answer to Ireland’s energy security needs.

Speaking at a progress report on the government’s Climate Action Plan earlier this month, the Taoiseach said Ireland needs “energy security”. He added that “the LNG terminal could be part of the answer to that”, referring to another controversial site where it is proposed foreign fracked gas will be brought in.

The Taoiseach said he did not know much about the project, stating that it is not a government project, but acknowledged that the Port of Cork is a State-owned enterprise.

“We will continue to use gas for the next few decades. It is part of the transition to net-zero emissions in 2050 and the vast majority of climate scientists accept that we will need to continue to use gas as a transition fuel during that period, as it is a much cleaner fuel than coal or oil. I would prefer to use our own natural gas from the Corrib gas field, if we can find more, as well as biogas. Gas Networks Ireland has very interesting plans to develop its network for biogas as an alternative,” he said. 

Varadkar added that he is not aware if the government can move to ban foreign fracked gas:

“I am not sure whether we are in a position to ban the import of fracked gas from other jurisdictions. I will have to look into that, but it may not be possible under international trade law and European law. Fracked gas may already be coming into Ireland through the UK pipeline, but I am not 100% sure whether or not that is the case.”. 

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