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Dublin: 2 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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Leitrim farmers fear fracking, but researchers deny plan to drill

A local anti-fracking group has vowed to “halt this continuous onslaught on our communities”

Leitrim landowner Eddie Mitchell
Leitrim landowner Eddie Mitchell

LANDOWNERS IN LEITRIM have vowed to resist what they see as an attempt to introduce fracking in the area.

Local farmers say that a survey being carried out on behalf of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS) in a shale rich area known as the northwest carboniferous basin – comprising parts of Fermanagh, Cavan and Leitrim –  could lead to fracking work.

Anti-fracking group Love Leitrim has expressed concern that the research work undertaken by DIAS involves carbon capture, a process involving the capture and burial of carbon dioxide to prevent it entering the atmosphere.

In a statement opposing the survey, the group cited a 2008 study by the Sustainable Energies Authority of Ireland concluding that carbon storage in the area would result in high well pressures and an unacceptable risk of well failure.

But Chris Bean of DIAS told TheJournal.ie that the Science Foundation Ireland-funded project is “purely academic”.

 This is a totally non-invasive project testing magnetotelluric methodologies to see if they can be used in other locations. We are recording changes in the earth’s magnetic fields.

The site in question, he said, is not suitable for carbon capture and can only be used for academic tests.

He added that the project is currently based in Fermanagh and will only move to Leitrim if sufficient data cannot be collected there.

‘No consultation’

Love Leitrim, however, has urged local landowners not to give DIAS permission to work on their land.

It has also called on the cabinet, which is meeting in Sligo today, to stop “the ongoing petroleum prospecting activity on the ground without local consultation”.

Eddie Mitchell of Love Leitrim said that local and national representatives should “halt this continuous onslaught on our communities”.

Since our own state agencies has warned about the futility of this process, we have to ask ourselves why any organisation wants to pursue this and the answer seems very clear. What it looks like is the industry is trying to get around the Irish moratorium and is really searching for gas without a petroleum prospecting licence.

Council ban

Leitrim councillors last year voted to ban fracking, despite a warning from the county manager that they could be held financially responsible for future costs incurred as a result.

The motion led to a commitment to refuse permission to any development plans involving the controversial drilling method.

Fracking – the process of extracting gas and oil from sedimentary rocks such as shale – has prompted environmental concerns in the US, where campaigners say it has contaminated groundwater and affected air quality.

Tamboran Resources, an exploration company that tried to frack in the northwest carboniferous basin, faced round-the-clock demonstrations by anti-fracking campaigners before it was banned from drilling in the area.

Read: Leitrim county councillors vote to ban fracking >

Opinion: Will fracking be added to our energy mix? Ireland has questions to answer first >

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About the author:

Catherine Healy

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