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Avengers star Mark Ruffalo to headline Northern Ireland fracking event

Belfast Live logo Belfast Live 06/12/2021 Shauna Corr

Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo is headlining a Northern Ireland event about fracking on Monday, December 6.

The keen environmentalist and Hollywood star recently blasted Sinn Fein party leader Marylou McDonald and deputy Michelle O’Neill over the party’s Fracking Bill for Northern Ireland.

The practice of hydraulic fracturing, which aims to extract gas by creating news cracks in rocks, has been banned in the Republic of Ireland since 2017 and the new Bill from Sinn Fein finally gets the issue on the table in the North.

But major concerns have been raised about the wording because while the ban includes all “rock below the surface” and internal waters in the Republic, Sinn Fein only wants to outlaw onshore fracking “in shale or strata encased in shale” in its NI draft Bill.

Shale formations in Northern Ireland © GSNI Shale formations in Northern Ireland

Shale is fine-grained rock that forms when silt or clay mud compact on top of each other and differs from sandstone and coal beds which according to the US Geological Survey can also be fracked.

Anti-fracking groups say the difference leaves the door open to hydraulic fracturing for gas under bodies of water and from sandstone, which is abundant across NI according to GSNI maps.

And they believe the clock is ticking with two petroleum prospecting licences now being considered by Executive Ministers.

Tamboran's petroleum licence application area © DfE Tamboran's petroleum licence application area

Tamboran Resources UK, which has applied for Fermanagh, says clearly on their own website that the endgame is fracking for gas. EHA exploration meanwhile, which has its sights on Tyrone, Armagh, Lisburn and Belfast, says it wants to find oil and gas by “conventional means”.

But Friends of the Earth has branded Sinn Fein’s Bill ‘meaningless’ if they fail to stop the licences which would open the door for gas and oil exploration in the middle of a climate crisis being passed by the Executive.

“Time is slipping, and this Bill has no real chance of becoming law before the Assembly elections in May whereas DUP Minister Gordon Lyons has pledged to bring a policy that could favour petroleum licensing to the Executive before Christmas,” said James Orr, FOENI director.

“They need to follow through now by ensuring that the Stormont Executive does not adopt any policy that facilitates exploration licences before the Assembly gets the chance to approve their new fracking Bill.”

Environmental campaigner and Avengers star Mark Ruffalo thanked both groups “for speaking truth”. He added: “@sinnfeinireland cannot use their #frackingban as election window dressing.

Sandstone in Northern Ireland © GSNI Sandstone in Northern Ireland

“They must #banfrackingnow by voting for policy to ban petroleum licenses for drilling & fracking in the next few days/weeks.”

In the coming weeks, Northern Ireland’s Department for Economy, which oversees the region’s energy needs, is expected to release its Energy Strategy for approval by the Executive ahead of any public consultation. It is feared the report could outline plans to continue promoting gas or blue hydrogen, which is derived from gas.

You can hear Mark speak about the threat of fracking in Northern Ireland in an online event at 6pm on Monday evening.

The area EHA Exploration would like to search for oil and gas in © DfE The area EHA Exploration would like to search for oil and gas in

Friends of the Earth said they "believe there is a real risk that the Northern Ireland Executive will adopt a new policy on petroleum licencing before Christmas that could give the green light to fracking and all other forms of petroleum extraction in Fermanagh and around Lough Neagh – this includes council areas of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon, Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh and Mid Ulster."

They added: "Mark Ruffalo has long been one of our strongest supporters and he’s agreed to speak at Monday’s event."

The public meeting was organised by Friends of the Earth Ireland, Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, LAMP Fermanagh and Frack Action New York.

Other speakers include Diane Little - Operation Grounded and LAMP Fermanagh, Oisín Coghlan - Friends of the Earth Ireland, Campaigners from Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Dr Kathy Nolan - Concerned Health Professionals New York, Julia Walsh - Frack Action US.

Register to join in here: https://www.foe.ie/events/protect-northern-ireland-from-fracking

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