Sisters of Mercy Continue Their Efforts to Ban Fracking
Mercy Sisters in the United States and in Ireland are involved in various high-profile campaigns to raise their concerns about and to prohibit Fracking.
In the United States Sisters of Mercy recently participated in an anti-fracking rally in Albany, New York State with more than 2000 other protestors.
The rally, which took place as the Governor of New York gave his ‘State of the State’ address, gave activists the opportunity to voice their concerns regarding the dangers of Fracking and to call for a Fracking ban in order to protect the health of residents of New York.
Further efforts by Sisters of Mercy in the US to prohibit Fracking include joining in online advocacy urging the Governor of California to ban Fracking. Also, over 370 Mercy Sisters from the West Midwest Community also signed letters to Gina McCarthy, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, calling for an end to Fracking.
Sisters of Mercy have been long opposed to Fracking in the west of Ireland. Srs Carmel Bracken and Marcella O'Connell are members of the group 'The Future We Need', which comprises Irish Religious congregations including the Sisters of Mercy and Presentation Sisters, and have been involved in many ‘grass-roots’ campaigns to stop fracking in Ireland. They also made a submission to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raising their concerns about fracking. Sr Nora Burke has also been active in working with anti fracking campaigns.
On Tuesday, 14 January 2014 a motion to ban fracking was passed by Leitrim County Council. The motion will see the council’s 2015-2021 Development Plan updated to include a commitment to refuse permission for the exploration or the extraction of oil or gas by unconventional means i.e. Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking), cryogenics or any similar purpose technology.
The motion passed with 17 votes in favour, 1 against and 4 abstentions. Councillors were advised prior to the vote that those voting in favour of the motion may be liable for costs incurred by the council as a result of the ban, but despite this threat were courageous in their stance.
The motion to ban fracking declared that permitting fracking would directly contravene current council policies. These included, among others, policies on water, waste, air quality, tourism and agriculture.
The amendments to the development plan also give assurances that any gas exploration and extraction in neighbouring counties will be fully scrutinised, with comprehensive Health Impact Assessments taking place.
While the council ban is undoubtedly a positive development for the anti-fracking lobby, the issue is not yet resolved as any applications for planning for unconventional gas exploration must still go through the same processes as before i.e. through national Government. Therefore while the councillors’ opposition to fracking has been registered in the development plan, fracking may still get approval in the future.
Mary Purcell, Assistant Director of Mercy Global Action considers the decision of Leitrim County Council to be a great development and a boost for those working on the issue of anti fracking. 'Although fracking has not been banned as such, having the Councillors opposition to this method of energy extraction registered is an important step in our campaign,' she said. ' We urge other councils and Governments to follow the lead of Leitrim County Council and prohibit the exploration or the extraction of gas by methods such as fracking in their areas.'
Messages to – Mary Purcell, Assistant Director Mercy Global Action