In a huge victory for the environment, the people of Ireland, and the global community, the Oireachtas — or Irish legislature — has banned onshore fracking. Signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins on July 6th, the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Act 2017 makes Ireland the fifth EU member to ban fracking along with Bulgaria, France, and Germany (although Germany’s ban is debatable as it’s not absolute and still allows for certain types of fracking).

According to Dáil member, Deputy Tony McLoughlin, who introduced the bill:

“This law will mean communities in the West and North West of Ireland will be safeguarded from the negative effects of hydraulic fracking. Counties such as Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Clare will no longer face negative effects like those seen in cities and towns in the United States, where many areas have now decided to implement similar bans to the one before us.

If fracking was allowed to take place in Ireland and Northern Ireland, it would pose significant threats to the air, water, and the health and safety of individuals and communities here.

Fracking must be seen as a serious public health and environmental concern for Ireland.”

In the process of fracking, chemicals, water, and sand are released at very high pressure into the earth to break rock and uncover gas. It’s  like a forced earthquake. Releasing toxic, radioactive gases and carcinogens, exposing people, land, and water to illness and poison, fracking has caused debilitating health and environmental damage.

Despite this, fracking in the US is regulated by states and has been on a steady upswing since the 1990s. Clean, renewable energy is the only safe option for a sustainable energy system. Hopefully more countries follow Ireland’s lead. The US certainly doesn’t show any signs of  doing so. But hopefully, eventually by competitive necessity or by the unlikely ethical, moral choice, it will have to follow suit. Until then, pressuring our representatives to ban fracking is our best bet.