“Well done to our colleagues in Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland and all those who’ve fought this dirty, dangerous industry across the Irish Sea,” Church said, adding that lawmakers in Scotland, who are having a similar debate over fracking safety, should pay close attention.

“Scotland’s policitians should take note of this decision as they assess the threat from fracking and unconventional gas,” Church said. “Unconventional gas is unsafe, unnecessary and opposed by local communities. The Scottish Government should focus instead on supporting the growth of clean, decentralised, renewable energy to help lead the fight against climate change.”

Though Durkan’s announcement was received as a welcome development, he also raised eyebrows among activists by saying the the policy could change if evidence emerged proving fracking was environmentally safe.

Durkan unveiled his SPPS after a year-long effort by activists with the Stop the Drill campaign in Belfast, who warned that a nearby oil extraction operation could be contaminating a reservoir supplying water to the area’s households, schools, hospitals, and businesses. It is also the latest environmentally-focused policy change to come to Europe, after Durkan announced a ban on GMO crop cultivation just a week ago, following in the footsteps of Scotland and Germany.

*Note: This article has been updated to better reflect the nature of the new policy guidelines. The move is not an official ban on fracking in Northern Ireland.

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