EPA FRACKING STUDY HAS MAJOR FLAWS

submission-to-hildegarde

Aedín McLoughlin hands Submission to Hildegarde Naughten TD, chairperson of Oireachtas committee

GEAI submission to Oireachtas Committee.

GEAI has made a major submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Climate Action and Communications on the EPA-commissioned Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE) Joint Research Programme.  This Study had as its major research question: “Can UGEE be carried out while protecting the environment and human health?”

Conclusions do not reflect findings

We have discovered that the overall summary report did not reflect the findings of the five research reports, which more correctly should have highlighted that:

  • UGEE (fracking) operations globally have major impacts on the environment and on human health, but as human health was not included in the Terms of Reference for the study, the impact of fracking on human health was not included in the study.
  • There are several unknowns around the process of fracking globally and it is not possible to guarantee that hydraulic fracturing can be carried out without contamination of groundwater and air.
  • The hydrogeological profile of the Northwest Carboniferous Basin (mainly Leitrim and Fermanagh) is heavily faulted with deep-seated aquifers and shallow shales, which makes it unsuitable for fracking.

Summary Submission

Full Submission

Advertisements

Texas oil and gas firm backs down from explorations in South Africa

Pushing away the threat

Durban – The Texas-based oil exploration company Rhino Resources has cut back on the scale of its proposed oil and gas exploration bid in KwaZulu-Natal after a major public backlash.

The company’s local subsidiary company, Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration, lodged an exploration application early last year covering a massive 1 500 000 ha chunk of the province and nearly 10 000 farms.

Now the scale of its exploration bid has been reduced to 850000 ha and about 6 700 properties in central KZN.

Environmental consultants acting for the company acknowledged that there had been “extremely strong” and almost unanimous public opposition to the exploration plan, which could ultimately involve hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

 The consultants said it was evident that the majority of opposition was against the environmental and social risks of fracking if viable oil and gas reserves were to be found.

“It is further perceived that this (fracking) could lead to widespread impacts on water and land, causing devastation to livelihoods. The perception is informed by the widely publicised negative impacts of hydraulic fracturing and the decisions taken by many governing bodies around the world to suspend such activities,” the consultants said in a notice published at the weekend.

“The related concern is that once an exploration right is granted, it will be nearly impossible to stop the process later.

“For these reasons the public approach is to close the door on exploration before it opens… thereby preventing any future risk, or potential benefit, from resulting.”

The company would focus only on an aerial survey method known as “full tensor gradiometry” (FTG).

This method used multiple pairs of accelerometers to measure the rate of change of the gravity field to build up a picture of underground geology.

“FTG surveys involved grid-based flights using a light fixed-wing aircraft at an altitude of between 80m and 300m above the ground.”

In good weather, such a survey would take less than seven days to complete.

If the aerial surveys suggested commercially viable reserves of oil and gas in the exploration area, further environmental impact studies would have to be done before any ground-based drilling or exploration activities.

 

Source: http://www.iol.co.za/business/news/kzn-exploration-bid-texas-firm-backs-down-2067475

 

Decisions on fracking in Ireland delayed until after 2016

drilling rigIn 2012, the Government decided that no decisions on granting exploration licences for fracking would be made until a comprehensive research study would be done, coordinated by the EPA. Public consultation on the Terms of Reference of this study was carried out in 2013 and over 1,300 submissions were received by EPA, largely coordinated by GEAI. This delayed the process considerably and the contracts to carry out the 24-months study on the “Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE)” were only issued last August. It is ironic that this is exactly the same month when Tamboran was stopped from drilling their first borehole in Fermanagh!

Interim reports on the research study will be given, possibly at 6-month intervals and definitely at the end of Year 1 and Year 2. These reports will be given at public events, giving an opportunity for public engagement and discussion. The final outputs of this research will not be published until end 2016. This means that no decisions on fracking can be made in the Republic before 2017.

The consortium that will carry the research is led by the management company CDM Smith Ireland LimitedQueens University BelfastBritish Geological SurveyUniversity College DublinUniversity of Ulster, AMEC, and Philip Lee Solicitors are also part of the consortium.

The 24-month research programme is composed of five interlinked projects and will involve field studies (baseline monitoring of water and seismicity) in Clare, Leitrim and Fermanagh, as well as an extensive desk-based literature review of UGEE practices worldwide. The ‘key questions’ the research programme sets out to answer are:

  • Can UGEE projects/operations be carried out in the island of Ireland whilst also protecting the environment and human health?
  • What is ‘best environmental practice’ in relation to UGEE projects/operations?

The campaign against fracking is, in general, not satisfied with those parameters. The majority of submissions asked for a Health Impact Assessment of proposals for fracking be carried out. This was not agreed and is not included in the final Terms of Reference. Also, the research is too much focussed on the capacity of regulations to limit the impacts of fracking.

However, the study will provide more scientific information on the geology of target sites and potential environmental impacts of fracking in Ireland. 

Fracking in the North 

Carrickfergus201409_07

Despite the delay in the South, fracking projects are still going through the planning process in Northern Ireland.

Tamboran Resources Ltd is seeking a judicial review of the Fermangh licence termination. The case has been listed in Belfast High Court for this month (November). Counsel for Minister Arlene Foster has asserted that an expired licence to carry out exploratory shale gas drilling cannot be reinstated through a legal challenge.

InfraStrata is ready to drill in Woodburn Forest in spring 2015, beside Carrickfergus (Co. Antrim). The company denies the use of fracking on the site because “geology is not suitable”. This means that hydraulic fracturing will not be used in the initial exploration drilling. This statement does not guarantee that fracking will not be used during its entire project. Any on-shore extraction of oil and gas has profound and extensive impacts on the environment and on communities.

Rathlin Energy is also ready to drill in Ballinlea, near the Giant’s Causeway. They have completed their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and will be submitting that to the Council. They also plan to commence drilling in early 2015.

Ban on fracking confirmed by Leitrim County Council

The following is the text of Policy 124, agreed by Leitrim County Council on 15th September 2014.

Victory! No drilling in Belcoo

11th August – Victory Night in Belcoo

What a night!  Campaigners in Belcoo were still trying to take it in at 9 o’clock tonight.  The campaign has won its first battle and a halt has been put to Tamboran’s attempt to drill an exploratory well without planning permission or environmental impact assessment (EIA).  All weekend, campaigners were tense, wondering what this week would bring.  There was a strong feeling that, if permission was given for drilling, the rig would arrive within hours and a confrontation seemed inevitable. There were few smiles and a lot of worry.

Then, all of a sudden, the weight was lifted off everyone’s shoulders – the verdict was given from Stormont and a big cheer went up from the camp.  “We did it!  We’ve won!” People were hugging each other, beaming, this was something that everyone could rejoice in – young, old, from both traditions, from all parties or none – it was an amazing scene.  Heavy showers were not even felt.  And to mark this new beginning, a rainbow framed the land beside the camp.

“Permitted development rights do not apply”
Rainbow in belcoo 110814

Rainbow in Belcoo this evening

The Minister for Environment (N.I.), Mark H Durkan in a short speech had given his judgement.   “I have given very careful consideration to Tamboran’s proposal to drill a core of rock from Cleggan Quarry near Belcoo and whether this is permitted development under current legislation. I have concluded that this is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) development requiring full planning permission and that permitted development rights do not apply. In making this assessment I have been mindful of my Department’s responsibility to ensure that the environment is protected at all times and that full consideration is give to any likely significant environmental impacts of such a proposal.”

He also said, “In arriving at this decision I believe I must proceed on the basis of a precautionary principle.”  This is an important statement.  It means that the industry must prove that the proposed project is safe; this includes evaluating all risks and proposing prevention and management strategies.

We have won

But tonight is not a night for too much analysis other than knowing that, while an important battle is won, the war continues.  For tonight we can rejoice and be glad.  The overwhelming feeling is love – love of the land, love of each other, even love of this campaign that has brought us together, regardless of creed, class or culture.  And we have won!

We have shown it can be done!

 

COPYRIGHT

® All rights reserved to GEAI. 2014