The Belcoo Anti-fracking Camp

A testament to the strength of the campaign against fracking

Young people, older people, women, men, locals and blow-ins, visitors and those who live in or beside the camp for days or weeks on end – Belcoo camp maintains a constant 24-hour presence at the entrance to the quarry targeted for exploratory drilling.  The photo above shows some young campaigners in front of the entrance to the quarry.  On top of this fence are layers of razor wire, so sharp that an accidental brush against it caused a cut to a local person’s ear.   Behind the fence are security guards.  Patrolling the area are members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Visiting the camp entails turning off the main Enniskillen Road and following the handmade signs to the quarry.  There are signs “no alcohol, no drugs” as well as the expected “No fracking” signs.  Prominant on the fence is the Code of Conduct agreed by the campaigners.  Peaceful protest;  respect each other, the police and people who do not agree with us, no personal attacks; those are some of the conditions.  Also on the fence is pinned the terms of the injunction imposed on “Unknown Persons”, Fermanagh Fracking Aware Network, and other organisations campaigning against fracking.

Belcoo camp 1On a casual visit to the camp last Friday (August 1st) there was a lot of discussion about the injunction and its legality.  It was considered likely that it was not legally sound and that it could be challenged.  There was also much discussion about how the camp could be maintained sustainably – what it needs physically (fridge, freezer, washing machine, bottles of gas, for example), how relationships are built with local people, what will happen in the future.  Present were some people who had experience of similar operations in other parts of the country but mainly people who never would have taken part in campaigns before.  The atmosphere was calm and welcoming, there was a cup of tea offered to all visitors.

One of the most striking elements of the camp was the contrast between the entrance to the target quarry with its undertone of violence and the view on the other side of the lane of the most wonderful Fermanagh countryside – Lough MacNean stretching into the distance, wooded mountains, valleys and that peace that comes with an untouched landscape that obviously has remained the same for thousands of years.  If anything could convince one that fracking must not come to Northern Ireland, this scenario has to. Industrialisation of this area by the fossil fuel industry would be nothing short of sacrilege – one of the most beautiful counties of Ireland, where beauty and landscape heritage abound; a land coming out of a period of conflict where peace is fragile and needs to be nurtured; a people who have farmed the land for generations and have a soul connection with it.  This is no place for an industry such as fracking that would take over vast tracts of land and change them forever.

The Belcoo Camp must be supported by all who support the campaign against fracking.  Everyone who can should visit the camp and stay for as long as they can showing solidarity.  If people want to help, all it takes are the questions, “How can I help?  Is there anything  needed?”   And please pray that this commitment by so many people will result in defeat for the companies that want to take over our land and use it in ways that destroy the fabric of our communities, our environment and our spirit.

OPINION: The Irish Fracking Process has begun

The Irish Fracking process has begun

Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI) views the latest developments  where preparations for shale gas exploratory drilling has begun in Belcoo as a National, not local issue.

Dr Aedin McLoughlin, Director GEAI, expressed extreme dismay.  “Make no mistake about it – any exploratory drilling, with or without hydraulic fracturing, is part of the overall fracking process,” she said.  “An exploratory well without hydraulic fracturing leads to more wells with “test fracks”, leading to full fracking as shale gas is extracted.  In Belcoo, the first stage is starting, with the industry bleating their mantra, “This is only drilling, it’s not fracking!”  When is fracking not fracking?  When the industry wants to hide what is obvious – that a good result from this first exploratory well could lead on to more wells and more wells and a full-scale fracking operation with all its environmental and social issues.”

“Another extraordinary issue,” she continued.  “ I understand that the results of this well in Belcoo, County Fermanagh will be taken by the Petroleum Affairs Division in Dublin as fulfilling the work obligations for the Irish Government’s Licencing Options given to Tamboran Resources which expired in February 2013.  What does this mean?  It means that Tamboran, once this well is drilled and the core analysed, could apply to Dublin for a full exploratory licence and claim that they have fulfilled the conditions to enable them to get one, then proceed in Leitrim and the rest of the NorthWest, even though the well drilled was in another jurisdiction.  It’s as if the opinion is – sure, there’s no difference between the geology so forget EU transborder regulations!”

GEAI wishes to put everyone on alert.  “The way this operation is approached shows the contempt of the industry for the environment, for the community, even for the law of the land.  No Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the overall proposal for shale gas exploration and extraction; no Planning Permission for exploratory drilling; no published plan for the safe operation of the process or disposal of wastes;  no Environmental Impact Assessment, no consultation with the local community or public representatives.  Ireland  – this is the tip of the iceberg – if the industry can go ahead with exploration without putting all those safeguards in place, what is in store for us if fully-fledged fracking operations start?”




Europe abandons hopes of US-style shale gas revolution

Special Report 28th February 2014


Shale gas has had a “minimal impact” on the US’s manufacturing industry, and will have even less significance for Europe, according to a new report by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI). In Europe, industrialists are abandoning hopes of a similar revolution, at least in the short- to medium-term.  [Download full Euractiv report here]

The IDDRI report’s findings echo a warning from the UK business minister, Vince Cable, earlier this month that shale gas will not be a reality for at least a decade.  “Shale is a possible long-term resource, but we do not yet know,” he told the Guardian newspaper. “I want to tell people to get realistic about it.”

According to the report by the Paris-based IDDRI think tank, the US shale boom has contributed to cheaper household energy prices and helped the competitiveness of gas-intensive manufacturing sectors such as plastics, petrochemicals and fertilisers.

But these sectors only account for about 1.2% of US GDP and 3.3% of all manufacturing, and IDDRI estimates the maximum long-term effect of shale gas on US GDP at around 0.84%.

“There is thus no evidence that shale gas is driving an overall manufacturing renaissance in the US,” the study says.

Shale gas could play a positive short-term role in helping Eastern European countries to wean themselves off imported fuel from Russia, and develop their own infrastructure.

But in terms of revitalising Europe’s manufacturing sector and economy as a whole, the report’s authors conclude that the shale gas effect would be “negligible”. By 2035, shale gas is estimated to be meeting no more than between 3-10% of EU gas demand.

“It is unlikely that the EU will repeat the US experience in terms of the scale of unconventional oil and gas production,” the report warns, citing uncertainties about the size of Europe’s shale deposits.

In the US, around 130 shale wells were drilled a month in the decade up tp 2010, compared to an all-in total of 50 exploratory shale drills in the EU so far.

Compared to the US, Europe’s energy service industry and rig counts are much smaller; its geology – and land access – are less accommodating; public acceptance is less of a given; urban density is far higher; and environmental regulations are more stringent. This, IDDRI say, would have a knock-on effect on the industry’s profitability here.

Download original report here


How big is the fracking industry?

Environment America have produced a report which gives a startling picture of the extent of fracking in US and some of the impacts caused by this industry.  [Download report] “Fracking by the Numbers” needs wide circulation – the scale of the industry and its use of land, water and chemicals is not realised; neither is the scale of the impacts of fracking on water use and contamination as well as air emissions.  The following is a synopsis:

National Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Fracking

• Fracking Wells since 2005 82,000
• Toxic Wastewater Produced in 2012 (billion gallons) 280
• Water Used since 2005 (billion gallons) 250
• Chemicals Used since 2005 (billion gallons) 2
• Air Pollution in One Year (tons) 450,000
• Land Directly Damaged since 2005 (acres) 360,000

Toxic wastewater:

Fracking produces enormous volumes of toxic wastewater—often containing cancer-causing and even radioactive material. Once brought to the surface, this toxic waste poses hazards for drinking water, air quality and public safety:

  • Fracking wells nationwide produced an estimated 280 billion gallons of wastewater in 2012.
  • This toxic wastewater often contains cancer-causing and even radioactive materials, and has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. In New Mexico alone, waste pits from all oil and gas drilling have contaminated groundwater on more than 400 occasions.
  • Scientists have linked underground injection of wastewater to earthquakes.
Water use:

Fracking requires huge volumes of water for each well.

  • Fracking operations have used at least 250 billion gallons of water since 2005.
  • While most industrial uses of water return it to the water cycle for further use, fracking converts clean water into toxic wastewater, much of which must then be permanently disposed of, taking billions of gallons out of the water supply annually.
  • Farmers are particularly impacted by fracking water use as they compete with the deep-pocketed oil and gas industry for water, especially in drought-stricken regions of the country.
Chemical use:

Fracking uses a wide range of chemicals, many of them toxic.

  • Operators have hauled more than 2 billion gallons of chemicals to thousands of fracking sites around the country.
  • In addition to other health threats, many of these chemicals have the potential to cause cancer.
  • These toxics can enter drinking water supplies from leaks and spills, through well blowouts, and through the failure of disposal wells receiving fracking wastewater.
Air pollution:

Fracking-related activities release thousands of tons of health-threatening air pollution.

  • Nationally, fracking released 450,000 tons of pollutants into the air that can have immediate health impacts.
  • Air pollution from fracking contributes to the formation of ozone “smog,” which reduces lung function among healthy people, triggers asthma attacks, and has been linked to increases in school absences, hospital visits and premature death. Other air pollutants from fracking and the fossil-fuel-fired machinery used in fracking have been linked to cancer and other serious health effects.
Global warming pollution:

Fracking produces significant volumes of global warming pollution.

  • Methane, which is a global warming pollutant 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, is released at multiple steps during fracking, including during hydraulic fracturing and well completion, and in the processing and transport of gas to end users.
  • Global warming emissions from completion of fracking wells since 2005 total an estimated 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Damage to our natural heritage:

Well pads, new access roads, pipelines and other infrastructure turn forests and rural landscapes into industrial zones.

  • Infrastructure to support fracking has damaged 360,000 acres of land for drilling sites, roads and pipelines since 2005.
  • Forests and farmland have been replaced by well pads, roads, pipelines and other gas infrastructure, resulting in the loss of wildlife habitat and fragmentation of remaining wild areas. In Colorado, fracking has already damaged 57,000 acres of land, equal to one-third of the acreage in the state’s park system.
  • The oil and gas industry is seeking to bring fracking into our national forests, around several of our national parks, and in watersheds that supply drinking water to millions of Americans.
Fracking has additional impacts not quantified here

—including contamination of residential water wells by fracking fluids and methane leaks; vehicle and workplace accidents, earthquakes and other public safety risks; and economic and social damage including ruined roads and damage to nearby farms.

To address the environmental and public health threats from fracking across the nation:

States should prohibit fracking. Given the scale and severity of fracking’s myriad impacts, constructing a regulatory regime sufficient to protect the environment and public health from dirty drilling—much less enforcing such safeguards at more than 80,000 wells, plus processing and waste disposal sites across the country—seems implausible. In states where fracking is already underway, an immediate moratorium is in order. In all other states, banning fracking is the prudent and necessary course to protect the environment and public health.

• Given the drilling damage that state officials have allowed fracking to incur thus far, at a minimum, federal policymakers must step in and close the loopholes exempting fracking from key provisions of our nation’s environmental laws.

• Federal officials should also protect America’s natural heritage by keeping fracking away from our national parks, national forests, and sources of drinking water for millions of Americans.

• To ensure that the oil and gas industry—rather than taxpayers, communities or families—pays the costs of fracking damage, policymakers should require robust financial assurance from fracking operators at every well site.

More complete data on fracking should be collected and made available to the public, enabling us to understand the full extent of the harm that fracking causes to our environment and health.

Defining “Fracking”

In this report, when we refer to the impacts of “fracking,” we include impacts resulting from all of the activities needed to bring a shale gas or oil well into production using high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracturing operations that use at least 100,000 gallons of water), to operate that well, and to deliver the gas or oil produced from that well to market. The oil and gas industry often uses a more restrictive definition of “fracking” that includes only the actual moment in the extraction process when rock is fractured—a definition that obscures the broad changes to environmental, health and community conditions that result from the use of fracking in oil and gas extraction.

GEAI spreads the Word to Anglers

Irish and European Anglers threatened by fracking!

GEAI is happy to spread the truth about the impacts of fracking to all sectors of the population.  Therefore, when contacted by Martin McEnroe, President of the Angling Council Ireland, we were delighted to work with him in producing a glossy folder and insert for the Anglers in Europe.  Understandably, they are very concerning about the possible impacts of fracking on the fragile waterways of Europe.

Some facts:
  • All land in Europe is drained by rivers or streams.  The Rhine River drains huge areas of eight countries; The River Shannon drains one-third of Ireland.
  • Fracking takes over huge tracts of land – hundreds of thousands of acres per project. All of those areas are drained by rivers and streams, vital to fisheries.
  • Target areas for Fracking include World Heritage Sites, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and other important nature and heritage areas that are  angling paradises and tourism attractions.
  • Wildlife, flora and fauna in those areas would be degraded due to the nature of the fracking process such as water abstraction, drilling waste, spillages, road run-off and change of land use.
Links to documents

Angling Council Ireland Folder

Effects of Fracking on our Waterways

Picture: Eoin Mc Manus with the first salmon of 2014 on the River Drowes

[The River Drowes is famous for regularly producing the first salmon of the year, being one of the few rivers opening on 1st January. Rarely is there a year when a fish is not caught on opening day. Indeed this is a very festive occasion with some 250 anglers fishing, all striving to land the first salmon of the year. The river flows for about 5 miles draining the 103 square mile catchment into the Atlantic]


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