EPA Admits Serious Flaws in Fracking Research Study
at Dáil Committee Meeting
Environmental Groups & Supporters Vow to Ramp Up Campaign to Stop the Study & Ban Fracking in Ireland
Mark Ruffalo & New Yorkers who banned fracking last year due to human health risks encourage the Irish people to join the campaign against fracking in Ireland
Dublin – Members of the Campaign against Fracking in Ireland, including Good Energies Alliance Ireland, Love Leitrim, Friends of the Earth, and Irish-American campaigner Julia Walsh from the New York-based NGO Frack Action attended Wednesday’s meeting of a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Energy in which TD’s questioned EPA following reports that the EPA-led study is being carried out by the oil and gas industry providers CDM Smith and AMEC. TDs rigorously questioned EPA Assistant Director General Dara Lynott and Research Manager Dr Brian Donlon for 3 hours.
EPA admitted at the committee meeting to serious flaws in the research study including:
That no public health research or researchers with medical expertise are included in conducting the fracking research study. They confirmed that, as a result of this research study, EPA will not be able to tell the Irish people whether fracking is safe for human health.
EPA confirmed that Achilles procurement, an oil and gas industry provider, helped to draft the Terms of Reference of the study, which provide the framework for the study. They were involved in the administration of the tender process which resulted in the contract being awarded to CDM Smith.
EPA confirmed that there will be no public comment or participation as part of the finalisation of the fracking research study, including no external, independent peer review process.
EPA admitted that the study is very small-scale, studying the environmental impacts of just one fracked well. There are no studies considering the cumulative impacts of the thousands of wells planned for Ireland.
EPA admitted that when tenders were sought, the evaluation committee looked for experts in fracking rather than independent researchers. The result was that the main contractors, CDM Smith and AMEC, are present or past members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group that publicly promotes fracking. The EPA admitted that they knew the contractors were members of the industry group but denied that this was “hopeless conflict of interest” (as suggested by TD Richard Boyd Barrett).
In the research study there is no consideration of greenhouse gas emissions caused by fracking, although the EPA admitted that fracking would increase carbon emissions and make it even more difficult for Ireland to achieve its 2020/2030 emission targets.
The EPA confirmed that they did not notify the JOC committee of the major change in status of Queen’s University (QUB’s) involvement in the research study last June. They actually promoted QUB as a consortium member at this time, using their involvement to establish the independence of the research study. The TDs were only made aware of the change in QUB status after the campaigners alerted them, following Freedom of Information Act requests.
“Our worst fears were confirmed. The Irish Government has given over its authority to the oil and gas industry, which is controlling the process of this study every step of the way, right from the beginning. The abysmal failure of the EPA’s fracking research study and the confirmation of its flaws were apparent throughout the meeting on an issue that could impact the lives of millions of Irish people. This process is beyond fixing and must be stopped in its tracks. The question the public want answered is how fracking will impact human health in Ireland and this is not even on the agenda of the study. It is totally disgraceful that taxpayer’s money is being used on a study that does not answer the essential question but instead is designed to support the oil and gas industry in their applications for exploration and extraction licences,” said Dr. Aedín McLoughlin, Director, Good Energies Alliance Ireland.
During the committee meeting, TDs cited the research from the New York State Department of Health that led to New York State’s ban on fracking because it posed serious public health risks to New Yorkers. The question was asked how, if fracking is not safe for New Yorkers’ public health, it could be safe for Irish public health. “I have no idea” was the answer from the EPA.
“My fellow New Yorkers and I are working together with Ireland’s anti-fracking campaigners because if fracking is not safe for New York then it’s not safe for Ireland!” said actor and advocate Mark Ruffalo. “New York banned fracking because the State Department of Health and Department of Environment conducted years-long independent studies on the environment and public health and safety risks of fracking, concluding that fracking is not safe for human health. The governments of Ireland and Northern Ireland have behaved irresponsibly in having the oil and gas industry conduct this study on fracking in Ireland. It’s always best to keep the fracking fox out of your hen house! As we have learned time and time again in the United States, the oil and gas industry cannot be trusted. I encourage the Irish people to join the campaign to stop fracking in Ireland. This study must be stopped and like New York, fracking should be banned in Ireland.”
Campaigners, including New York campaigner Julia Walsh from the group Frack Action, are available for interviews.