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

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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.

“STOP THE STUDY” – Rising to a new Challenge

10-17-2015_Public Meeting Glanfarme (104)At a most successful meeting in Glenfarne last Saturday, attended by over 120 people, the case for opposing the  so-called research study on fracking in Ireland coordinated by the EPA was made clear.  The meeting started with a number of speakers giving the case for concern.  This was followed by a panel discussion and plan of action.

Speakers
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Panel of speakers

Dr Carroll O’Dolan, GP in Blacklion, living in Belcoo, County Fermanagh, member of FFAN (Fermanagh Frack Free Network).  Carroll gave an overview of the fracking industry, and spoke about what is now known of the Health Impacts of fracking.

Tom White, Engineer, member of Belcoo Frack Free, Love Leitrim and GEAI.  Tom discussed the volue of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and what was discovered as a result of his work with FOI.

Vanessa Vine, member of Sussex No Fracking and BIFF (Britain and Ireland Frack Free).  Vanessa spoke about the UK experience and how government was colluding with the industry.

Dr Aedín McLoughlin, Director of GEAI and member of Environmental Pillar Steering Committee.  Aedín gave an account of what has been discovered regarding the EPA research study, how it has been taken over by the oil/gas industry and how there has been cover-up of the the near absence of independent research.

Summary of facts

A summary of the main facts put before the meeting include:

• The Research Study has been contracted to a group led by CDM Smith, a U.S. consultancy providing services to the oil and gas industry and former member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Amec Foster Wheeler is also a major player in the study. Amec is a UK consultancy firm, currently member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, whose clients include BP, Shell, BR Petrobras, KNPC, Ontario Power Generation, GDF Suez and ExxonMobil.

• These two companies are developing the vast majority of the study, which is in essence a study being written by the industry for the industry.

• We were told that Irish Universities would have a major role, guaranteeing independence. Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) pulled out of the consortium in October 2014 and were never part of the research team (despite a Joint Oireachtas Committee (JOC) being informed otherwise by EPA in June 2015); UCD and University of Ulster (UU) have only minor roles to play. Serious questions must be asked in this regard.

• There is unacceptable secrecy surrounding this research. Interim reports are not being made public; no public participation is allowed before the final report is published; no independent external peer review is planned.

• THIS STUDY IS NOT INDEPENDENT YET IS PLANNED TO INFORM GOVERNMENT POLICY ON FRACKING. It is NOT focussed on policy but on process – it is not looking at whether Ireland should permit fracking; instead it is looking at how impacts of fracking can be mitigated by regulations. It is therefore not fit for purpose.

Current plans (October) include the issuing of tenders for seismic tests and air and water monitoring in the NorthWest, on both sides of the border, setting up monitoring stations and providing valuable information to companies currently applying for exploration licences.

DEMANDS

1. We call on Government, in particular the Minister for Environment and Minister for Energy, to direct the EPA to STOP THE STUDY related to the “Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration & Extraction (UGEE)” immediately and to cancel the issuing of supplementary tenders for on-the-ground seismic tests and other monitoring tasks relating to this work.

2. We call for a review of the health impacts of fracking that considers the findings of all relevant peer-reviewed studies and reports, based on the methodology of the NY State Health Commission Report (December 2014), to be carried out by the Chief Medical Officer, under the auspices of the HSE and the Department of Health.

NEXT ACTIONS

A PUBLICITY EVENT will be organised to take place in Dublin, outside Leinster House, on Thursday 5th November at 12 noon.  The aim of this event is to raise our concerns with politicians and to put our demands before them.

For the next two weeks, an email and letter-writing campaign will take place targeted at specific TDs and Senators.

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