Mark Ruffalo Calls on Minister Durkan to Stop the Drill

mrfrack750Press Release from Water Defense

Actor Mark Ruffalo has joined the chorus of voices demanding that Minister Mark Durkan stops the drilling at North Woodburn Reservoir with the risk of poisoning Belfast’s water supplies.  The situation is very grave – Infrastrata personnel have come on the land in Woodburn Forest with chain saws and are clearing the area targeted for drilling. Their operation is unlawful, without Environmental Impact Statement, without waste management plan, without proper permits.  It is time that the Minister acts!  This can’t be allowed to continue.

Actor and clean water advocate Mark Ruffalo, founder of Water Defense, and the organization’s Chief Technology Officer & Investigator, Scott Smith, sent a letter to Minister Durkan after Water Defense was contacted by local residents and organizations in Northern Ireland concerned about their water being contaminated by the drilling. Minister Durkan’s government is poised to allow unconventional oil and gas extraction with toxic chemicals 350 metres from the North Woodburn Water Reservoir that is the drinking water source for 131,000 people, including Belfast City centre. The unconventional drilling method is not safe and threatens the water supply, people’s health, and the environment.

Water Defense is a non-profit organization based in the United States that has traveled around the world testing water, educating people about toxic chemicals and pathways of contamination, and advocating for people’s right to clean drinking water. After local residents in Northern Ireland contacted the organization, Water Defense became very concerned about the ramifications of extreme drilling with toxic chemicals next to the reservoir and wrote a letter to Minister Durkan, copying other officials.

The letter notes, “It is also troubling that your Department, whose responsibility is for the Environment, is not intervening to stop this activity that appears to be unlawful given the fact that a Waste Management Plan (The Planning of Management of Waste from Extractive Industries 2015) was required before permitted development was granted and that environmental considerations have not been adequately assessed. It is extraordinary that on this sensitive site there has been no public scrutiny through the planning process and there has been no Environmental Impact Assessment.”

The letter also notes that Distinguished Professor Anthony Ingraffea, a renowned expert on unconventional drilling from the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at Cornell University, has called it ‘irrational’ for the dangerous drilling to go forward on this particular land.  It points to the fact that some of the chemicals that would be used are carcinogenic, such asBiocide T, and can cause harm to unborn children.

The letter concludes, “We implore you to protect your citizens by protecting their water. The small amount of oil and gas that can be extracted from that site pales in comparison to the nightmare that contaminating the water supply for over 131,000 residents in your community would cause.”

Water Defense is also sending water testing kits to local residents and organizations including Friends of Earth Northern Ireland and Stop the Drill campaign, and will be in communication with them to perform water tests.

For the full letter :Water Defense letter to Northern Ireland

When is fracking not fracking?

iIPFxxAvBxysWhen an oil/gas company wants to drill, of course!

Look at what Rathlin Energy are planning to do near the Giant’s Causeway:

  1. Construct a drilling pad
  2. Drill down 2,700 metres – drilling day and night for up to 90 days
  3. “Stimulate” the well using hydraulic fracturing.  This could go on for 12 weeks, 12 hours per day and probably overnight as well.
  4. Collect flowback
  5. Flare off emitted gas for up to 14 days.

What is this if not fracking?

Yet Rathlin Energy persist in their claim that “fracking will not be used during drilling of this well”.

Who are they trying to fool?  The public of course!  And that includes you, me and everyone else.

Two statements from the EIS that must be queried

The results of the modelling exercise shows that the operation of the flares will not breach the relevant limits for the protection of human health or vegetation at the nearest sensitive receptors. (p16, EIS Non-technical Summary).

Yet, by their own admission, flare emissions can contain CO2, Carbon Monoxide (toxic), Nitogen oxides (some toxic), Sulphur Dioxide (toxic), particulates and, most worryingly of all “unburned hydrocarbons”.  The latter possibly include some real “baddies” – Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene (BTEX).  So toxic, there are NO safe levels of exposure!  When nobody knows whether gas will be produced at all, not to mind its constituency, how can anyone say that public health is not at risk?  One only has to refer to relevant peer-reviewed reports from the US to know that flares definitely constitute a public health risk.

Now let’s look at how Rathlin Energy intends to get rid of flowback waste from the well:

The paragraph starts off, “Waste will be segregated and controlled.” (p20)  Then it describes what it does with flowback: ” Cuttings skips are provided for water based cuttings. They are removed by a licensed contractor for treatment,recycling or disposal as applicable”.

In other words, liquid wastes will not be controlled (by Rathlin Energy anyway). Water-based “cuttings” from hydraulic fracturing contain heavy metals, radioactive elements, brine and fracking chemicals. What treatment is available in Northern Ireland? NONE. Neither are there licenced contractors in Northern Ireland who could take on the task of recycling fracking waste. Which leaves “disposal”. When no adequate method is stated for safe disposal and with Northern Ireland’s record for waste disposal, could anyone have confidence that such waste could be disposed of safely? We don’t think so!

This EIS raises many questions that need answering.

It is madness to go ahead with a project that includes such uncertainties and risks to human health. 

Rathlin Energy is closer to drilling in North Antrim

A second well near the Giant’s Causeway

Rathlin Energy is closer to starting a second drilling in Ballinlea, North Antrim. The company has submitted the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), that the authorities requested last year. The project consists of a single borehole 2,700m depth to “test the prospects for commercial quantities of petroleum”.

This is the second Rathlin Energy project in the area. In 2008 they drilled the Ballinlea-1 well, where they found oil but not in commercial quantities. Later the Northern Ireland Goverment awarded the company with a more extensive licence. The goal is to continue to build upon the work completed in the first well.

Rathlin Energy applied for a new project 2013. EIS submission is a step forward to get planning permission to start the drilling. The company has always denied any intention of fracking  this well. However, the Non Technical Summary indicates that “conventional hydraulic fracture stimulation” and flaring will be use in Ballinlea. Is this not fracking?

The actual drilling will last for 9 to 12 weeks, the EIS points out. But if results are promising they may extend the tests for 9o more days. The documents considers landscape and visuals impacts as “acceptable”. Besides “there will be no detrimental impacts on human health”. For that reason “no health monitoring scheme is warranted if the proposed project goes ahead”.

Ballinlea Residents Groups are calling for help:
  • Please study these documents and bring to our attention, and the Planning Department’s attention, anything you find concerning. You’ve only got about 4 weeks and there’s a lot there!
  • We are looking for people to help with studying these documents – if you have any expertise in this area, or know anyone else who has, NOW is the time we REALLY NEED YOUR HELP.

You can contact they at:

If you want to know more about this fracking proposal click on the link below and check our timeline!


Fracking by Stealth – it’s starting in Antrim!

It’s called Fracking by Stealth – companies apply for permission to drill, not to frack. They take the position that drilling is harmless and the UK Government agrees with them – no Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) needed for drilling. And even if eventually EIAs will be required, it will be for the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) stage only.

Let’s look at what can now be done without EIA

• The operator arrives on site with his first 120 trucks.

• Builds a pad.

• Brings on the rig, lighting, cement, portocabins, accommodation block, toilets, generators, compressors

• Brings on the drilling mud with drilling chemicals.

• Drills the well through an aquifer.

• Cements in conductor and then surface casing (you hope) – nobody check in the UK – there are no regulations and no inspection.

• Drills through intermediate stage

• Cements in Intermediate casing (you hope) – nobody check in the UK – there are no regulations and no inspection.

• Maybe an Formation Integrity Test executed. (Tests quality of casing)

• Drills to final depth (a mile or more)

• Cements in production casing (this definitely happens as it is needed for operator)

• Mud drill waste all transported by truck to local waste facility (this caused radioactive monitors to go off repeatedly in the States).

• Brings on the kit needed for fracking, sand (silica), chemicals in their raw 100% form, water abstraction ready – if no local supply, compressors for getting to 6,000+ psi.

• Then he is ready to frack and applies for permission to do that.

Then – AND ONLY THEN – is an EIA required in the UK under the “old” EU regulations. And now, with the complete climb down by the Commission, even this is not necessary!

Fracking by Stealth will happen because it is a good way to divert attention away and means the planners have to pass the initial permission because they need proper reasons for rejecting and just drilling a hole in the ground is hard for them to reject and so they don’t.

Planning permission for drilling has now been granted to oil and gas company Infrastrata to drill an exploratory well in County Antrim. No EIA required.

(Thanks to Mike Hill for details of drilling and title “Fracking by Stealth”)

Happy New Year to all our friends!

2013 is past and most of us are not unhappy to be in a New Year.  For many people and campaigners, 2013 was a tough year – throughout Ireland, people struggled with the national economic situation, personal reduction in disposable income and, of course, the looming threat of unconventional gas projects on our island.

2014 also promises to be a busy and challenging year.  The proposals to start drilling in Antrim and Fermanagh must be opposed with a really effective campaign that operates at all levels; a major campaign to advocate for a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on national policy re fracking and a campaign to have an SEA on such policy must also be organised.  On top of all of that, the reality of Climate Change is hitting home and GEAI must produce some policy papers on renewable/sustainable energy sources.

Recently we received confirmation that GEAI and MARDI have been awarded a Youth Democracy project that will encourage young people from Ireland and Poland to study how environmental campaigns are waged in the two countries, also how decisions are made at EU Parliament level.  We are looking forward to this exciting, interesting and challenging project.

Certainly, there is no room for complacency – powerful consortia are eyeing our island and planning exploitation of our natural resources without any care for our environment, our heritage, or our people.  The fight against such exploitation must take place at every level – on the street, advocacy, mounting legal challenges, awareness raising throughout the island.  2014 is a crucial year with local authority and EU elections in May.  It is vital that fracking becomes an election issue with all parties and independents.



® All rights reserved to GEAI 2018