GEAI supports Leitrim County Council anti-fracking motion

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Good Energies Alliance Ireland strongly supports the anti-fracking motion passed by Leitrim County Council by an overwhelming majority on Monday 11th. The motion, submitted by Mary Bohan (FF) calls for a “a vote of no confidence in the CDM Smith’s consortium of researchers appointed by the EPA to carry out the research programme in relation to fracking”.

CDM Smith is a pro-fracking organisation, involved with shale gas companies in Poland and Canada, the Irish Times revealed last month. The EPA-administered research opposed by the Council is led by CDM Smith. It will last for another year, with final reports due in September 2016. “The problem is that the research study is led by the industry, which is not qualified to do public health studies and whose findings would be suspect”. GEAI director Aedín McLoughlin said.

“We are delighted that this motion got such support by Leitrim County Council. It shows that the councillors are prepared to stand behind the ban on fracking they imposed last year and will not support an investigation of fracking that is carried out by a company with vested interests”, GEAI director said.

“This motion also called for research on fracking to be carried out by the Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer”, McLoughlin said. “This should consist of an up-to-date and comprehensive review of the public health impacts of fracking. We have been asking for this since we know the truth about CDM Smith”, GEAI director stated.

New York State banned fracking after a review of the Public Health impacts of Fracking by the Department of Health, followed by consideration of the review and a full ban on fracking by New York State Governor Cuomo. “ We want the same in Ireland” Aedín McLoughlin concluded.

Alberta Government won’t appeal decision allowing Jessica Ernst to sue

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Jessica Ernst at the Canadian courts

Another victory for Jessica Ernst, a well known Canadian activist and friend of Irish anti-fracking campaign. The Goverment of the  province of Alberta won’t appeal the decision to allow Ernst to sue, representing a big landmark for the anti-fracking movement. This step came after a judge dismissed all the key arguments made by the Alberta goverment against her $33m lawsuit last November.

Ernst, who worked in the oil industry for 30 years, has been keeping up a legal fight since 2007 against the Alberta Government  after the fracking operations of the energy company Encana contaminanted her water well with methane and other chemichal fluids in 2001. She accused the provincial goverment bodies, in charge of protecting the environment and the regulating the oil and gas industry in Alberta, of failing to follow the investigation and enforcement processes that they had established and publicised to protect local communities from polutions of the fracking process. The provincial bodies tried to silence her, even calling her a “terrorist”.

The lawsuit, which breaks ground for more people and communities affected by the fracking industry in Alberta, which is the the biggest oil producing province in Canada, can now continue. Ernst visited Ireland in 2013 at the invitation of the anti-fracking campaign to explain her experiences of dealing with the consequences of fracking and how she was fighting them.

64% of EU citizens against development of Shale Gas

   Irish Voice heard in Brussels meeting
The results of an EU on-line questionnaire on fracking were presented at a meeting on 7th June in Brussels, attended by Irish representatives of the campaign against fracking.  Almost 23,000 people responded to the questionnaire, a large majority of which agree on the lack of adequate legislation, the need for public information and the lack of public acceptance of unconventional fossil fuels (e.g. shale gas).  When the responses were weighted to reflect EU Member States’ population, they indicated that 64% of EU citizens thought that shale gas should not be developed in Europe at all.
Following presentation of the results, a broadly-based discussion of the environmental impacts of fracking took place.  The health impacts of fracking and the importance of applying the precautionary principle to proposals to frack were emphasised by the Irish representatives which included Dr Geralyn McCarron (Fermanagh), Geraldine Ring (Cork) and Dr Aedin McLoughlin (Leitrim).
[Image: Geralyn and Aedín with FOE outside Commission building]
Geralyn + Aedin in BrusselsDr McCarron spoke about the impacts of contamination from fracking on a rural community she has studied in Australia.  “There was a range of symptoms related to neurotoxicity (damage to the nervous system), including severe fatigue, weakness, headaches, numbness and paraesthesia (pins and needles.  Almost all the children suffered from headaches and for over half of these the headaches were severe.   Other symptoms reported among the population included increases in cough, chest tightness, rashes, difficulty sleeping, joint pains, muscle pains and spasms, nausea and vomiting.”
Dr McCarron said that Health Impact Assessments, carried out with internationally recognised protocols, must be an integral part of every unconventional gas development proposal.
Aedín McLoughlin from GEAI  pointed out that throughout Europe, proposals for exploration included drilling and fracking in border areas (e.g. Leitrim/Fermanagh.   “Such exploration must not proceed without a common policy and regulatory framework between the two jurisdictions involved.  Water knows no borders and the areas targeted include the two major waterways of the  Shannon and Erne Rivers.”
She also stressed the importance of the precautionary principle and how it must be applied:  Proposals for on-shore unconventional gas exploration to be considered new plans or programmes by EU Member States and Strategic Environmental Assessments to be carried out on all such proposals as per  SEA Directive 2001; Health Impact Assessments to be carried out on all such proposals; and Environmental Impact Studies to be carried out on all stages of fracking, to include studies of the cumulative impacts of such developments.  “Finally, we consider that a Moratorium on unconventional gas exploration or extraction must be implemented in each Member State until such studies show that environmental degradation or adverse public health impacts will not result from such projects,” she concluded.
Geraldine Ring questioned the Commission’s proposal to develop a risk management framework. “Fracking carries with it risks, but also realities. One of these realities is the huge volume of flowback water and we know from the US, Canada and Australia that there is no best practice to treat it.” She asked how the Commission planned to deal with such realities.
She also referred to the gaps that have been already identified by the Commission in existing Directives.  “The current EU regulatory framework at both exploration and production phase has a number of gaps or potential gaps,” she said.  “A study published by the Commission in September of last year showed gaps in at least eight key environmental acquis, including the Water Framework Directive, the Air Quality Directive, the Mining Waste Directive and the Environmental Impact Assessment directive which is currently under review.”
Aedín also visited the EU Parliament and had a discussion about the meeting with MEP Marian Harkin’s staff. Marian Harkin kindly sponsored her travel costs.

Big crowd at Jessica Ernst presentation

Last Saturday night, 2nd March, Canadian scientist Jessica Ernst gave a presentation in Leitrim village. A big crowd, around 150-200 people warmly welcomed her, the talk ending by a standing ovation. Staying in Ireland and United Kingdom until 12th March, she has come from Rosebud (Alberta) in Canada to tell her story, her struggle against oil company Encana.P1030514web
She herself worked in the oil and gas industry for 30 years until this petroleum company shallow-fracked close to her house.
As well as contamination of Rosebud’s drinking water, air pollution, illnesses, flaring noise, traffic… Jessica told of the dreadful impacts on her community. Most of the people stay silent, too afraid to talk and sometimes are paid for their silence. Encana considers her a terrorist, and the Canadian government denies the facts: “Your water is the cleanest in the world, nothing is wrong, it’s brown because you use too much water”, she was told. Jessica chose to go down the legal route and is currently suing the Canadian authorities for unlawful activities related to hydraulic fracturing. Her victory would be the first in the world. The struggle is exhausting: “Canada has fracked the head off Lady Justice. That’s how bad fracking is!”, she declared.
Before her lecture, a National Meeting of groups and individuals campaigning against unconventional gas extraction took place in Leitrim community centre. People came from Dublin, Cork, Clare, Wexford, Sligo, Donegal and elsewhere. Representatives of Making a Real Difference – Ireland (M.A.R.D.I) were there as well. Everyone worked on common concerns such as a strategy plan, internal and external communication, shared ideas and planned next actions.
Jessica joined the meeting towards its end and emphasised the importance of writing letters to Government and local representatives on every issue of concern. “A hand-written letter is worth dozens of type-written letters that you just sign. They pay attention to all letters personally written. Send thousands from the campaign, make your voices heard. ” she said.
It was agreed that there must be a demand that Government removes EPA immunity from prosecution immediately.
Many groups, including Good Energies Alliance Ireland, had information stands and a flyer at the meeting. Following the meeting there was a short presentation on GEAI aims, actions and plans for 2013.
Programme of Jessica’s next talks:
  • Ennis: March 4th. Old Ground Hotel, Co. Clare. 8pm
  • Belfast: March 6th. Queens University, Peter Froggatt Center. 7pm
  • St. Annes: March 7th. United Reformed Church, St. Georges Road, Lancs 7pm
  • Balcombe: March 8th. Church of England Primary School, London Road, RH17 6HS – 8pm until 10pm.
  • Dublin: March 10th. Gresham Hotel, O connell Street Dublin, 11-6pm. Hosted by Richard Boyd Barrett TD & Chair of Save our Seafront with speakers from Norway, An Taisce, SIPTU, The Woodlands League and more. Full programme
  • Dublin: March 11th.
    NUI Maynouth, 1pm, (Hall E, NUIM Campus, bring lunch).
    Hosted by Friends of the Earth: Smock Alley Theatre 7-9 pm, Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.
Jessica Ernst’ website: Ernst vs Encana.

(Pictures AG)

Demand that government removes EPA immunity from prosecution immediately

A national meeting in Leitrim of groups and individuals campaigning against shale gas extraction last Saturday was delighted to welcome Jessica Ernst, a Canadian scientist taking a court case against the oil compangy, Encana.
Jessica joined in a discussion regarding the new study being commissioned by the EPA at present and the invitation to make submissions on the study’s Terms of Reference. The meeting was told that the EPA’s immunity from prosecution removes any responsibility by them for decisions made, based on the report, that would impact on the environment or on public health.
Jessica emphasised the importance of writing letters to Government and local representatives. “A hand-written letter is worth dozens of type-written letters that you just sign. They pay attention to all letters personally written. Send thousands from the campaign, make your voices heard,” she said.
1. That any response to the call for submissions on the proposed Terms of Reference for the research study “ Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction” should include a demand for this immunity to be removed immediately by an Act of the Oireachtas.
2. That until this immunity is removed, the Research Study should not be considered.
Relevant paragraphs in EPA Act 1992:
Para 15 – Immunity of Agency
“No action or other proceedings shall lie or be maintainable against the Agency or any body referred to in section 44 or 45 for the recovery of damages in respect of any injury to persons, damage to property or other loss alleged to have been caused or contributed to by a failure to perform or to comply with any of the functions conferred on the said Agency or body.”
Para 16 – Indemnification of Director General, directors and other persons.
“Where the Agency is satisfied that the Director General or other director or authorised person appointed by the Agency, or any other employee of the Agency has discharged his duties in relation to the enforcement of the relevant statutory provisions in a bona fide manner, it shall indemnify the Director General or other director or authorised person of the Agency or any other employee of the Agency, against all actions or claims howsoever arising in respect of the discharge by him of his duties.”
Relevant statements:
EPA Review report (2010) stated: “…doubts have been expressed about the constitutionality of this immunity and whether it is compatible with obligations arising under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Review Group concluded that the absolute nature of the EPA’s immunity … should be revised, as appropriate, when the opportunity arises.”
Phil Hogan, Minister for Environment: “The review recommended that immunity from prosecution, as applicable to the EPA in carrying out its functions, be reconsidered. As set out in the implementation plan, I propose to consider this issue, which is likely would require primary legislation if it is decided to progress it in the latter half of 2013.” (June 6th 2012)
See our page about EPA public consultation and our press releases: “EPA proposed fracking research ignores public health” and “EPA report on fracking just a whitewash?”

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