Victory! “No plans” for Fracking Study Monitoring

blogTenders are not being issued

Our Stop the Study campaign has had an impact!  Tenders for contractors to set up monitoring stations in Fermanagh, Leitrim and Clare and do air, water and ground monitoring for 12 months have not been issued.  And this week we learned from Senator Paschal Mooney, who asked the question of the EPA, that “there are no plans to initiate this process at the moment”.

We are really delighted with this news. Basically it stops the Research Study in its tracks.  The September progress report indicated that most of the desk research is “nearly complete” and what remains is the study of the local terrain and its suitability for fracking.  Without such monitoring, the study can’t be finished and therefore is worthless.11-06-2015_Demonstration.Dublin.Leinster.House (34)

However, the campaign is not over yet. 

On 2nd December the EPA comes before the Joint Oireachtas Committee to answer questions arising from our findings concerning the study and its take-over by companies heavily involved in the oil and gas industry.  Even since our Rally on 5th November, further findings have come to light regarding the tendering process for the  entire study.  Truly a can of worms!  It is horrifying to discover that the industry were involved in the study process from the start.  From the drafting of the terms of reference to the tendering and contract process, the industry had their grubby fingerprints all over it.

We will not let them get away with it!  North and South, Ireland is showing that campaigning can and does work.  Especially when combined with the multiple approaches we are using:

  • Research
  • Social media
  • Freedom of information requests
  • Political lobbying
  • Meetings
  • Rallies and demonstrations
  • Celebrity endorsements (Thank you, Mark Ruffalo!)

This takes hard and dedicated work but is a powerful combination that will not let the oil and gas industry desecrate this lovely land of ours.

STOP THE STUDY!

 

Decisions on fracking in Ireland delayed until after 2016

drilling rigIn 2012, the Government decided that no decisions on granting exploration licences for fracking would be made until a comprehensive research study would be done, coordinated by the EPA. Public consultation on the Terms of Reference of this study was carried out in 2013 and over 1,300 submissions were received by EPA, largely coordinated by GEAI. This delayed the process considerably and the contracts to carry out the 24-months study on the “Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE)” were only issued last August. It is ironic that this is exactly the same month when Tamboran was stopped from drilling their first borehole in Fermanagh!

Interim reports on the research study will be given, possibly at 6-month intervals and definitely at the end of Year 1 and Year 2. These reports will be given at public events, giving an opportunity for public engagement and discussion. The final outputs of this research will not be published until end 2016. This means that no decisions on fracking can be made in the Republic before 2017.

The consortium that will carry the research is led by the management company CDM Smith Ireland LimitedQueens University BelfastBritish Geological SurveyUniversity College DublinUniversity of Ulster, AMEC, and Philip Lee Solicitors are also part of the consortium.

The 24-month research programme is composed of five interlinked projects and will involve field studies (baseline monitoring of water and seismicity) in Clare, Leitrim and Fermanagh, as well as an extensive desk-based literature review of UGEE practices worldwide. The ‘key questions’ the research programme sets out to answer are:

  • Can UGEE projects/operations be carried out in the island of Ireland whilst also protecting the environment and human health?
  • What is ‘best environmental practice’ in relation to UGEE projects/operations?

The campaign against fracking is, in general, not satisfied with those parameters. The majority of submissions asked for a Health Impact Assessment of proposals for fracking be carried out. This was not agreed and is not included in the final Terms of Reference. Also, the research is too much focussed on the capacity of regulations to limit the impacts of fracking.

However, the study will provide more scientific information on the geology of target sites and potential environmental impacts of fracking in Ireland. 

Fracking in the North 

Carrickfergus201409_07

Despite the delay in the South, fracking projects are still going through the planning process in Northern Ireland.

Tamboran Resources Ltd is seeking a judicial review of the Fermangh licence termination. The case has been listed in Belfast High Court for this month (November). Counsel for Minister Arlene Foster has asserted that an expired licence to carry out exploratory shale gas drilling cannot be reinstated through a legal challenge.

InfraStrata is ready to drill in Woodburn Forest in spring 2015, beside Carrickfergus (Co. Antrim). The company denies the use of fracking on the site because “geology is not suitable”. This means that hydraulic fracturing will not be used in the initial exploration drilling. This statement does not guarantee that fracking will not be used during its entire project. Any on-shore extraction of oil and gas has profound and extensive impacts on the environment and on communities.

Rathlin Energy is also ready to drill in Ballinlea, near the Giant’s Causeway. They have completed their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and will be submitting that to the Council. They also plan to commence drilling in early 2015.

Will the EPA include a Health Impact Assessment in the new research study?

Glass of milky brown water in DimockOver 1,300 submissions were received by the EPA concerning the proposed Terms of Reference for their new Research Study on fracking. The majority of those demanded a study on the impacts of Health on the whole process of fracking.
Among many other individuals and groups, GEAI demanded a full Health Impact Assessment (HIA). We believe that only this can give a true picture of the impacts of fracking on health and the community. Attention is now turning to the process of scoping and carrying out this study. One of the rights of individuals under the Aarhus Convention (ratified by the Irish Government last year) is public participation in environmental decision-making:
Arrangements are to be made by public authorities to enable the public affected and environmental non-governmental organisations to comment on, for example, proposals for projects affecting the environment, or plans and programmes relating to the environment, these comments to be taken into due account in decision-making, and information to be provided on the final decisions and the reasons for it.”
Two conclusions can be reached:
1. Since most of the submissions received looked for Health impacts to be studied, the EPA now has to either agree to this, or give the reasons why not.
Indications are that they have agreed to include some form of Health study but the public must be informed as to what kind of study is proposed and we can demand input into this decision as well. Nothing less than a full Health Impact Assessment would be adequate.
2. There are fundamental flaws in the process by which this study is being managed.
  • There is no representation from the target communities on the Steering Committee managing this study; neither are there members from the Departments of Health or Agriculture.
  • There is no accountability to the public since the EPA and associated organisations have immunity from prosecution.
  • There are no further proposals to enable the public affected to comment on amended Terms of Reference, the scope of the research study, or draft reports.
The “public consultation” we have had, although a step in the right direction, is not enough. The public MUST be involved at every stage of this extremely important study. We have seen how public opinion and lobbying can influence Government decisions. We now must demand input into the research study process.
Picture: Glass of milky brown water in Dimock, Pennsylvania (From Marcellus Protest)

[Press release] 2-year moratorium on exploration licences!

GNU licence, wikimedia commons Meredithw

GNU licence, wikimedia commons Meredithw

Minister Fergus O’Dowd has finally given in to pressure from those campaigning against shale gas exploration and announced an unofficial moratorium on exploration licences.
In a press release on 7th March, he confirmed that two companies, Tamboran and Enegi Oil, have applied for licences and that his Department would be evaluating those applications. However, “further consideration of the application will then be put on hold until after the finding of the new EPA research have been published”, he said. He also said that he does not propose ”to consider applications for exploration authorisation in respect of other onshore areas until the EPA research has concluded”.
This means that no Exploration Licences will be given out for at least two years as the EPA report is not due until 2015.
This is a great victory for the campaigners. Recently, Good Energies Alliance Ireland organised an intense letter-writing campaign to the Minister demanding that the Government gave a commitment that no further licences would be granted for fracking. Other campaigners also had a “Licence Not to Frack Leitrim” campaign and went to Leinster House to express their concerns. Local TDs, Senators and Councillors also put pressure on the Minister. Those actions have paid off.
Statement from GEAI
“We are delighted with this development. It shows the power of the campaign that through our efforts we were able to influence the Government to pull back from issuing Exploration Licences that would give the companies concerned rights to drill. We now have two years to bring our campaign to the wider population, to raise awareness that this is a national issue, not a local one and that the consequences of allowing this industry free rein in our country could be a national disaster. The campaign is not over by any means – this is only a temporary moratorium, our ultimate goal is achieving a total ban on fracking in Ireland and we will keep working until this happens.”

General meeting and talk by Jessica Ernst March 2nd

“FRACKING COMMUNITY. Actions and omissions speak louder than words”. Jessica Ernst will speak at this event, to be held in Leitrim Village Community Centre on Saturday 2nd March at 7-10pm. All welcome.
Jessica Ernst is a Canadian scientist who has worked in the oil and gas industry for 30 years. She discovered first-hand the consequences of hydraulic fracturing in her town of Rosebud, Alberta, Canada and has valuable, first-hand information to share with our community. This is a rare opportunity to hear her experiences of the dangers of shale gas development – she is coming to Leitrim and other places around the world to warn communities of what our reality may become. Jessica is currently suing the Canadian authorities for unlawful activities related to hydraulic fracturing and undertaking a tour of locations at risk from the shale gas industry.
Before her lecture, a national anti-fracking meeting will take place at the same venue, from 11 am to 4 pm.
Tea/Coffee and light refreshments will be available on the night as well as music
from local musicians.
There is no entrance charge to this event.
Jessica will also be speaking at the following venues:
  • Ennis: March 4thOld Ground Hotel, Co. Clare. 8pm
  • Belfast: March 6thQueens University, Peter Froggatt Center. 7pm
  • St. Annes: March 7th. United Reformed Church, St. Georges Road, Lancs 7pm
  • BalcombeMarch 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.

COPYRIGHT

® All rights reserved to GEAI 2018