GEAI welcomes anti-fracking vote on the European Parliament

European Parliament. Photo By diamond geezer (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

European Parliament. Photo By diamond geezer (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI) welcomes the anti-fracking vote on the European Parliament and calls on communities to embrace sustainable alternatives. The vote was symbolic as it will not ban fracking in the EU but it shows that a majority of MEPs reject shale gas exploitation.

“This vote is a step forward for the anti-fracking campaign in Ireland, north and south”. GEAI director Aedín McLoughlin stated. “Fracking has been banned in New York due to human health impacts, and now the European Parliament says that it has not been shown to be safe. Rural communities need jobs and a better future, but fracking is not the way. We need to create sustainable alternatives for communities threatened by shale gas extraction” GEAI director said.

“This is exactly what we are doing 24th June in Manorhamilton (Co Leitrim) at Renewable Energies – Prosperous Communities. A day of workshops and discussion where everybody will have the chance to express their views. Local communities have the opportunity to use renewable energy to improve their lives, their economy and their health. We have a chance to create jobs in rural areas and help to reduce our environmental impacts at the same time”, GEAI director said.

“Many people have already shown their interest in this event, and we hope to achieve really positives outcomes for Manorhamilton and other communities. We could be witnessing the beginning of reshaping Ireland’s energy landscape”, Aedín McLoughlin concluded.

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An overview of fracking in the EU

European_flag

The European Union lacks a common policy on fracking. Some countries are convinced supporters while others have banned it for safety and environmental reasons. This disagreement between the member states prevented the passing of a Directive regulating shale gas exploitation, resulting in the European Commission being restricted to adopting certain “recommendations“.

Recently the European Parliament published a briefing document highlighting the fracking policies of the members states. There are three groups: those that support fracking, those against, and those that still don’t know if they support or not. The UK is a very particular case, because it lies on both sides of the divide.  The following summarises the report:

Countries supporting frackingiIPFxxAvBxys

England (UK).  The British Government is in a “dash for gas”, despite some of the governing coalition MPs supporting a ban on fracking due to its environmental and health impacts. During the parliamentary debate, the Government accepted a Labour amendment that banned fracking from 40% of the shale gas areas previously offered for exploration.

Northern Ireland (UK).  The Stormont Executive has issued four exploratory licences that include the possibility of fracking. Two of them are still active. Drilling is about to take place in Ballinlea, near the Giant’s Causeway, and in Carrickfergus, beside a water reservoir near Belfast. Another licence was terminated by the Government but it is still open for new companies to apply.

Poland. This country has the largest resources in Europe, according to the US Energy Information Authority. However, the first exploration wells have shown disappointing results, and prompted some operators e.g. Chevron and Exxon, to leave Poland.  New laws to facilitate fracking have been passed but in June 2014 the EU Commission “opened legal proceedings against Poland, on the grounds that the new law infringes the environmental impact assessment (EIA) directive by allowing drilling at depths of up to 5000 metres without having assessed the potential environmental impact.”

Denmark. Despite being one the main promoter of renewable energies in Europe, Denmark approved exploratory drilling in 2014.

Spain. Spanish government supports shale gas development after putting a break on renewable energy development. Some of the regions have tried to ban fracking, but the Constitutional Court have declared that those moratoriums are unconstitutional.

Lithuania. The European Parliament report shows that this Baltic country “is the process of introducing “investor-friendly shale gas regulations”, but companies like Chevron “pulled out the country citing an uncertain legal framework”.

Romania. This country lifted an earlier ban in 2013 and is supportive of shale gas. The reports point out the “Chevron started exploratory drilling in  in May 2014”.

 

Countries against

Bulgaria. In January 2012 this country imposed a moratorium on fracking and revoked licences for shale gas exploration.

France. In 2013 French Constitutional Court upheld a ban on fracking approved two years before. France has some of the largest estimated shale gas reserves in Europe but President François Hollande has promised to maintain the ban on fracking as long as he is in office.

Scotland (UK). In January 2015 the Scottish Government called for a moratorium on fracking.  “This moratorium will continue until such time as the work I have set out to Parliament today, including a full public consultation and a full public heatlth impact assesment, is completed”, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said. Moreover, Scotland is expecting to get control over minerals rights in the enlargement of Home Rule promised after the independence referedum last year.

Wales (UK).  The Welsh Assembly called the Government to do “everything within its power to prevent fracking from taking place in Wales until it is proven to be safe in both an environmental and public health context.” The Welsh Government wants to achieve the same level of control over mineral rights as Scotland.

 

Maybe 

ireland-is-not-for-shale

Ireland. Our country declared a moratorium on fracking in 2012, when the Government decided not to issue any licences until the completion of a 2-years research program. Three licensing option were granted in 2010, but no decision will be made until 2017, when the research is finished.

Germany. The biggest European economy still doesn’t have a policy on fracking. The president of the Federal Environmental Agency said that “as long as there are no firm statements on the risks of this technology and how they can be controlled, there should be no fracking activity in Germany for the purpose of shale and coalbed gas extraction”. “But fracking has not been prohibited“, she remarked.

Netherlands. The European Parliament report points out that “shale gas exploration in the Netherlands gas been suspended, while a study to be completed in 2015 on its environmental and social effects is carried out.

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.

WE WISH ALL OUR SUPPORTERS A HAPPY, HEALTHY AND FRACK-FREE NEW YEAR!

Outcome of Plenary vote on EIA for fracking

Drilling MEPs support mandatory EIAs  for Fracking

European politicians recognised the specific environmental, health and social impacts of fracking today, according to Friends of the Earth Europe. For the first time, and as a result of a vote in the European Parliament today, some of the dangers of unconventional fossil fuels like shale gas are now specifically reflected in environmental and health safeguards applicable to all fossil fuels. However, the organisation warns that this does not close the door on dirty and dangerous unconventional fossil fuels.

GEAI is very pleased with this development.  The resolution being voted upon was the review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive.  Many amendments were put forward to the proposed document, one being the imposition of mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) at exploration as well as extraction stages of shale gas development (AM79).  The MEPs supported this amendment, which is a recognition of the potential dangers of the industry, even at the exploration stage.

However, the news is not all great.  The resolution was watered down by voting for another amendment which imposes mandatory EIAs only for exploration activities that include hydraulic fracturing (fracking).  This means that drilling pads and access roads can be constructed, drilling rigs installed, deep wells drilled and other infrastructure put in place without EIAs.  And who will regulate and oversee these?

So – a big step forward but the war is not won yet!

Lobby your MEPs today!

EIA plenary vote Oct 2013

EIA plenary vote 9th Oct 2013

The European Parliament plenary vote on the review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive will take place next Wednesday, October 9. You can find more details about the vote and a link to an updated template letter to send to your MEP below. These are the final voting recommendations.

The most important amendment we need support for is AM 79, which guarantees mandatory EIAs at exploration stage.
Many thanks to everyone who has been lobbying their MEPs for this important vote since mid-August! If we don’t get a majority supporting mandatory EIAs, it will be a major victory for the fracking industry, so please keep the pressure on!

List of MEPs in Ireland and UK to lobby:

liam.aylward@europarl.europa.eu,
catherine.bearder@europarl.europa.eu,
phil.bennion@europarl.europa.eu,
sharon.bowles@europarl.europa.eu,
brian.crowley@europarl.europa.eu,
chris@chrisdaviesmep.org.uk
andrew.duff@europarl.europa.eu,
patthecope.gallagher@europarl.europa.eu,
fiona.hall@europarl.europa.eu,
marian.harkin@europarl.europa.eu
sarah.ludford@europarl.europa.eu,
george.lyon@europarl.europa.eu,
edward.mcmillan-scott@europarl.europa.eu,
bill.newtondunn@europarl.europa.eu,
rebecca.taylor@europarl.europa.eu,
graham.watson@europarl.europa.eu

Link to template letter:
>2013.10_email_action_eia_plenary_vote_oct_2013_final

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