EPA FRACKING STUDY HAS MAJOR FLAWS

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Aedín McLoughlin hands Submission to Hildegarde Naughten TD, chairperson of Oireachtas committee

GEAI submission to Oireachtas Committee.

GEAI has made a major submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Climate Action and Communications on the EPA-commissioned Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE) Joint Research Programme.  This Study had as its major research question: “Can UGEE be carried out while protecting the environment and human health?”

Conclusions do not reflect findings

We have discovered that the overall summary report did not reflect the findings of the five research reports, which more correctly should have highlighted that:

  • UGEE (fracking) operations globally have major impacts on the environment and on human health, but as human health was not included in the Terms of Reference for the study, the impact of fracking on human health was not included in the study.
  • There are several unknowns around the process of fracking globally and it is not possible to guarantee that hydraulic fracturing can be carried out without contamination of groundwater and air.
  • The hydrogeological profile of the Northwest Carboniferous Basin (mainly Leitrim and Fermanagh) is heavily faulted with deep-seated aquifers and shallow shales, which makes it unsuitable for fracking.

Summary Submission

Full Submission

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A nature walk in Cladagh Glen – Fermanagh

^1A57165DCE87B458BF32BA66B4880E9D5A61CF21FB9CE1B8BD^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrLast Friday us volunteers went for a nature walk in Cladagh Glen Walk, located in Co. Fermanagh. It was a beautiful warm and sunny day and we had a great time!

It was a good opportunity to see some of the Irish spring flowers, such as bluebells and primroses, and surprisingly for me: wild garlic! Never heard about it, in my entire life! But, is very tasty and incredible beautiful! There was wild garlic all over Cladagh Glen. It changes the landscape, for sure, after 3 months of rain and clouds, all over Ireland. The green forest is being transformed by the spring colours, mainly blue (bluebells) and white (wild garlic) and is very impressive! Slowly we are getting the summer spirit! Longer nights, brighter days, colour and energy!

Wherever I go in Ireland, my reaction is always the same: “Wow! I don’t have words to describe this landscape!” In Cladagh Glen I had, again, one of those moments. Even me, from the Azores, I can say that I saw the most beautiful landscapes of my life in Ireland.

I never took so many beautiful pictures, as in Ireland. My family and friends are amazed with the Irish landscape and culture, and so am I.For me, the most beautiful scene was the Cascades waterfall. So stunning!  And of course a nice place for a group picture!

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But now, a bit of culture and curiosities:

  • Claddagh Glen

Claddagh Glen takes its name from the Cladagh river, which rises from Marble Arch Caves, below Cuilcagh Mountain. It is also part of the Marlbank National Nature.

  • Marble Arch Caves

It was a French cave explorer Edouard Alfred Martel, accompanied by a young Dublin born scientist named Lyster Jameson, who first ventured into the darkness of the cave in 1895.

  • Maggie’s Hole

The legend goes that a local young girl, called Maggie Duffy, was running down from the mountain and across the arch when she fell through the hole and into the river below. She was wearing wide, voluminous skirts, which opened like a parachute so she floated downwards and lived to tell the tale.

  • Bluebells

They are not protected under international law, such as CITES or the EU Habitats Directive, but they are protected under UK law.

In the end, it was a lovely sunny afternoon, a good opportunity to explore Cladagh Glen’s landscape and forest, with some cultural moments and fun with the GEAI team.

20th April: the 3 volunteers visited a sustainable farm in Fermanagh

James, a friend of GEAI presented us his farm, a different farm, where you can find a ‘little’ wind turbine, a big wood boiler and plenty of solar panels.

He was one of the first people around to install a wood boiler.

Buying wood is very expensive, that’s why I burn only my own wood that I plant in my fields and sometimes I use wooden waste like pallets”, says James.

He was a lucky though because his family owns some hectares of forest land and the wood that he cut is estimated to last between 5-8 years. Before to be useful, trees should grow up during 20 years minimum, that is the perfect age when the size is enough to burn it but not too large to be difficult to cut. Next step, wood must be dried in a hangar and after to be cut in logs fit for the boiler.

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The boiler has a 40 kW capacity and in the 10 years of use he only replaced 4 small parts.

We were amazed how huge the boiler was but also his house is big.

The wind turbine

Near to his farm, James decided to construct a small windmill as part of his master degree project. In this place, the wind in sufficient to rotate the palm. Inside the windmill, the system is easy: the rotary movement moves the electric generator. A power cable leads the electricity produced to the James’ house. “I chose this place for my windmill because here is the windier field of my farm. There are no land forms or forest around and it is not so far to my house but not too close to hear it” explains James. The energy produced is controlled by an electricity meter. The turbine is mostly active at night time and he uses the energy to charge his electric car.

James explaining about the wind turbine.

James explaining about the wind turbine.

His car has a 60 miles autonomy, is not much but is good to go to work and back!

But James is very proud of his solar panels. He installed them almost one year before – 16m2  of solar with a 44 kW power and in a sunny day they would produce 3.5 units.

For him are a very good option and even in winter he can get some electricity despite the weather.

We were impressed with all that we saw, but we also understand that you have to have a passion for tinkering to be able to manage and maintain all that, he really like what he does and he is always looking for new ideas. Is a lot of work involved, of course, but Ireland, because of the climate, is a place where you have to be very resourceful and take in consideration many options for heating and electricity if you want to be sustainable and to save some money.

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Solar panels

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 

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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.

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