Stop the Study Campaign – What happened?

Recipe for a successful campaign: focussed, multi-faceted approach!

GEAI, together with other campaigners against fracking, was involved in a series of actions to raise national awareness of the current situation around the EPA Research Study on fracking and to put pressure on government to address policy on this issue.

On 8th September, a delegation from the Environmental Pillar, including our Director, Aedín McLoughlin, met the EPA.  During the course of the meeting, a progress report on the Research Study on Fracking was given to the delegation which showed clearly that the Study is being led and largely carried out by CDM Smith and Amec, both service providers to the oil and gas industry.  Queen’s University, which underpinned the independence of the study, was stated not to be part of the research consortium (also such was maintained).

Given this information, GEAI decided to initiate the “Stop the Study” campaign.  Campaign activities took place from September to December and included:

  • September – December: Social media campaign, including Facebook, Twitter, Emails, Petition, press releases, radio interviews, letter-writing and personal contacts.  Local TDs and members of JOC on Communications were specifically targeted as well as others.
  • 17th September: Organisation of a public meeting in North Leitrim, attended by over 100 people and widely reported.
  • 5th November: Rally outside Leinster House attended by GEAI, FOE, Northwest campaigners, No Fracking Dublin and others.
  • 5th November: Meeting in Leinster House AV Room where presentations were made by GEAI, FOE, Green Party and Love Leitrim to TDs, Senators, MEPs and others.
  • 29th November: Attendance at Climate March in Dublin.  GEAI hosted Julia Walsh, a lead campaigner from Frack Action New York who spoke at the March.  After the march, we attended a meeting of People Before Profit to brief them on fracking and impacts on health.
  • 2nd December: EPA was brought before Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting.  During 3 hours questioning, EPA admitted that the Research Study would not tell us if fracking can be done safely.
  • 2nd December: Attended meeting of Young FOE, gave presentation on the campaign.
  • 15th December:  Junior Minister Joe McHugh said during Dáil Debates that an Interim Report from the Research Study would be produced by the end of January.  No on-land water and seismic studies will proceed until this report is considered.
  • 17th December:  Richard Boyd Barrett TD introduced a Bill to ban fracking in Ireland.  This Bill was largely written by Kate Ruddock (FOE) and Assumpta O’Broin (An Taisce).
Results of campaign. 
  • Huge awareness-raising, especially in Dublin.
  • Oireachtas made aware that all was not right with EPA Research Study.
  • Many Dail questions put to Minister and Junior Minister.
  • Interim report on Research Study now requested from Steering Committee by end January.
  • On-the-ground water and seismic studies delayed until after publication.
  • Study effectively at a standstill.
  • Bill to prohibit fracking in Ireland introduced. This will keep the issue in the public eye.

 

EPA Admits Serious Flaws in Fracking Research Study at Dáil Committee Meeting

Environmental Groups & Supporters Vow to Ramp Up Campaign to Stop the Study & Ban Fracking in Ireland

Mark Ruffalo & New Yorkers who banned fracking last year due to human health risks encourage the Irish people to join the campaign against fracking in Ireland

Belcoo_fracking-ireland-campaign-risks.si

Dublin – Members of the Campaign against Fracking in Ireland, including Good Energies Alliance Ireland, Love Leitrim, Friends of the Earth, and Irish-American campaigner Julia Walsh from the New York-based NGO Frack Action attended Wednesday’s meeting of a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Energy in which TD’s questioned EPA following reports that the EPA-led study is being carried out by the oil and gas industry providers CDM Smith and AMEC. TDs rigorously questioned EPA Assistant Director General Dara Lynott and Research Manager Dr Brian Donlon for 3 hours.

EPA admitted at the committee meeting to serious flaws in the research study including:

  • That no public health research or researchers with medical expertise are included in conducting the fracking research study.  They confirmed that, as a result of this research study, EPA will not be able to tell the Irish people whether fracking is safe for human health.

  • EPA confirmed that Achilles procurement, an oil and gas industry provider, helped to draft the Terms of Reference of the study, which provide the framework for the study. They were involved in the administration of the tender process which resulted in the contract being awarded to CDM Smith.

  • EPA confirmed that there will be no public comment or participation as part of the finalisation of the fracking research study, including no external, independent peer review process.

  • EPA admitted that the study is very small-scale, studying the environmental impacts of just one fracked well.  There are no studies considering the cumulative impacts of the thousands of wells planned for Ireland.

  • EPA admitted that when tenders were sought, the evaluation committee looked for experts in fracking rather than independent researchers.  The result was that the main contractors, CDM Smith and AMEC, are present or past members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group that publicly promotes fracking.  The EPA admitted that they knew the contractors were members of the industry group but denied that this was “hopeless conflict of interest” (as suggested by TD Richard Boyd Barrett).

  • In the research study there is no consideration of greenhouse gas emissions caused by fracking, although the EPA admitted that fracking would increase carbon emissions and make it even more difficult for Ireland to achieve its 2020/2030 emission targets.

  • The EPA confirmed that they did not notify the JOC committee of the major change in status of Queen’s University (QUB’s) involvement in the research study last June.  They actually promoted QUB as a consortium member at this time, using their involvement to establish the independence of the research study.  The TDs were only made aware of the change in QUB status after the campaigners alerted them, following Freedom of Information Act requests.

“Our worst fears were confirmed. The Irish Government has given over its authority to the oil and gas industry, which is controlling the process of this study every step of the way, right from the beginning.  The abysmal failure of the EPA’s fracking research study and the confirmation of its flaws were apparent throughout the meeting on an issue that could impact the lives of millions of Irish people.  This process is beyond fixing and must be stopped in its tracks.  The question the public want answered is how fracking will impact human health in Ireland and this is not even on the agenda of the study.  It is totally disgraceful that taxpayer’s money is being used on a study that does not answer the essential question but instead is designed to support the oil and gas industry in their applications for exploration and extraction licences,” said Dr. Aedín McLoughlin, Director, Good Energies Alliance Ireland.

During the committee meeting, TDs cited the research from the New York State Department of Health that led to New York State’s ban on fracking because it posed serious public health risks to New Yorkers. The question was asked how, if fracking is not safe for New Yorkers’ public health, it could be safe for Irish public health. “I have no idea” was the answer from the EPA.

“My fellow New Yorkers and I are working together with Ireland’s anti-fracking campaigners because if fracking is not safe for New York then it’s not safe for Ireland!” said actor and advocate Mark Ruffalo. “New York banned fracking because the State Department of Health and Department of Environment conducted years-long independent studies on the environment and public health and safety risks of fracking, concluding that fracking is not safe for human health. The governments of Ireland and Northern Ireland have behaved irresponsibly in having the oil and gas industry conduct this study on fracking in Ireland. It’s always best to keep the fracking fox out of your hen house! As we have learned time and time again in the United States, the oil and gas industry cannot be trusted. I encourage the Irish people to join the campaign to stop fracking in Ireland. This study must be stopped and like New York, fracking should be banned in Ireland.”

Campaigners, including New York campaigner Julia Walsh from the group Frack Action, are available for interviews.

US Fracking Tour

Julia and Aedin at Thomas Jefferson Memorial 060915

Julia and myself at Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Day 1
Imagine an email with an invitation to join an international team that is investigating first-hand the impact of Fracking on the environment and on health in US! That’s what I (Aedín McLoughlin) got a couple of weeks ago from Julia Walsh, one of the team of campaigners who successfully got a ban on fracking in New York and visited Ireland earlier in the year. So many articles have been written, photos taken and videos made, but to get a chance to see the areas in Pennsylvania that have been devastated by Fracking is an wonderful opportunity. And many thanks to Frack Action and the Heinrich Boll Foundation group who are funding the trip.

I have now arrived in Washington, where the programme begins. And what a programme! Click here to get the details. Washington, Montrose, Pennsylvania, Pittsburg, Ithica, Albany and New York City. Meetings with politicians, agencies, communities, campaigners, etc. It’s going to be a real whistle-stop tour.

So, my intention is to create a series of posts about the week that will keep those interested up to date with the “Fracking Tour”. What a privilege to be here – it is actually my first time on the East coast of US and I am very excited about what the week is going to bring.  So far, my impression of Washington is HOT – 30 C today, hotter tomorrow.  For us Irish who have had a year without a proper summer, this is challenging.  But in a very positive way!

Later
Julia Walsh met me (what a dynamic and dedicated woman!) and took me on a night-time tour of Washington.  The city centre is lovely but I believe that there is great poverty in the outskirts and racial problems.   The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is wonderful, modelled on the Pantheon in Rome and open 24 hours a day.  His ideals are carved into his monument and are as relevant today and they were then, 200 years ago.  “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”  We also glimpsed the White House through the cherry blosson trees, Washington in the Spring must be really lovely.

Aedín

An inspiring meeting in Glenfarne

Janice Raine-Conick, Julia Walsh, John Armstrong, Renee Vogelsang, Aedín McLoughlin and Irina Tiugan.

Janice Raine-Conick, Julia Walsh, John Armstrong, Renee Vogelsang, Aedín McLoughlin and Irina Tiugan.

Three leaders of the New York Campaign against Fracking – Julia Walsh, Renee Vogelsang and John Armstrong – told the story of their success in getting a review of the Public Health impacts of Fracking by the New York State Department of Health, followed by consideration of the review and a full ban on fracking by Governor Cuomo.

Julia, spokesperson of New York Frack Action said that from the beginning the aim of the campaign was a full Ban on Fracking and for seven years, the campaign repeated this demand. A key component of the campaign was their “Dear Governor Cuomo” strategy, where campaigners followed the Governor and protested at every event he attended. “In the end, if we were not there protesting, he assumed he had arrived at the wrong venue!” Julia joked. On a more serious note, she reiterated the importance of being visible to the person making the decision; “If that is your Minister for Energy, shadow him, be visible, don’t let him think you are gone away.”

John Armstrong warned against the common refrain of the oil and gas industry where they propose to frack, “We’re going to get it right!”. “They will promise you gold standard regulations, consultation, money, anything to convince you that this time all will be well,” said John. “But everywhere they go, they are followed by well failures, air pollution, water contamination and sicknesses in communities. Like cigarettes, regulations don’t make fracking safe!”

Renee warned that the campaign against fracking is not just about science – organisation is essential. Writing, demonstrating, getting a political mandate. We have to create a megaphone of our voices so that we reach every member of the public. The most important aim of the campaign – DO NOT LET FRACKING INTO IRELAND!

The three campaigners were hosted by Good Energies Alliance Ireland, Love Leitrim and Northwest Network Against Fracking during their visit to Ireland.

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