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.

EU Parliament to start a public consultation on shale gas in 2013

Last month, at the European Parliament, the amendment “not to authorise any new hydraulic fracturing operations in the EU” was rejected. GEAI expressed its serious disappointment.
However, it is important to note that the same day, two important resolutions were adopted. Following the reports from the Environment and Industry committees, those texts call on the European Commission and the Member states to set up more “robust regulatory regimes”. For example one regulation states that “Special plans for water use should accompany any hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) activities and as much water as possible should be recycled”.  Companies must disclose which chemicals are used, in order to comply with EU legislation, it adds, according to a press release from the European Parliament.
The Parliament also calls for further research, or “(…) to evaluate their legislation to see whether proper account is taken of this aspect, including the full application of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention and the corresponding provisions in EU law; (…)“.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik has published this statement:
“(…) It is clear that the future development of shale gas will depend on the extent of public acceptance of fracking. Addressing health and environmental risks will be of paramount importance for the industry to gain broad public acceptance and a ‘public license to operate’ in Europe.
Our challenge is to make the right and balanced choices. Studies carried out indicate that there are a number of uncertainties or gaps in current EU legislation and the Commission intends to deliver next year a framework to manage risks, address regulatory shortcomings, and to provide maximum clarity and predictability to market operators and citizens across the EU.”
The Independent Irish MEP Marian Harkin warmly welcomed this statement.
She stated that, on her blog:
“The Commissioner has now committed to an impact assessment in 2013, part of which will be a very significant public consultation, which will give citizens an opportunity to make their views known.
Proposals from the Commission are expected in 2014. At last the EU Commission is taking responsibility for environmental concerns and that has to be good news. The Commissioner also agreed that the risks from fracking are greater than those from conventional gas exploration. This is an important first step in helping to ensure that the widespread environmental concerns surrounding the shale gas extraction process are at last being addressed by the EU”.
See below an editing of Irish and Northern Irish MEP’s speeches:
Complete text adopted
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