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.

Mega-extractive Industries – from Latin America to Ireland

[Press Release]  The Social and Environmental Impact of Mega-extractive Industries, from Latin America to Ireland
 513px-Mina_cerro_pascoAs part of the Latin America Week (4th – 13th April), a meeting to raise awareness of the issues around unsustainable exploitation of natural resources is being organised by the Latin American Solidarity Centre in conjunction with community leaders in Leitrim.
Presentation in Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon on Thursday April 11th at 8pm.
 With the rise of the price of oil, gold and coal, a global scramble for natural resources has been unleashed by mega-extractive multinational corporations, with repercussions from Latin America’s unsustainable open cast mining to Ireland’s fracking proposals.
 The meeting will focus on examples from Colombia and Peru, presented by two community leaders, to see the impact on the communities and how they organise to face this threat. This will open up debate around the campaign against fracking in Ireland and discussion about the similarities and difference.  Campaigners against fracking are supporting this visit to Leitrim and hosting the speakers during 11th and 12th April.
 According to LASC coordinator “Given the current crisis affecting communities all across Ireland, the Latin American experience is insightful and full of valuable lessons of resilience, resistance and creativity”. Our emphasis is not only on the impact of the unsustainable exploitation of resources, but on the potential for community based alternatives of development.
About the speakers
 MILTON SÁNCHEZ CUBAS. From Peru.  President of the Celendin Interinstitutional Platform (PIC), a network of 40 grassroots organisations from Celendin Department of Cajamarca, Peru. He is also the spokesperson of Comando Unitario de Lucha, which is a network of grassroots organisations whose aim is to defend the natural resources of the Region of Cajamarca which are threatened by the extractive industries operating in the region. He will talk about the La Conga mining project which is a project of the Yanacocha company. Shareholdes are Newmont (USA), Buenavertura (Perú) and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation. This is the greatest mining project ever in Peru and it will impact rives, lakes which in turn will affect local agriculture and the health of 200 communities in 3 provinces.  5 people have been killed and 104 have been injured since resistance to the project began.
AIDA JULIETA QUIÑONES TORRES, Colombia – Lecturer and PhD student in Universidad Javeriana. Member of the Environmental Committee for the Defense of Life which monitors the socio-environmental impact of the La Colosa mine, in the department of Tolima, Colombia. Aida is a militant researcher on the issue of resistance to 3 mining mega-projects in Colombia.  In all three cases there is a military presence and militia which is acting illegally and escalating the conflicts.
These cases are:
  • The gold mine of La Colosa, Cajamarca-Tolima – population: small farming communities. Transnational Anglo gold Ashanti has been carrying out illegal explorations with a view to have one of the biggest open cast mines in South America. The mine is in a natural reserve.  In previous projects in this mine, a family – including a baby – was murdered by state agents.
  • Sa´th Tama Kiwe – mining concessions have been given in this indigenous ancestral land. The indigenous people have been resisting.
  • La Toma- Suarez in Cauca – mining concession given without consulting the community, which is mainly of African origin. There is also resistance form the population.
 Photo: Mining in Peru:  Wikimedia Commons Images

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