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

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.

Programme
Registration

GEAI supports Leitrim County Council anti-fracking motion

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Good Energies Alliance Ireland strongly supports the anti-fracking motion passed by Leitrim County Council by an overwhelming majority on Monday 11th. The motion, submitted by Mary Bohan (FF) calls for a “a vote of no confidence in the CDM Smith’s consortium of researchers appointed by the EPA to carry out the research programme in relation to fracking”.

CDM Smith is a pro-fracking organisation, involved with shale gas companies in Poland and Canada, the Irish Times revealed last month. The EPA-administered research opposed by the Council is led by CDM Smith. It will last for another year, with final reports due in September 2016. “The problem is that the research study is led by the industry, which is not qualified to do public health studies and whose findings would be suspect”. GEAI director Aedín McLoughlin said.

“We are delighted that this motion got such support by Leitrim County Council. It shows that the councillors are prepared to stand behind the ban on fracking they imposed last year and will not support an investigation of fracking that is carried out by a company with vested interests”, GEAI director said.

“This motion also called for research on fracking to be carried out by the Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer”, McLoughlin said. “This should consist of an up-to-date and comprehensive review of the public health impacts of fracking. We have been asking for this since we know the truth about CDM Smith”, GEAI director stated.

New York State banned fracking after a review of the Public Health impacts of Fracking by the Department of Health, followed by consideration of the review and a full ban on fracking by New York State Governor Cuomo. “ We want the same in Ireland” Aedín McLoughlin concluded.

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.

Climate Action Bill 2015 – All smoke, no fire?

Environmental-Damage-2“Transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by the end of 2050.” In the context of the climate crisis now confronting the earth, this is the ONLY aspiration of the Government in the Climate Action Bill 2015. There are no targets beyond the 2020 carbon reduction targets imposed on us by Europe. The opportunity to lead the way towards a truly significant and morally just pathway to a carbon neutral future has been thrown away.

Where is the echo of the Taoiseach’s commitment in New York at the UN Climate Summit last September, “We will only succeed in tackling climate change if we adopt a sustainable and truly collective approach, one that is ambitious but fair, that is challenging but achievable”?

Where are his “long-term objectives for 2050 of an 80 per cent reduction across electricity, transport and built environment”?

Where is the promise “We will continue our efforts, for example through our Origin Green Programme, to drive carbon efficiency and shape the international approach to sustainable agriculture and food production”?

This Government has failed to show commitment, imagination or leadership in the drafting of this Bill. Instead, they have kicked to touch, ensuring that no hard decisions on climate change or carbon emissions will be taken before the next election. Even after that, all that is proposed is the setting up of an Expert Advisory Council with the task of putting forward a Mitigation Plan and an Adaptation Plan in two years, bringing us post 2017 before the public can even consider their proposals or make submissions.

Has anyone in Government even considered that such Plans must undergo Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) and conform to the Aarhus Convention on public participation in decision-making? Is there no appreciation of the fact that business cannot go on as usual? How long in reality will it take to make tough decisions if no vision is put forward, no ambitious and exciting targets are proposed, no concept of climate justice is even mentioned?

The Government has missed a chance of rallying the Irish people around the cry of the earth in trouble. Instead they give us Expert Advisory Councils manned by the usual suspects; they give us Plans; they give us “Transition Statements”. We want action! Only yesterday, a leading climate scientist, Michael Mann said, “Ireland should make a bold statement to the world to show it is possible to thrive economically while making deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.”

Does this Climate Action Bill make a “bold statement”? No, it does not!

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