Victory! GEAI welcomes passing of anti-fracking Bill

celebrating-tonys-bill

Toasting the success of the Campaign

 

GEAI’s Finest Hour

Last Thursday, history was made in Ireland!  A Bill to prohibit exploration and extraction of Petroleum from shale, tight sands and coal seams was brought before the members of the Oireachtas who unanimously supported the Bill and agreed to bring it to the next stage (the committee stage) of the process towards becoming law.  This Bill, when enacted, will act as a comprehensive ban on fracking, which is its primary objective.  The campaign against fracking has won a significant victory and has proved that fracking is not wanted in Ireland and that opposition to fracking comes from every party in the Dáil and from every province in Ireland.

GEAI indeed has cause to celebrate.  It is five years since Good Energies Alliance Ireland was formed to join the campaign against fracking in Ireland.  Since then, we have constantly lobbied, politically and though the media, to raise awareness of the harms resulting from fracking and to influence decision-makers locally and nationally to impose a ban on this dirty industry.  We have been involved at every level – local, regional and national – at community level as well as at political and academic.

“Stop the Study” – the Turning Point

Rally 6A turning point in the campaign was last year’s “Stop the Study” campaign, where GEAI spear-headed the drive against allowing the implementation of on-the-ground studies of the suitability of land in Fermanagh and Leitrim for fracking.  As a result of the joint action by campaigners, which included:

  • research into the facts surrounding the implementation of the study
  • an intense social media drive and lobbying of Oireachtas members,
  • public meetings,
  • a rally in front of Leinster House,
  • a presentation to all members inside the House,
  • briefing of all TDs,
  • special briefing of members of the relevant Joint Oireachtas Committee

enough pressure was brought to bear on Government to cause the ground studies to be cancelled and the study to be confined to desktop studies. (This study in now imminent.)

Cross-party support for Tony’s Bill

tony-back-the-billThe issue of Fracking had now become national!  This paved the way for the introduction of no less than three Private Members Bills proposing to ban fracking into which GEAI had input.  These went into a “lottery” and Tony McLoughlin’s Bill was drawn this month. A frenzy of campaigning started by GEAI, Love Leitrim, Friends of the Earth and other organisations.  Last Thursday saw the culmination of all of this effort – a Bill that sought to prohibit the process of fracking was supported by every party in the Dáil and by every TD who spoke during the debate on 27th October.

“After five years of continuous campaigning against fracking, all the organisations involved in our campaign  can celebrate a huge milestone.  To have such unanimous support for this Bill is an incredible achievement for local communities threatened with fracking.  It shows the strength of the united people’s voice backed with the tools of advocacy and social media.  We thank everyone involved and especially Tony McLoughlin TD who brought the bill forward and fought against an amendment that would have delayed the debate.  We are delighted that one of our Directors, Eddie Mitchell, was responsible for the wording of the Bill, together with Kate Ruddock from Friends of the Earth.”
(Aedín McLoughlin, Director GEAI)

A word of warning – we are not there yet!

However, the destination has still not been reached. The EPA report is due to be published and we don’t know what this will say about fracking and what influence it will have on government policy; there are legal issues to be addressed and the Bill can be watered down as it goes through committee stage. We will be vigilant and watch carefully to make sure that what the Dáil clearly wants actually happens – a complete and permanent ban on fracking throughout Ireland.

But – today we celebrate our finest hour together with our friends nationally and internationally who, with us, want fracking to be banned throughout the world!
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154 GE16 CANDIDATES SIGN THE PLEDGE AGAINST FRACKING

…and counting

The “Sign the Pledge” campaign, coordinated by Fracking Free Network, is a big success.  154 candidates in this year’s General Election have so far personally signed the pledge against fracking!  From all parties and from all constituencies, candidates have committed to support legislation that will ban fracking in Ireland. There is no doubt that the issue of fracking is now a national rather than a local issue.  Candidates from Cork and Kerry, from Donegal and Dublin, from Galway and Wexford have indicated that they will work to ensure that fracking will never be introduced to Ireland.

However, the response of the major parties has been disappointing.  Two out of the three Fine Gael candidates from Sligo-Leitrim, Tony McLoughlin and John Perry, signed the pledge.  (Gerry Reynolds, the 3rd FG candidate, didn’t sign.) However, no other FG candidates nationally have signed.  Only 14 Fianna Fáil candidates have signed the pledge despite supporting a ban on fracking in their Energy Paper last year.  And only 16 candidates from Sinn Féin have signed so far despite their public opposition to fracking.

“It was the smaller parties and independents who gave us this amazing result”, said Jamie Murphy, from Fracking Free Network.  “The Green Party and Anti Austerity/People Before Profit parties gave wholehearted support to the pledge, as did many Independents.  It is very worrying that the major parties, who are likely to form the next government, still will not commit to supporting legislation to ban fracking.”

The “Sign the Pledge” campaign continues until Thursday evening (votefrackfree.org).  Even at this stage, candidates are being contacted and urged to sign the pledge.  “It’s very clear that our work is not over”, Jamie concluded. “The campaign against fracking must continue, after the election it will focus on getting legislation to ban fracking passed by our future government.”

SIGN THE PLEDGE – CALL TO ALL CANDIDATES

A new phase in our campaign

Following our successful Stop the Study campaign, the campaign against fracking in Ireland is now entering a new phase. All candidates throughout Ireland, in every constituency, are being asked to sign a pledge that they will support legislation “to ban unconventional exploration or extraction of shale oil or gas using high volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking)”.

To sign the pledge is made simple through the campaign website votefrackfree.org. The website includes a “name and shame” section that names those who have not signed. A publicity event on 19th February will highlight the support given to the campaign.

“The threat of fracking has still not gone away” said Aedín. “Applications for exploration licences are still on the Minister’s desk! We want all candidates of every party and none, to sign this pledge to express their opposition to this industry. Then we want the new government to pass new legislation that will ban fracking in Ireland forever.

We will continue to campaign until that legislation is passed. New studies of the environment and public health impacts of fracking in US are confirming that this is a high risk industry; the litany of harms in areas being fracked increases day by day – water contamination, earthquakes, air pollution and a range of public health impacts that include skin and respiratory illnesses, allergies and cancer.

We don’t want or need fracking in Ireland!”

The Sign the Pledge campaign is organised by Fracking Free Network, Friends of the Earth and GEAI. It is operating through the campaign website www.votefrackfree.org.

“STOP THE STUDY” CAMPAIGN HAS STOPPED THE STUDY!

Good news – it’s official!

The EPA Research Study on Fracking is now stopped. This study was targeted by the campaign against fracking as research showed the study was compromised – it was being led by companies with huge vested interests in the oil and gas industry. A statement from the Department (DCENR) yesterday (2nd) confirmed that the study has been stopped after its first phase, which included an overall look at regulations and legislation governing fracking. Phase 2, on-the-ground studies in Leitrim and Fermanagh which would have included some drilling, will not proceed and a report of Phase 1 will be published in Q3 of this year.

“GEAI is delighted with this news. Before Christmas, Minister Joe McHugh, who has responsibility for Natural Resources, said that he had requested an interim report from the EPA. It is great news that this has been confirmed. Basically, the study is stalled and, moreover, it is unlikely to proceed in the future – we understand that the contract with the lead research contractor – CDM Smith – finishes in August this year, two years from signing.

However, the campaign does not end. Now we will push for legislation that will ensure that fracking is never introduced into Ireland – the last hurdle. We are launching the “SIGN THE PLEDGE” campaign on Friday – asking all candidates to sign a pledge to support legislation to ban fracking in Ireland permanently.”

EPA and JOC video and transcript

After 3 hours, no satisfaction from EPA

On 2nd December, the Joint Oireacthas Committee on Energy met with a delegation from EPA to discuss the research study on fracking. TDs questioned EPA following reports that the EPA-led study is being carried out by the oil and gas industry providers CDM Smith and AMEC. There was also concern that the committee has been misled about the role of Queen’s University Belfast. TDs rigorously questioned EPA Assistant Director General Dara Lynott and Research Manager Dr Brian Donlon for 3 hours.

Here is the transcript.

The full video: http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=30497&&CatID=127

Here you can see 3 of the most important moments:

TD Richard Boyd Barrett raised many really important matters. In particular, he asked why the Study on fracking does not include a health impact study. Simple question? Not for EPA. By the end of the discussion it was impossible to know if fracking is dangerous for human health.

This time, TD Richard Boyd Barrett compared the Irish Study in progress with the conclusion of the Department of Environment in New York State where impacts for human health had been proved by an official study. Logically, if there is a risk for a New Yorker it is the same for an Irish. But, again, EPA answered that they do not know.

In this excerpt, the EPA speaker answers: “There will be no recommendation in this report as whether to proceed with fracking or not to proceed with fracking” to a question from Senator Michael Colreavy. This begs the question: What will be the utility and the exact goal of the study?

 

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