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!

Tamboran’s licence terminated!

Good news for Fermanagh (and Leitrim) last night

The news went out at 6pm that the Minister had terminated Tamboran’s exploration licence.  Their initial licence was for three years, during which time they were to do some works, including drilling a borehole and analysing rock samples.  In March 2014 they requested a six-month extension on this licence to allow them time to do the work (until 30th September).  In July they arrived on site in Belcoo with the intention of drilling the 1,200m borehole in the Acheson and Glover quarry, setting off an extensive protest by residents, farmers and campaigners, together with a 24-hour camp at the quarry entrance.

No drilling rig arrived.  Instead, it was discovered by campaigners that the quarry did not have planning permission for activities that had already taken place – excavation, blasting, removal of rock.  Also, there were questions over the environmental impacts of these activities on a stream that runs from the quarry into Lough MacNean. An EIS was called for and many representations were made to the Minister for Environment, Mark H. Durkan.  On August 11th, the Minister made the decision that an EIS would indeed be required, given the quarry’s planning situation.

Now, time has run out for Tamboran.

On 30th September their licence expired and the Minister Arlene Foster has not allowed another extension but has terminated the licence.  GREAT NEWS FOR THE CAMPAIGN!

However, we have to strike a note of caution.  FRACKING HAS NOT GONE AWAY!  It was pointed out to us last night that

  • Tamboran are looking for a judicial review of the decisions made by the two Ministers.  It’s not over until this is completed.
  • The Minister said that someone else could apply next week – Northern Ireland is still open for business.  However, if there was a new application, it would have to include a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which includes public consultation and certainly would delay the project considerably.
AND, of course, Ballinlea and Carrickfergus are still in the line of fire.  Our attention must focus on them immediately; the campaign must get behind what the local groups are doing and give them all the support we can.

 

OPINION: The Irish Fracking Process has begun

The Irish Fracking process has begun

Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI) views the latest developments  where preparations for shale gas exploratory drilling has begun in Belcoo as a National, not local issue.

Dr Aedin McLoughlin, Director GEAI, expressed extreme dismay.  “Make no mistake about it – any exploratory drilling, with or without hydraulic fracturing, is part of the overall fracking process,” she said.  “An exploratory well without hydraulic fracturing leads to more wells with “test fracks”, leading to full fracking as shale gas is extracted.  In Belcoo, the first stage is starting, with the industry bleating their mantra, “This is only drilling, it’s not fracking!”  When is fracking not fracking?  When the industry wants to hide what is obvious – that a good result from this first exploratory well could lead on to more wells and more wells and a full-scale fracking operation with all its environmental and social issues.”

“Another extraordinary issue,” she continued.  “ I understand that the results of this well in Belcoo, County Fermanagh will be taken by the Petroleum Affairs Division in Dublin as fulfilling the work obligations for the Irish Government’s Licencing Options given to Tamboran Resources which expired in February 2013.  What does this mean?  It means that Tamboran, once this well is drilled and the core analysed, could apply to Dublin for a full exploratory licence and claim that they have fulfilled the conditions to enable them to get one, then proceed in Leitrim and the rest of the NorthWest, even though the well drilled was in another jurisdiction.  It’s as if the opinion is – sure, there’s no difference between the geology so forget EU transborder regulations!”

GEAI wishes to put everyone on alert.  “The way this operation is approached shows the contempt of the industry for the environment, for the community, even for the law of the land.  No Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the overall proposal for shale gas exploration and extraction; no Planning Permission for exploratory drilling; no published plan for the safe operation of the process or disposal of wastes;  no Environmental Impact Assessment, no consultation with the local community or public representatives.  Ireland  – this is the tip of the iceberg – if the industry can go ahead with exploration without putting all those safeguards in place, what is in store for us if fully-fledged fracking operations start?”

ENDS

 

 

Happy New Year to all our friends!

2013 is past and most of us are not unhappy to be in a New Year.  For many people and campaigners, 2013 was a tough year – throughout Ireland, people struggled with the national economic situation, personal reduction in disposable income and, of course, the looming threat of unconventional gas projects on our island.

2014 also promises to be a busy and challenging year.  The proposals to start drilling in Antrim and Fermanagh must be opposed with a really effective campaign that operates at all levels; a major campaign to advocate for a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on national policy re fracking and a campaign to have an SEA on such policy must also be organised.  On top of all of that, the reality of Climate Change is hitting home and GEAI must produce some policy papers on renewable/sustainable energy sources.

Recently we received confirmation that GEAI and MARDI have been awarded a Youth Democracy project that will encourage young people from Ireland and Poland to study how environmental campaigns are waged in the two countries, also how decisions are made at EU Parliament level.  We are looking forward to this exciting, interesting and challenging project.

Certainly, there is no room for complacency – powerful consortia are eyeing our island and planning exploitation of our natural resources without any care for our environment, our heritage, or our people.  The fight against such exploitation must take place at every level – on the street, advocacy, mounting legal challenges, awareness raising throughout the island.  2014 is a crucial year with local authority and EU elections in May.  It is vital that fracking becomes an election issue with all parties and independents.

WE WISH ALL OUR SUPPORTERS A HAPPY, HEALTHY AND FRACK-FREE NEW YEAR!

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.

COPYRIGHT

® All rights reserved to GEAI 2018