Climate Change “not a priority for the North and Western Regional Assembly”

Our recent submission to the NWRA concerning their Regional Spatial Strategy, has been hard-hitting concerning the report’s lack of emphasis of Climate Change and the urgency of responding to it.

Once again, serious climate change commitments are lacking at regional as well as national levels. Climate change is real and is happening right now and every delay or reticence in adopting further policies to cope with it will result in huge economic and financial losses for the Irish economy. Moreover, there seems to be a lack of clear vision regarding the concept of “sustainability” throughout the whole Strategy as neither indications nor goals and targets are provided on how to achieve it.

Ireland North and Western Region (Ph. NWRA issue paper)

We at GEAI were responding to a Public Consultation on the new Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) launched by the Northern and Western Regional Assembly in December 2017. The RSES Strategy aims at “reaching a shared understanding about regional economic development processes […] and promoting innovative, competitive and a productive region”. In our view, the document fails in this aim as it fails to recognise the fact that Climate change is a serious threat to Ireland’s North and Western Region and adaptation is an immediate requirement.

Its view is that “the transition (to a low carbon economy) will require a cultural step change in the approach to Green Energy Development”. However, it does not include a roadmap to such cultural change and, indeed, relegates climate action to just one section of the report.

What is not realised is that this transition includes a big opportunity now to unlock the renewable energy potential of the Northern and Western Region. We propose a vision of the Region becoming a self-sustaining macro-generator of electricity, producing a significant proportion of the nation’s total need for power. This can only happen through community energy ownership and Government support for microgeneration. As a first step towards achieving this vision, it is vital that Government initiates immediately a scheme for fair feed-in tariffs for all electricity generation from 50 watts to 6 megawatts.

Awareness raising is key to undertaking such a cultural change. We therefore suggest to create and implement a Climate Change & Renewable Energy Awareness Programme to boost behavioural change.

Read our full submission

EPA Terms of Reference “Amended and Strengthened”

Terms of Reference of EPA research study on Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE)

Making your voice heard matters!  In response to over 1,300 submissions, a ‘Health Expert’ is now on the Steering Committee for the research study.  The final Terms of Reference (ToR) for the EPA study were published on 22nd November. There are many amendments to the draft version, indicating the high quality and impact of the submissions.
Significant changes to the Terms of Reference include:

1. Human Health

• A new section has been added to the ToR to clarify and clearly define the scope of the proposed research in relation to Human Health.
• A Health expert has been invited onto the Steering Committee.
• The potential role of Health Impact Assessment in regulation of UGEE projects/operations is to be studied and recommendations made towards developing a protocol in the island of Ireland context.

2. Life Cycle of UGEE

• The full life-cycle of hydraulic fracturing activities, as well as off-site and other developments, is to be included in the study.
• The Key Research Questions have been amended to:

  • Can UGEE projects/operations be carried out in the island of Ireland whilst also protecting the environment and human health?
  • What is ‘best environmental practice’ in relation to UGEE projects/operations?”

• The cumulative environmental impacts arising from the entire lifecycle of UGEE projects/operations will be compared with those from other energy sources (including renewables).
• With regard to impacts, the assessment should take into account commercially probable scenarios.
• The Revised ToR now has a specific requirement to take account of the Irish context for references and comparisons to UGEE experience in other countries.

3. Water and Chemicals

• The Revised ToR have been extended to include surface waters and implications for local, regional and national resources, the water requirements for UGEE projects/operations is to be evaluated as well as groundwater and surface water resource availability.
• The Final Report should include a comprehensive list of all chemicals known to have been used in UGEE projects/operations.
• If chemical-free fracking is included in the research, it should be clearly pointed out where and for how long such methods have been used on a commercial basis, stating whether there are any peer-reviewed studies into the impacts associated with these methods to the environment and human health.

4. Monitoring

• A study on Air Quality monitoring requirements is to be included.
• The research will assess the concept of the monitoring to be carried out by State agencies versus by industries.

Full Terms of Reference document

“What You Said and how We Responded” – EPA responses to Public Consultation Submissions

Synopsis of Responses with Comments by AMcL

“We Deserve Better” all-Ireland Campaign

 ACTION IS NEEDED NOW
Stop Drilling and Fracking in Fermanagh! 
Email the First Minister and Deputy First Minister IMMEDIATELY.
The following text is suggested:

I call upon the Northern Ireland Executive to impose a suspension of the licensing process and all drilling or fracking associated with unconventional gas exploration in Northern Ireland in line with the Government of the Irish Republic, who are refusing to issue Exploration Licenses until the EPA all-Ireland Research Studies on the Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction are completed and considered.

Email it to:
Peter Robinson: peter.robinson@mla.niassembly.gov.uk
Martin McGuinness: martin.mcguinness@mla.niassembly.gov.uk

contaminated ground
FACTS
  • The new EPA-directed research study “The Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE)” is a North-South initiative.  The Steering Committee includes representatives from the Geological Survey NI, DOE (Department of Environment) and DETI (Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment).  As well as representatives from Geological Survey of Ireland, Petroleum Affairs Division, Department of Energy and Dept. of Environment.
  • Over 1,300 submissions on the draft Terms of Reference for this study were received by the EPA; 600 of these came from Northern Ireland, showing the concern of the NI people.
  • In the Republic, the Minister for Energy, Pat Rabbitte, has confirmed that no Exploratory Licences, which allow drilling and fracking, will be issued until this study is completed and considered (probably 2015).  He has said many times that more research needs to be done to establish the safety of fracking, especially in relation to public health.
  • People in Northern Ireland are not being given the same protection!  DETI has issued an exploration licence for Fermanagh which incorporates a work programme, including drilling and fracking.  The Northern Ireland Government has refused to state that it will wait until the research is completed before allowing drilling and fracking.
  • Tamboran are planning to commence drilling in Fermanagh this year!
It is NOT OK to put the people of Northern Ireland at risk!
The people of Northern Ireland are entitled to the same protection as people in the South
The exploratory work programme must be stopped!

Email the Ministers!  Lets have 5,000 emails in their inboxes this week and show our strength!
And follow this up with emails to all other politicians!

Public Consultation on Oil/Gas Licensing of Belfast and Larne Loughs

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of Oil/Gas Licensing in Belfast Lough and Larne Lough

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) is currently developing criteria for Petroleum Licensing in Belfast and Larne Loughs (the Plan). The plan will provide a framework for how petroleum licensing will be undertaken in the internal waters of Northern Ireland.  Click HERE for more information.

View over Belfast Lough

Public Consultation
The public consultation on the Scoping Report began on the 24th April 2013 and will continue until 14th June 2013.  (http://www.sealoughs.co.uk/public-consultation/)
The consultation on the Scoping Report seeks comments on:
  • The appropriateness of the proposed scope of the SEA (this will help ensure that all issues of potential concern are considered);
  • The appropriateness of the proposed assessment methodology; and
  • Any additional sources of relevant information that could be used to inform the assessment.
Email comments should be submitted to minerals@detini.gov.uk and written submissions should be sent to:
Minerals and Petroleum Branch
Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment
Colby House
Stranmillis Court
Stranmillis Road
Belfast, BT9 5BJ
The deadline for comments will be 14th June 2013

The EPA received 1,300 submissions regarding Terms of Reference of their proposed research study on fracking.  Oil or Gas exploration or extraction in Belfast or Larne Loughs would also include horizontal drilling and fracking. 

LET’S GET AN EQUAL NUMBER OF SUBMISSIONS TO DETI ON THESE PROPOSALS!

Also see campaign website for further information:
https://sites.google.com/site/frackingfreedocumentsireland/deti-2013

Demand that government removes EPA immunity from prosecution immediately

A national meeting in Leitrim of groups and individuals campaigning against shale gas extraction last Saturday was delighted to welcome Jessica Ernst, a Canadian scientist taking a court case against the oil compangy, Encana.
Jessica joined in a discussion regarding the new study being commissioned by the EPA at present and the invitation to make submissions on the study’s Terms of Reference. The meeting was told that the EPA’s immunity from prosecution removes any responsibility by them for decisions made, based on the report, that would impact on the environment or on public health.
Jessica emphasised the importance of writing letters to Government and local representatives. “A hand-written letter is worth dozens of type-written letters that you just sign. They pay attention to all letters personally written. Send thousands from the campaign, make your voices heard,” she said.
1. That any response to the call for submissions on the proposed Terms of Reference for the research study “ Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction” should include a demand for this immunity to be removed immediately by an Act of the Oireachtas.
2. That until this immunity is removed, the Research Study should not be considered.
Relevant paragraphs in EPA Act 1992:
Para 15 – Immunity of Agency
“No action or other proceedings shall lie or be maintainable against the Agency or any body referred to in section 44 or 45 for the recovery of damages in respect of any injury to persons, damage to property or other loss alleged to have been caused or contributed to by a failure to perform or to comply with any of the functions conferred on the said Agency or body.”
Para 16 – Indemnification of Director General, directors and other persons.
“Where the Agency is satisfied that the Director General or other director or authorised person appointed by the Agency, or any other employee of the Agency has discharged his duties in relation to the enforcement of the relevant statutory provisions in a bona fide manner, it shall indemnify the Director General or other director or authorised person of the Agency or any other employee of the Agency, against all actions or claims howsoever arising in respect of the discharge by him of his duties.”
Relevant statements:
EPA Review report (2010) stated: “…doubts have been expressed about the constitutionality of this immunity and whether it is compatible with obligations arising under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Review Group concluded that the absolute nature of the EPA’s immunity … should be revised, as appropriate, when the opportunity arises.”
Phil Hogan, Minister for Environment: “The review recommended that immunity from prosecution, as applicable to the EPA in carrying out its functions, be reconsidered. As set out in the implementation plan, I propose to consider this issue, which is likely would require primary legislation if it is decided to progress it in the latter half of 2013.” (June 6th 2012)
See our page about EPA public consultation and our press releases: “EPA proposed fracking research ignores public health” and “EPA report on fracking just a whitewash?”

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