When is fracking not fracking?

iIPFxxAvBxysWhen an oil/gas company wants to drill, of course!

Look at what Rathlin Energy are planning to do near the Giant’s Causeway:

  1. Construct a drilling pad
  2. Drill down 2,700 metres – drilling day and night for up to 90 days
  3. “Stimulate” the well using hydraulic fracturing.  This could go on for 12 weeks, 12 hours per day and probably overnight as well.
  4. Collect flowback
  5. Flare off emitted gas for up to 14 days.

What is this if not fracking?

Yet Rathlin Energy persist in their claim that “fracking will not be used during drilling of this well”.

Who are they trying to fool?  The public of course!  And that includes you, me and everyone else.

Two statements from the EIS that must be queried

The results of the modelling exercise shows that the operation of the flares will not breach the relevant limits for the protection of human health or vegetation at the nearest sensitive receptors. (p16, EIS Non-technical Summary).

Yet, by their own admission, flare emissions can contain CO2, Carbon Monoxide (toxic), Nitogen oxides (some toxic), Sulphur Dioxide (toxic), particulates and, most worryingly of all “unburned hydrocarbons”.  The latter possibly include some real “baddies” – Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene (BTEX).  So toxic, there are NO safe levels of exposure!  When nobody knows whether gas will be produced at all, not to mind its constituency, how can anyone say that public health is not at risk?  One only has to refer to relevant peer-reviewed reports from the US to know that flares definitely constitute a public health risk.

Now let’s look at how Rathlin Energy intends to get rid of flowback waste from the well:

The paragraph starts off, “Waste will be segregated and controlled.” (p20)  Then it describes what it does with flowback: ” Cuttings skips are provided for water based cuttings. They are removed by a licensed contractor for treatment,recycling or disposal as applicable”.

In other words, liquid wastes will not be controlled (by Rathlin Energy anyway). Water-based “cuttings” from hydraulic fracturing contain heavy metals, radioactive elements, brine and fracking chemicals. What treatment is available in Northern Ireland? NONE. Neither are there licenced contractors in Northern Ireland who could take on the task of recycling fracking waste. Which leaves “disposal”. When no adequate method is stated for safe disposal and with Northern Ireland’s record for waste disposal, could anyone have confidence that such waste could be disposed of safely? We don’t think so!

This EIS raises many questions that need answering.

It is madness to go ahead with a project that includes such uncertainties and risks to human health. 

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Alberta Government won’t appeal decision allowing Jessica Ernst to sue

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Jessica Ernst at the Canadian courts

Another victory for Jessica Ernst, a well known Canadian activist and friend of Irish anti-fracking campaign. The Goverment of the  province of Alberta won’t appeal the decision to allow Ernst to sue, representing a big landmark for the anti-fracking movement. This step came after a judge dismissed all the key arguments made by the Alberta goverment against her $33m lawsuit last November.

Ernst, who worked in the oil industry for 30 years, has been keeping up a legal fight since 2007 against the Alberta Government  after the fracking operations of the energy company Encana contaminanted her water well with methane and other chemichal fluids in 2001. She accused the provincial goverment bodies, in charge of protecting the environment and the regulating the oil and gas industry in Alberta, of failing to follow the investigation and enforcement processes that they had established and publicised to protect local communities from polutions of the fracking process. The provincial bodies tried to silence her, even calling her a “terrorist”.

The lawsuit, which breaks ground for more people and communities affected by the fracking industry in Alberta, which is the the biggest oil producing province in Canada, can now continue. Ernst visited Ireland in 2013 at the invitation of the anti-fracking campaign to explain her experiences of dealing with the consequences of fracking and how she was fighting them.

FRACKING BY THE NUMBERS

How big is the fracking industry?

Environment America have produced a report which gives a startling picture of the extent of fracking in US and some of the impacts caused by this industry.  [Download report] “Fracking by the Numbers” needs wide circulation – the scale of the industry and its use of land, water and chemicals is not realised; neither is the scale of the impacts of fracking on water use and contamination as well as air emissions.  The following is a synopsis:

National Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Fracking

• Fracking Wells since 2005 82,000
• Toxic Wastewater Produced in 2012 (billion gallons) 280
• Water Used since 2005 (billion gallons) 250
• Chemicals Used since 2005 (billion gallons) 2
• Air Pollution in One Year (tons) 450,000
• Land Directly Damaged since 2005 (acres) 360,000

Toxic wastewater:

Fracking produces enormous volumes of toxic wastewater—often containing cancer-causing and even radioactive material. Once brought to the surface, this toxic waste poses hazards for drinking water, air quality and public safety:

  • Fracking wells nationwide produced an estimated 280 billion gallons of wastewater in 2012.
  • This toxic wastewater often contains cancer-causing and even radioactive materials, and has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. In New Mexico alone, waste pits from all oil and gas drilling have contaminated groundwater on more than 400 occasions.
  • Scientists have linked underground injection of wastewater to earthquakes.
Water use:

Fracking requires huge volumes of water for each well.

  • Fracking operations have used at least 250 billion gallons of water since 2005.
  • While most industrial uses of water return it to the water cycle for further use, fracking converts clean water into toxic wastewater, much of which must then be permanently disposed of, taking billions of gallons out of the water supply annually.
  • Farmers are particularly impacted by fracking water use as they compete with the deep-pocketed oil and gas industry for water, especially in drought-stricken regions of the country.
Chemical use:

Fracking uses a wide range of chemicals, many of them toxic.

  • Operators have hauled more than 2 billion gallons of chemicals to thousands of fracking sites around the country.
  • In addition to other health threats, many of these chemicals have the potential to cause cancer.
  • These toxics can enter drinking water supplies from leaks and spills, through well blowouts, and through the failure of disposal wells receiving fracking wastewater.
Air pollution:

Fracking-related activities release thousands of tons of health-threatening air pollution.

  • Nationally, fracking released 450,000 tons of pollutants into the air that can have immediate health impacts.
  • Air pollution from fracking contributes to the formation of ozone “smog,” which reduces lung function among healthy people, triggers asthma attacks, and has been linked to increases in school absences, hospital visits and premature death. Other air pollutants from fracking and the fossil-fuel-fired machinery used in fracking have been linked to cancer and other serious health effects.
Global warming pollution:

Fracking produces significant volumes of global warming pollution.

  • Methane, which is a global warming pollutant 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, is released at multiple steps during fracking, including during hydraulic fracturing and well completion, and in the processing and transport of gas to end users.
  • Global warming emissions from completion of fracking wells since 2005 total an estimated 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Damage to our natural heritage:

Well pads, new access roads, pipelines and other infrastructure turn forests and rural landscapes into industrial zones.

  • Infrastructure to support fracking has damaged 360,000 acres of land for drilling sites, roads and pipelines since 2005.
  • Forests and farmland have been replaced by well pads, roads, pipelines and other gas infrastructure, resulting in the loss of wildlife habitat and fragmentation of remaining wild areas. In Colorado, fracking has already damaged 57,000 acres of land, equal to one-third of the acreage in the state’s park system.
  • The oil and gas industry is seeking to bring fracking into our national forests, around several of our national parks, and in watersheds that supply drinking water to millions of Americans.
Fracking has additional impacts not quantified here

—including contamination of residential water wells by fracking fluids and methane leaks; vehicle and workplace accidents, earthquakes and other public safety risks; and economic and social damage including ruined roads and damage to nearby farms.

To address the environmental and public health threats from fracking across the nation:

States should prohibit fracking. Given the scale and severity of fracking’s myriad impacts, constructing a regulatory regime sufficient to protect the environment and public health from dirty drilling—much less enforcing such safeguards at more than 80,000 wells, plus processing and waste disposal sites across the country—seems implausible. In states where fracking is already underway, an immediate moratorium is in order. In all other states, banning fracking is the prudent and necessary course to protect the environment and public health.

• Given the drilling damage that state officials have allowed fracking to incur thus far, at a minimum, federal policymakers must step in and close the loopholes exempting fracking from key provisions of our nation’s environmental laws.

• Federal officials should also protect America’s natural heritage by keeping fracking away from our national parks, national forests, and sources of drinking water for millions of Americans.

• To ensure that the oil and gas industry—rather than taxpayers, communities or families—pays the costs of fracking damage, policymakers should require robust financial assurance from fracking operators at every well site.

More complete data on fracking should be collected and made available to the public, enabling us to understand the full extent of the harm that fracking causes to our environment and health.

Defining “Fracking”

In this report, when we refer to the impacts of “fracking,” we include impacts resulting from all of the activities needed to bring a shale gas or oil well into production using high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracturing operations that use at least 100,000 gallons of water), to operate that well, and to deliver the gas or oil produced from that well to market. The oil and gas industry often uses a more restrictive definition of “fracking” that includes only the actual moment in the extraction process when rock is fractured—a definition that obscures the broad changes to environmental, health and community conditions that result from the use of fracking in oil and gas extraction.

GEAI spreads the Word to Anglers

Irish and European Anglers threatened by fracking!

GEAI is happy to spread the truth about the impacts of fracking to all sectors of the population.  Therefore, when contacted by Martin McEnroe, President of the Angling Council Ireland, we were delighted to work with him in producing a glossy folder and insert for the Anglers in Europe.  Understandably, they are very concerning about the possible impacts of fracking on the fragile waterways of Europe.

Some facts:
  • All land in Europe is drained by rivers or streams.  The Rhine River drains huge areas of eight countries; The River Shannon drains one-third of Ireland.
  • Fracking takes over huge tracts of land – hundreds of thousands of acres per project. All of those areas are drained by rivers and streams, vital to fisheries.
  • Target areas for Fracking include World Heritage Sites, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and other important nature and heritage areas that are  angling paradises and tourism attractions.
  • Wildlife, flora and fauna in those areas would be degraded due to the nature of the fracking process such as water abstraction, drilling waste, spillages, road run-off and change of land use.
Links to documents

Angling Council Ireland Folder

Effects of Fracking on our Waterways

Picture: Eoin Mc Manus with the first salmon of 2014 on the River Drowes

[The River Drowes is famous for regularly producing the first salmon of the year, being one of the few rivers opening on 1st January. Rarely is there a year when a fish is not caught on opening day. Indeed this is a very festive occasion with some 250 anglers fishing, all striving to land the first salmon of the year. The river flows for about 5 miles draining the 103 square mile catchment into the Atlantic]

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

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