The threat of fracking in Northern Ireland is a very real and urgent one. While the Covid pandemic has been taking place there have been moves by the oil and gas industry, assisted by Northern Ireland officials to facilitate the licensing process.
Over this past decade our particular communities have experienced first hand various attempts at oil and gas exploration in Northern Ireland, and the government sector’s system-wide inability to cope with its complexity. Now that the UK is signed up to the Paris Agreement and has made a net-zero carbon commitment, it is time to suspend, not just review, fossil fuel development.
In the interests of protecting public health and the environment from the polluting impacts of this industry, meeting our climate change obligations, and so that other communities don’t have to experience the same stress and disruption that we have, we have come together to call for the Assembly to:
“acknowledge its responsibility to protect public health and the environment and call on the Executive to instigate an immediate moratorium on petroleum licencing for all exploration for, drilling for and extraction of hydrocarbons until legislation is brought forward that bans all exploration for, drilling for and extraction of hydrocarbons in Northern Ireland.”
The motion builds on the 2015 Strategic Planning Policy Statement presumption against the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction in Northern Ireland introduced by Mark H Durkan, and recognises the moratoria, in various forms, on fracking in England, Scotland and Wales and the ban on fracking in the Republic of Ireland.
Statement issued on behalf of Belcoo Frack Free, LAMP Fermanagh, Protect Our North Coast, Stop The Drill Campaign, Ballinlea Residents Group, Friends of Woodburn Forest, Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network, Love Leitrim and Safety Before LNG.
Fracking is still being considered by the NI executive and our health is again at stake. Currently the Minister for the Economy is involved in a strategic review of petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland. If the review decides to allow licensing to go ahead this means that Fracking in Fermanagh may again rear its ugly head. Fracking goes by many names including unconventional hydrocarbon extraction. And to make matters worse the FODC is proposing to ‘water down’ the wording in the draft local development plan [LDP] that protects us against fracking.
The current wording [MIN04 on page 127] states “The council will not permit unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until it is proved that there would be no adverse effects on the environment or public health”. The council now wants to change the second half of this sentence to ‘until there is robust evidence on all associated impacts on the environment and human health’. This is obviously a much weaker protection and leaves open the unacceptable possibility that the council can then try to regulate these ‘associated impacts’. Public health must be clearly written into our LDP when it comes to fracking.
There is a short consultation process, finishing on 11 Sept, where FODC residents can comment on these proposed changes to the draft LDP. Please send in your comment/ submission objecting to this change of wording and help protect our health, our families and the environment. For a template to send to FODC before Friday 11. Sept 2020 see below.
Comment on proposed changes to Local Development Plan 2030
Email to FODC at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: proposed changes to the Fermanagh & Omagh District Council [FODC] Local Development Plan [LDP] 2030 Draft plan [published in October 2018]. The proposed changes to the LDP were published in July 2020.
Specifically I object to the proposed change to the Mineral section [MIN 04]
Currently in the 2018 LDP draft it states on page 127 ‘The local council will not permit unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until it is proved that there would be no adverse effects on the environment or public health’. The proposed change is to alter the above sentence to ‘The local council will not permit unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until there is robust evidence on all associated impacts on the environment and human health’.
Unconventional hydrocarbon extraction [UHE] goes under many names including fracking.
I object to any changes of MIN 04  for the following reasons.
1. The term ‘robust evidence on all associated impacts’ leaves open the possibility that despite the evidence of negative impacts on human health and the environment the FODC may still decide to allow UHE. This is possible as the change in wording allows the fracking industry and/or FODC to argue that regulation ‘of the associated impacts’ is possible. Very strong evidence from the USA has shown time and again that regulation of fracking does not work and people’s health deteriorates. I insist the original sentence remains unaltered. Public Health is central to any long term plan for our communities and must be explicitly included in the LDP with regards to UHE.
2. In the ‘Summary of Issue/ Justification’ box for the above proposed change to the FODC LDP wording it states ‘to reflect SPPS’. The SPPS [Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland published in 2015] is an important document and states that the SPPS should ‘be taken into account’ when local plans are drawn up. This does not mean that the FODC are not allowed to choose its own slightly different wording where appropriate. Indeed in the introduction to the SPPS document the Minister stated the vision of the SPPS was simple; to improve well-being for the people, no compromising on environmental standards and creating places where communities can flourish now and into the future. If Public Health is not explicitly written into the FODC LDP then the SPPS will not fulfil the goals as set out above by the Minister.
3. There is a huge increase in high quality peer reviewed evidence, year on year, of the definitive harm to Public health and the environment that unconventional hydrocarbon extraction causes. Thus statements of even two years ago let alone five years ago have been superseded by the evidence. See www.concernedhealthny.org/compendium compiled by USA physicians relating to the extensive harm to both Public Health and the environment due to UHE. A court ruling in the UK last year [the Dove Judgement www.frackfreeunited.co.uk/fracking-unlawful] states that National and Local Government departments can and must adapt their plans to take account of current evidence of Public health harm and/ or climate damage even if their new adaptations appear to contradict existing planning policies. To put it simply: if the evidence changes and becomes more definitive then plans [including the FODC LDP] should reflect these changes, irrespective of what older, out-of-date Government documents say.
Email address: ………………………….
Here’s a template for you to send your objection to Department for the Economy in regards to Planning Application PLA2/16:
As residents of Fermanagh, we wish to object in the strongest possible terms to the granting of a petroleum licence to Tamboran to explore for or carry out fracking in Fermanagh or anywhere else in Northern Ireland, for the following reasons:
- The Threat – Fracking is a dirty, toxic, industrialised process which has been proved dangerous and unsuitable even for sparsely populated areas in the United States and Australia. No solution to the problems of leaky wells and waste water disposal has yet been found anywhere.
- The Applicant – The companies involved in the fracking process take no responsibility for a subsequent clean-up. They find ingenious pseudo-legal ways, including insolvency, to walk away, leaving the wreckage to the community. Their claim to community involvement actually amounts to a combination of bribery of the weak and intimidation of objectors, dividing communities to the profit of the frackers.
- Health – The existential health risks of fracking have been scientifically documented by the Concerned Physicians of New York State.
- Agriculture – The reputational damage of fracking to food-producing agriculture, the principal economic activity in Fermanagh, would be permanent.
- Landscape – One of the most beautiful landscapes in Ireland, which includes the UNESCO Geopark and many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, would be permanently degraded by fracking.
- Tourism – Fermanagh’s second most important economic activity would never recover from the known effects of fracking: visual degradation; pollution of its pristine waterways; and the endless lorry traffic on its country roads.
- Jobs – Technical supervisors would be imported. The few jobs for local people would be limited to driving lorries and manual labour.
- Climate Change – The UK Government has recently published its highly necessary policy and timetable to achieve zero carbon emissions. In the light of this, to grant a licence to produce a highly suspect fossil fuel would be nothing short of reckless.
- Political responsibility – For all the above reasons, this matter must be treated with the utmost political seriousness. It would be totally improper, if not illegal, for it to be shuffled through by a civil servant in the temporary absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Send via Email to: email@example.com
Send via Post to: Department for the Economy, Minerals and Petroleum Branch, Room 9, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3SB
Deadline: 5th July 2019
According to the BBC, the practice of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, otherwise known as fracking, may be coming to the UK sooner than expected after parameters for the practice were outlined today.
The Committee on Climate Change have stated that fracking can be conducted so long as 3 key criteria are met, those of methane leaks, gas consumption, and UK carbon budgets.
- Emissions should be strictly limited during shale gas development, production and well decommissioning.
- Overall gas consumption in the UK must remain in line with UK carbon budgets.
- Emissions from shale gas production must be counted as part of the UK’s carbon budgets.
Though the government is confident these conditions will be reached, a spokesman admitted that any increase in current carbon emissions in future would make current targets even more challenging.
Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction racking has come under heavy scientific criticism since its inception during the 2000’s, in particular, from a health perspective, with the British Medical Journal having previously criticised the safety of the practice, and the Australian Medical Journal, The Lancet, who denounced the detrimental health implications of fracking.
Of the three criteria listed above that will be used as key performance indicators to green light unconventional shale gas extraction, namely methane leaks, gas consumption, and UK carbon budgets, it is perhaps regrettable that ‘social health’ has not been listed as another criteria that must be passed. One could perhaps list ‘environmental health’ as another criteria that takes into account changes in air water and soil quality, or ‘net community economics’.
By doing so, there could be a minimum of six gates that need to be walked through. However, perhaps these last three are not within the remit of scope of the Committee of Climate Change, in the way that it will be for the local communities that must live with Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction on a daily basis.
What do you think? Leave your comments below.
Today marks the first day of the long anticipated Cuadrilla inquiry, where they are set to appeal and overturn the Lancashire County Council decision to oppose two of their fracking test licences.
Whilst inspectors at the hearing are expected to make decisions at the inquiry, the final decision will fall on the lap of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, who is a signatory on the Controversial Leaked letter to George Osborne that backs industrial scale USGE in the UK.
It is thought that were Cuadrilla allowed to over turn the Lancashire County Council’s decision, then this would provide a precedent for other targeted fracking areas across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, inclusive of County Fermanagh.
The inquiry is to be held at Blackpool Stadium and local community groups are expected to attend as they look for the County Council’s decision to be upheld.
In a thought provoking monologue, American actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo has made an informed plea to UK Prime Minister that asks him to reconsider utilising Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction within the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland.
Not only does Mr Ruffalo claim that USCE is a ‘huge mistake’, and that ‘there is no fracking that can be done safely’, he draws the Prime Minister’s attention to the concept that renewable energy is ‘the future economy’, and that 200 nations recently came together to decide that it is now time to leave fossil fuels in the ground.
Mr Ruffalo also also held Mr Cameron accountable to his own words, stating that: ‘you have already told your people once before that if they didn’t want it, you wouldn’t push them to take it, and you are turning back on your word.’
The Prime Minister is yet to respond to Mr Ruffalo’s comments.
A government letter suggests that UK Government Ministers have backed the controversial process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction. The letter, leaked to Friends of the Earth also suggests removing important decisions away from local community control, and into the remit of national infrastructure bodies, thus reducing the say that local communities have over USGE in their local area.
Craig Bennett, the chief executive of Friends Of The Earth, said: “The Prime Minister has said that communities would have a fair say in whether or not fracking should happen near them, but as this letter makes clear, this isn’t being reflected or honoured in the highest levels of government.”
The letter was reportedly sent from the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, the Communities Secretary Greg Clark and the Environment Secretary Liz Truss to Chancellor George Osborne.
A Government spokeswoman stressed communities will “always be involved” in the planning application process. “We are backing shale because it’s good for our energy security and will help create jobs and growth,” she said.
Below, is the main body of the leaked letter in full:
Amber Rudd, Energy and Climate Change Secretary has stated that whilst the United Kingdom has not moved as fast as U.S. counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic on the subject of fracking, all of that is about to change.
She stated in an interview with the BBC: “What we’re signalling today is the delays that have been taking place on deciding if these [unconventional shale gas extraction] applications could go ahead, have simply been taking too long. Local authorities are still going to be very much involved, but the secretary for communities and government will have an increased role in making sure they stick to the planning timetable which is already in place.”
The secretary’s comments come after 27 areas were available for auction on the 14th licencing round.