Fermanagh and omagh district council to adopt anti-fracking stance

FODC

The Impartial Reporter stated on the 31st July:

At a meeting last night, Fermanagh and Omagh Councillors agreed that they were opposed to fracking and called for the Assembly to return from recess to discuss the issue.
Sinn Féin Councillor for Erne West Anthony Feely raised the matter at last night’s meeting of the Shadow Council in Omagh. UUP Councillor Alec Baird and SDLP Councillor Brendan Gallagher spoke about anti-fracking sentiment in the Belcoo area which has intensified since Tamboran arrived to test drill last Monday.

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Quinn can see benefits of fracking

The Impartial Reporter stated on the 31st July:

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The brother of former businessman Sean Quinn who built up a huge manufacturing empire in Derrylin sees many benefits in fracking going ahead in Fermanagh and says he has no intentions of joining the protesters at Belcoo anytime soon.

“There are people in Fermanagh who support it, there is no question about that. There are people in Fermanagh who see it as being good for the economy and creating benefits to the local area.

“If I were running a commercial business in Fermanagh and shale gas was available I would want to benefit from it, no doubt about that.”

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Constituents put pressure on Fermanagh Council to act

The Impartial Reporter stated today, the 31st July:

ERNE West Councillors came under pressure to take action against fracking when around 200 residents from Belcoo, Letterbreen and Mullaghdun met in Letterbreen Church of Ireland Hall on Tuesday night.

Three demands were made by constituents, who have become increasingly concerned about the possibility of fracking since Australian exploration company Tamboran arrived at a Belcoo quarry last Monday.
The people demanded that Fermanagh District Council:

– call an emergency meeting, putting forward a motion calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to implement a moratorium on fracking;
– fund local researchers to examine the potential health and environmental impacts of fracking; and
– set up an immediate meeting with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

Leitrim County Council will hold an emergency meeting on fracking today (Thursday) at 11am and Cavan County Council will hold an emergency meeting on fracking tomorrow (Friday).
In response to these demands, a spokeswoman for Fermanagh District Council tells The Impartial Reporter: “The Council has not had the opportunity yet to consider or discuss the issues raised at Tuesday night’s meeting.”

She said that “issues around fracking” will be considered at Fermanagh District Council’s full meeting on Monday night (August 4).

Clarifying Fermanagh District Council’s position on fracking, she stated: “The Council is opposed to fracking and has already called for a moratorium.”

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Organised by Letterbreen and Mullaghdun Partnership (Lamp), the packed meeting heard presentations from Dr. Aedín McLoughlin of Good Energies Alliance Ireland; Eddie Mitchell, Chairman of Love Leitrim; and Tom White, who has lived in Belcoo for 10 years.

Erne West Councillors Alex Baird (UUP); Brendan Gallagher (SDLP); Martin McGovern (Sinn Féin) and Bernice Swift (Independent) were in attendance. Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan and MP Michelle Gildernew attended, as well as UUP MLA Tom Elliott.

The meeting was told that the exploratory drill is the first step towards fracking. Politicians were asked how they had allowed the process of fracking come this far. Phil Flanagan replied: “If we (Sinn Féin) recalled any of this (to the Executive), the DUP would veto it because they are mad to get fracking in West Fermanagh.”

An angry crowd responded by shouting that they were sick of politicians “batting the issue off each other”.

Councillor Martin McGovern said that fracking would “hopefully” be on the agenda at Monday night’s Council meeting, leading to uproar from the audience. He hastily clarified that fracking “would” be on the agenda.

One lady pointed out: “Leitrim County Council is having an emergency meeting about the Belcoo drill on Thursday morning. People from Leitrim, Meath, Sligo and Cavan have been protesting in Belcoo; they are putting in the support and commitment into Fermanagh so to be ready for whatever comes next.”
The crowd wanted to know why Leitrim County Council can call an emergency meeting on fracking while Fermanagh District Council cannot.

Wild cheers erupted when Tom White suggested an emergency meeting of Fermanagh District Council. He asked: “Why are we being ignored by the Executive? This is bigger than fracking; this is dysfunctional government.”

UUP Councillor Alec Baird sounded nervous as he addressed the crowd, saying: “Fracking will be discussed at next Monday night’s Council meeting but I can’t discuss the details due to confidentiality issues surrounding committee meetings. As a party [the UUP] sat down and looked at the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of fracking.”

The UUP’s policy on fracking states that “the potential economic benefits of … fracking may be substantial … However, the Ulster Unionist Party will not support fracking until an environmental impact assessment is sufficiently undertaken which shows that the practice is safe.”

UUP MLA Tom Elliott was stronger in voicing opposition, saying: “Fracking is not going to be of any benefit for the local community here. If we are to stop fracking it has to be at Executive level. The UK Government appear determined to push it through. We need to lobby UK MPs in writing to stop this push, push, push for fracking.”

SDLP Councillor Brendan Gallagher pointed out that Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan will be in Enniskillen townhall today (Thursday) to meet local residents and discuss their concerns.
One local farmer yelled: “In a week’s time they could have the drilling done; we want it stopped and we want it stopped now; if the politicians don’t do it, maybe the people will.”
Local farmer John Sheridan urged locals not to lose their temper. He said: “Have patience and do this in an academic way and go through the process,” adding: “Anything that leads to bad temper means that you are going to lose. If you stick together you can beat it.”

He called for the Council to fund local qualified researchers from the area to examine the potential health and environmental impacts of fracking. Phil Flanagan revealed that Sinn Fein wants the Council to spend the money that would have went on a fracking referendum (speculated at between £30,000 and £100,000) on funding local research.

Eddie Mitchell, from community group Love Leitrim said: “Love Leitrim will peacefully stand between the rigs and the Belcoo drill site; this can’t go ahead. The question is, will the politicians stand with us?” He added: “Meetings like this are happening all over the UK.”

The crowd was urged to lobby MLAs and MPs but warned that “there is only so much that politicians can do”.
Another public meeting will be held in Belcoo Community Centre tomorrow (Friday) evening at 7pm.

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Tamboran injunction extended after further ‘unlawful incidents’

The Impartial Reporter stated on the 31st July:

Fracking company Tamboran has taken out a High Court injunction, which warns that a prison sentence, fine or seizure of assets could be on the cards for anyone who enters the Belcoo drill site; interferes with or prevents Tamboran from carrying out exploratory drilling; or obstructs access to or exit from the site.
The injunction was granted by The Honourable Mr. Justice Horner last Thursday, July 24, initially to last until midnight on July 30. It was up for review yesterday (Wednesday) and has been extended until there is a further Order of the court.
The injunction does not apply to people being on the Gandrum Road in general, unless people or equipment are prevented from entering or leaving the drill site.
Yesterday afternoon, a Tamboran spokesman said that since the company’s arrival in Belcoo on Monday, July 21, “a number of individuals sought to gain unlawful access to the site, and interfere with access to the site”.
They say that they sought an Injunction “in order to protect the safety of local people, site security and protesters” and this was served on Friday July 25.
“The company has since sought and secured an extension to the Order on Wednesday July 30 following additional unlawful incidents that took place since the initial Order was served. The court ruled that the Order would continue until there was a further Order of the court. Further information about this Order will be made available at www.tamboran.com. This is an existing quarry site and although there is no drilling equipment on site security work has been ongoing.”
He added: “Tamboran respects people’s right to protest and we welcome calls from local people to ensure that the protests are peaceful. It is important to stress that the company is undertaking work it is required to do under the terms of the licence from Government and intends to meet its obligations in full.”
On the exploratory drilling, the company “would ask that people approach with an open mind and willingness to listen to all the facts before making an informed decision”.
In granting the initial injunction, Mr. Justice Horner took into consideration a lengthy affidavit from Karl Prenderville, Regional Director of Tamboran. This affidavit, dated last Wednesday, July 23, included the lease agreement signed with Acheson and Glover, showing that Tamboran paid £35,000 for the use of the quarry. Tamboran’s four month lease on the quarry began on July 17. The affidavit also contains copies of emails sent to Tamboran Chief Executive Joel Riddle, who is based in Sydney, warning “the frackers” to stay out of Ireland. The High Court Judge also took into consideration of a video taken by security men at the site of protesters trying to break down the security fencing last Monday night.
The injunction was pinned to the Belcoo drill site gates on Saturday. While it is aimed at unknown persons (which means effectively anybody who breaches the stipulations) it contained a list of groups which had spoken out against Tamboran online at any stage in recent years.
As more people continue to visit the protest camp, which is running 24-hours-a-day, a code of conduct is in place, urging protesters to treat others with respect; not damage equipment or property; act in an exemplary manner if arrested and “know the limits of anger or despair and develop strategies to manage and channel these emotions constructively”.
On Sunday, a large crowd gathered to continue their opposition to fracking. Last Thursday local farmers arrived in convoy to the gates. Another tractor run is being organised for this Sunday, leaving from Belcoo at 12 noon and travelling to Enniskillen.

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Potential for up to 600 jobs insist fracking company

The Fermanagh Herald have reported:

FRACKING COMPANY Tamboran has expanded on the promise of ‘hundreds’ of jobs coming to Fermanagh if Fracking goes ahead. The company said that ‘if in due course the company is able to proceed to the next stage and that ultimately leads to gas production’, there will be ‘considerable employment opportunities both directly and indirectly’.

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Anti-fracking campaigners have questioned the number of jobs promised by Tamboran, however, the company itself has reaffirmed intentioned to bring several hundred jobs to the area. A spokesman told the Fermanagh Herald that the company ‘will require upwards of 600 people in full time long term positions’ and that they ‘will be seeking to recruit as locally as possible’.

The spokesman said: “We would propose to provide local training opportunities to ensure we have a well-trained local team as this would be preferable to recruiting from overseas. We are determined to create as many jobs as possible in the local area.”

The spokesman also said that the company will be seeking to use local suppliers ‘as much as possible’ for services such as aggregates, security, professional services, vehicles, maintenance, catering and hospitality. The spokesman stressed that the company is ‘still at the very early stages of exploration and fact-finding and we firstly need to verify the presence of the natural gas in shale rock’.

He added: “We know some are opposed to natural gas and at the same time we know there is also considerable interest and support for the project. To date we have received several hundred enquiries about business opportunities and job opportunities, all unsolicited and mostly from local people. Given the potential benefits this project could bring through billions of investment, job creation and security of energy supply for decades to come, we would ask that people keep an open mind and make up their own mind based on the facts.”

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Anti-fracking protesters keep up the pressure at Belcoo test site

The Fermanagh Herald has reported:

THE CULMINATION of a week’s’ worth of daily protests was one in which around 400 attended on Sunday evening. Opposition has been growing following the announcement that fracking company Tamboran are to begin test drilling at a site in Belcoo in the coming weeks.

The test drilling, which will not involved ‘fracking’ is the first of two planned by the company and will give them more details of natural gas here. Since the ‘opening day’ protest, held on Monday July 21, where around 300 were in attendance, there have been daily protests at the site – with protesters encouraging a larger attendance for the Sunday night.

Local cross-community, campaign group, Belcoo Frack Free, formed following the first night of protests, unveiled the first phase of its campaign to halt gas exploration works at Creenahoe Quarry near Belcoo. Following a demonstration held on Sunday, a spokesman for Belcoo Frack Free said:

“Our campaign has established, and is maintaining, a continuous presence at the gates since Tamboran moved onsite last Monday (July 21). We are organising daily, peaceful evening protests which are attracting growing numbers and which end with locals and visitors providing a musical performance at the gates most nights.” Over the weekend the group published a code of conduct ‘to ensure that our demonstrations remain peaceful and dignified and keep the focus on what Tamboran are doing at the site’.

A renovated mill is now in use as a campsite, the group said, ‘to accommodate the growing numbers of campaigners coming to support the protest from across Ireland and the UK’. “The population of Fermanagh, from both communities, is highly concerned with the threat posed by this industry and remains implacably opposed to its development,” the spokesman concluded.

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N.I. Minister for the environment visits enniskillen

Today, the BBC reported that Minister of the Department of the Environment, Mr Mark H. Durkin MLA, visited the town of Enniskillen, County Fermanagh to discuss topics relating to Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction within County Fermanagh.

Mark-H-Durkan

The talks were held with the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network, Ban Fracking Fermanagh, Sinn Fein representatives Mr. Phil Flanagan MLA, Ms. Michelle Gildernew MP, Mr. Michael Colreavy TD, and SDLP Councillor Mr. Brendan Gallagher. Further to this, the meeting was attended by concerned citizens of Belcoo, where a proposed exploratory well bore is due to take place.

The BBC report:

Tamboran Resources wants to drill an exploratory borehole in a quarry near Belcoo to find out how much shale gas is in the ground.

Opponents see it as a first step that could lead to fracking.

Mr Durkan said his department would take into account people’s concerns before deciding if drilling can go ahead.

“There were a lot of suggestions today as to what and how my department should be looking at this notification or application from Tamboran,” he said.

“There are a number of environmental concerns, health concerns, economic concerns and all of these are concerns that I have listened to today and that I will certainly consider when assessing this from Tamboran.”

Thomas McCaffrey, of the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network, said the test drill should be subject to a full planning application with an environmental impact assessment and potentially a public health impact assessment.

“We consider it to be unconventional gas exploration and extraction as one whole process and you can’t separate out the drilling of an initial exploratory borehole from the whole process of unconventional gas extraction,” he said.

“We impressed upon him the need for the public to see that their politicians are doing something to alleviate the situation, because people are out there camping and, if nothing’s done, they’re going to be there in December, because people are that passionate about it, they’re not going to leave until they’re convinced that something is being done about it.

“We want to impress upon him the public’s anger and concern that they are afraid about what is happening on their doorstep without any consultation from the company at all.”

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Fracking firm Tamboran obtains belcoo quarry injunction

The BBC have reported:

Tamboran Resources intends to drill an exploratory borehole near Belcoo next month to collect rock samples.

Since Monday, protesters against the controversial fracking technique have held a vigil at the site entrance.

Police say they have plans in place to deal with any protests.

The quarry is owned by Acheson and Glover and Tamboran has taken out a four-month lease to carry out exploratory drilling work.

The court order prohibits people from entering or occupying land at Gandrum Road, or preventing Tamboran from carrying out exploratory mining operations and obstructing access to and from the site.

Tamboran said that after they moved equipment into the quarry, a number of individuals sought to gain unlawful access to the site.

“In order to protect the safety of local people, site security and protesters we have sought and secured an order for an injunction to deter anyone from seeking unlawful access,” the company said.

“Tamboran respects people’s right to protest and we welcome calls from local people to ensure that the protests are peaceful.

“It is important to stress that the company is undertaking work it is required to do under the terms of the licence from government and intends to meet its obligations in full.”

To read the article in full, click here.

West sussex council reject exploratory shale gas license

In what is regarded as a UK first, a local county council in England have rejected an application for exploration license for shale gas.

Protest against Fracking traffic and Celtique Energie drilling rig in Fernhurst West Sussex

The Guardian report:

An application by a shale company to explore for oil and gas in a picturesque part of West Sussex has been turned down. West Sussex County Council’s planning committee refused the application by Celtique Energy for oil and gas exploration near Wisborough Green, a conservation area just outside the South Downs National Park.

The refusal, thought to be the first time a council has rejected a planning application by a shale company, was welcomed by local campaigners and environmentalists who feared that the exploration would lead to controversial fracking for oil or gas. The county council said it turned down the application because Celtique did not demonstrate the site represented the best option compared with other sites, it had unsafe highways access and would have had an adverse impact on the area.

Heidi Brunsdon, chairman of the council’s planning committee, said: “There were simply too many highways issues and other issues of concern for any decision other than refusal in this instance. We have noted the objections of the local community and I felt that the debate today was a full and robust one.”
Almost 100 people attended the meeting at County Hall North in HORSHAM to hear the debate and the decision, including actor James Bolam and his wife, actress Susan Jameson, who are local residents who fought against the scheme.

After the decision, Brenda Pollack, South East campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “This was absolutely the right decision. Nobody wants to see Sussex ruined by industrial drilling for dirty fossil fuels. If Celtique had been allowed to test for oil or gas, then there’s every chance that fracking would have followed.

“Local people would have seen their peaceful neighbourhoods shattered by the drilling and the extra lorries and other industrial traffic that comes with it. It has been CLEAR from the start that this application must be refused for a range of reasons.”

To read the article in full, click here.

The news came a day after drilling equipment arrived in Belcoo, County Fermanagh for an exploratory borehole drill, to be carried out by Tamboran Resources, an event which is rejected by local residents.

Northern ireland youth forum debate fracking in ennsikillen

On Wednesday 23rd July, thirty youths aged 16-24 discussed the pros and cons of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE) in the Enniskillen Hotel, an event organised by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF).

NIYF

Representatives from Sinn Fein, DUP, SDLP, UUP and Tamboran Resources were asked by NIYF to attend a panel to debate the pros and cons of USGE to the youth group, yet none had shown up to participate.

However, Donal O’Cofaigh of the Socialist Party, Tanya Jones, a representative for the Green Party, and a representative from FFAN were in attendance for the informed debate. They placed emphasis on the inherent risks associated with USGE, against three youths who had to fill in for Tamboran Resources.

The event provided an opportunity for youths to engage and discuss a spectrum of topics relevant to the subject of USGE in County Fermanagh in a manner that was respectable and informative.

The event, briefly attended by Phil Flanagan of Sinn Fein as an audience member, was also covered by BBC Northern Ireland and aired on the 6:30 news across the nation. To view their coverage, click here.

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