North carolina to penalise any one that discloses fracking chemicals

The state of North Carolina has set laws that allow energy companies mining for unconventional shale gas, to sue any party that discloses information on the chemicals used.

The Energy Modernisation Act, SB 786 (Act) was passed on the 15th of May this year was primarily sponsored by Senators Rucho, Newton and Brock.

FRACKING

Located on page ten of the Act, Section 7(a) makes an amendment to Article 27 Chapter 113 of the General Statutes stating that: “while confidential information must be maintained as such with the utmost care, for the protection of public health, safety, and the environment, the information should be immediately accessible to first responders and medical personnel in the event that the information is deemed necessary to address an emergency.”

Section 7(a), subsection (c) goes further to reveal that the only parties exempt from prosecution of disclosure penalties are:

1. The Division of Emergency Management of the Department of Public Safety, who are expected to treat the list and names of chemicals as confidential.

2. Medical responders who may need to treat injured parties in the event of an accident or emergency. However, the medical responders are automatically held liable to a confidentiality agreement that they cannot break without penalty.

3. Fire Chief, who , upon emergency, may need to treat an accident and will need to know what chemicals have caused the problem. In the same instance as the Medical responder, the Fire Chief and their personnel too will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement that they cannot break without penalty.

On page 11, subsection (d) of section 7(a), provisions are outlined for the penalties of disclosure of the fracking chemicals used during unconventional shale gas extraction, stating that outside the persons named in subsection (c): “any person who has access to confidential information pursuant to this section and who discloses it knowing it to be confidential information to any person not authorized to receive it shall be guilty of a Class I felony, and if knowingly or negligently disclosed to any person not authorized, shall be subject to civil action for damages and injunction by the owner of the confidential information, including, without limitation, actions under Article 24 of Chapter 66 of the General Statutes.”

If you wish to read the two page Article 24 the Trade Secrets Protection Act, click here.

All in all, in North Carolina, the Energy Modernisation Act is a legal blow to local communities who wish for fracking chemicals, many known to be harmful to the environment and human health, to be disclosed fully, without punishment.

Whilst County Fermanagh is not affected by the Act, one must consider what European or National equivalent will be passed that holds us to the same effect, as we ask for disclosure of fracking chemicals, as we look to avoid imbibing, through our air, water and soils, chemicals that pose a serious risk in diminishing the quality of our human health.

Councilman Brad Koplinski chastises fracking effects on pennsylvania communities

In Pennsylvania, USA, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski provided a press release highlighting the environmental, economic and social liabilities experienced in Pennsylvania at the hands of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Koplinski, running for candidacy for Lieutenant Governor, not only asked for tighter regulations on the process, and a closing of the ‘Halliburton Loophole’, but also underlined the need for better protection for landowners who live nearby unconventional shale gas operating plants, wether they signed land agreements with energy companies or not.

Brad Koplinski. Source: politicspa.com
Brad Koplinski. (image source: politicspa.com)

Providing the polite, yet damning press release in front of the Chapin Dehydration Station which faces a 29 litigant lawsuit, Koplinski stated that ‘nuisance’ was too light a word for the local situation which has reduced the quality of human life for local home owners, referring to the high number of detrimental effects an ‘aberration’.

He also lamented on the fact that the shale gas extraction industry makes promises and “say things that are half truths are best most of the time. That certain chemicals won’t be put into the atmosphere, that certain practices won’t be put into place, and yet they are. Through legal contracts and other regulations that they can skirt around, we’ve seen the damages that they cause, and not just here, but throughout the commonwealth.”

Unfortunately, for Koplinski and residents of Pennsylvania, the British Medical journal have already drawn attention to the fact that the process of unconventional shale gas extraction, set to arrive in County Fermanagh, cannot be made safe for local communities, regardless of the level of regulation, stating:“To the extent that they are technically and economically feasible, risk reduction technologies that mitigate adverse health outcomes should be deployed. However reviewing the public health aspects of the development of the shale gas industry requires more than merely gesturing to technological improvements that lack empirical data on their effectiveness in the real world. optimism that fail-safe engineering solutions can ensure safe shale gas development may result more from a triumph of marketing than a demonstration of experience.”

To see the press release by Councilman Koplinski in video format, click here.

No fracking in Republic of Ireland until EPA study completed in 2016

Today, the Irish Times reported that the controversial process of Unconvenional Gas Exporation and Extraction (UGEE) will not proceed in the Republic of Ireland until a two year study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is completed in 2016.

The all island research, conducted by authorities north and south of teh border, costing €1million is expected to undertake a literature review into the effects of the process on the environment, and may include environmental baseline studies.

You may read the full article here.

Members of European Parliament sign Frack-Free Europe Declaration

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As of the 13th of May, a total of 77 Members of European Parliament (MEP) across the continent have signed a Frack-Free Europe Pledge Declaration. The non-legally binding pledge, once signed, declares that the signatory holds true on the following six principles:

 to abide by the Precautionary Principles as formulated in the Treaty on European Union, and support a moratorium on the use of fracking, for all existing and future projects for exploration or exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels.

 to strive to integrate into existing EU legislation all necessary precautions specific to unconventional fossil fuels.

 to reject undemocratic mechanisms in free trade and investment agreements (in particular the CETA and the TTIP agreements), which could be used by multinational corporations – such as Big Oil and Gas – to challenge policies that protect the environment and public health.

 to oppose the Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism (ISDS) which could make national governments reluctant to forbid the use of fracking.

 to support the creation of an EU register to which all lobbyists will be obliged to sign up; and to require all EU officials (European Commissioners, Commission civil servants, Members of the European Parliament) to maintain an online list of all meetings organised with lobbyists.

 to promote true energy transition based on clean and renewable energies, on energy conservation efficiency targets, and on an ambitious strategy to abandon all fossil fuels.
I declare myself to be a frack free candidate for a frack free Europe.

By signing the declaration, MEP’s declare themselves a frack-free candidate, for a frack-free europe.

To date, two MEP’s from Northern Ireland have signed and in the Republic of Ireland, a total of seven.

The nation of France however, has lead the way with a total of thirty-one signatories, followed by:

2nd: Spain (8)
3rd: Republic of Ireland (7)
4th: England / Germany (5)
5th: Holland (4)
6th: Belguim (3)
7th: Northern Ireland / Scotland / Poland (2)
8th: Austria / Luxemburg / Wales (1)

A total of seventeen European member states have failed to produce an MEP candidate to sign the declaration including: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden.

If you wish to read if a candidate from your nation has signed the declaration, click here.

Beverly Hills bans fracking

It has been reported by Russia Today that Beverly Hills has become the first municipality in California to ban the practice of hydraulic fracking.
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The initial push for legislation happened last month and was confirmed by Tuesday’s city council vote, which was unanimous. The law will come into effect June 6.

For the full report, click here.

Canadian government to be sued over Quebec fracking ban

Oil and Gas company, Lone Pine Resources is currently aiming to sue the Canadian Government for CDN$250million, in response to a moratorium placed on unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE) in the provence of Quebec.

Lone Pine Resources had obtained permits relating to oil and gas extraction in different areas, including underneath the length of St. Lawrence River, an area that Lone Pine have calculated to contain between 1,870 – 3,346 billion cubic feet of thermogenic gas. Lone Pine state that the moratorium is an infringement of their right to conduct USGE under the river.

Canadian flag

Due to public pressure and scientific studies linking USGE to pollution of air, soils and water, the Quebec Government introduced Bill 18 into the Quebec National Assembly, which revoked all permits related to oil and gas under the St. Lawrence River.

The Bill received Royal Assent and a further document, Bill 37 placed a moratorium on the USGE project in June 2011, which was then expanded to autumn 2012. The moratorium banned drilling under the St. Lawrence river until an environmental evaluation of the potential effects of USGE on the environment were in place.
frack-lonepine
Lone Pine Resources responded on 6th September 2013, with a CDN$250 million notice of arbitration under chapter eleven of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Lone Pine Resources also state that the Government of Quebec have violated their obligations under Article 1110 of NAFTA which provides Lone Pine Resources the right to mine for oil and gas under the St. Lawrence River.

Lone Pine claim that not only were they not consulted on the moratorium or revocation of permits, but neither were they compensated for any money invested into the unconventional shale gas extraction project itself.

In paragragh (10) of the lawsuit, they claim:
“The Act is a clear violation of Canada’s obligations under Chapter Eleven of the NAFTA, including Canada’s obligation under Article 1105 to accord U.S. investors with “treatment in accordance with international law, including fair and equitable treatment and full protection and security,” and also of Canada’s obligation under Article 1110 not to expropriate investments of U.S. investors without a public purpose, without due process, and without the payment of compensation.”

Continuing in paragraph (11) of the lawsuit, Lone Pine state that:

“[we] submit[s] this arbitration on bahalf of the Enterprise under Article 1117 of the NAFTA, for the arbitrary, capricious, and illegal revocation of the Enterprise’s valuable right to mine for oil and gas under the St. Lawrence River by the Government of Quebec without due process, without compensation, and with no cognizable public purpose. The Government of Canada is responsible for Quebec’s acts under the NAFTA and applicable principles of international law.”

Furthermore, in paragragh (53):
“Lone Pine Resources hold the Canadian Government to its obligations in under Article 1105 of the NAFTA which obliges Canada “accord to investments of investors of another Party treatment in accordance with international law, including fair and equitable treatment and full protection and security.”

Lone Pine’s lawsuit has been publicly condemned:

“This egregious lawsuit — which Lone Pine Resources must drop — highlights just how vulnerable public interest policies are as a result of trade and investment pacts,” said Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Responsible Trade Program Director. “Governments should learn from this and other similar cases and stop writing investment rules that empower corporations to attack environmental laws and policies.”
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References

1) The Canadian Press. (2012). Ottawa sued over Quebec fracking ban. Available: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/ottawa-sued-over-quebec-fracking-ban-1.1140918 . Last accessed 16/04/2014.

2) Bennett Jones LLP. (2013). NOTICE OF ARBITRATION UNDER THE ARBITRATION RULES OF THE UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE LAW AND CHAPTER ELEVEN OF THE NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT. Available: http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/assets/pdfs/disp-diff/lone-02.pdf. Last accessed 16/04/2014.

3) The Government of Canada. (2013). NAFTA – Chapter 11 – Investment. Cases Filed Against the Government of Canada. Lone Pine Resources Inc. v. Government of Canada. Available: http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/disp-diff/lone.aspx?lang=eng. Last accessed 16/04/2014.

4) Byrnes, D and Trew,S.. (2013). LONE PINE RESOURCES FILES OUTRAGEOUS NAFTA LAWSUIT AGAINST FRACKING BAN Canada, Quebec, and U.S. Environmental Groups Denounce Case. Available: http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2013/10/lone-pine-resources-files-outrageous-nafta-lawsuit-against-fracking-ban. Last accessed 16/04/2014.

UK government helped shale gas industry ‘manage’ fracking opposition

from the Guardian, 17th January 2014.

Shale gas executives and government officials collaborated in private to manage the British public’s hostility to fracking, emails released under freedom of information rules reveal. Officials shared pre-prepared statements with the industry last year before major announcements and hosted high-level dinners with “further discussion over post-dinner drinks”, while the industry shared long lists of “stakeholders” to be targeted.

BPrime Minister David Cameron visits the Total Oil Depot shale drilling site in Gainsborough

Lawrence Carter, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, which made the FOI requests now published by Decc, said: “Decc has again been revealed to be acting as an arm of the gas industry. The government are supposed to represent the interests of the public when they deal with these companies, but the evidence is piling up that they’re all in it together.” British Gas owner Centrica currently has an executive working within Decc on secondment.

Green party MP Caroline Lucas said: “This is yet more evidence of the creepily cosy relationship between Decc and big energy. Apparently it’s not enough to give fracking companies generous tax breaks, the government also has to help them with their PR. Instead of cheerleading for fracking, the government should be working with community and renewable energy to move us towards a low carbon future.”

Read the full article here: Emails reveal UK helped shale gas industry manage fracking opposition | Environment | The Guardian.

Cameron’s clangers

As reported in the Fermanagh Herald this week, Prime Minister David Cameron recently wrote a personal opinion piece for the Telegraph (the English daily paper) setting out his strongly pro-fracking views.  As he writes, “Fracking has become a national debate in Britain – and it’s one that I’m determined to win.”

So determined, it seems, that he is wrong on every important point he tries to make:

fracking-national-_2641250b

energy bills – Experts have shown that shale gas would not be a ‘game-changer’ in terms of UK energy prices and would not lead to lower household or business bills. What is more, a recent report suggests that in the US gas has actually been sold at below cost price in order to fuel speculation.

jobs – These would be few, low-skilled and short-term, far outweighed by the jobs and livelihoods likely to be lost in sectors such as agriculture and tourism.

benefits to local neighbourhoods – The £100,000 bribes he refers to would be a pittance compared to the costs of repairing and upgrading roads, of policing and security, and of necessary healthcare etc. This is even before any accidents or the costs of cleanup and decontamination. The tax breaks announced for shale gas industry suggest that little or no taxable profits would exist to create any revenue stream for communities.

safety – The ‘international evidence’ he claims to refer to is wildly skewed by the lack of monitoring, baseline studies and regulation and by the fact that victims of fracking contamination are forced to sign gagging clauses and so cannot go public about their experiences. In fact there is considerable and growing evidence from scientists and medics of a range of ill effects on human and animal health as a result of fracking operations.

regulation – Current regulations are not sufficient, as they have not kept up with this new and largely experimental technology. The coalition government has made no secret of its wish to remove the protections given to workers, residents and the environment in many areas, and we can have no confidence that things will be any better with regard to the shale gas industry,  given the close links between government and the fossil fuel industry, recently highlighted by the World Development Movement.

no damage to countryside (!) – It is not the size of individual pads that matters but the number, density and the fact that they will be linked by new roads, pipelines, processing facilities etc. Is Mr Cameron seriously suggesting that this would have no effect on the landscape? The conventional drilling that he tries to reassure us by referring to is not comparable in either its impact or its side-effects.

technological endeavour – Yes, we do have a tradition of innovation and engineering genius (across the whole UK, not just in Britain as he states) so we should use this in positive and sustainable ways to create high quality jobs and entrepreneurships, export opportunities and a secure future for our children, rather than following the mistakes made across the Atlantic.

This speech appears to be a damage limitation exercise following the embarrassing comments made by Lord Howell (George Osborne’s father in law) which revealed the extent to which the industry and Conservative Party hope to play one part of the country, and one community, off against another. As such, it contains nothing new. What it does show, however, is an arrogant disregard for the weight of evidence about the failures of fracking to live up to its promises and the disappointment and disillusion of communities that were taken in by the industry’s promises.

Something else that Mr Cameron is contemptuously ignoring is the fact, embarrassing for the local and national politicians supporting fracking, that so many of the people who spoke out about this issue at the time of the G8 were ordinary local residents who are concerned for their families, their neighbours and the county which they love. Of course, if Mr Cameron had expressed his gung-ho pro-fracking sentiments at the G8 itself, he would have had to acknowledge that not all its members are happy blindly to follow the US. In fact many countries, such as France, have very serious concerns about this experimental process and are not willing to use their people as guinea-pigs for the benefit of big business.

If you don’t want to be un cobaye either, please tell your local representatives that Mr Cameron doesn’t speak for you.  Find some ideas at our What can I do? page.

 

Urgent – please take action now!

One of the major problems that our communities face in relation to hydraulic fracturing is that the techniques are so new that our legislation has not caught up with them.  This means that the industry cannot properly be monitored or regulated.  One example of this is the EU-wide system of Environmental Impact Assessments.  These are mandatory for gas extraction projects but only where the amount of gas is predicted to be at a very high level, much higher than that produced by hydraulic fracturing.  A proposal has been made to make EIAs compulsory for all unconventional (i.e. shale gas etc.) fossil fuel projects, recognising the greater risk which they pose to public health, the environment and sustainable economies.

As you might expect, the fossil fuel industry has been lobbying aggressively against the proposal and so it is vital that MEPs hear our voices, on behalf of the ordinary people who will be affected by this gap in the regulation.  The European Parliament’s Environment Committee will be voting on the issue on Thursday July 11th so we have very little time.

Friends of the Earth in Europe have produced a template letter setting out the details of the issues and technical amendments and a list of the UK and Irish members of the Environmental Committee.  Please use this template to contact the committee members and let them know how important this is. Thank you very much.

July 2013 letter to MEPs

 

Republic of Ireland: Nessa CHILDERS nessa.childers@europarl.europa.eu
Northern Ireland: Martina ANDERSON martina.anderson@europarl.europa.eu
UK: Martin CALLANAN martin.callanan@europarl.europa.eu
Chris DAVIES chris@chrisdaviesmep.org.uk
Jill EVANS Jill.evans@europarl.europa.eu
Nick GRIFFIN nick.griffin@europarl.europa.eu
Linda McAVAN linda.mcavan@europarl.europa.eu
Paul NUTTALL paul.nuttall@europarl.europa.eu
Glenis WILLMOTT glenis.willmott@europarl.europa.eu
Marina YANNAKOUDAKIS marina.yannakoudakis@europarl.europa.eu

More details about the background to this issue are available at http://frackingfreeireland.org/campaign-news/take-action/

 

 

Irish government to delay fracking – good news for all?

As reported in the Irish News (April 18th) “The Irish government will grant no new fracking licences until more is known about the controversial method of gas drilling.  The Republic’s Minister for energy and natural resources, Pat Rabbitte, yesterday pledged that future decisions on hydraulic fracturing would be based on scientific evidence. … In an address to the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, Mr Rabbitte said the government could not allow any project involving new or controversial technology to proceed unless it was sure that it would be ‘technologically and environmentally safe.'”

This is good news, so far as it goes, for the Republic of Ireland, but makes it more likely that if, as seems probable, there is a ‘test-bed’ for fracking in Ireland, Fermanagh will be that laboratory.

If you’re a potential guinea pig who would like to have a say in your future, please visit our What Can I Do? page now.

Read the full text of Pat Rabbitte’s speech here.