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.
rush
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.”
***

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.

Government backtracks on fracking

Government ministers have now discovered what we in Fermanagh already know – that shale gas will do nothing to solve our energy needs or to reduce our fuel bills.  According to the Independent on Sunday,

The Government has rejected shale gas technology as a solution to Britain’s energy crisis, conceding it will do little to cut bills or keep the lights on.  The Independent on Sunday has learned that industry experts made clear at a meeting attended by senior ministers, including David Cameron and Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, that the UK’s reserves were smaller than first thought and could be uneconomical to extract. Now senior coalition figures have agreed that shale gas has the potential to be deeply controversial without securing major benefits in lowering carbon emissions or reducing energy costs.

Joss Garman, from Greenpeace, said: “The shale gas bubble has burst. Despite all the hype, even the energy companies now acknowledge shale gas isn’t the answer to Britain’s energy needs. Ministers are having to face up to the fact that there isn’t much of it, it won’t bring down bills, and it’s damaging to our climate.”

The Prime Minister convened the Downing Street summit to hear from companies including Shell, Centrica and Schlumberger, which have been working on shale gas projects in America and exploring the potential of supplies in Ukraine and China.

The ministers were told Britain was not in a position to exploit vast amounts of its own shale gas stores. “The reserves aren’t absolutely huge compared with the likes of America, Ukraine and North Africa,” said a senior government source. “And we are relatively densely populated. It is a question of how much we can get out, and at what cost. There is a not-insignificant amount of domestic supply, but not a game-changing amount.”

Mr Davey now rejects the idea that a rush to bring shale gas online will have the biggest impact on reducing household energy bills. Speaking after the Downing Street meeting, he said industry experts were “clear that it would take time for shale gas to be exploited in the UK” and cautioned that the reserves “are not quite as large as some have been speculating”.

Read the full article here Government backtracks on fracking – Green Living – Environment – The Independent. but remember that this does not mean an end to the plans for fracking in Fermanagh and elsewhere in Northern Ireland.  Licences for gas extraction have already been granted, and unless we speak out and act now, our communities will become test beds for this speculative and damaging industry, regardless of what government policy may be.  To find out how you can help, visit our What can I do? page now.

Bulgarian government bans hydraulic fracturing

The Sofia Echo.

“Bulgaria’s Cabinet decided on January 17 to amend the licence awarded to US oil firm Chevron, explicitly banning the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology in the exploration of potential shale gas reserves in the country’s northeast.

The Cabinet awarded the exploration permit for the Novi Pazar area in June 2010, but did not specify at that time what technology the company could use. The January 17 decision now limits Chevron to drilling conventional wells only.”

 

“On January 14, several thousand people gathered at protest rallies in Bulgaria’s largest cities and towns to protest against shale gas extraction and the use of fracking. Apart from Sofia, there were protests in Plovdiv, Varna, Veliko Turnovo, Shoumen, Pleven, Bourgas, Kazanluk, Dobrich, Smolyan, Rousse and Blagoevgrad, while according to Capital Daily, Bulgarians living in London and Copenhagen also held protests.

Protesters called for Parliament to put a moratorium on exploration and extraction of shale gas and for a legislative ban on fracking.

Lawmakers obliged on January 18, passing an indefinite ban on highly-pressurised hydraulic fracturing (at more than 20 atmospheres) with a vote of 166 in favour and only six against, all of them from [the] right-wing Blue Coalition.”

“But even [the] co-leader of the Blue Coalition, Martin Dimitrov, backed the moratorium, saying that he was “opposed to experiments done on Bulgaria. The time will come when the technology is safe or its risks are clarified.”

Other supporters of the ban, including former environment minister Djevdet Chakurov of the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms and former economy minister, socialist Roumen Ovcharov, said that Bulgaria was better off waiting for other countries to conclude their environmental risk assessments before allowing shale gas exploration to proceed.”

 

 

[T]he area covered by Chevron’s licence has some of Bulgaria’s most fertile land and has long been described as the country’s “bread basket”.

 

 

Ban on fracking agreed by Clare County Council

Total ban on fracking agreed by county council · TheJournal.ie.

“COUNCILLORS IN CLARE have agreed in principle a total ban on ‘fracking’ to extract shale gas from underground rock formations in the region.

The council voted to send an official letter to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte calling for an outright national ban on fracking.

There was also an agreement to amend the Clare development plan, a legally binding document, to forbid the controversial practice.This will now go forward for public consultation.Green Party councillor Brian Meaney, who put forward the motion to amend the development plan, told TheJournal.ie that the change was ‘the most powerful method available to us, to put into that legal contract a stipulation that we don’t want to see any fracking.'”

“Two companies have been licensed to carry out initial studies of the possible viability of fracking in parts of Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo; while Enegi Oil is planning technical studies in the Clare Basin. Cllr Meaney said this area covered “most of west Clare”.

Cllr Meaney said there was a serious “lack of regulation” of fracking at the national and European levels. He said it had the potential to ’cause huge environmental problems, in a country where our main export is food.'”

 

Fracking debate at Stormont

On Tuesday 6th December, the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont will be debating the following motion:

“That this Assembly believes a moratorium should be placed on onshore and offshore exploration development and production of shale gas by withdrawing licences for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), at least until the publication of a detailed environmental impact assessment into the practice; notes that hydraulic fracturing can put local water sources at risk of contamination, further notes that amongst a variety of adverse environmental impacts, the process of fracking can cause serious well blowouts, which put both workers and local communities at risk; does not consider that the production of hard to reach fossil fuels is compatible with efforts to achieve carbon reduction targets and, therefore, urges the Enterprise Minister to instead give greater support to the generation of energy from renewable sources.”

Immediately prior to the debate, the petition to ban fracking in Northern Ireland will be presented to the Assembly, so if you would like to sign it and have not yet done so, please sign by Monday 5th.

There will be a show of support by members of the public outside the Stormont buildings at 10am on Tuesday 6th – please come along if you can.  Transport from Fermanagh is being arranged – if you would like further details of this, please email us at info@frackaware.com as soon as possible.