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/

 

 

Fracking in Fermanagh – the film

The premiere of the film Fracking in Fermanagh: What could it mean?, made by local young people and facilitated by the Development Media Workshop, was a  great success.  As Meadhbh Monahan writes in this week’s Impartial Reporter:

“The Ardhowen Theatre was sold out on Tuesday night with gasps and angry exclamations heard in reaction to what was shown on screen.

The film narrator explains that Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster was approached twice for an interview but declined. This was met by boos and shouting from the crowd. During a panel discussion after the film, Enniskillen actor Ciarán McMenamin said: “It’s good to see that our young people have our interests at heart, even if our politicians do not.”

The majority of Fermanagh folk are not aware of the magnitude of what fracking involves, the audience heard.

 

Tamboran Resources plans to create 60 fracking pads in Fermanagh (each pad will be about seven acres in size, and concreted), one mile apart, covering 40,000 acres.

“This will have a terribly detrimental affect” on Fermanagh changing it from a scenic, rural area into a heavily industrialised zone dotted with frack pads, the audience heard.

During the film, local farmer John Sheridan, who lives in the shadow of Cuilcagh mountain, says that chemicals brought up from deep underground during the fracking process are very likely to spill into our ground water, thereby leaking into our lakes and rivers and subsequently into our food chain. These chemicals could also evaporate from ponds on the frack sites, causing air pollution.

He is backed up by Jessica Ernst who says: “They are bringing up unknowns that have been locked underground for millennia,” including naturally occurring heavy metals and radioactive materials such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, thorium and uranium (all carcinogens which can cause cancer and respiratory diseases in humans). Air may also be contaminated by volatile chemicals released during drilling (combustion from machinery and transport) and from other operations, during methane separation or by evaporation from holding ponds, Jessica Ernst points out.

John Sheridan concludes: “Farming or fracking; it’s going to be one or the other.”

A major problem is fracking waste, the film continues. This wastewater not only contains the toxic and hazardous chemicals used in fracking fluid but also contains contaminants that it picks up from deep within the earth, most notably heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, salty brine and radioactive materials.

“In Alberta, money was given to farmers to spread this waste on their land,” Jessica Ernst says. Photos of this waste spreading process were met by gasps of shock by the audience. “What becomes of the drilling waste is a big hole in the story that fracking companies are not telling us,” she states.

Belcoo father-of-five Sean Sweeney tells film-makers that he needs to feed his family so he was initially happy to hear of the potential fracking jobs coming to Fermanagh. However, after researching the process, he says: “No way. These people are dealing with toxic waste and chemicals. Why would I expose myself and my family to that?” He says if Fermanagh allows Tamboran to frack, locals will have ruined the landscape for future generations and will have noone to blame but themselves. He received laughs and applause when he quipped that the new Ulster Way brochures would have to state: “Here’s your gas mask, mind the lorries and enjoy your walk!”

Terry McGovern Chairman of the Lough Melvin Anglers Association is worried about copious amounts of water being taken from Lough Melvin and then pumped back in. “What state is it going to be in?” He worries that the approximate 700-800 jobs in the local fishing industry could be jeopardised if fracking gets the go-ahead.

Local caver Tim Fogg takes viewers to St. Patrick’s Holy Well in Belcoo where water rises from an underground spring at 45 litres per second. He points out that very little is known about where these springs originate, adding: “It doesn’t add up that you can just move into the area and drill without knowledge of the hydrology of the area.”

Canadian environmental scientist Jessica Ernst, who has experienced fracking near her farm in Alberta for the past 10 years, says: “I thought not being able to trust my drinking water was the worst affect of fracking but it’s the division of the community. The promise of money to some makes them obedient. I have witnessed heartbreaking betrayals on neighbours. Rural communities no longer take care of themselves as they used to. Whereas before they could fix the roof of their community centre themselves, now they are running to the company looking for money. There’s a loss of pride.”

She also warns farmers of the “dire impact” of fracking, saying: “Be careful what you believe. Farmers in Alberta had to fight for the money they were promised.” In addition, farmers in Alberta were left liable for the gas mitigation from frack sites, meaning they could not use the land once the frackers left, but were still responsible for the clean up.”

To read the article in full, please follow the link below:

Film premiere outlines ‘devastating’ effects of fracking on rural communities / Impartial Reporter / News / Roundup.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, would like to see it again, or would like to recommend it to others, it is now available to view online at  www.frackinginfermanagh.info/

 

 

Danger – approaching Planning Bill!

As Carroll O’Dolan mentioned in his recent article in the Impartial Reporter, the Planning Bill currently passing through the Northern Ireland Assembly is a source of great concern to all who care about their local communities.  It gives effective priority to economic factors over all others – quality of life, health, the environment – and will make it much easier for dangerous and damaging industries such as shale gas extraction to obtain planning permission.  The National Trust and others share our deep misgivings about this legislation, and have set up an easy-to-use website at www.amendthebill.org where you can find out more and let your MLAs know your views.  Please visit it now – there isn’t much time.

Don’t dash for gas, says government watchdog

ECONOMY

Investing in new renewable power generation, rather than a “dash for gas”, will be the lower-cost option for keeping the lights on while cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the government’s climate change watchdog has said.

Read the full article here: Don’t delay on renewable energy, government told | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

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.

Judge rules that fracking risks were illegally overlooked

A court in California has ruled that the issuing of oil and gas leases broke the law because it did not take into account the dangers of fracking, including potential water contamination .  The leases cover 2500 acres of land and are estimated to contain 64% of the United States’ shale oil reserves.  Like shale gas, shale oil is only economically obtainable by using high volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking).  The court found that the Bureau of Land Management violated US environmental law by not carrying out a full environmental impact study.  It was also pointed out that the exploitation of fossil fuels such as shale oil and gas are in conflict with California’s policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow down catastrophic climate change.

We hope that this cautionary tale will warn our own administration not to make hurried, costly and dangerous decisions that will threaten the economic, health and environmental futures of the people of Fermanagh and Northern Ireland.  Visit our What can I do? page to find out more about how you can make your voice heard.

Read the full article here: Judge rules administration overlooked fracking risks in California mineral leases | Reuters.

[picture from the Reuters article, copyright Reuters/Marco Anzuoni]

 

Public consultation on fracking research – your chance to speak

The Environmental Protection Agency in the Republic of Ireland has produced a terms of reference document setting out their proposals for a programme of research into “unconventional gas exploration and extraction”.  The steering committee for this research includes the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland and it will be of great importance on both sides of the border.  To read the terms of reference please click here and to make your own submissions about it, please email UGEEconsultation@epa.ie before the deadline of March 8th.

FFAN

If you are concerned about this issue, as an individual or on behalf of a community group or other organisation, please use this opportunity to make your voice heard. You may wish to write a detailed response or simply to refer to question one on page two; ‘Can this technology be used whilst also fully protecting the environment and human health?’
For more details please read the EPA’s press release below.

Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland.

Merry Christmas

Very best wishes to all, in Fermanagh and beyond, from the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network, for a joyful Christmas and a New Year of peace, prosperity and hope. Special thanks to all those friends who have supported our work in 2012 and helped us to raise awareness of what shale gas extraction and frackiing could mean for our beautiful county.  Please keep on spreading the word to your friends, your family, your neighbours, community leaders and political representatives.

And over the Christmas break, if you can’t face The Great Escape yet again, why not watch the debate on fracking that was held in Stormont in September?  We’ve uploaded most of it to YouTube (watch it in the windows below) and the rest will follow in the New Year.

And finally, here’s an extra viewing of the vitally important part of the debate which shows that fracking in Fermanagh is especially unsafe and should not be permitted. Experts have stated that the separation between a fracking zone and an aquifer should be at least 600 metres. But here, we understand that the proposed distance from the fracking zone to the regionally important aquifer upon which many people’s drinking water depends, is only 500 metres. We think this is an important issue which the people in Fermanagh deserve to know about. If you agree, please share it with others.

Have a merry Christmas and a peaceful and happy New Year.