A beginner’s guide to fracking: 3 fracking and fishing

As local knowledge about the potential impacts of fracking grows, fishermen in Co. Fermanagh and beyond are becoming increasingly concerned that fracking poses a serious risk to the future of fishing in the county.

fish2

Lough Melvin
Lough Melvin is recognised as a rare and delicate eco-system and has been designated as an ASSI and also a SAC and requires special protection.
– a game fishery with a ‘no stocking’ policy.
– one of the few remaining wild brown trout and salmon fisheries in Europe and home to a healthy migratory run of wild Atlantic Salmon.
– the only Lough in Northern Ireland to have a population of Arctic Char.
– home to three distinct species of trout – Sonaghan, Gilaroo anf Ferox.
Sonaghan is genetically unique to Lough Melvin and has inhabited these waters for over a million years. Research has shoown that the DNA imprint of the Sonaghan matched no other fish in the brown trout family anywhere in the world.

Lough MacNean
Lough MacNean is classified as a course fishery with excellent stocks of Bream, Perch, Rudd Roach Hybrids and Pike.
– Catches in excess of 20lbs recorded from Lough MacNean.
– It holds a stock of quality brown trout that run its two main rivers to spawn and reproduce ie. the blackwater and Glenfarne rivers.

Lough Erne
– The Erne system consists of Upper and Lower Lough Erne and has a world class reputation for course and game angling.
– Lower Lough Erne is a large expanse of water, over 25 miles long.
– Lower Lough Erne is famous for Mayfly fishing.
– Upper Lough Erne is one of teh finest pike fishing lakes in Europe and links to the Shannon system, the largest river system in the British Isles.

fish1

Potential risks to fishing from fracking
– A network of 20 small loughs and 150 streams rivers extend over a radius of 25km from Lough Melvin and Lough MacNean catchment areas. Six km uphill from Lough Melvin is the centre of the frack zone.
– This network of waterways is the lifeline for fish stocks – eg salmon run these rivers to spawn and reproduce with the young fry residing in the rivers for two to three years.
– Millions fo gallons of water are required to frack a single well; where will where will the water come from to frack 1440 wells and where will it end up?
– Flow-back fluid from fracked wells will contain toxically high levels of salt and other chemicals. If this fluid leaks into surrounding streams and rivers there will be large scale, long term contamination.
– If spawning streams and rivers are contaminated, fish stocks and aquatic life will be killed. The diminished fish stocks and risk to indigenous species may be so severe that our lakes and rivers may never recover.

Fishing and the local economy
– Anglers come to Fermanagh from all over the world to enjoy a unique fishing experience in clean waters and tranquil rural setting.
– There are 4 major competitions held annually:
1) The classic Fishing Festival
2) The World Pairs Fishing Festival
3) The Pike Classic
4) The Lough Melvin Open Trout Angling Championship
Annually, these events attract 1000 anglers from across Europe to Fermanagh.
– Local clubs host a further 8-10 fishing competitions each year which bring significant benefits to rural areas.
– Almost 3000 angling licenses are sold in Co. Fermanagh annually, 85% of the total NI
sales, generating direct revenue in excess of 178,000GBP.
– In 2005, teh angling industry alone was identified as underpinning 778 full-time jobs in Fermanagh.

To download this information as a printable pdf, visit our flyers page.

Landmark $3million fracking law suit, Texas

A family from Wise county, Texas, were awarded $3 million in their legal battle against Aruba Energy for environmental pollution of the air, water and soils from Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction activities (UGEE) that proved to have detrimental impacts on the quality of the family’s health.

Mason and cattle rancher by trade, Bob Parr built his home on his 40-acre estate in 2001. In 2007 his then wife to be Lisa Parr moved in with her daughter and the couple married in 2008. Until this point, the family of three experienced no unusual health effects from their local environment.

After 2008 however, significant gas drilling operations took place around Parr’s 40 acre estate. Soon after, the family began experiencing health effects such as rashes, nausea, vomiting, bleeding noses, as well as environmental damage to their estate and livestock.

It was around 2010 when the Parr family seen an environmental health specialist, who found unusually high traces of specific natural gas related chemicals in their systems, including ethylbenzene and m,p-Xylene.

“We can’t drink our well water,” said Parr in 2011. “We can’t breathe the air without getting sick.”
Parr

The Parr’s filed their lawsuit on 17th september 2013. Item 16 states that as a result of UGEE operations the family suffered environmental contamination of air, water and soils as a result of sudden and continual chemical releases, spills, emissions and discharges of hazardous chemicals which lead to ailments including but not limited to unreasonable fear, impairment and exacerbation of physical health, nausea, loss of peace of mind, damage to livestock, and inability to enjoy their own environment.

Item 18 states that the environmental pollution facilitated by Aruba was as a result of operations related to UGEE including, but not limited to: Vehicles and engines, construction and trucking activity, pits, condensate tanks, dehydrators, flaring, venting, fugitive emissions and the hydraulic fracturing process, also known as fracking.

In the law suit, Item 21 states that the Parr family were under constant environmental abuse by Aruba and its discharge of chemicals, before Item 21 lists experienced health effects in more detail, including but not limited to: open sores around he eyes, nose and rest of body, permanent scarring, chronic nose bleeds, migranes, drowsiness, irregular heart beat, depression, ataxia, abdominal pains, arrhythmia, and anisocoria

Items 29-34 state clearly that Aruba Energy had performed their duties with negligence, which lead to the fact that the Parr family were able to come into contact with the hazardous chemicals.

Item 41 holds Aruba negligent towards the Parr family, before accusing Aruba in Item 44 of recklessness, oppression, fraud, malice and wilfulness to pollute the land with hazardous chemicals. Item 29 to 75 state that the Parr family had suffered gross negligence, negligence, private nuisance and trespass to property. You can read the full legal document here.

After winning their case in court after a three year legal battle, the Parr family attributed some of their success to the fact that they documented their ordeal on a daily basis, documentation that supported their case in front of a jury. The Parr family expect Aruba to appeal the decision.

Wyoming ozone pollution exceeds U.S national limit due to gas drilling

Whilst public perception on the environmental risks of unconventional shale gas extraction has focused upon the negative impacts on water quality, less attention is paid to the risks of air pollution.

Rural Wyoming, is known for its idyllic countryside. Yet, with the arrival of unconventional shale gas extraction, came a reduction in local air quality that to a state that exceeds that of the U.S. national average, and sometimes, the city of Los Angeles on its worst days.

Wyomming State
Wyomming State, where air pollution due to fracking operations has taken place.

U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), introduced as a result of the Clean Air Act, dictate legal limits of pollutants deemed harmful to public health. Limits for ground level ozone are set at 75 parts per billion (ppb).

However in 2011, preliminary tests undertaken in Wyoming found levels of ozone reaching 124 ppb, two thirds above the NAAQS legal limit.

Californian almond farm ruined by fracking company operations

In January 2010, a farmer was awarded USD$8.5million damages by an unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE) company that had been found guilty of contaminating local waters that had accessed his farmland.

Farmer Fred Starrh of Kern County, California owns 6,000 acres of farmland that harvested pistachios, alfalfa, cotton and almonds.

Oil and Gas company Aera Energy are estimated to have dumped 2.4billion barrels of ‘produced’ fracking waste water into unlined percolation ponds on the edge of Mr Starrh’s land.

Mr Starrh noticed the environmental damage after he mixed his ground water with local aqueduct water that watered his cotton plants, before they wilted heavily. The water also killed off almond trees that he had managed to farm at 155 per acre.

Mr Starrh had considered that contaminants of the produced frack waste water could have caused the pollution. Well waters within his land were tested and were found to be positive for boron and chloride – two chemicals associated with the USGE callied out by Aera Energy, a joint venture between Shell and Exxon Mobil.

After a nine year court case, Mr Starrh was awarded $8.5million in damages by Kern County Court. However, despite winning his case against Aera Energy, Starrh appealed the court decision, stating that, as a result of the damage caused by Aera, he will need as much as $2 billion to rehabilitate his land and construct terraced ponds to properly “flush” his soil and groundwater of toxins.

Mr Starrh was in court again last year as a jury retired on 8th March 2013 to determine wether Mr Starrh be awarded further punitive damages from Aera Energy in order to fully remediate his land.

As a result of previous findings about Aera’s responsibility for the pollution, much of the case has revolved around the usefulness of Starrh’s native groundwater with regard to irrigation.

Aera’s lead attorney, Stephen Kristovich recalled testimony that the area’s groundwater has long been understood to be too salty and with too much boron to work on crops, hence the farming boom that arrived with the California Aqueduct in the 1960s.

Starrh’s attourney Ralph Wegis countered by referencing studies suggesting that at least 20 different crops can live on Starrh’s native groundwater.

In a practice he called ‘devoid of morals’, Wegis drew attention to Aera’s use of an accounting concept known as “net present value” to make, or help make, strategic decisions. By using the system, Wegis claimed Aera used net present value to determine that it was more profitable over the long run — even in the event of a jury’s award of punitive damages — to let the groundwater pollution continue into Mr Starrh’s farmland, rather than offer remediative or preventative measures.

Kristovich responded by saying that net present value has been just one of many criteria guiding Aera’s decisions, and that the others include environmental responsibility. He added, “There’s nothing wrong with using economics and using that as part of your decision-making process.”

In his rebuttal, Wegis told the jury that Aera decided it was in its best financial interest to wait rather than stop the pollution.

The jury returned 13th March 2013 to deny Mr Starrh further punitive damages, stating that Aera Energy’s contamination of the adjacent aquifer was accidental.

Mr Starrh was dissapointed in the result, “I was totally devastated, that’s all,” Starrh said. “I couldn’t accept it from a personal perspective.”

Mr Starrh and his attourney Ralph Wegis will re-appeal the decision.
Fred starrh
***

References

1) Millar, J. (2010). Oil and Water Don’t Mix with California Agriculture. Available: http://www.hcn.org/issues/42.21/oil-and-water-dont-mix-with-california-agriculture. Last accessed 17/04/2010

2) The Bakersfield Californian. (2013). Aera-Starrh lawsuit goes to jury. Available: http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/business/x837007080/Aera-Starrh-lawsuit-goes-to-jury. Last accessed 17/04/2014.

3)The Bakersfield Californian. (2013). Akern grower gets another bumper crop of disappointment. Available: http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/business/oil/x738927654/Kern-grower-gets-another-bumper-crop-of-disappointment. Last accessed 17/04/2014.