Fracking likely to damage tourism

A report published by the University of Florida has shown that there will be perceived risks and threats associated with fracking, that will repel tourists from areas where the practice is to take place.

The report entitled ‘Fracking and Parkland: Understanding the impact of hydraulic fracturing on public park usage’ investigated the integration of unconventional shale gas extraction with public recreational spaces.

The authors found that out of 255 people surveyed from five Appalachian:

  1. Most respondents expressed familiarity with the process of hydraulic fracturing. More than 60% reported being either somewhat familiar or very familiar with the term “hydraulic fracturing”; on the other hand,10% had never heard of the term before taking the survey. Nearly one-third of the sample lives in a region impacted (either currently or expected to be) by fracking. Most respondents (40%) oppose fracking in any form, while 23% are supportive, 25% are on the fence, and 12% are unsure.
  2. Park users are concerned fracking that occurs on or near their public parks will negatively impact their participation. Only one-third of participants indicated their willingness to participate in recreational activities near fracking operations (33%, compared to 38% unwilling and 29% neutral). More than half of all respondents expressed: concern that a fracking operation would limit their ability to access their park (52%); willingness to travel further to visit a park unaffected by fracking (56%); and support for legislation prohibiting fracking near their favorite park (58%).
  3. In general, park users believe that fracking on public land is unnecessary and bad for the environment. More park users agree fracking on public land is bad for the environment (48%) than those who agree fracking has no impact on the environment (16%). More park users also support banning fracking on public land (46%, as opposed to 20% who agree with promoting it). 50% of respondents believe fracking on public land should be subject to greater oversight and regulation, while 13% believe it should be subject to less oversight and regulation. When neutral responses are removed from calculation, the contrasts are much starker.
  4. While park users generally hold strong opinions that fracking has a negative impact on the natural environment, most park users surveyed for this study are less critical when it comes to its economic benefits. Park users attitudes toward the economic impact of fracking on public land were far more neutral (e.g., regarding its contribution to traffic and gas prices), and in some cases, were positive (such as its impact on the creation of temporary jobs).
Magho Viewpoint, County Fermanagh. (image source: tripadvisor.co.uk)
Magho Viewpoint, County Fermanagh. (image source: tripadvisor.co.uk)

The question citizens of County Fermanagh must ask is if tourists will be less likely to use our county for recreational purposes, for if this is so, then this will lead to a detrimental economic effect for the region.

Perhaps more importantly though, for those of us that live here, we know that we currently enjoy an environment which is beneficial to our health and well being. How will this effect our positive well being if the perceived risks of unconventional shale gas extraction turn out to be real?

To read the report in full, please click here. Leave your comments below.

Fracking: UK Government offers ‘green light’

According to the BBC, the practice of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, otherwise known as fracking, may be coming to the UK sooner than expected after parameters for the practice were outlined today.

(image source: bbc.co.uk)
(image source: bbc.co.uk)

The Committee on Climate Change have stated that fracking can be conducted so long as 3 key criteria are met, those of methane leaks, gas consumption, and UK carbon budgets.

 

  • Emissions should be strictly limited during shale gas development, production and well decommissioning.
  • Overall gas consumption in the UK must remain in line with UK carbon budgets.
  • Emissions from shale gas production must be counted as part of the UK’s carbon budgets.

Though the government is confident these conditions will be reached, a spokesman admitted that any increase in current carbon emissions in future would make current targets even more challenging.

Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction racking has come under heavy scientific criticism since its inception during the 2000’s, in particular, from a health perspective, with the British Medical Journal having previously criticised the safety of the practice, and the Australian Medical Journal, The Lancet, who denounced the detrimental health implications of fracking.

Of the three criteria listed above that will be used as key performance indicators to green light unconventional shale gas extraction, namely  methane leaks, gas consumption, and UK carbon budgets, it is perhaps regrettable that ‘social health’ has not been listed as another criteria that must be passed. One could perhaps list ‘environmental health’ as another criteria that takes into account changes in air water and soil quality, or ‘net community economics’.

By doing so, there could be a minimum of six gates that need to be walked through. However, perhaps these last three are not within the remit of scope of the Committee of Climate Change, in the way that it will be for the local communities that must live with Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction on a daily basis.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Of mice, cows, men and sperm counts

A report published October 2015 entitled ‘Endocrine-Disrupting Activity of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Adverse Health Outcomes After Prenatal Exposure in Male Mice’, has stated that there is a possible reduction in reproductive health in both humans and livestock as a result of significant exposure to chemicals related to high volume hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE).

One must ask:

‘Can you really take the results of a scientific study involving lab mice, and confidently state that the same results that happened to the mice, are guaranteed to apply cows and humans?’

Well, the answer is no. You can’t, becasue mice, livestock and humans are different species of animal. We have different biological systems from one another. Just because something can negatively affect a mouse, it will not hold as guarantee that it can negatively affect a cow or a human. In other words, just becasue I like eating cheese, it does not hold that I will get caught in a mouse trap. And yet, be it mouse, cow or human, were you to cut off our heads, as organisms, we would all die. So, you do need to be able to investigate what will and won’t affect us in the same manner. In fact, there are parallels to this situation with lab mice and fracking chemicals, and the miners of yester year who brought canaries down the mines with them. The canaries acted as an indicator that there may be risk of harm to human health.

The results form teh paper were taken from experiements run on C57BL/6 Mice (image source: gdmlac.com)
The results from the paper were taken from experiments run on C57BL/6 Mice. For more information on their characteristics, please click the image source link. (image source: gdmlac.com)

Hence, ethically, in relation to fracking chemicals, it is easier to test an experiment out on a mouse, and if there are adverse effects, you can knock on the scientific door that asks if these same harms could affect humans and our agricultural livestock. The study states:

“Oil and natural gas operations have been shown to contaminate surface and ground water with endocrine-disrupting chemicals. In the current study, we fill several gaps in our understanding of the potential environmental impacts related to this process.”

In particular, the study:

  • measured the endocrine-disrupting activities of 24 chemicals used and/or produced by oil and gas operations.
  • quantified the concentration of 16 of these chemicals in oil and gas wastewater samples.
  • assessed reproductive and developmental outcomes in male C57BL/6J mice after the prenatal exposure to a mixture of these chemicals.

The study found that 23 of 24 of the oil and gas related chemicals inhibit the estrogen, androgen, glucocorticoid, progesterone, and/or thyroid receptors within the lab mice. For the lab mice, this led to decreased sperm counts and increased testes, body, heart, and thymus weights and increased serum testosterone in male mice. Hence:

23 out of 24 oil and gas related chemicals, when working in concert within their bodies, led to multiple organ system impacts within the lab mice.

Will these results hold true for humans exposed to the same chemicals? Well, the only sure way that we can find out is by running the same experiment on human test subjects. If you thought that laboratory experiments on mice is unethical, then surely you will hold that running laboratory experiments on human test subjects is highly unethical.

What is important to note is that no community should risk exposing local members of their community to the multiple organ system impacts that were found to affect reproductive and biological systems in these lab mice.

It really is for industrial corporations and governments to prove that humans and livestock will not be negatively affected by exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals.

In other words, the precautionary principle must be applied.

If your community is exposed to these chemicals, and the reproductive abilities of local livestock and humans are negatively affected, then you must ask:

  • What do we do to reverse this within the affected individuals?
  • If we can’t reverse the harm done, then what can we actually do?

Humans are not laboratory mice, and we don’t like getting caught in mouse traps. We should investigate the harmful affects of fracking chemicals further, before committing our communities for future generations to a process that may prove harmful to our human health. For, if these negative effects once experienced, cannot be reversed, then we will find ourselves caught in a trap from which we cannot escape.

Stay connected with the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) viaFacebook, twitter. Furthermore, you can view our blogs pictorially on Pinterest.

Remember: More research must be done to rove that fracking chemicals are safe to human and agricultural health. Communities must demand that the precautionary principle be applied by fracking companies and governments.

Please leave you comments below. Thank you, FFAN.

Oklahoma: 100 years of waste water earthquakes

In Oklahoma, since 2009 there has been a sharp increase in earthquakes brought about by the  use of waste water injection wells used by fracking companies as they conduct High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF), other wise known as Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE), or fracking.

However, the US Geological Survey decided to investigate historical earthquake data for the state of Oklahoma and found that there have been induced (man-made) earthquakes that were caused by the process of waste water well injection practices dating back to the 1920’s

This is not to say that Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction was responsible for these historical earthquakes, for that particular process of shale gas extraction did not exist back then.

However, waste water injection wells are used in the current USGE process to store waste water from fracking underground. Waste water injection wells have been found to create earthquakes today. It has now been found that they have done so since the 1920’s.

A deep water injection well, which can be used for fracking waste water, or municipal waste water.
A deep water injection well.

The new study shows that: “it is possible that earthquakes were induced by oil production activities in Oklahoma as early as the 1920s, and several lines of evidence support our conclusion that much of the earthquake activity in the 1950s and 1980–1990s was induced.”

The study also states that earthquake activity since 2009 is: “not consistent with the level of natural rate fluctuations seen in the past.”

The study shows that earthquakes from the 1950’s correlated with oil and gas permits granted at the time, and near the location.

Key findings of the report include:

  • seismicity rates since 2009 surpass previously observed rates throughout the twentieth century.
  • Several lines of evidence suggest that most of the significant earthquakes in Oklahoma during the twentieth century were likely induced by oil production activities, as they exhibit statistically significant temporal and spatial correspondence with disposal wells, and intensity measurements for the 1952 El Reno earthquake and possibly the 1956 Tulsa County earthquake follow the pattern observed in other induced earthquakes.
  • There is evidence for a low level of tectonic seismicity in southeastern Oklahoma associated with the Ouachita structural belt. The 22 October 1882 Choctaw Nation earthquake, for which we estimate Mw 4.8, occurred in this zone.

As we discussed before, Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been officially linked with man made earthquakes due to the use of waste water injection wells.

Can fracking damage fermanagh roads?

A 2014 study published in Journal of Infrastructure Systems, Estimating the Consumptive Use Costs of Shale Natural Gas Extraction on Pennsylvania Roadways,” investigates the damage that the overall process of High Volume Hydraulic fracturing can bring to road structures.

The RAND Corporation and Carnegie Mellon University, who conducted the report, analysed the design life and reconstruction cost of roadways in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania.

They found that local municipal roads are generally designed to support passenger vehicles, not heavy trucks, and that “the useful life of a roadway is directly related to the frequency and weight of truck traffic using the roadway.”

With fracking comes and increase in heavy trucks on roads designed for smaller vehicles. Over time, teh quality of roads will increase at a faster rate. Who will pay for the upkeep of municipal roads? (image source: inthesetimes.com)
With fracking comes and increase in heavy trucks on roads designed for smaller vehicles. Over time, the quality of roads will increase at a faster rate. Who will pay for the upkeep of municipal roads? (image source: inthesetimes.com)

As a result, the study found that an increase in heavy road traffic, a characteristic feature of HVHF (due to transporting heavy materials and high volumes of fluids) will lead to an increase of road damage. And as a result, this can lead to an economic increase in the costs of road maintenance.

The study’s findings include:

  • Heavier vehicles cause exponentially greater roadway damage: A single axle with a 3,000-pounds load has a load equivalency factor (LEF) of 0.0011; for an 18,000-pound load, the LEF is 1.0; and for 30,000 pounds, it’s 8.28. “This means that 18,000-pound and 30,000-pound single-axle … do about 900 times and 7,500 times more damage than a 3,000-pound single axle pass, respectively.”
  • The estimated road-reconstruction costs associated with a single horizontal well range from $13,000 to $23,000. However, Pennsylvania often negotiates with drilling companies to rebuild smaller roads that are visibly damaged, so the researchers’ conservative estimate of uncompensated roadway damage is $5,000 and $10,000 per well.
  • While the per-well figure of $5,000-$10,000 appears small, the increasingly large number of wells being drilled means that substantial costs fall on the state: “Because there were more than 1,700 horizontal wells drilled [in Pennsylvania] in 2011, the statewide range of consumptive road costs for that year was between $8.5 and $39 million,” costs paid by state transportation authorities, and thus taxpayers.

This report should allow local residents to question the hidden, often overlooked cost of allowing the process of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing within county Fermanagh and beyond. Who will pay for the maintenance of local roads? Should the responsibility be left to local residents, or the local fracking company? If we were to leave the responsibility to the fracking company, can we ensure that they will pay for the damage of their practice? Leave your comments below.

Stay connected with the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) viaFacebook, twitter. Furthermore, you can view our blogs pictorially on Pinterest.

Study: increased fracking traffic, increased pollution

As reported by national newspaper, The Guardian, an academic study has revealed that increased fracking traffic could lead to an increase of air pollution. The new study, published by Newcastle University was published in the Environmental International Journal on Wednesday 24th February 2016.

A test drilling site for shale gas on the outskirts of Southport, Lancashire. (image source: Alamy)
A test drilling site for shale gas on the outskirts of Southport, Lancashire. (image source: Alamy)

The research found that the vast number of trucks required to transport water to and from unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE) sites number in the thousands. With that volume of vehicles, comes an increased volume of the toxic gas, Nitrous Oxide, otherwise known as NOX.

The study found that increases in NOX were estimated to be around 30% increase against the baseline at the busiest periods of traffic.

The study created a mathematical traffic model for a hypothetical six well site over an 85-week period. They found NOx emissions increased 6% over the course of the period, or between 18-30% for hourly NOx readings at the most intense periods of activity.

“The traffic impact of a single well pad can create substantial increases in local air quality pollutants during key activity periods,” the study said.

The study also supported long held warnings that fracking traffic will increase road damage and increase noise pollution in affected areas.

To read the article in full, click here.

Mark ruffalo warns cameron

In a thought provoking monologue, American actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo has  made an informed plea to UK Prime Minister that asks him to reconsider utilising Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction within the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland.

The video can be viewed by clicking the link below: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2016/feb/08/mark-ruffalo-to-david-cameron-fracking-enormous-mistake-video . (source: guardian.)
The video can be viewed by clicking the link below: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2016/feb/08/mark-ruffalo-to-david-cameron-fracking-enormous-mistake-video . (source: guardian.)

Not only does Mr Ruffalo claim that USCE is a ‘huge mistake’, and that ‘there is no fracking that can be done safely’, he draws the Prime Minister’s attention to the concept that renewable energy is ‘the future economy’, and that 200 nations recently came together to decide that it is now time to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Mr Ruffalo also also held Mr Cameron accountable to his own words, stating that: ‘you have already told your people once before that if they didn’t want it, you wouldn’t push them to take it, and you are turning back on your word.’

The Prime Minister is yet to respond to Mr Ruffalo’s comments.

Belfast water supply at risk

The Belfast Telegraph have reported that there is risk that local water supplies that feed the City of Belfast run risk of contamination by Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE) practices proposed for the area.

The USGE project being carried out by company ‘Infrastrata’ will be taking place 380meters from Woodburn Reservoir, Carrickfergus.

Ms. Joyce, a local campaigner told the telegraph:

“The Woodburn reservoir outside Carrickfergus supplies Dorisland Water Works, which feeds water to over 1,900 streets, from Ballycarry right down to Belfast city centre.

“Following a freedom of information request we received a map showing exactly where the water from the reservoir goes. It supplies hospitals, health centres, schools, offices, residential areas and all the eateries in central Belfast.

“We feel that the drill potentially could contaminate the water supply and everyone supplied by it should be aware of this.

“A motion has been tabled for debate in the City Hall at 5pm on Tuesday, proposed by the Green Party and seconded by the Ulster Unionist Party.

South Woodburn Resivoir. According to population review, the greater belfast area has a population of approx. 585,000 inhabitants, making it the 11th largest conurbation in the UK. (image source: doeni.co.uk)
South Woodburn Reservoir. According to population review, the greater Belfast area has a population of approx. 585,000 inhabitants, making it the 11th largest conurbation in the UK. (image source: doeni.co.uk)

“We lobbied hard for this debate to go ahead and are hopeful that it will raise even more awareness of the potential hazard the drill could pose.”

Woodburn Reservoir supplied 705 streets across Belfast, 532 streets in Carrickfergus, 576 in Newtownabbey, 59 in Larne, 80 in Whitehead, four in Ballycarry and one street in Antrim.

Ms Joyce added: “The decision to grant InfraStrata rights to drill 380 metres from our water was made without consultation.

“The right to participate and be informed is being violated. The risks of exploratory drilling are detailed and well documented and it appears that the need for intense scrutiny in relation to this sensitive site has been avoided.”

The debate is to take place in Belfast City Hall tomorrow, 1st September 2015.

The Telegrapgh further reported: “However, Infrastrata says it is committed to the project and is in discussions with a number of other parties to secure the £2.8m lost by Larne Oil and Gas pulling out. Infrastrata also said that all the “regulatory approvals and other permits” were in place for work to begin this winter, but the company added that the timing depended on getting a drilling slot for the rig and completing the funding.”

To read the article in full, click here.

Fracking crops to be labelled?

An L.A. lawmaker believes that food processed with fracking waste water should be labelled as such for the benefit of consumers. Assemblyman Mike Gatto has introduced a bill that will be considered as part of the Legislature’s Special Session on health.

His office says some farms are using recycled hydraulic fracturing water in the name of water conservation: “Few consumers are aware of the potential health issues from consuming produce irrigated by contaminated water.” Food that uses recycled fracking water would have to contain the label, “Produced using recycled or treated oil-field waste-water.”

“Consumers have a basic right to make informed decisions when it comes to the type of food that ends up on the family dinner table,” Gatto said. “Labelling food that has been irrigated with potentially harmful or carcinogenic chemicals, such as those in recycled fracking water, is the right thing to do.”

Recently, farmers in the state of California have been using recycled fracking waste water for crop irrigation. The recycling method has been used in farming instead of fresh water, as a result of the high demand for water in the state of California that has seen heavy drought over the past few years.

Given teh relatively small space of teh Island of Ireland, there are concerns both north and south of the border that the island could lose out agriculturally and economically were consumers to choose foods produced by other nations that didn't undergo fracking due to concerns on health and contaminated produce. (image source: wired.co.uk)
Given the relatively small space of the Island of Ireland, there are concerns both north and south of the border that the island could lose out agriculturally and economically were consumers to choose foods produced by other nations that didn’t undergo fracking due to concerns on health and contaminated produce. (image source: wired.co.uk)

So far, this isn’t to say that the food produce will carry health warnings, rather it is a matter of informing consumers that the food has been processed using fracking waste products.

The concept of notifying consumers as to whether or not their food has been in contact with fracking materials is a moral one. As was found recently with the Tesco horse meat scandal, consumers want to know what they are eating and want to know that it has been prepared safely.

However, the move will raise concerns for farmers globally, and in the Island of Ireland particularly.

It is believed locally that due to the health risks of fracking, both perceived and real, that consumers would rather shy away from food produce that has been exposed to fracking chemicals, and instead would rather purchase food stuffs that had not come into contact with said materials.

If the initiative were to go ahead, what would result would be a decline in profits for farmers who produce food in areas that have gone, and are undergoing the process of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Would you consume food that was produced with fracking waste water or not? Leave your comments below.

Isle of wight faces fracking

Following news that new fracking licences are being offered to oil and gas companies for purposes of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE), mainly across the midlands and North of England, it also appears that the majority of the Isle of Wight will be fracked also.

isle

The Isle of Wight, a well known tourist destination for many, as well as home to134,000 local residents, measures around 148 square miles in total. Below are the proposed licence areas that, when you compare to the image above, cover almost the whole of the island.

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