Beginner’s guide to fracking: 6 fracking and your land

Could my land be fracked without my knowledge or permission?
Almost certainly, yes. The horizontal drill shafts can extend 1,500 meters from the well and the fractures can reach a further 600 meters. So if there is a well within that distance of your land, it’s likely that fracking will happen underneath you.

ferm farm

Would I be paid for this?
Probably not, unless the centre of the well itself is on or within a quarter mile of your land. Most oil and gas rights in Northern Ireland are owned by DETI and any royalties would go to the UK treasury. Even if you’re entitled to a share of the royalties, this is dependant upon actual gas extracted and saved through that particular well, so there’s no guarantee you would receive anything.

Can I be forced to have a well or access road built on my land?
Yes, under the Mineral Development Act, DETI has compulsory purchase and access rights (Mining Facility Orders) and it can pass the benefit of these on to the gas companies.

Would I be compensated for disturbance, subsidence, damage or the decreased value of my land?
Not automatically, no, other than any standard payment under a Mining Facilities Order. Apart from that, you would have to go to court, at great trouble and expense, to sue the gas companies. The legal position is unclear, but you would only probably succeed if you could show actual negligence and physical damage.

And if the company went bust or was wound up?
You would be unlikely to receive anything, and could be left with the responsibility and expense of decontaminating your land.

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Would I be insured against any of these risks?
It depends upon your exact situation, policy and insurance company. You would be wise to check very carefully. Standard agricultural policies do not cover fracking activities on your own land.

But hasn’t fracking been going on in the states for ages with no problems?
Not exactly. This type of high volume hydraulic fracturing has only been used for the past decade or so, and has caused severe problems for local land owners. The gas companies have been exempt from much environmental legislation (of teh kind that farmers have to abide by) and so there has been little monitoring of their activities. When a problem such as contaminated water arises, residents have very often been forced to sign gagging clauses, so they cannot go public about their experiences.

But it would be better here, wouldn’t it?
Not necessarily. We have no specific laws about fracking, so are dependant on regulations drawn up for very different operations administered by bodies which are unfamiliar with the technology, often with a lack of resources and a poor history of enforcement. Fermanagh also has a very different landscape from most of America, with our complex network of loughs, rivers and streams, our rich habitats and unique geological heritage. If Fermanagh’s landscape was to be transplanted to the United States, say many Americans, there is no way that they would frack here.

What can I do if I’m concerned about this?
Contact your political representatives, especially MLA’s and ministers, and let them know that this issue matters to you. Talk to your neighbours, family and friends and encourage them to look behind the cheerful headlines.

If we are concerned about fracking in Fermangh, we all need to speak out now and make sure our voices are heard. It may not be easy, but it will be a lot harder to live with the consequences if we do nothing.

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

Beginner’s guide to fracking: 4 fracking and tourism

Fermanagh welcomes you – Naturally?

The most recent DETI figures indicate that the tourism sector in Co. Fermanagh generates over £36 million per annum

DETI Draft Tourism Strategy for NI to 2020
“There is also a real recognition that what makes NI special is the quality of the experience and any development must be sensitive to this.”

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Why do visitors come to Fermanagh?
– Restful and relaxing holiday – peace and tranquility
– Quality of the scenery – unspoilt landscape
– Natrual Heritage – lakes, Cuilcagh Mountain Park, Marble Arch Caves, Global Geopark (54,092 visitors 2011)
– Cultural Heritage: musicians, artists, photographers, writers
– Built Heritage – National Trust properties (92,441 visitors 2011)
– Fishing and boating
– Outdoor pursuits: hill/trailing, watersports, caving
– Good quality food and restaurants

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Opposition to fracking has been expresses by both Fermanagh District Council and Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism

What impact will fracking have on tourism in Fermanagh?
– Frack pads will be located approximately 1 mile apart changing our rural landscape forever
– Our roads will be congested with heavy trucks and machinery
– Fish stocks may be contaminated
– There is a risk of earth tremors
– Our rural landscape will become an industrailised zone
– There is a risk to natural heritage
– The air will be heavy with dust and smog
– The Erne waterways are at risk of pollution
– Noise and light pollution are inevitable
– There will be public health concerns
– We will lose our clean and green image

tourism4

What will happen if fewer visitors come to Fermanagh?
– Loss of revenue from tourism
– Loss of jobs in tourism
– Loss of income for local providers including hotels, B+B’s, hostels, resteraunts, cruise hire and supplies, shops, fishing tackle stores, arts/crafts stores, outdoor pursuit centers, golf courses, the Marble Arch Caves and National Trust properties.

tourism1

DETI Draft Toursim strategy for NI to 2020
Northern Ireland needs to “Value tourism, value the tourist, value what the tourist values.”

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.

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
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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.

Taxpayers to pay for fracking pollution if companies go bust

Taxpayers will pay to clean up any pollution caused by fracking if the companies go bankrupt.  A proposal to make UK operators take out insurance against such damage has been ruled out by the government, as reported in the Guardian newspaper.

Cuadrilla shale gas drilling rig is set up for 'fracking', Weeton, Blackpool, Lancashire, in March 2012. (image source: guardian.com)
Cuadrilla shale gas drilling rig is set up for ‘fracking’, Weeton, Blackpool, Lancashire, in March 2012. (image source: guardian.com)

 

As Rob Cunningham, head of water policy at the RSPB, said:

“The prime minister promised one of the most stringent regulatory regimes for fracking in the world but his government appears more interested in tax cuts than managing risk. It really doesn’t matter if you are pro or anti fracking, this proposal would simply ensure that when things do go wrong shareholders, not taxpayers bear the cost for cleanup if companies go bust or cease trading. If government’s response boils down to concerns over cost of insurance it sheds an interesting light on just how safe they really think the technology is.”

Read the full article here:

Taxpayers to pay for fracking pollution if companies go bust | Environment | theguardian.com.