A single issue, non-affiliated, cross-community network of local people with a peaceful ethos and a positive vision for our county's development, working to raise awareness of the risks associated with shale gas extraction.
It was reported by the Impartial Reporter that the Department of Environment shall conduct research into fracking.
The Impartial Reporter quoted Department of Environment Minister Mark H. Durkin:
“Fracking is a hugely important and controversial issue in Fermanagh especially but also right across the North and, indeed, the world. Therefore, it is vital that we carry out as much research as possible into the potential dangers and risks associated with it. That is why I have been keen for my Department to work with the EPA on this research programme.”
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.
Over the past few months a lot has happened, so here’s a quick summary of what has been going on.
April 1st 2011
DETI (the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment) granted a licence to Tamboran Resources to ‘search and bore for and get petroleum’ [the term includes gas] in a large area of County Fermanagh. The licence included a Work Programme divided into two parts. Part 1 was to cover years 1-3 (i.e. 2011 – 2014) and to include studies, assessments, sampling and reviews. Part 2 was to cover years 4-5 (i.e. 2014 – 2016) and to include finalising drilling locations, applying for permissions and drilling two wells in which hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) would take place.
December 6th 2011
The Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont debated the issue of hydraulic fracturing and passed a cross-party motion calling for a moratorium on the technique. Following the vote, the Enterprise Minister stated that ‘no hydraulic fracking licence has been issued’, apparently unaware of the terms of her department’s April 1st licence.
January 9th 2012
Fermanagh District Council passed a motion ‘that this council opposes the use of hydraulic fracturing for gas exploration in the Lough Allen Basin and that in the light of the backing by the Northern Ireland Assembly for the motion put forward by Steven Agnew MLA on hydraulic fracturing, we call for the Minister for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster to place a moratorium on the licence granted to Tamboran Resources.”
It is understood that Tamboran Resources has advised Fermanagh District Council that it has completed its initial studies etc and that it will soon be seeking permissions to proceed to the drilling and hydraulic fracturing stages of the Work Programme. A statement to this effect from Tamboran is anticipated in the next few days.
These events raise several serious questions. These questions are likely to be asked not only by those opposed to hydraulic fracturing but also by those who are as yet undecided and those who are broadly in favour of the use of the technique.
1. How detailed and careful can the initial studies and assessments have been, if they have been completed in less than nine months? The industrial process of shale gas extraction has implications for geological formations (including the Marble Arch Caves), the local water system, including loughs, the water table, rivers and streams, public health including the necessity for clean air and drinking water, transport and congestion on small rural roads, agriculture, tourism, fishing and flora and fauna, including many rare and endangered species. Each of these areas needs to be looked at in great detail, over at least an annual cycle, in order to have any hope of protecting our community and environment from damage.
2. No public consultation was carried out by DETI before awarding the licence to Tamboran and no prior notice was given to the Northern Ireland Assembly or Fermanagh District Council. Now both the Assembly and the Council have had the opportunity to debate the issue, and both have raised serious concerns, so serious that they have called for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. In view of this clear line taken by our elected representatives, and the widespread public concern which it reflects, is it really in the interests of democracy for DETI to carry on regardless?
3. Although it suits the gas industry to claim that it is highly regulated here, the truth is that neither Northern Ireland nor the UK as a whole have any laws or regulations specifically about hydraulic fracturing. It is very unclear whose responsibility it is to ensure the safety of workers, local people and the natural environment. The granting of licences is made under a law dating from 1964 and takes little or no account of nearly half a century of scientific, technological and environmental change. Here in Northern Ireland the situation is especially serious as we, unlike almost all other developed countries and regions, have no independent Environmental Protection Agency, and the nature of our ministerial system makes it very difficult for departments to work together. The whole process is far from straightforward, leaving local people with an unsettling question – Who is watching the gasmen?
“MLAs have called for a stop to the practice of gas exploration known as fracking.
They backed a call for a moratorium on onshore and offshore exploration and the withdrawal of licences by 49 votes to 30.”
Here is a short video of UTV’s coverage of the day’s events:
With regard to Mrs Foster’s comments, readers are referred to the wording of the licence (available on our Documents page). The Work Programme contained within the licence states that Tamboran will,
“Drill exploration well to test Benbulben and Bundoran Shale Formations gas shale play including coring, fracturing and testing programme.”
Readers may also be interested to note that the licence granted is to
“search and bore for and get petroleum”
(petroleum in this sense including gas) and that under the Petroleum Production Regulations, also available on the Documents page, the licensee effectively has the option to extend the licence into a production phase lasting for over twenty years.
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 email@example.com as soon as possible.