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:

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:

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.

Tamboran announces drilling plans

The Fermanagh Herald have released an article concerning Tamboran’s bore-drill in Belcoo, County Fermanagh.

The Fermanagh Herald state:

FRACKING COMPANY Tamboran Resources Limited has today (July 21) confirmed that it intends to drill a scientific borehole to collect rock samples in south west Fermanagh.
The company has said that at this point, no ‘fracking’ will take place.
The site for the borehole is near Belcoo, described by a company spokesman as ‘an enclosed commercial area already used for heavy industrial purposes that will have limited visual impact’.
In 2011 Tamboran was granted a Petroleum Licence for an initial five year period from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and INVESTMENT to explore for natural gas in County Fermanagh.
The collection of rock samples (core) is a key requirement of the work programme set out by Government within the licence and the company said it is determined to meet its obligations in full.
The company plans to carry out the work by September 30, hoping to commence drilling operations in late August.
The rock samples will be analysed to help confirm the presence of a natural gas source in County Fermanagh. This will enable the company to determine if it will be possible to extract the gas at a much later date, subject to full planning approval.
Making the announcement, Dr Tony Bazley, Director of Tamboran Resources (UK) Ltd said:
“Tamboran’s intention at this stage is only to verify that the elements necessary for natural gas and its recovery are contained within the shale in County Fermanagh. This is fact-finding, not fracking. If County Fermanagh is home to a significant natural gas resource that could provide Northern Ireland with decades of a local secure energy supply then we believe the people have a right to know.
“We believe that the presence of natural gas in Northern Ireland could bring considerable benefits to the local and regional economy with the potential for billions of pounds of INVESTMENT; hundreds and potentially thousands of jobs created locally and importantly for Northern Ireland a secure supply of energy that could last for decades and potentially help reduce local energy costs. However, we first need to make sure enough gas is there to be commercially viable and that we will not know for certain until the end of the licence period. This is just the first stage in that process,” said Dr Bazley.
The controversial gas extraction method has been widely debated across the county, and recieved stern opposition from local politicians and anti-fracking activists.
Anti-fracking activist, Donal O’Cofaigh, from Belcoo, has said previously that the construction of frack WELLS ‘would devastate our countryside and threaten thousands of jobs in tourism and agriculture’.
“Big business, their political representatives and the corporate-owned press are all lining up behind fracking.
“They are only interested in PROFIT, no matter the cost to people’s health, living standards and our environment.
“It’s now up to ordinary people to get organised and stop the frackers in their tracks.”

To access the article, click here.

Concerned health professionals of New York release fracking compendium

The Concerned Health Professionals of New York just released a compendium that compiles a significant body of scientific, medical and journalistic findings that highlight the experienced health risks associated with the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction.


One of the most thorough reports of its kind, the compendium draws upon scientific evidence and experience from across the globe, including USA, Canada and Australia, where Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been most predominant, drawing upon information provided by medical journals such as The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the Medical Journal of Australia.

Topics covered by the compendium include:

  • Air Contamination
  • Water Contamination
  • Engineering Problems
  • Radioactive releases
  • Occupational Health and Safety Hazards
  • Noise pollution, light pollution and stress
  • Earthquakes and Seismic Activity
  • Abandoned wells
  • Flood risks
  • Threats to Agriculture and soil quality
  • Threats to the Climate
  • Inaccurate job claims, increased crime
  • Inflated oil and gas reserves
  • Medical and scientific calls for more study

A compilation of studies and findings from around the globe, the compendium provides irrefutable evidence of the risks, harms, and associated negative trends demonstrated by the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process earmarked for County Fermanagh.

To read the compendium in full, click here.

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.”

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


1) Millar, J. (2010). Oil and Water Don’t Mix with California Agriculture. Available: Last accessed 17/04/2010

2) The Bakersfield Californian. (2013). Aera-Starrh lawsuit goes to jury. Available: Last accessed 17/04/2014.

3)The Bakersfield Californian. (2013). Akern grower gets another bumper crop of disappointment. Available: Last accessed 17/04/2014.

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



Beer Purity Threatened by Fracking Say Brewers

German brewers have called on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to block the extraction of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing, citing industry concerns that fracking could taint the purity of the country’s beer.

The Association of German Breweries have rejected the government’s planned legislation on fracking until groundwater contamination can be safely excluded. They say that current proposals are inadequate to protect drinking water and risk infringing the country’s 500-year-old law on beer purity.

Follow the link below to read the article on Bloomberg in full, and meanwhile enjoy No Fracking Ireland’s uniquely Irish take on the news in the image above.

German Beer Purity Threatened by Fracking Say Brewers – Bloomberg.

Will Fracking Impact My Family?

In this excellent article, farmer, writer and mother Laura Grace Weldon looks at the issue of fracking and how it is likely to affect families, businesses and the natural world in her neighbourhood of rural Ohio.  Obviously some of the issues she discussed are particular to the United States, but most are universal and particularly important in any farming region.  It’s a well-written, thoughtful and balanced piece, with plenty of pictures and links to further sources of information. Click on the link below to read it now.

Will Fracking Impact My Family? | GeekMom |

(The photo above left shows the Weldon family, from Laura Weldon’s blog Bit of Earth Farm)

NFU (Canada) calls for fracking moratorium

The National Farmers Union of Canada has called for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, concluding that the process poses a danger to water, food and farmland.

“Many farmers in my area who either have direct experience with the destructive nature of hydro-fracking technology on their water wells, or who have neighbours who have been affected have come to me with their concerns” says Jan Slomp, Rimbey area dairy farmer and Region 7 (Alberta) Coordinator for the National Farmers Union (NFU). “We are in the heart of Alberta’s oil and gas country where our ability to produce good, wholesome food is at risk of being compromised by the widespread, virtually unregulated use of this dangerous process.”

At NFU Region 7’s recent public meeting dozens of concerned farm families heard how their neighbours, the Campbell family from Crestomere, Alberta, had their water well contaminated by highly toxic compounds, which they clearly linked to the fracking of a nearby oil and gas well. Several other attendees then brought forward their stories of losing water wells to fracking near their own farms. “Not many of these stories get made public because the oil and gas companies usually force farmers to sign confidentiality agreements in return for replacement of their water wells” said Slomp.

Iain Aitken, an Alberta cattle rancher and local NFU member observed, “Farmers across Canada largely depend on ground water aquifers for both domestic use and livestock production. The quality of ground water is critical to raising high quality food. Unfortunately in the experience of too many Alberta farmers and ranchers hydraulic fracturing has been associated with water well contamination and damage. That is why our organization is calling for a moratorium on this technique until these problems can be addressed.”

Jan Slomp concluded “The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have really acknowledged there are problems with fracking by releasing several useful suggestions for guidelines to prevent further problems. However these voluntary guidelines are no substitute for strong regulations enforced by an impartial government body. That is what is needed before we can support any resumption of fracking.”

The NFU represents thousands of family farms across Canada. At its 2011 annual convention members passed a landmark resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing of sub-surface oil and gas formations.