Press statement in advance of Stormont debate

Over this past decade our particular communities have experienced first hand various attempts at oil and gas exploration in Northern Ireland, and the government sector’s system-wide inability to cope with its complexity. Now that the UK is signed up to the Paris Agreement and has made a net-zero carbon commitment, it is time to suspend, not just review, fossil fuel development.

In the interests of protecting public health and the environment from the polluting impacts of this industry, meeting our climate change obligations, and so that other communities don’t have to experience the same stress and disruption that we have, we have come together to call for the Assembly to:

“acknowledge its responsibility to protect public health and the environment and call on the Executive to instigate an immediate moratorium on petroleum licencing for all exploration for, drilling for and extraction of hydrocarbons until legislation is brought forward that bans all exploration for, drilling for and extraction of hydrocarbons in Northern Ireland.”

The motion builds on the 2015 Strategic Planning Policy Statement presumption against the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction in Northern Ireland introduced by Mark H Durkan, and recognises the moratoria, in various forms, on fracking in England, Scotland and Wales and the ban on fracking in the Republic of Ireland.


Statement issued on behalf of Belcoo Frack Free, LAMP Fermanagh, Protect Our North Coast, Stop The Drill Campaign, Ballinlea Residents Group, Friends of Woodburn Forest, Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network, Love Leitrim and Safety Before LNG.

The impact of Fracking on Health: an overview Sept 2020 Version 2.1

The information below is drawn from the CHPNY compendium. CHPNY stands for ‘Concerned Health Professionals of New York State’ and is made up mostly, but not exclusively, of Doctors, Nurses & Medical Academics. Their website is www.concernedhealthny.org this very important compendium is updated every 12-18 months and is ‘open access’ to all, both researchers & public. The first edition in 2014 was 70 pages, it is now more than 360 pages of research.

Fracking in all its different names & guises is used to extract petroleum products, usually methane gas, from underground rocks, often shale or sandstone. It is very damaging to the environment but is especially damaging to human health. Two of the more common names are HVHF [high volume hydraulic fracking] or UGEE [unconventional gas exploration & extraction] all amount to the same thing.

Below is summarised a small fraction of points from current compendium which covers 16 major topics relating to HVHF. A full read of all fracking’s’ negative impacts is both very long and very shocking. The Public Health section, pages 155 to 172, reveals a litany of never-ending and wide-ranging disasters inflicted upon hundreds of communities; everything from increased road traffic accidents to higher rates of chlamydia and gonorrhoea. I begin with the conclusion from the current [June 2019] sixth edition:

‘ All together, findings to date from scientific, medical, and journalistic investigations combine to demonstrate that fracking poses significant threats to air, water, human health, public safety, community cohesion, long-term economic vitality, biodiversity, seismic stability, and climate stability.

The rapidly expanding body of scientific evidence compiled and referenced in the present volume is massive, troubling, and cries out for decisive action. Across a wide range of parameters, from air and water pollution to radioactivity to social disruption to greenhouse gas emissions, the data continue to reveal a plethora of recurring problems and harms that cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks. There is no evidence that fracking can operate without threatening public health directly and without imperilling climate stability upon which public health depends. The only method of mitigating its grave harm to public health and the climate is a complete and comprehensive ban on fracking.

In closing, we cite comments by epidemiologist Irena Gorski, co-author of the 2019 review of fracking’s health concerns published in the Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Global Public Health. Her words speak for all who have contributed to this Compendium:

What we found pushes back against the narrative we often hear that say we don’t know enough about the health impacts yet. We have enough evidence at this point that these health impacts should be of serious concern to policymakers interested in protecting public health….As a fossil fuel, natural gas extraction and use is contributing to climate change, of course. But before conducting this study, I didn’t realize the amount of evidence we have that it may be even worse than coal. We included this in our study because climate change has its own contributions to health impacts. These indirect impacts will take longer to appear than the direct health impacts, but they have the potential to be significant.’

Air pollution

Infant deaths rose six fold in Unitah, Utah over a three year period after the advent of fracking in the area. ‘We know that pregnant women who breath more air pollution have much higher rates of virtually every adverse pregnancy outcome that exists’. {p171}

Lower birth weight and increased premature births [both predictors of increased risk of lifelong ill health] associated with mothers living near fracking sites; cause- air pollution. {p171}

Increased congenital heart defects [and possibly neural tube defects] if mother lived within ten miles [16km] of fracking area. {p171}

Colorado researchers found that BTEX [benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene] four common air pollutants from fracking operations can interfere with human hormones even at levels below the recommendations. BTEX cause sperm abnormalities reduced foetal growth, heart and lung disease. {p57}

281% predicted increase in Volatile Organic Compounds [VOCs; known carcinogens and neurological disruptors] due to HVHF in Eaglesford, Texas. {p62}

Review of existing data on air pollutants from fracking operations ‘support precautionary measures to protect the health of infants and children’ {p54}

The John Hopkins University discovered that asthmatic patients are 1.5 to 4 times more likely to suffer an asthma attack if living close to a fracking site compared to people living further away. The study was praised by an independent scientist for its “rigorous research methods”. {p164}

91% increase in thyroid cancer in people living near shale gas developments. {p163}.

Elevated levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found near frack sites. These hydrocarbons are linked to cancer risk, respiratory distress and poor birth outcomes. {p49}

Helicopter survey reveals that methane & VOC leakage at well heads much higher than found in earlier audits. An Engineer given his opinion on study stated ‘It makes regulation very difficult. If you have all these possible sites where you can have leaks, you can never have enough inspectors with all the right equipment being in all the right places at all the right times. It is too complex a system’. {p54}

University of Maryland study shows that fracking can pollute air hundreds of miles downwind of well pads. {p58}

Dangerous levels of benzene in air around fracking sites; Health Official states ‘The concerns of the Public are validated’. {p64}

American Lung Association states air quality in rural areas close to fracking sites now worse than air quality in urban areas. {p65}

Research estimates total annual VOC emissions at fracking sites are equivalent to 100 million cars [USA currently has 150M cars on its roads]. {p63}

University of California meta-analysis of 37 peer reviewed studies on air pollutants associated with fracking identified 61 hazardous pollutants. These pollutants are all either known to [or suspected to] cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm or other serious health effects. {p46}

The Colorado School of Public Health showed an increased risk of ill health, both cancer & non-cancer, of people living near frack pads. {p66}

Parts of Utah, previously with pristine air quality, now have levels of smog and pollution that rival downtown Los Angeles. {p60}

Albany University study shows eight highly toxic chemicals in air samples collected near fracking sites across five states. Most common were benzene & formaldehyde; 29 out of 76 samples far exceeded federal health & safety standards. Lead researcher stated ‘Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities [yet]. But in five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen’. {p59}

For people living within 160m of a frack pad/well lifetime cancer risks were eight times higher than the EPA’s [United States Environmental Protection Agency] upper threshold. Elevated levels of benzene and alkanes were of particular concern. {p49}

Water Pollution

HVHF wells have significant leakage/ integrity problems in both the short & long term. Percentage of leaking wells varies from 5% [immediately], to 50+% at 15 years {p119/124}. The earthquakes triggered by fracking damage both the well casing and also the cement, further increasing the well failure rates {p123/124}. Industry has no solutions for rectifying this chronic problem. Polluted frack waste water, usually tens of millions of litres per frack pad, is lost long term to the hydrologic cycle {p168}. Leaking wells also allow methane to directly enter the atmosphere and exacerbate climate change.

Cornell University study showed that fracking fluid and the flow back water interfere with the ability of soil to bond to and sequester pollutants such as heavy metals. Thus fracking fluids may release from soils an additional repository of contaminants that could migrate into ground water. {p107}

University of Missouri team tested chemicals used in one frack area. Of the 24 fracking chemicals tested, all 24 interfered with one or more hormone receptors in humans. There is no safe level of exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals. {p107}

Many confirmed cases of drinking water contamination from fracking in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia & Texas, thus casting doubt on Industry view that this rarely or never happens. {p109}. A Pennsylvania Court found a gas corporation guilty of contaminating a home owner’s drinking water; methane levels were 1,300 to 2,000 times higher than the baseline. {p108}

U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] study of groundwater pollution at HVHF site in North Dakota found that an area of 12 square miles was the result of a well casing failure. Another USGS report into fracking states ‘the knowledge of how extraction affects water resources has not kept pace with the technology’. {p110}

Frack wastewater is the flow back water that returns back up the well after it has been has been fracked. The volume is usually between 5 to 10 million litres, per well fracked. There may be ten to 16 wells per frack pad and each well can be fracked several times. This huge volume of highly contaminated frack wastewater is a very serious pollution hazard. “There is no known solution for the problem of fracking wastewater. It cannot be filtered to create clean drinking water, nor is there any safe method of disposal. Recycling is an expensive, limited option that increases radionuclide levels of subsequent [more concentrated] wastewater. Underground reservoirs that receive fracking wastewater via injection into disposal wells, a practice that is linked to earthquakes, are reaching capacity in many regions in the United States.” {p69}

EPA report demonstrates that a HVHF well that was fractured at 1300m [4,200 feet] contaminated a water supply only 120m [400 feet] from the surface. This dispels the myth that HVHF cannot cause contamination more than 500m away. {p116}

Oil & Gas operators generally opt for out of court settlements that include ‘non-disclosure’ agreements [gagging clauses]. This strategy keeps data from regulators, policymakers, the media and health researchers and makes it difficult to challenge the claim that fracking has never tainted anyone’s water. {p112}

Stanford, Duke & Ohio State joint assessment of fracking data shows that vertical fractures can propagate to over 600m upward, thus risking contaminating any water sources. The planned area in Fermanagh will be shallow fracking. {p93}

EPA concedes that insufficient baseline drinking water data & lack of long term systematic studies limited the power of its findings; meaning the contamination the EPA found near fracking sites could be easily denied by the Industry. {p95}

Stanford University researchers document that fracking in shallow layers of bedrock, including those that serve as drinking water aquifers, is not uncommon. This is because the HVHF industry is exempt from the Safe drinking Water Act. {p106}

West Virginia EPA confirmed that three private drinking water wells were contaminated by a fracking company when it mistakenly drilled into its own well, resulting in benzene being detected in the drinking water at four times the legal maximum limit. {p102}

Pennsylvania EPA fine drilling company $4,500,000, in 2014, for contaminating groundwater due to leaking frack waste-water pits. {p103}

Public Health

MVC [motor vehicle collisions], including fatal MVCs up by 50% since fracking boom began, especially on rural roads in fracking areas. More than 27% of fracking trucks operating with potentially life-threatening problems such as defective brakes. {p170}

An Ohio ‘Quality of life survey’ of residents living near UGEE development, 100% of respondents had experienced stress issues due to fracking, these included; fear of environmental harm, dangerous encounters with fracking lorries and divisions in within the community. {p174} Stress in all its forms is widely recognised as a risk factor for many adverse effects including heart attacks and strokes.

Pennsylvania study showed more than 50% of people living near fracking sites were stressed; witnessing corruption, complaints being ignored and being denied information or given false information. {p179}

Researchers in Pennsylvania found more than 50% of people living near fracking sites could not sleep properly due to noise of operations; excess noise is known to increase the risk of hypertension and heart disease. {p173}

John Hopkins School of Public Health study found that indoor radon levels in Pennsylvania homes rising since 2004 when fracking arrived in State; radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer worldwide, after smoking. A Geochemist warned “Once you have a release of fracking fluid into the environment you have a radioactive legacy. {p130, p132} Fermanagh already has one of the highest levels of background radon levels in the British Isles and it is thus a significant health risk; any further increase in radon would be very detrimental to public health, specifically increasing the cases of people developing lung cancer.

Duke University researchers found water contamination from ‘spills’ was remarkably persistent in the environment. The bigger the spill, the higher the radioactivity level. {p129}

University of Pittsburgh study linked low birthweight infants with fracking in three Pennsylvania counties. Low birth weight is a leading cause of infant mortality. {p167}

Increase in hospital admissions seen for cardiology and cancer for people in Pennsylvania living near fracking wells. No such increase in health problems were observed in a control county with no fracking industry. {p166}

North Dakota HIV/AIDS cases double between 2012-2014, Director of disease control attributes this to the ‘man camps’ and human trafficking for prostitution associated with the fracking industry. {p169}

Yale University found that county’s with high shale gas drilling levels had a 20% increase in syphilis and gonorrhoea rate. These rates of infection continue to climb even after the workers leave. {p159}

Hospital Emergency Department use up by over 300% and ambulance calls up more than 200% since arrival of fracking industry in North Dakota. {p170}

Climate Change

The IPPC [The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] state that methane is 86 times more potent at trapping heat [greenhouse gas] than carbon dioxide over a twenty year period {p260}. Methane leakage seriously worsens climate change. The Medical community now has very strong evidence that climate change has a serious negative impact on public health, and this impact will only worsen in the future if we don’t act. Methane leakage rate is averaging at least 8% from HVHF wells, up from 6% five years ago {p261/262}. Even if a very low leakage rate for methane of 2 or 3% was even achievable, methane would still be much more damaging for climate change over the medium [20 year] or long-term [100 year] time span than the carbon dioxide produced by coal fired power stations. Thus both need to be phased out as soon as possible.


Dr. Carroll O’Dolan
MRCGP
General Practitioner.

Health Spokesperson for FFAN [Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network] www.frackaware.com

Tom White from ‘Belcoo Frack Free’ summarises the issues

Below is a video from Tom White, from ‘Belcoo FrackFree’ who has kindly allowed FFAN to share it as it summarises the issues involved and the plan of action.

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL MLAs AND ASK THEM DIRECTLY WILL THEY SUPPORT THE STORMONT MOTION TO BAN HYDROCARBON EXPLORATION/EXTRACTION IN NORTHERN IRELAND. REQUEST THEIR ANSWER IN WRITING [EMAIL]. IF THE MLA SAYS THEY WILL NOT SUPPORT THE MOTION, ASK FOR THEIR REASONS,ALSO IN WRITING.

Fracking may rear its ugly head again

Fracking is still being considered by the NI executive and our health is again at stake. Currently the Minister for the Economy is involved in a strategic review of petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland. If the review decides to allow licensing to go ahead this means that Fracking in Fermanagh may again rear its ugly head.  Fracking goes by many names including unconventional hydrocarbon extraction. And to make matters worse the FODC is proposing to ‘water down’ the wording in the draft local development plan [LDP] that protects us against fracking.

The current wording [MIN04 on page 127] states “The council will not permit unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until it is proved that there would be no adverse effects on the environment or public health”. The council now wants to change the second half of this sentence to ‘until there is robust evidence on all associated impacts on the environment and human health’. This is obviously a much weaker protection and leaves open the unacceptable possibility that the council can then try to regulate these ‘associated impacts’. Public health must be clearly written into our LDP when it comes to fracking.

There is a short consultation process, finishing on 11 Sept, where FODC residents can comment on these proposed changes to the draft LDP. Please send in your comment/ submission objecting to this change of wording and help protect our health, our families and the environment. For a template to send to FODC before Friday 11. Sept 2020 see below.

Template submission on proposed changes to FODC LDP [Local Development Plan]

Template submission on proposed changes to FODC LDP [Local Development Plan]

Comment on proposed changes to Local Development Plan 2030

Email  to FODC at: developmentplan@fermanaghomagh.com

Subject:  proposed changes to the Fermanagh & Omagh District Council [FODC] Local Development Plan [LDP] 2030 Draft plan [published in October 2018]. The proposed changes to the LDP were published in July 2020.

Specifically I object to the proposed change to the Mineral section [MIN 04]

Currently in the 2018 LDP draft it states on page 127 ‘The local council will not permit unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until it is proved that there would be no adverse effects on the environment or public health’. The proposed change is to alter the above sentence to ‘The local council will not permit unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until there is robust evidence on all associated impacts on the environment and human health’.

Unconventional hydrocarbon extraction [UHE] goes under many names including fracking.

I object to any changes of MIN 04 [2018] for the following reasons.

1. The term ‘robust evidence on all associated impacts’ leaves open the possibility that despite the evidence of negative impacts on human health and the environment the FODC may still decide to allow UHE. This is possible as the change in wording allows the fracking industry and/or FODC to argue that regulation ‘of the associated impacts’ is possible. Very strong evidence from the USA has shown time and again that regulation of fracking does not work and people’s health deteriorates. I insist the original sentence remains unaltered. Public Health is central to any long term plan for our communities and must be explicitly included in the LDP with regards to UHE.

2. In the ‘Summary of Issue/ Justification’ box for the above proposed change to the FODC LDP wording it states ‘to reflect SPPS’. The SPPS [Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland published in 2015] is an important document and states that the SPPS should ‘be taken into account’ when local plans are drawn up. This does not mean that the FODC are not allowed to choose its own slightly different wording where appropriate. Indeed in the introduction to the SPPS document the Minister stated the vision of the SPPS was simple; to improve well-being for the people, no compromising on environmental standards and creating places where communities can flourish now and into the future. If Public Health is not explicitly written into the FODC LDP then the SPPS will not fulfil the goals as set out above by the Minister.

3. There is a huge increase in high quality peer reviewed evidence, year on year, of the definitive harm to Public health and the environment that unconventional hydrocarbon extraction causes. Thus statements of even two years ago let alone five years ago have been superseded by the evidence. See www.concernedhealthny.org/compendium compiled by USA physicians relating to the extensive harm to both Public Health and the environment due to UHE. A court ruling in the UK last year [the Dove Judgement www.frackfreeunited.co.uk/fracking-unlawful] states that National and Local Government departments can and must adapt their plans to take account of current evidence of Public health harm and/ or climate damage even if their new adaptations appear to contradict existing planning policies. To put it simply: if the evidence changes and becomes more definitive then plans [including the FODC LDP] should reflect these changes, irrespective of what older, out-of-date Government documents say.

Name: ……………………………….

Date:   ……………….

Email address: ………………………….

Address:  …………………………………………………………………

Objection to Planning Application PLA2/16 Template

Here’s a template for you to send your objection to Department for the Economy in regards to Planning Application PLA2/16:


As residents of Fermanagh, we wish to object in the strongest possible terms to the granting of a petroleum licence to Tamboran to explore for or carry out fracking in Fermanagh or anywhere else in Northern Ireland, for the following reasons:

  • The Threat – Fracking is a dirty, toxic, industrialised process which has been proved dangerous and unsuitable even for sparsely populated areas in the United States and Australia. No solution to the problems of leaky wells and waste water disposal has yet been found anywhere.
  • The Applicant – The companies involved in the fracking process take no responsibility for a subsequent clean-up. They find ingenious pseudo-legal ways, including insolvency, to walk away, leaving the wreckage to the community. Their claim to community involvement actually amounts to a combination of bribery of the weak and intimidation of objectors, dividing communities to the profit of the frackers.
  • Health – The existential health risks of fracking have been scientifically documented by the Concerned Physicians of New York State.
  • Agriculture – The reputational damage of fracking to food-producing agriculture, the principal economic activity in Fermanagh, would be permanent.
  • Landscape – One of the most beautiful landscapes in Ireland, which includes the UNESCO Geopark and many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, would be permanently degraded by fracking.
  • Tourism – Fermanagh’s second most important economic activity would never recover from the known effects of fracking: visual degradation; pollution of its pristine waterways; and the endless lorry traffic on its country roads.
  • Jobs – Technical supervisors would be imported. The few jobs for local people would be limited to driving lorries and manual labour.
  • Climate Change – The UK Government has recently published its highly necessary policy and timetable to achieve zero carbon emissions. In the light of this, to grant a licence to produce a highly suspect fossil fuel would be nothing short of reckless.
  • Political responsibility – For all the above reasons, this matter must be treated with the utmost political seriousness. It would be totally improper, if not illegal, for it to be shuffled through by a civil servant in the temporary absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

[Your name]
[Your address]


Send via Email to: minerals@economy-ni.gov.uk

Send via Post to: Department for the Economy, Minerals and Petroleum Branch, Room 9, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3SB

Deadline: 5th July 2019

FFAN response to FODC Local Development Plan

Below is the FFAN response to the FODC Local Development Plan. This response was sent to the Planning Department & all FODC Councillors on 28 November 2016

RESPONSE  TO  FODC  LOCAL  DEVELOPMENT  PLAN.   NOV.  2016

On 3rd October 2016 the draft documents ‘Fermanagh & Omagh Community Plan [FOCP]’ and ‘Local Development Plan [LDP]’ were published by the Fermanagh & Omagh District Council [FODC]. These documents have been open for an eight week period of public consultation that ends on Monday 28 November.

In 2015 FFAN [Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network] and many groups and individuals took part in the community engagement process to help draft what the people of this council area wanted to see in those plans. A strong cross-community consensus came from those meetings that the exploration and extraction of oil or gas from shale rock [commonly known as fracking] was incompatible with the sustainability remit inherent in both the FOCP and the LDP.

FFAN have studied the LDP paper and found that the wording used to oppose fracking is much weaker than was demanded by the Public at last years consultations. FFAN and many other groups and individuals have been involved in the current round of  ‘consultations’ last month and we state yet again that the LDP is not reflecting the wishes as clearly expressed by the public.

Many reasons exist to show that fracking will be detrimental to both the health & economy of the FODC area.

Attached are:

  1. a synopsis of health issues & fracking from the Irish College of General Practitioners Forum Journal. also see link   http://www.icgp.ie/assets/93/C9E3CD95-DD94-5BAE-F22851597666F0F4_document/Fracking.pdf
  2. summary of the report by the Economist Dr Brenna O’Roarty presented last year at a conference in Fermanagh on Fracking.
  3. See www.concernedhealthny.org [Concerned Health Professional of New York] for the ever growing compendium of scientific evidence linking fracking to ill health. Fourth edition came out this month.

For all the above reasons FFAN request that a total prohibition on Fracking is clearly stated in the FODCs LDP.

FFAN request the following three changes in the LDP to be incorporated int the final draft.

1) Section 8.8. [page 65] the proposed definition of short term as explained in Option 2 should be shortened from 15 to 5 years.

2) Q9b [page 68]  ‘ Are there any other areas that should be considered as ACMDs [ Areas of Constrained Mineral Development]? ‘ Our [FFAN] answer is ‘ Yes, the whole of the FODC area should become an ACMD.’

3) Section 12.30 [page 97] This section dealing with fracking is not explicit enough in its’ opposition to Fracking. The FODC should have a presumption of a total prohibition on Fracking in the FODC area.

Thus the following wording should be used to replace the current single sentence in section 12.30.

“The local development plan includes the presumption against unconventional hydrocarbon exploitation in line with the Strategic Planning Policy Statement. Fermanagh and Omagh District Council will oppose the granting of petroleum exploration licenses over target strata described as shales, mud-stones, coal seams and ‘tight’ sandstone formations. There will be a presumption against planning applications associated with the exploration and/ or development of petroleum resources situated in shales, mud-stones, ‘tight’ sandstone formations and coal seams.”

Thank you.

Dr Carroll O’Dolan, on behalf of FFAN

Great news from across the border

“Last Thursday, history was made in Ireland!  A Bill to prohibit exploration and extraction of Petroleum from shale, tight sands and coal seams was brought before the members of the Oireachtas who unanimously supported the Bill and agreed to bring it to the next stage (the committee stage) of the process towards becoming law.  This Bill, when enacted, will act as a comprehensive ban on fracking, which is its primary objective.  The campaign against fracking has won a significant victory and has proved that fracking is not wanted in Ireland and that opposition to fracking comes from every party in the Dáil and from every province in Ireland.”

Good Energies Alliance Ireland.  Read more here