Fracking Emergency in Northern Ireland: Webinar

Dr. Carroll O’Dolan speaks with actor Mark Ruffalo, Professor Robert Howarth author of “How green is blue hydrogen?”, Dr Kathy Nolan from Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Dianne Little Coordinator of Operation Grounded a cross border network of groups campaigning for a ban on petroleum licensing and fracking.

Blue Hydrogen = Natural Gas = Fracking in Fermanagh!

Our very own Dr. Carroll O’Dolan spoke with Diane Little from Lamp Fermanagh, Tom White from Belco Frack Free and Eddie Mitchell from Love Leitrim about some worrying developments in regard to the energy strategy.

Watch the full video here:

Extreme urgency for NI politicians to ensure and guarantee a ban on petroleum (oil and gas) licenses in Northern Ireland

Concerned community groups, including FFAN, are stating the extreme urgency for NI politicians to ensure and guarantee a ban on petroleum (oil and gas) licenses in Northern Ireland [NI].

During this momentous time when the COP26 climate change conference was recently held in Glasgow, our own politicians are planning to undermine the very fabric of meaningful change. The NI Department of Economy [DfE, DUP minister] is presently in the final stages of bringing their petroleum policy to the NI Executive and Assembly for a vote before Christmas 2021.

This policy currently does not include the very obvious option of banning petroleum licenses altogether in NI. Instead, it will have various policy options on how to regulate the industry. The agenda for policies to be brought forward has to be jointly agreed by the two parties that make up the OFMDFM (office of first minister & deputy first minister).

These parties are SF and the DUP. Thus only SF can, using their power over the agenda, insist that the DfE add the policy option of a complete ban on petroleum licensing to the policy. So please lobby your SF MLAs and all in that party to insist on a policy option of a complete ban on petroleum licensing in NI is included in the DUPs document.

Thank you.

FFAN response to the Hatch Report – Nov 2021

A summary of the ‘Hatch report’ relating to the possibility of petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland recently became available. This summary,
https://www.facebook.com/139276246741759/posts/851207292215314/ was commissioned by the Department for the Economy and delivered to that Dept in July 2021. Below is the response of FFAN [Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network].

In the fifth paragraph, the report states ‘the scale of the potential GVA [gross value added] and the employment impacts are shown to be relatively low, even under the high development scenario’. Then in the graph at the end of the report it states that this same high development scenario is likely to have major adverse impacts on groundwater and surface pollution and abstraction, also major adverse impacts on social cohesion and community wellbeing. This is no surprise to all of the community groups who have been researching this issue for the last ten years. But shocking that these petroleum licenses are even being considered. Thus the Hatch Report has given the NI Executive the answer to the question should we allow petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland; the benefits are low and the risks are too high so the answer can only be No.

Even using this sanitised version of the oil and gas industry presented by the Hatch Report it is full of glaring omissions and commissions.
Once established the fracking will commence at a higher intensity than the report suggests as that is the only way the industry can make money. The oil and gas industry will then leave us in NI to literally clean up the mess and pay the bills.

Other points

  1. None of the authors, based on tender process documents, have any Medical or Public Health qualifications.
  2. The ‘No development scenario’ is dismissed in one sentence early on as simply a baseline. The report says this scenario will have ‘no additional social or environmental impacts on the baseline conditions’. This current baseline protects our health, air and water. It protects our agriculture, tourism and many more jobs. It is the baseline building block for our future prosperity towards a greener sustainable future. This baseline is not a brake on our potential development, but a prerequisite.
  3. The report mentions climate change and net-zero many times, yet repeatedly tries to justify setting up a fossil fuel industry from scratch, in the same year as the COP26 summit.
  4. Section 18: The petroleum licensing Act of 1964 is used in this section to justify the unjustifiable. It must be obvious by now to all parties that this policy has to be updated to reflect the climate emergency that we live in. To meet net-zero by 2050 we must have a zero-tolerance for setting up (and subsidising) a fossil fuel industry in NI. We need a new energy policy to reflect this; specifically that no petroleum licenses will be considered or granted.
  5. Section 20: The report states that the Northern Ireland [NI] assembly debated a motion on a moratorium on onshore [hydrocarbon] development until a bill was brought to ban the same. The report fails to mention that the NI Assembly did not just debate it, but unanimously passed that motion.
  6. Section 31: Lateral drills per well. The report says low intensity will be ten wells & two lateral drills per well, high intensity will be 34 wells & four lateral drills per well. This is a gross underestimate, Wells usually have 8 to12 lateral drills, often up to 16. Tamboran were planning for 60 wells in Fermanagh ~ 1km apart, each well with 12 lateral drills. The more lateral drills created, then the greater the risk of aquifer pollution, fugitive methane emissions and leaks both above and below ground.
  7. Section 40: The report says the oil and gas industry will have a negligible impact on tourism; maybe even increase some trade in restaurants. In reality, the impact on tourism will be negative, large and immediate.
  8. Section 44: Will only have a modest negative impact on the Agri-food sector. This is a highly suspect claim, the negative impact will be huge and long term
  9. Section 47: Health Impact Assessment and associated issues simply stated as not done.
  10. Section 55: States that the UGEE JRP [unconventional gas exploration & extraction joint research programme, Irish-all island group] concludes that ‘there is significant uncertainty around the following topics in particular: Groundwater aquifers could be polluted as a result of the failure or deterioration of well Integrity. These aquifers could also be polluted by the migration of pollutants and gas to the aquifer as a result of the fracking process. The long term leakage of gas after well closure’.

The Hatch report does not even consider the precautionary principle. That the NI Executive should be considering allowing a highly polluting industry into our communities and that this report is unsure of the long term damage to our air and water and thus our health, is truly shocking.

Dr Carroll O’Dolan. MRCGP. MICGP.
Health spokesperson for FFAN
[Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network].

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: [email protected]

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

Oil and Gas operations damage ecosystems

Drilling for oil and gas has created continental wide damage to agricultural ecosystems in Canada and the U.S., leading to a net reduction in primary production crop and range lands.

The report has suggested that with 50,000 new high volume hydraulic fracturing wells installed since 2000, millions of hectares of Great Plains have been transformed into heavily industrialised landscapes. The report states:

“It is the scale of this transformation that is important, as accumulating land degradation can result in continental impacts that are undetectable when focusing on any single region.”

The number of oil and gas wells drilled from 1900 to 2012 within three Canadian provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan) and 11 U.S. states (Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming). (Image Source: BRADY W. ALLRED)
The number of oil and gas wells drilled from 1900 to 2012 within three Canadian provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan) and 11 U.S. states (Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming).
(Image Source: BRADY W. ALLRED)

The report further states that the Oil and Gas industry directly reduces vegetation to allow construction of oil pads, roads and pipes etc, which in turn leads to a reduction of wildlife, biodiversity and food production.

Not only does the Oil and Gas industry expel more carbon dioxide into the air, there will also be less vegetation that can remove carbon from the local atmosphere.

When inhaling and exhaling air, we all understand that humans take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Plants on the other hand, take in carbon dioxide and gove out oxygen. They report has estimated that total vegetation removed for Oil and Gas operations across Central North America to be around 4.5 Tg of carbon, or 4.5 billion Kg.

Furthermore, an Animal Unit Month (AUM), is the amount of vegetation required to support one animal for one month, and the researchers have estimated that 5 million AUM have been removed since 2000. The report states that this damage is:

“likely long-lasting and potentially permanent, as recovery or reclamation of previously drilled land has not kept pace with accelerated drilling. This is not surprising because current reclamation practices vary by land ownership and governing body, target only limited portions of the energy landscape, require substantial funding and implementation commitments, and are often not initiated until the end of life of a well.”

 

Cumulative impacts of oil and gas development on ecosystem services in central North America 2000–2012. (Left) Reduction in net primary production (biomass), per land cover type. (Middle) Land area occupied, per land cover type. (Right) Number of wells in water-stressed regions (22). (Image Source: BRADY W. ALLRED)
Cumulative impacts of oil and gas development on ecosystem services in central North America 2000–2012. (Left) Reduction in net primary production (biomass), per land cover type. (Middle) Land area occupied, per land cover type. (Right) Number of wells in water-stressed regions.
(Image Source: BRADY W. ALLRED)

As of 2012 land use for Oil and Gas operations numbers only around 3 million hectares, the equivalent to three Yellowstone Parks. ON a continental scale, this amount of land mass is relatively small. However, these ecosystems have both been replaced elsewhere and as a result, there are irreversible effects, such as  increasing fragmentation that can sever migratory pathways, alter wildlife behavior and mortality, and increase susceptibility to ecologically disruptive invasive species. As competition for arable land intensifies because of food and bio-energy demand, oil and gas may further expand into native range lands.

With drilling for Oil and Gas set to continue, it can only be predicted that these negative ecological characteristics can only increase.

To read the report for yourself in full, click here.

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.

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.

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.

Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN)