Texas oil and gas regulators refuse to talk to media

It has been reported by the Associated Press that the Texas Oil and Gas regulators have implemented a blanket policy that bans staff from media engagements, raising questions into the level of transparency given by regulators to teh public in relation to unconventional shale gas extraction.

The Associated Press state:

“The three-member Texas Railroad Commission, which is one of the largest state agencies of its kind in the country, approved the policy in August 2012, shortly before Milton Rister took over as the commission’s executive director. Since then, he has used his authority to funnel all media inquiries through a spokeswoman who responds via email and bars any direct access to staff.

The commission, which also regulates pipelines and mining, devotes much of its time to permitting oil and gas drilling and production, ensuring wells are safe and investigating complaints or problems at those sites.

For a Texas agency to ban all media interviews is unusual. Typically, the media relations department is not the source of information, but rather acts as a liaison to connect journalists with the staff they need to speak with for a particular story.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a state agency whose responsibilities often overlap with the Railroad Commission, routinely grants interviews with staff members who are scientists and experts. The General Land Office, which is responsible for offshore oil spill cleanup, also allows staff to speak with the media.

“There needs to be some rationale behind the Railroad Commission or any agency to outweigh the public’s right to be informed,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat who is on the Texas Legislature’s Transparency in State Agency Operations Committee.”

For access to the full article, click here.

‘Lancet’ medical journal raises detrimental health implications of fracking

One of the world’s oldest and best known peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, released a paper highlighting the realised risks that unconventional shale gas extraction poses to public human health.


The Lancet states that despite scientific study of the health effects of fracking being in its infancy, “findings suggest that this form of extraction might increase health risks compared with conventional oil and gas extraction [due to] larger surface footprints of fracking sites; their close proximity to locations where people live, work and play; and the need to transport and store large volumes of materials.”

The article further states that investigation into unconventional shale gas extraction in the USA has shown that, “risks of environmental contamination occur at all stages in the development of shale gas extraction.”

Problems with the structural integrity of the process, which is planned for county Fermanagh include: failure of well cement and casing, surface spills and leakage from above ground storage, gas emissions from gas processing equipment, and the large number of transport vehicles involved with transporting large volumes of chemicals.

The article draws attention and concern to detrimental health effects locally and globally. Locally, environmental contaminants such as volatile organic compounds, tropospheric ozone, diesel particulate matter, benzene, hydrocarbons, endocrine disrupting chemicals and heavy metals.

Source: aljazeera.com
The practice of unconventional shale gas extraction, otherwise known as fracking, has drawn criticism as a result of the negative impacts on human health and the environment. (Image source: aljazeera.com)

Globally, environmental threats to public health is the “contribution of shale gas extraction to green house gas emissions, and thus, climate change.”

In conclusion, the Lancet have recommended the implementation of Health Impact Assessments (HIA) that take into consideration not only public health risks during development of unconventional shale gas extraction, but the legacy left for public health over the long term also.

If you wish to read the peer reviewed article titled, “The health implications of fracking”, click here.

British Medical Journal criticises safety of fracking

The world renowned British Medical Journal(BMJ) has strongly criticised false assurances of safety given by the recent Public Health of England report which opined that whilst unconventional shale gas extraction posed a risk to public human health, it would not pose a health threat to humans on the European side of the Atlantic.


The BMJ article, penned by Adam Law (Cornell Medical College), Jake Hays (PSE Health Energy), Seth B Shonkeff (PSE Health Energy) and Madelon Finkel (Cornell Medical College), draw attention to the fact that whilst the PHE Report acknowledges a real risk to public health, as shown by existing scientific research, the claim made by the report that the health risks will not exist for citizens of the UK and Ireland are theoretical at best.

“To the extent that they are technically and economically feasible, risk reduction technologies that mitigate adverse health outcomes should be deployed. However reviewing the public health aspects of the development of the shale gas industry requires more than merely gesturing to technological improvements that lack empirical data on their effectiveness in the real world. The optimism that fail-safe engineering solutions can ensure safe shale gas development may result more from a triumph of marketing than a demonstration of experience.”

oil fracturing drilling rig at dusk
oil fracturing drilling rig at dusk

The BMJ continues: “The [PHE] review appropriately acknowledges differences in geology and regulation between the United States and the United Kingdom. Yet in a leap of faith unsubstantiated by scientific evidence, its authors suggest that many of the environmental and public health problems experienced in the US would probably not apply to the UK. Unfortunately the conclusion that shale gas operations present a low risk to public health is not substantiated by literature.”

“Furthermore, the [PHE] report incorrectly assumes that many of the reported problems experienced in the US are the result of a poor regulatory environment. This position ignores many of the inherent risks of the industry that no amount of regulation can sufficiently remedy, such as well casing, cement failures, and accidental spillage of waste water. There is no reason to believe that these problems would be different in the UK, and the report provides little evidence to the contrary, despite repeated assertions that regulations will ensure safe development of shale gas extraction.”

The BMJ also draws attention to the fact that unconventional shale gas extraction, on this side of the atlantic, will be taking place in more densely populated areas, than usually seen in the US.

In conclusion the BMJ state that: “Rigorous, quantitative epidemiological research, is needed to assess the risks to public health, and data are just starting to emerge.”

To read the BMJ article in full, click here.

Public Consultation of Planning Process N.I.

The Department of Environment for Northern Ireland is holding Public Consultation on their Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS).

Consultation closes on the 29th of April 2014.


The benefit of this consultation is the provision of the opportunity for citizens, County Fermanagh and beyond, to have an input into the planning process which may have an effect on planning parameters for any and all applications, including Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, also refered to as hydraulic fracking or hydraulic fracturing.

In the words of the DoE:

“Existing planning policies are currently detailed and operational in nature.  However, in preparing for the introduction of the two-tier planning system, it is intended that the consolidated planning policy document will be much more strategic in its focus, simpler and shorter. Key strategic policies will remain in place set out in the one document.

The SPPS will set out the core principles that planning authorities should observe in the formulation of local planning policy, the preparation of development plans and the exercise of development management functions.”

This consultation provides opportunity for local stakeholder involvement by all citizens, nationwide.

Included also, is consultation on the Strategic Environmental Assesment (SEA). This legislation is designed to gauge the likely impact and the pressures on the environment from any plans, programmes or projects which are likely to affect it.

If you wish to partake in the consultation, or want more information, you can do so here.

Your New Year resolution?

helpholly-3dFor over two years, the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network has been working to raise awareness of hydraulic fracturing, its side-effects and its implications for County Fermanagh and beyond. We’ve held public meetings, produced flyers, facilitated film showings, met with ministers, presented to organisations, reviewed reports, sold T-shirts, maintained web sites, written to newspapers and much more. Inevitably, during that period, some people have had to step down owing to work, family and other commitments. So we’re in need of new volunteers to help us continue with this vital work and ensure that the families, communities, businesses and wildlife of Fermanagh can continue to thrive. For, make no mistake, if we do nothing, fracking will certainly happen here.

So, why not make it your New Year resolution to help us in 2014? We especially need people with skills or experience in law, computers, writing, public relations and community organisation. If you could help out in any of these areas, we’d be delighted to hear from you. But don’t be put off if none of those are quite your thing – whatever your talents and background, from art to zoology, you can use them to keep Fermanagh clean, safe and frack-free for our children and our children’s children. Email us today at [email protected] and bask in the warm glow of knowing you’re doing your bit. What could be more festive than that?

A very happy Christmas and peaceful New Year to you all. Thank you for all your support and we look forward to hearing from you.

Images used under licence https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Help_Wanted.png?uselang=en-gb and from http://www.christmas.newarchaeology.com/christmas-holly-clipart.php

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.

Safety of fracking is far from assured


A letter to the Independent newspaper from the Director of the Centre for Public Health and Population Health Research, University of Stirling

You quote the Director of Public Health England’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards that produced the fracking report (1 November), saying: “The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated.” The minister responsible for fracking in England states: “The UK has the most robust regulatory regime in the world for shale gas and companies will only be granted permission to frack for shale if their operations are safe.” Low risk is of course not the same as safe.

There are major questions too about how a government committed to a deregulatory and reduced regulatory agenda, along with chopping budgets – and the resulting major job losses in agencies that have oversight of environmental pollution – will be capable of guaranteeing that fracking companies operate safely.

Also extraordinary is the minister’s unsubstantiated statement that the UK has the most robust regulatory regime for fracking. In other countries the exact chemicals used in fracking have been covered by commercial confidentiality and are not disclosed fully. So how can their risks be fully assessed and cleared for UK use?

The draft review itself does not provide information indicating it is a systematic review and provides minimal information about its method, rigour and results. Public health practitioners look for high-quality systematic reviews before accepting any conclusion about a lack of public health risk.

The review also notes many gaps and specifically excludes consideration of occupational health and safety and climate change. This is a very odd way of assessing public health threats and could for example lead to the impression that climate change does not impact on public health: something strongly refuted by those working in the field.

All in all, the report raises as many questions as it attempts to answer and most certainly does not show that fracking is safe, as the UK Government tries to assert.

Professor Andrew Watterson

Director of the Centre for Public Health and Population Health Research

University of Stirling


Letters: Safety of fracking is far from assured – Letters – Voices – The Independent.

We deserve better!

“We Deserve Better” all-Ireland fracking moratorium campaign launched.

A new North-South “We Deserve Better” campaign is being launched today in Enniskillen with the aim of stopping on-shore oil/gas exploration drilling or fracking in Northern Ireland. The campaign is directed at the Northern Ireland politicians and aims to get them to follow the example of Ministers Pat Rabbitte and Fergus O’Dowd in putting a stay on exploration while the joint North-South Government research into the environmental impacts of fracking is being carried out. The campaign initially asks all citizens, North and South, to email Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness (First Minister and Deputy First Minister) with a strong message.


Dr Carroll O’Dolan from Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) stated:
“Given that the research study is a north-south initiative and is actually publicised as being an all-Ireland study, it is completely unacceptable that the Northern Ireland Executive has not suspended the licencing process and halted the work programmes of all exploratory companies in line with the Dublin government. Fracking is associated with a high risk of environmental contamination and has not been proven to be safe in the long term.”

“The situation is very serious, “ said Dr Aedín McLoughlin of Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI). “We in the South have successfully lobbied for an effective moratorium on exploration for 2 years. However, the Northern authorities have not followed suit and Tamboran have publicly stated they plan to start drilling later this year in an area in Fermanagh only six kilometres from the border. What is the point in stopping exploration in Leitrim if it is to go ahead in Fermanagh, part of the same shale area? Water knows no borders, especially in the Lakelands of Fermanagh & Leitrim! And why should the people of Northern Ireland not be given the same protection as people in the South?”

“This campaign is a joint initiative between FFAN [North] & GEAI [South]. We want it to be a really strong campaign and to have thousands of emails reaching Robinson and McGuinness immediately. This will be followed up by a letter-writing campaign to be directed at all politicians, North and South. We see this as a necessary step on the road to a long term moratorium on fracking in Ireland.”

For more details and to get involved, visit our We deserve better! page here.