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].

Northern Ireland politicians must support ban on oil and gas licenses or lose votes

Concerned community groups are stating the extreme urgency for NI politicians to ensure and guarantee a ban on oil and gas licenses in Northern Ireland [NI] or they will lose our votes. During this momentous month when the COP26 climate change conference is being held in Glasgow our own politicians are planning to undermine the very fabric of meaningful change. The NI Department of Economy [DfE] is presently in the final stages of bringing their petroleum policy to the NI assembly. This policy does not include the obvious and very necessary option of banning petroleum [oil and gas] licenses in Northern Ireland. Instead they are planning to issue licenses to two oil and gas [O&G] companies. Can you believe it?! But it is happening right now, under our very noses. We the people, for the people, can and must stop it! How? By our votes. We must tell the politicians that they will only keep our votes if they insist on a policy option that bans oil and gas petroleum licenses permanently from Northern Ireland. Our MLAs must then vote and pass this ban on petroleum licensing.

Remember that, due to our geology in NI, a petroleum license equals fracking; as there is no other commercial way to extract the natural gas here. O&G companies may say they will not use fracking during their exploration phase, but they have to use it during the extraction phase in order to make the process profitable. Methane is and remains a fossil fuel, it is not a “green” gas or a “clean” gas or a “transition fuel”. Methane (= natural gas) is 86 times more potent as a GHG [greenhouse gas] at damaging the climate than carbon dioxide/CO2. Any hydrogen produced by the O&G industry with the help of natural gas is fossil fuel hydrogen, and thus ‘dirty hydrogen’. Green hydrogen is not on their agenda. The latest IPCC report [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Aug 2021] is the most up to date and definitive research document relating to climate change and fossil fuels. That report states that we are already in a ‘code red for humanity’ and that the burning of fossil fuels must stop as quickly as possible. The DfE is not using the IPCC report, if they were then they would have to accept a ban on petroleum licensing is the only rational option.

Many other countries are faced with the huge difficulty of winding down their O&G industry and trying to create new jobs for these workers. Northern Ireland is in the bizarre situation of trying to start up from scratch an O&G industry in the middle of the climate emergency! If the petroleum licenses are granted now, it is already foreseeable that in a few years’ time the NI Executive will have to try to limit/ curtail the O&G industry in order to achieve binding net-zero carbon targets. In such circumstances it is very likely the companies will cost the NI taxpayer billions of pounds in compensation by suing (and winning!) for loss of prospective earnings. That means you and I could end up paying the O&G companies and their shareholders, rather than our taxes going to fund our schools, hospitals and the future of our children and grandchildren.

The O&G industry is neither wanted nor needed in NI. They will ruin our very profitable agri-food and tourism business. Fracking has been shown in hundreds of high-quality research studies to be extremely damaging to both human health and animal health.

People often wonder how one individual can help prevent catastrophic climate change when such big players are involved. But democracy does matter and begins at home, here in NI. So let us use our votes wisely for the political parties that genuinely want to help us. Make it known to your MLAs that you are not willing to vote for a party that is planning to issue petroleum licenses.

We can ensure that COP26 is a success by starting right here and now in Northern Ireland. Vote for change, vote for a sustainable NI, vote for political parties that will ban these oil and gas petroleum licenses.

Thank you.

BFF [Belcoo Frack Free]
Farmers for Action
FFAN [Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network]
FoE NI [Friends of the Earth]
LAMP [Letterbreen and Mullaghdun Partnership]
Love Leitrim
YACNI [Youth Climate Association]

Petition to get MLAs to insist on a ministerial vote to ban petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland

The clocks are ticking and time is running out for the climate and our politicians. Our MLAs must now decide who they represent; either their constituents or the Oil & Gas [O&G] industry and their petroleum licenses. If MLAs vote for petroleum licenses, we will not vote for them.

Please sign the petition here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/say-no-to-oil-and-gas-in-northern-ireland/

FFAN have joined with several other concerned groups to get the Northern Ireland [NI] Executive to ban petroleum licensing. The Stormont vote by MLAs in 2019 for a moratorium on petroleum licensing is not legally binding. That legality can only come from a majority vote by the NI Executive Ministers. Currently, a ban is not one of the options on the Executives agenda.

Please sign the petition here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/say-no-to-oil-and-gas-in-northern-ireland/

Remember that, in NI, a petroleum license equals fracking. O&G companies may say they will not use fracking during their exploration phase, but they have to use it during the extraction phase in order to make the process profitable. Methane/Natural gas is a fossil fuel, it is not a green gas or a clean gas or a ‘transition fuel’. Methane is 86 times more potent as a GHG [greenhouse gas] at damaging the climate than CO2. The latest IPCC report [Intergovernmantal Panel on Climate Change Aug 2021] is the most definitive research document relating to climate change and fossil fuels. That report states that we are already in a ‘code red for humanity’ and the burning of fossil fuels should stop as quickly as possible.

Please sign the petition here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/say-no-to-oil-and-gas-in-northern-ireland/

Many other countries are faced with the huge difficulty of winding down their O&G industry and trying to create new jobs for those workers. Northern Ireland is in the bizarre situation of trying to start up, from scratch, an O&G industry in the middle of this climate emergency. The O&G industry is neither wanted or needed in NI. It is very likely these companies will cost the NI taxpayer billions of pounds in compensation. If they are granted petroleum licenses, then in a few years time the NI Executive may try to limit/ curtail the industry to achieve our net-zero carbon targets. Then the O&G companies are highly likely to sue, and win, against the NI Executive.

Please sign the petition here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/say-no-to-oil-and-gas-in-northern-ireland/

The text of the letter we wish you to sign is below:

Owing to their unique position in Executive, we call on Sinn Fein to ACT IMMEDIATELY to avert another cash-for-ash type scandal and avoid creating a right to sue taxpayers (in the form of Government).

Despite solid international scientific evidence the Dept of Economy refuses to suspend its 1960s policy and say no to onshore fossil fuel exploration and extraction in NI.

Their petroleum licensing policy options they plan to bring into the executive SOON may allow the Petroleum Licence applications for oil and gas PLA1/ 16 and PLA2 / 16 they already validated during Stormont suspension to become granted oil and gas onshore exploration and extraction licences. This will create a right to sue if industry cannot progress to explore. Any exploration carried out may create a further right to sue the government. A fracking ban may not stop any of this.

Industry will proceed to court with policy, licence and exploration on board and seek to have their extraction rights vindicated based on all The Executive allowed so far. This will be at the expense of our human rights as outlined in reports by the Irish Centre for Human Rights.

EVIDENCE is clear that this will also increase the risk of serious adverse impacts on health, environment, human rights, tourism, agriculture, NI economy and climate for NI and communities elsewhere vulnerable to climate change.

The failure to act now on petroleum licensing policy options will be extremely damaging, expensive, permanent and irreversible.

There is a strong lobby for fossil fuel extraction in the Dept of Economy. Several staff moved to work for Tamboran one of petroleum licence applicants. We believe our representation and democracy is at risk from their influence on, and control over evidence shown to elected representatives. Time is running out for democracy to function. MLAs must listen to and represent the community who elected and fund them now.

Please sign the petition here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/say-no-to-oil-and-gas-in-northern-ireland/

Everyone needs to act now signing and sharing this petition to protect all we value from damage and exploitation by those seeking personal financial profits at the expense of industry pollution costs for the community for generations to come. Evidence shows moving to renewable energy is both possible and essential now. This is what we need Michelle O’Neill and SF Ministers, and MLAs to do now:

1. Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill must write immediately to the Minister for the Economy Gordon Lyons and demand to know if a ban on Petroleum Licensing is going to be one of the options brought by Department for the Economy (DfE) into the Executive. If a ban on petroleum licensing is not one of the options, then we need this appalling move by DfE stopped and blocked by Michelle O’Neill. She must use her power as Deputy First Minister, who must agree the Executive agenda, to not agree to allow it onto the executive agenda. She must not allow it into the executive unless Sinn Fein MLAs together with UUP and Alliance Ministers have the power in the Executive to ban petroleum licensing at that point. DfE will bring only one policy option to public consultation. It must be a ban on petroleum licensing. Sinn Fein must Stop it, block it or ban it now or a new oil and gas extraction industry will become unstoppable.

2. Sinn Féin must bring forward amendments to both climate bills to ban petroleum licensing as per the assembly motion they supported. IPCC evidence and UN demands are as per SF policy – ‘No new fossil fuel exploration’. The UN said ‘No Excuses!’ Actions speak louder than words.

3. Respect our human right for information regarding health and environmental matters, crucial to the protection of all other rights to clean air and water, health, life, food and a clean, safe, healthy environment. Demand the release of the Hatch report which is being used by the Dept to form policy options and that DfE are refusing to release. Allow the community to feedback on Hatch report with evidence on omissions or anything misleading before any preferred policy option is brought to the executive. This industry cannot be regulated, managed or made safe. Suppression of information by our civil service departments only fosters distrust of government and our elected representatives making decisions based on secret reports. Without that transparency Sinn Fein and the Department are gambling behind closed doors with our rights to a clean and green environment, with our public health and permanent damage to our sustainable tourism and agriculture industries.

4. This is simply requesting that SF follow their policy to keep fossil fuels in the ground and the SF supported motion in assembly to ban petroleum licensing. We need SF to keep their promises and represent the community and respect our human rights. Implementation is the true test of policy. Sinn Fein need to make a commitment and act now so they do not compromise on protecting communities from oil and gas extraction industries.

Please sign the petition here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/say-no-to-oil-and-gas-in-northern-ireland/

Thank you. FFAN Oct 2021

Joint statement regarding the IPCC report on our climate emergency

We need to talk about the Northern Ireland oil & gas policy, especially in light of the IPCC report out this month. August 2021

Petroleum licensing is how our oil and gas resources are accessed by private companies and/or the Government. All the oil and gas in Northern Ireland is vested in the Department for the Economy [DfE], who, may grant a licence to a company like Tamboran or EHA to explore for and then to extract petroleum (i.e. oil and gas).

The policy, under which the Department works, is political guidance for their decision-making. The policy dates from the Faulkner Government of the 1960s and today is expressed as below, DfE’s policy objective is to maximise successful and expeditious exploration and exploitation of Northern Ireland’s oil and gas resources, and all decisions will be made with regard to that policy. The Petroleum (Production) Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 gives DfE discretion to decide whether or not to grant a Petroleum Licence and, if so, to whom and on what conditions. DfE has full discretion to make decisions on applications for Petroleum Licences, but will make them in line with the legislation, published policies, objectives and criteria. DfE is also entitled to refuse to grant a Petroleum Licence, but must ensure that, in doing so, it does not discriminate unfairly against any one applicant.

The above comes from the document entitled “how-the-department-assesses-petroleum-licence-applications” which was part of the bundle of documents giving the public information during the 2019 consultations on Tamboran’s and EHA’s petroleum licence applications.

The wording of the policy is very strong and unless this policy is changed then the Executive / Department leaves itself open to legal challenge if it decides not to grant a licence.

The Executive are to hold a special meeting in relation to climate change in light of the recent IPCC report. That report is very clear that we must tackle Methane emissions as well as CO2 emissions. The biggest contributor to the rise in Methane emissions globally recently has been the oil and gas industry. The Oil and Gas industry are keen to point the finger at Agriculture. There will be much more of this to come.

Here, in Northern Ireland, we don’t yet have an oil and gas industry. We don’t yet have a competitor to Agriculture in relation to methane emissions. We need the Executive to change policy and to stop the promotion of oil and gas exploration and extraction. We need the Executive to say they will no longer support the creation of an oil and gas industry in Northern Ireland.

We need different policy in place and we need action taking now.

The Minister for the Economy may object and highlight that his Department are using the Hatch report for policy proposals, but the Executive need to be objective in their decision-making. The Hatch report is being written by an Oil and Gas consultancy. The IPCC report is written by and then reviewed by the world’s leading climatologists. It has been reviewed by the UK Government. If the Executive parties are to have any credence with their climate policies, they must act now, immediately to change this policy. Anything less and it is pure greenwash, and they are going to have to explain their reasoning, along with their party’s oil and gas policy, to the electorate in the near future.

It is very simple. Words such as below now need to come from the Northern Ireland Executive.

“The Northern Ireland Executive has reversed the policy in relation to an indigenous oil and gas industry. In light of the IPCC report, and in line with the need for action to curb emissions and protect our planet, we no longer support the exploration for, development of, or extraction of Northern Ireland’s oil and gas resources. It is now policy that we will leave those resources in the ground.”

Belcoo Frack Free, LAMP, Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network, Love Leitrim & Safety before LNG.

Press Release: Don’t make Fermanagh a ‘Sacrifice Zone’ to fracking

Community campaigners and Extinction Rebellion Northern Ireland have pleaded with politicians not to make Fermanagh a ‘Sacrifice Zone’ to fracking. The call was made following a photo shoot at Lough Melvin in Garrison involving one of the iconic symbols of the Extinction Rebellion movement, the ‘Red Rebels’. The lone rebel who represents a call to act against climate change and biodiversity collapse in their distinctive flowing red cloak made an appearance on the shore of the majestic Lough Melvin to draw attention to the threat of the fracking industry gaining a foothold there. The action was even more important as Garrison is one of the license areas under threat.

The Northern Ireland Department for the Economy study on fracking is due to be published imminently. Serious concerns have been raised previously about this study, including that the tender was awarded to a company with strong ties to the oil and gas industry and that there is already an overwhelming volume of peer reviewed scientific, medical and public health research that documents the negative impacts of fracking on communities and the climate. This includes the highly respected, annually updated Compendium of Scientific and Medical findings by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals New York (i)

There is a strong belief amongst community campaigners, who have been working on the issue for over a decade, that in light of the ever-growing availability of existing peer reviewed research on fracking that the new study commissioned by the Department for the Economy was unnecessary. Public opposition to licenses that will invariably result in fracking has been overwhelming. A day before the tender for the DFE study was awarded the Northern Ireland Assembly voted unanimously in support of an immediate moratorium on the issuing petroleum licenses. (Oct 13th 2020). There were also over 5,700 public submissions opposing the EHA and Tamboran license applications while Fermanagh and Omagh and District Council called for a ban on oil/gas prospecting in the DFI Strategic Planning Policy Statement. Over 80 NGO’s and groups including Friends of The Earth NI, Farmers For Action Coleraine, Belcoo GAA Club, and Youth Climate Association NI endorsed a call for an immediate ban on fracking. (ii)

Tom White of Belcoo Frack Free said

“The evidence is conclusive with regards to fracking and its risks to public health, the environment and the climate. We need the Executive to take the actions the Assembly gave them a mandate to do, namely enact the motion of October 13th and have an immediate moratorium on all petroleum licensing, while we wait for the legislative process to prohibit the granting of petroleum licences here. It’s crucial that our political leaders reflect the will of the people, act on our behalf, and remove the threats posed by this industry here in Fermanagh and across other areas of Northern Ireland. “

Dr Carroll O Dolan from the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network said

“The risks of this industry to our health, environment, climate, communities, jobs and prosperity is too high to allow these companies a foot hold in the province. We need the issuing of licenses to stop immediately. We are asking the public to get on to their politicians and ask for this.”

For more information or interview please contact

Tom White (Belcoo Frack Free)
0044 7747 010308

Dr Carroll O Dolan (Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network)

For further information

(i) https://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/

(ii) http://www.safetybeforelng.ie/pressreleases/pressrelease20201127GroundsForUrgentNIExecutiveBanOnFrackingAndDrilling.html

Emergency Fracking Threat in Northern Ireland

The threat of fracking in Northern Ireland is a very real and urgent one. While the Covid pandemic has been taking place there have been moves by the oil and gas industry, assisted by Northern Ireland officials to facilitate the licensing process.

Read more here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/emergency-fracking-threat-in-northern-ireland

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
General Practitioner.

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