RSPB warns Northern Ireland not to push ahead with fracking

The RSPB, the largest conservation charity in Europe, has joined with other concerned organisations to warn the Northern Ireland Executive of the dangers of fracking.  They say:

‘Conservation charity the RSPB and two other leading environmental organisations are warning the Northern Ireland Executive not to push ahead with ‘fracking’ (a controversial method to extract gas) until sufficient evidence shows that it is safe to do so.

In County Fermanagh, the idyllic surroundings for the G8 summit, a licence has already been issued to explore for shale gas, but it is still unclear what the economic, social and environmental impact will be.

The RSPB, Friends of the Earth (FOE) and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH) are deeply concerned about the environmental and health risks posed by ‘fracking’. The group believe more research is needed to understand the extent and impact of fracking on this beautiful habitat. John Martin, RSPB, stated that “Shale gas exploration and extraction should only be allowed within a strict regulatory and policy framework that is fit for purpose, and in Northern Ireland this does not exist.” In addition, Mr Martin continued “we believe that an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should be required for all developments here. This has not been the case for other UK sites and problems have followed.”

Co Fermanagh is known for its excellent agricultural produce and wonderful natural heritage which attracts valuable spend from tourists travelling here from around the world. Much of the local economy has been built around this and as yet it is not known what impact fracking will have on these rich natural assets. Declan Alison, FOE stated “2050 is the cut-off date given by Tamboran, the company issued with the licence for exploration. No provision is given by the company on what will happen next but as temporary exploitation, shale gas is not an answer to economic uncertainty in the long term.”

A 2007 study commissioned on behalf of nine leading NGOs and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency found that economic activities relating to the environment contributed over half a billion to our local economy and the equivalent of over 32,000 jobs. “It would be foolish to threaten this already existing green economy in such uncertain times”, concluded Mr Alison.

The controversial method involves geological risks and can be responsible for triggering earthquakes as happened in Lancashire. Fermanagh has a unique geology which is rich in caves (map in annex): the group believe the seismic risk associated with fracking must be fully assessed as this could introduce unnecessary risks.

“Shale gas will also endanger NI’s ability to deliver on its climate change commitments within the UK Climate Act3 and move towards a green economy added Gary McFarlane of CIEH and Chair of Stop Climate Chaos NI. “Northern Ireland has some of the best features nature has to offer- wind, wave and tidal. These invaluable assets should be the future of the NI green economy and developing renewable energy could create thousands of new jobs”.

France, Bulgaria and South Africa have suspended the search for shale gas until research uncovers the potential long-term impacts on human health and the environment.’


Read the full statement with diagrams here, and see the accompanying map of the licence area, its water catchment and important nature conservation areas here.

RSPB opposed to fracking

The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has spoken out forcefully against the use of fracking and extraction of shale gas in our current situation.  The highly respected and authoritative charity has pointed to the dangers of groundwater pollution, methane leakage, habitat loss, worsened climate change and loss of biodiversity as some of the major reasons why this would not be a positive step forward for either our native birds or ourselves.

If you agree with the RSPB, please take a few moments to let your elected representatives know how you feel.  Click here to find out how easy it is.

The full briefing is as follows:

RSPB External Position on Shale Gas

The RSPB is very concerned that unconventional gas developments are currently not regulated strongly enough to ensure that the potential environmental impacts are properly addressed.  The most significant risks that have not been adequately examined to date are that of accidental pollution of groundwater and methane leakage.  It is imperative that these risks are assessed and appropriately mitigated.  This will amost certainly require Government to amend or produce legislation.

Direct habitat loss is also a very significant concern in priority habitat areas, including designated and functionally-related sites.  It is important to note that both the individual footprint and cumulative impact of these sites could be significant, leading to habitat loss and fragmentation.

Furthermore, the RSPB does not think that developing the UK’s unconventional gas resources is compatible with its commitments on climate change and biodiversity protection.  If the UK is to meet its climate change commitments, we cannot allow a new ‘dash for gas’ that would lock us into high emissions for decades to come.  Until CCS technology to capture and bury carbon dioxide emissions is proven, further investment in gas-fired electricity is very risky.  Therefore, the Government must clearly show how new investment in gas at the level currently proposed is compatible with our short and long-term carbon targets.

John Martin, RSPB Northern Ireland





A reminder …

… of the unparalleled beauty of County Fermanagh*, the unique landscape which underpins our healthy tourism and agriculture businesses, provides us with clean water, air and soil and brings to both local people and visitors endless sources of adventure, observation and contemplation.

*Some of the pictures show our neighbour County Leitrim, also licensed for the same fracking operation.

All photographs copyright Stephen Carson, not to be reproduced without permission.

Areas of Special Scientific Interest 1: Lough Melvin

County Fermanagh, as its proud residents and delighted visitors know, is a region of extraordinary beauty with unique landscapes and unrivalled habitats for rare species of wildlife and plants. This link takes you to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s list of Areas of Special Scientific Interest in the county, many  of them in West Fermanagh, in or close to the area where shale gas extraction is planned.

The photograph on the left shows Lough Melvin, about which the Agency writes:

“Lough Melvin is a large mesotrophic lough of high scientific interest for its flora and fauna.The ASSI includes the open waters of the lough in addition to a range of associated wetland and terrestrial communities.

Habitats include swamp communities, boulder and rock shore, fen, woodland and species-rich grassland. This wide range of habitats is reflected in the diversity of plant and animal communities present.
Plants with a restricted distribution in the British isles include lesser meadow-rue, chaffweed, fragrant agrimony, upland enchanter’s-nightshade, northern bedstraw, slender-leaved pondweed and water lobelia.
Blue-eyed-grass and globeflower are of particular note and occur on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

The waters of the lough are unpolluted and in a relatively pristine state and support a unique salmonid fish community which dates back to the end of the last Ice Age. Three distinct sub-species of trout are found in Lough Melvin : sonaghen, gillaroo and ferox; providing one of the few examples of a once widespread situation of sympatric populations.
There are also stocks of the rare Atlantic salmon which is listed in Annex II of the EC Habitats and Species Directive and the Arctic charr, an Irish Red Data species.”

This is, of course, just one of the many “protected areas” within the bounds of the licence granted to Tamboran Resources. We’ll be featuring more of them in future posts. Meanwhile, if you’re concerned at the prospect of hydraulic fracturing here, please read our “What can I do?” page and think about signing the petition to the Northern Ireland Assembly.





Curlews, bats and melancholy thistles …

As many people are becoming aware, the area in which hydraulic fracturing is planned includes the Marble Arch Caves Geopark, one of less than sixty designated geoparks in the world, selected for their exceptional geological heritage and natural landscape.  Within the Geopark are eight Special Areas of Conservation, at least eighteen Areas of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Preservation.

Sonya O’Dwyer Oldham has prepared notes and a presentation about the area, its geology, flora and fauna and has kindly made this available to users of the frackaware site.

Her presentation shows us the landscape, which includes blanket bogs, turloughs, limestone pavement and karst underground cave systems and the beautiful, scarce and endangered species of plants and animals which live there. Rare butterflies, bats, otters, golden plovers, fish whose species dates back to the Ice Age, the evocatively named melancholy thistle, the unique cave dwelling water beetles of Boho, the Irish damselfly, the curlew and many more depend upon these habitats for their home. In many cases these are the only remaining populations of their species within Northern Ireland, and sometimes the only known examples in the world.

You can see Sonya’s presentation in Open Office or Powerpoint formats or the notes only (without pictures) on our Documents page (as item 11).

Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN)