A single issue, non-affiliated, cross-community network of local people with a peaceful ethos and a positive vision for our county's development, working to raise awareness of the risks associated with shale gas extraction.
Fracking is still being considered by the NI executive and our health is again at stake. Currently the Minister for the Economy is involved in a strategic review of petroleum licensing in Northern Ireland. If the review decides to allow licensing to go ahead this means that Fracking in Fermanagh may again rear its ugly head. Fracking goes by many names including unconventional hydrocarbon extraction. And to make matters worse the FODC is proposing to ‘water down’ the wording in the draft local development plan [LDP] that protects us against fracking.
The current wording [MIN04 on page 127] states “The council will not permit unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until it is proved that there would be no adverse effects on the environment or public health”. The council now wants to change the second half of this sentence to ‘until there is robust evidence on all associated impacts on the environment and human health’. This is obviously a much weaker protection and leaves open the unacceptable possibility that the council can then try to regulate these ‘associated impacts’. Public health must be clearly written into our LDP when it comes to fracking.
There is a short consultation process, finishing on 11 Sept, where FODC residents can comment on these proposed changes to the draft LDP. Please send in your comment/ submission objecting to this change of wording and help protect our health, our families and the environment. For a template to send to FODC before Friday 11. Sept 2020 see below.
Subject: proposed changes to the Fermanagh & Omagh District Council [FODC] Local Development Plan [LDP] 2030 Draft plan [published in October 2018]. The proposed changes to the LDP were published in July 2020.
Specifically I object to the proposed change to the Mineral section [MIN 04]
Currently in the 2018 LDP draft it states on page 127 ‘The local council will not permit unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until it is proved that there would be no adverse effects on the environment or public health’. The proposed change is to alter the above sentence to ‘The local council will not permit unconventional hydrocarbon extraction until there is robust evidence on all associated impacts on the environment and human health’.
Unconventional hydrocarbon extraction [UHE] goes under many names including fracking.
I object to any changes of MIN 04  for the following reasons.
1. The term ‘robust evidence on all associated impacts’ leaves open the possibility that despite the evidence of negative impacts on human health and the environment the FODC may still decide to allow UHE. This is possible as the change in wording allows the fracking industry and/or FODC to argue that regulation ‘of the associated impacts’ is possible. Very strong evidence from the USA has shown time and again that regulation of fracking does not work and people’s health deteriorates. I insist the original sentence remains unaltered. Public Health is central to any long term plan for our communities and must be explicitly included in the LDP with regards to UHE.
2. In the ‘Summary of Issue/ Justification’ box for the above proposed change to the FODC LDP wording it states ‘to reflect SPPS’. The SPPS [Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland published in 2015] is an important document and states that the SPPS should ‘be taken into account’ when local plans are drawn up. This does not mean that the FODC are not allowed to choose its own slightly different wording where appropriate. Indeed in the introduction to the SPPS document the Minister stated the vision of the SPPS was simple; to improve well-being for the people, no compromising on environmental standards and creating places where communities can flourish now and into the future. If Public Health is not explicitly written into the FODC LDP then the SPPS will not fulfil the goals as set out above by the Minister.
3. There is a huge increase in high quality peer reviewed evidence, year on year, of the definitive harm to Public health and the environment that unconventional hydrocarbon extraction causes. Thus statements of even two years ago let alone five years ago have been superseded by the evidence. See www.concernedhealthny.org/compendium compiled by USA physicians relating to the extensive harm to both Public Health and the environment due to UHE. A court ruling in the UK last year [the Dove Judgement www.frackfreeunited.co.uk/fracking-unlawful] states that National and Local Government departments can and must adapt their plans to take account of current evidence of Public health harm and/ or climate damage even if their new adaptations appear to contradict existing planning policies. To put it simply: if the evidence changes and becomes more definitive then plans [including the FODC LDP] should reflect these changes, irrespective of what older, out-of-date Government documents say.
The Irish Government still has a ban on fracking but is happy to go ahead with the import of fracked LNG [liquid nitrogen gas] from the USA. Thus they are ‘out-sourcing’ their fracked gas but never-the-less still causing ill health and refusing to accept the climate change emergency is already happening.
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, we finally have an Executive again. The Department of Economy for Northern Ireland intends to undertake a review of both its Minerals and Petroleum licensing regimes and the Minister has approved the procurement of independent research into both topics. This is likely to be completed over the next six to nine months. It is welcomed that this review is happening, the public were already promised in the past, via the ‘all island study’ that health impacts of fracking would be considered. However health was not fully considered in that study. Government Departments have a history of trying to ‘shut out and close down’ the health issues relating to fracking. They do this by creating artificially narrow definitions of health. It is vital that Public Health is at the heart of future reviews and decision-making. See CHPNY health compendium at http://concernedhealthny.org
We [FFAN and the wider public] need to canvass all the Stormont parties on what is their position with regards to onshore petroleum exploration and extraction in Northern Ireland. We insist that our MLAs have the health implications of fracking as outlined by the ‘CHPNY compendium’ centre-stage to Ministers licensing review. If health is genuinely central to the review, as it must be, then it is obvious that fracking must be banned in Northern Ireland.
Extraction of fossil fuels has no place in the third decade of the 21st century, so exploration should not even be an option. We should not waste energy [pardon the pun] and money on a dying industry. Instead we must use our limited time to ensure that our Executive moves a rapidly to a low carbon economy. To this end FFAN encourage all sign the petition at: https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/no-fracking-in-northern-ireland
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.
Below is the letter sent by FFAN this week to the Fermanagh Herald & Impartial Reporter [local newspapers].
I am writing to your paper regarding the petroleum exploration license consultation document PLA2/16 recently published by the Department for the Economy [DoE]. This consultation proposes plans to frack up to half of Fermanagh and can be viewed at www.economy-ni.gov.uk
Yes; Tamboran are back, unfortunately. The people of Fermanagh rejected their spurious claims of wealth before and we won the argument. Unfortunately the civil servants of Northern Ireland have decided to give Tamboran another go at fracking in our County. This in not acceptable; fracking in all its different names & guises to extract methane gas from underground rocks is very damaging, especially to human health. People can access the highly regarded USA medical compendium about the health risks and impacts of fracking on humans at www.concernedhealthny.org. The pollution of our air and water not only damages our health but it will seriously reduce the jobs in our farming, tourism & fishing sectors.
Past experience shows the jobs created will not be in the thousands, as stated by Tamboran, but only a few dozen as has been shown in other countries that have been fracked. Methane is 30 times [3000%] more potent as a green house gas than carbon dioxide; this is not compatible with the necessity to move quickly away from fossil fuels in the next two decades.
If the DoE grant the initial five year license then Tamboran can, at the end of that five years request another five years extension which the DoE cannot decline if the conditions of the first license have been met. Then in another five years Tamboran can request a twenty year extension which again is almost certain to be approved, under current regulations. Thus if they get their ‘foot in the door’ Tamboran could be polluting Fermanagh until 2050, while the rest of the world is aiming to be fossil fuel free.
FFAN [Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network] ask all people of Fermanagh to reply to this consultation document by expressing their strong opposition to fracking. The closing date for replies is 5th July. If you require any background details to help compose your response please check out our website www.frackaware.com.
Dr Carroll O’Dolan. MRCGP Health spokesperson for FFAN .”
No Ministerial input or democratic oversight has been involved in allowing the application to progress this far.
Licences automatically extended (provided licensee follows conditions etc) from initial 5 years to second 5 years and then to 20 years of production
Proper public consultation isn’t a concession any more, but our right (e.g. under Aarhus Convention), yet this consultation process is currently not statutory and thus can still be ignored.
Brexit uncertainties especially regarding environmental regulation, monitoring, enforcement
Tamboran’s license application is very brief and dated Sept 2016. It doesn’t address any specific environmental issues. Meanwhile DfE emphasises that it ‘does not lead’ on environmental matters, not even getting the current name of the relevant department correct.
Financial – This is supposed to be a key criterion, yet we have few details about Tamboran’s current status.
Technical – This current application from Tamboran is full of redacted information so we, the public, are unable to make a proper decision on their full intentions.
No mention of cross-border issues despite the drilling area bordering the Republic of Ireland[Espoo Convention].
Lack of SEA [Strategic Environmental Assessment].
Economic impact – claims of thousands of in/direct jobs . No previous fracked areas have shown this to be true.
Ecologically important sites – loughs, mountains, forests, Marble Arch, ASSIs etc – map covers huge area of Fermanagh up to border & lough shores.
What do the industry’s words and phrases really mean?
‘Conventional’ gas or oil is held between layers of rock and can be extracted quite easily by drilling a normal well.
‘Unconventional’ gas or oil is trapped tight in small holes and cracks inside certain rocks, so it can’t be extracted by ordinary drilling. To get at the gas or oil the drilling companies have to shatter the rock.
Shale is a sedimentary rock which contains this ‘unconventional’ gas (methane). In Fermanagh the shale layer is quite close to the surface, at around 500 – 1200 metres underground. In other countries, shale containing gas tends to be much deeper, e.g. in the USA it is usually between 2500 and 4000 metres below the surface.
Traditional fracking is a technique used since the 1940s to flush out conventional gas and oil, typically using around 80,000 gallons of water per ‘frack’. It was used in Fermanagh in the 1980s and in 2001 on a few test wells.
High volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) is a new technique for extracting
‘unconventional’ oil and gas. It was first used in the early 2000s but has only been commonly used in the USA since 2005. Unlike traditional fracking, it uses immense quantities of water (around a million gallons per ‘frack’) and very high pressure. This is the technique proposed for extracting shale gas in Fermanagh.
Slickwater or fracking fluid is the mixture of water, sand and chemicals pumped at high pressure down well bores (pipes) to shatter the rock beneath. Some of the methane inside the rock will escape into these pipes and up to the surface.
Horizontal drilling is used with HVHF to allow operators to frack large underground areas.
Multi-well pads allow the operators to drill several wells on a single site, with horizontal bores extending in all directions. The plan for Fermanagh is to have at least sixty of these sites, each with twenty-four wells.
Flowback fluid is the liquid left after the fracking process – a mixture of fracking fluid, high concentrations of salt and other substances such as heavy metals and benzene. Some of this will stay underground and some will return to the surface.
FFAN General Data Protection Regulation [GDPR] Policy. May 2018.
Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network [FFAN] is compliant with the GDPR that came into effect on 25 May 2018. GDPR governs how organisations manage the personal details/data that they hold on individuals, and why FFAN holds such details.
Usual data held by FFAN will be a maximum of:
Title [Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms or other]
First Name & Surname
Postal address & phone number [mobile and/ or landline number]
Purpose of data:
To ensure an effective system for communication with FFAN members and others (supporters, FODC councillors & civil servants, local & national politicians, journalists and other relevant individuals & organisations) to allow and assist with FFANs Visions, Aims & Values.
The information will be held by the FFAN Secretary or other delegated FFAN committee members.
All information/contact details held by FFAN will be made available to the individual to which it relates when requested, and will be amended or deleted when the individual so requests. This can be done by emailing the secretary of FFAN with details of any amendments or emailing to the FFAN Secretary the words ‘Unsubscribe me’.
The information will be used solely for the purpose of circulating information about FFAN business and associated information including events organised by others.
FFAN contact data will be held on password protected systems.
Below is a typical monthly roundup of events relating to Fracking published by the excellent local anti-fracking group Marcellus Outreach Butler (www.marcellusoutreachbutler.org) – it reflects daily life in an active fracking area. By understanding what life is like in these damaged communities, we will be better informed when it comes to dealing ‘again’ with the pressures of shale gas extraction in Co. Fermanagh.
Butler County Well Count
Total Number of Wells: 625
Total Well Pads: 205
Around the County
CONNOQUENESSING TWP(Township)—Connoquenessing Elementary School was evacuated on April 17 due to an odor of natural gas in the building. The students were evacuated at 10 AM and sent to the Intermediate High School in Butler Township. Peoples TWP was called to find the source of the leak, but inspectors were unable to find any leaking gas lines in or around the building. Peoples blamed the odor on nearby fracking operations and declared that it was safe (?) for students to return to the school, which they did at 1:15 PM. The distinct rotten-egg smell of natural gas is not naturally present in the gas, but rather is a chemical called mercaptan that is added before being sent into residential lines. However, Duquesne University biologist Dr. John Stolz says that some of the compounds present in “wet gas,” which is what lies under Butler County, give off a similar odor, so it is more than plausible that fracking is responsible. Rex Energy’s Shipley well pad is located a mere 1,750 feet from the school in Connoquenessing borough.
BUTLER TWP—Residents have recently reported hearing loud noises, seemingly coming from nowhere. Following an on-the-ground report on April 14, it was determined that the noise is emanating from the AK Steel A pad on Schaffner Road, located between the AK Steel plant and the Highfield neighborhood. The XTO pad, located on a property zoned single-family residential and surrounded by houses, is currently in the fracking stage. Residents over a mile away can hear it, likening the sound to a freight train going past. The noise is still occurring as of this writing.
PROSPECT BORO—XTO applied for permits for the first well pad within borough boundaries on April 18. The Coretsky well pad would be located on Crown Hill Road, just west of Route 528, south of the intersection of 528 and 488. If approved, the well pad would house two wells. It will be less than one mile from Moraine Elementary School and downtown Prospect.
WINFIELD TWP—Two new well pads were permitted in the township at the end of March, both on Marwood Road. The first, permitted on March 21, is the PER W34 pad, located just east of Spiker Road on Marwood. It will house one well. The other, permitted on March 23, is the PER W32 pad located on Bear Creek Road just south of Marwood and will house two wells. Both pads belong to Penn Energy.
SLIPPERY ROCK TWP—MOB hosted an electric car show on April 21 as part of the Macoskey Center’s Earth Fest at the center on SRU’s campus. Throughout the day, a Chevrolet Volt, a Chevrolet Bolt, a Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, a Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid minivan, a Tesla Model 3, two Tesla Model S’s, and even a 2003 Toyota RAV-4 EV were on hand for visitors to sit in and learn more about.
Across Penn’s Woods
COUDERSPORT—JKLM Energy has withdrawn from a controversial frack-waste treatment plant at the headwaters of the Allegheny River in Potter County. The Pittsburgh-based company had proposed a plant next to the Coudersport municipal sewage plant that would have “treated” wastewater produced by fracking, and then release it into the Allegheny River, which at that point is no wider than our own Connoquenessing Creek. The Allegheny turns north and heads into New York for about 15 miles before turning back into Pennsylvania. The Seneca Nation reservation occupies almost the entire length of the New York part of the river, and they objected fiercely to the plan, which would have threatened their drinking water. JKLM’s voluntary withdrawal came after Coudersport borough council rejected the plan. Read more here.
PENN-TRAFFORD—A citizen’s group in Westmoreland County has filed suit to reverse a zoning ordinance passed in 2016 by Penn Township, Westmoreland County that designated special “mineral extraction overlays.” Protect PT has challenged the ordinance in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court under Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which guarantees environmental rights to the citizens of the commonwealth. Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, an environmental engineer from Cornell University, was among the witnesses called by Protect PT, as were Dr. Ned Ketyer, a Pittsburgh pediatrician, and Tom Daniels, a land use expert from the University of Pennsylvania. Read more here.
LANCASTER—A new Franklin & Marshall College/StateImpact Pennsylvania poll shows that more people are opposed to fracking in Pennsylvania than in 2014. The new poll shows that 50 percent of respondents, no longer a majority, support fracking in Pennsylvania, while 42 percent do not. However, 55 percent said that the environmental risks of fracking outweighed its potential economic benefits, while only 30 percent said the economic benefit outweighed the risk. Read more here.
MARIETTA—704 pounds of dynamite was stolen from a construction site for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Lebanon County. Williams Partners, which is building the highly-contested pipeline in eastern Pennsylvania, reported that 16 cases of dynamite and 400 blasting caps were stolen during the weekend of April 14-15. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is investigating and has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Read more here.