Texas: $3 million fracking lawsuit upheld

Previously, we had reported upon the landmark 2014 fracking lawsuit in Texas, whereby the Parr family were awarded $3 million damages against Aruba Energy, for environmental pollution of the air, water and soils from Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction activities (UGEE) that proved to have detrimental impacts on the quality of the family’s health.

Parr

Since then, Aruba Energy appealed the decision. The appeal was rejected on June 19th 2014 by Judge Mark Greenberg, thereby upholding the law in favour of the Parr family.

In the original lawsuit filed, the Parr family had complained of nuisance problems that were caused by unconventional shale gas extraction operations including but not limited to: open sores around he eyes, nose and rest of body, permanent scarring, chronic nose bleeds, migranes, drowsiness, irregular heart beat, depression, ataxia, abdominal pains, arrhythmia, and anisocoria.

The Parr family is not the first family to bring an energy company to court over damages caused by unconventional shale gas extraction, however they are the first family to succeed in acquiring damages from an energy company in front of a court of law.

A beginner’s guide to fracking: 3 fracking and fishing

As local knowledge about the potential impacts of fracking grows, fishermen in Co. Fermanagh and beyond are becoming increasingly concerned that fracking poses a serious risk to the future of fishing in the county.

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Lough Melvin
Lough Melvin is recognised as a rare and delicate eco-system and has been designated as an ASSI and also a SAC and requires special protection.
– a game fishery with a ‘no stocking’ policy.
– one of the few remaining wild brown trout and salmon fisheries in Europe and home to a healthy migratory run of wild Atlantic Salmon.
– the only Lough in Northern Ireland to have a population of Arctic Char.
– home to three distinct species of trout – Sonaghan, Gilaroo anf Ferox.
Sonaghan is genetically unique to Lough Melvin and has inhabited these waters for over a million years. Research has shoown that the DNA imprint of the Sonaghan matched no other fish in the brown trout family anywhere in the world.

Lough MacNean
Lough MacNean is classified as a course fishery with excellent stocks of Bream, Perch, Rudd Roach Hybrids and Pike.
– Catches in excess of 20lbs recorded from Lough MacNean.
– It holds a stock of quality brown trout that run its two main rivers to spawn and reproduce ie. the blackwater and Glenfarne rivers.

Lough Erne
– The Erne system consists of Upper and Lower Lough Erne and has a world class reputation for course and game angling.
– Lower Lough Erne is a large expanse of water, over 25 miles long.
– Lower Lough Erne is famous for Mayfly fishing.
– Upper Lough Erne is one of teh finest pike fishing lakes in Europe and links to the Shannon system, the largest river system in the British Isles.

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Potential risks to fishing from fracking
– A network of 20 small loughs and 150 streams rivers extend over a radius of 25km from Lough Melvin and Lough MacNean catchment areas. Six km uphill from Lough Melvin is the centre of the frack zone.
– This network of waterways is the lifeline for fish stocks – eg salmon run these rivers to spawn and reproduce with the young fry residing in the rivers for two to three years.
– Millions fo gallons of water are required to frack a single well; where will where will the water come from to frack 1440 wells and where will it end up?
– Flow-back fluid from fracked wells will contain toxically high levels of salt and other chemicals. If this fluid leaks into surrounding streams and rivers there will be large scale, long term contamination.
– If spawning streams and rivers are contaminated, fish stocks and aquatic life will be killed. The diminished fish stocks and risk to indigenous species may be so severe that our lakes and rivers may never recover.

Fishing and the local economy
– Anglers come to Fermanagh from all over the world to enjoy a unique fishing experience in clean waters and tranquil rural setting.
– There are 4 major competitions held annually:
1) The classic Fishing Festival
2) The World Pairs Fishing Festival
3) The Pike Classic
4) The Lough Melvin Open Trout Angling Championship
Annually, these events attract 1000 anglers from across Europe to Fermanagh.
– Local clubs host a further 8-10 fishing competitions each year which bring significant benefits to rural areas.
– Almost 3000 angling licenses are sold in Co. Fermanagh annually, 85% of the total NI
sales, generating direct revenue in excess of 178,000GBP.
– In 2005, teh angling industry alone was identified as underpinning 778 full-time jobs in Fermanagh.

To download this information as a printable pdf, visit our flyers page.

Stormont to conduct research into fracking

It was reported by the Impartial Reporter that the Department of Environment shall conduct research into fracking.

FRACKING

The Impartial Reporter quoted Department of Environment Minister Mark H. Durkin:

“Fracking is a hugely important and controversial issue in Fermanagh especially but also right across the North and, indeed, the world. Therefore, it is vital that we carry out as much research as possible into the potential dangers and risks associated with it. That is why I have been keen for my Department to work with the EPA on this research programme.”

To read the article in full, click here.

Fracking rig blowout in morgan county, ohio

NBC4 have reported a blowout of a shale well that not only forced residents to move from their homes, but the 184 barrels of drilling mud that was lost, made its way into local waterways.

NBC4 reported: The drilling operation has been stopped dead in its tracks, as dozens of people from several federal, state and private organizations clean and remove the drilling fluids.

MORGAN

The US Environmental Protection Agency said in a pollution report, “a pocket of unexpected natural gas was encountered during the drilling leading to over-pressurization of the casing leading to the failure of the well head and release. Natural gas was also released causing an explosive atmosphere leading to dangerous working conditions and the evacuation of 7 residents from 3 homes adjacent to the site.”

NBC4 checked with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources who approve, permit and inspect all gas and oil drilling throughout the state. A little digging shows ODNR rules require a blowout preventer on oil and gas wells, which might have prevented the blowout and a containment pad big enough to hold a large spill.

To read the NBC4 article in full, click here.

Queen’s speech endorses fracking, circumvents UK trespass laws

The Guardian reported on the 4th of June, that the practice of unconventional shale gas extraction has been endorsed in the Queen’s speech, putting an end to the legal requirement that energy companies must notify homeowners when they drill under their land.

The Guardian writes: “The proposals in the speech, which sets out the legislative programme for the year and is the last before the 2015 general election, marks a further hardening of the Conservative party’s attitude against environmental measures.

Their coalition partners, the Lib Dems, see the survival of any zero-carbon home policy as a victory but failed to get other green proposals into the speech.

Current laws of trespass require land- and home-owners to give permission for shale gas and oil drilling under their land, but the government intends to end this requirement in order to speed up fracking. Drilling can extend up to 3km horizontally underground from a central well pad.”

To read the Guardian article in full, click here.

North carolina to penalise any one that discloses fracking chemicals

The state of North Carolina has set laws that allow energy companies mining for unconventional shale gas, to sue any party that discloses information on the chemicals used.

The Energy Modernisation Act, SB 786 (Act) was passed on the 15th of May this year was primarily sponsored by Senators Rucho, Newton and Brock.

FRACKING

Located on page ten of the Act, Section 7(a) makes an amendment to Article 27 Chapter 113 of the General Statutes stating that: “while confidential information must be maintained as such with the utmost care, for the protection of public health, safety, and the environment, the information should be immediately accessible to first responders and medical personnel in the event that the information is deemed necessary to address an emergency.”

Section 7(a), subsection (c) goes further to reveal that the only parties exempt from prosecution of disclosure penalties are:

1. The Division of Emergency Management of the Department of Public Safety, who are expected to treat the list and names of chemicals as confidential.

2. Medical responders who may need to treat injured parties in the event of an accident or emergency. However, the medical responders are automatically held liable to a confidentiality agreement that they cannot break without penalty.

3. Fire Chief, who , upon emergency, may need to treat an accident and will need to know what chemicals have caused the problem. In the same instance as the Medical responder, the Fire Chief and their personnel too will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement that they cannot break without penalty.

On page 11, subsection (d) of section 7(a), provisions are outlined for the penalties of disclosure of the fracking chemicals used during unconventional shale gas extraction, stating that outside the persons named in subsection (c): “any person who has access to confidential information pursuant to this section and who discloses it knowing it to be confidential information to any person not authorized to receive it shall be guilty of a Class I felony, and if knowingly or negligently disclosed to any person not authorized, shall be subject to civil action for damages and injunction by the owner of the confidential information, including, without limitation, actions under Article 24 of Chapter 66 of the General Statutes.”

If you wish to read the two page Article 24 the Trade Secrets Protection Act, click here.

All in all, in North Carolina, the Energy Modernisation Act is a legal blow to local communities who wish for fracking chemicals, many known to be harmful to the environment and human health, to be disclosed fully, without punishment.

Whilst County Fermanagh is not affected by the Act, one must consider what European or National equivalent will be passed that holds us to the same effect, as we ask for disclosure of fracking chemicals, as we look to avoid imbibing, through our air, water and soils, chemicals that pose a serious risk in diminishing the quality of our human health.

California reduces recoverable shale oil by 96%

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reduced its estimate of recoverable oil in California’s Monterey shale formation from 13.7 billion barrels to just 0.6 billion barrels—a reduction of over 95%.

The original estimate were based on figures release in a 2011 report by the EIA which had stated that there was up to 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable tight oil in the state’s Monterey shale formation, 64% of the nation’s total.

monterey

The over inflated figures figures sparked optimism for financial analysts over the state of California’s energy future.

The reduction in recoverable estimates were previously highlighted in a report, “Drilling California: A reality check on the Montery Shale” by geoscientist David Hughes. The report utilised empirical analysis of actual shale oil production data from the Monterey shale formation, basing its figures on data, rather than assumptions.

“We’re pleased that the EIA has corrected what was a groundless and highly misleading over-estimation of the potential of the Monterey,” said Asher Miller, Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute. “We hope that everyone—from the EIA to policymakers and the media—will learn a cautionary lesson from what transpired here in California as we wrestle with questions about what the future of American energy policy can and should be.

Councilman Brad Koplinski chastises fracking effects on pennsylvania communities

In Pennsylvania, USA, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski provided a press release highlighting the environmental, economic and social liabilities experienced in Pennsylvania at the hands of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Koplinski, running for candidacy for Lieutenant Governor, not only asked for tighter regulations on the process, and a closing of the ‘Halliburton Loophole’, but also underlined the need for better protection for landowners who live nearby unconventional shale gas operating plants, wether they signed land agreements with energy companies or not.

Brad Koplinski. Source: politicspa.com
Brad Koplinski. (image source: politicspa.com)

Providing the polite, yet damning press release in front of the Chapin Dehydration Station which faces a 29 litigant lawsuit, Koplinski stated that ‘nuisance’ was too light a word for the local situation which has reduced the quality of human life for local home owners, referring to the high number of detrimental effects an ‘aberration’.

He also lamented on the fact that the shale gas extraction industry makes promises and “say things that are half truths are best most of the time. That certain chemicals won’t be put into the atmosphere, that certain practices won’t be put into place, and yet they are. Through legal contracts and other regulations that they can skirt around, we’ve seen the damages that they cause, and not just here, but throughout the commonwealth.”

Unfortunately, for Koplinski and residents of Pennsylvania, the British Medical journal have already drawn attention to the fact that the process of unconventional shale gas extraction, set to arrive in County Fermanagh, cannot be made safe for local communities, regardless of the level of regulation, stating:“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. 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.”

To see the press release by Councilman Koplinski in video format, 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.

lancet

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.

BMJ

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.