Environmental institute calls for impact assessments on fracking

21 07 2012


Irish Times Article 21 July 2012

FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor

FULL PUBLIC consultation on “fracking” shale gas is needed so the planning process can “move forward in an open and transparent way”, according to the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Assembly’s Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee has been briefed by the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network on shale gas exploration. Further meetings with prospective developer Tamboran Resources are expected in the coming weeks.

The institute said there was a need for a wider public debate as the controversial method of extracting gas from shale rock, commonly known as fracking, has generally relied on “a solution of potentially toxic chemicals” to break up rock and release the gas.

Institute director Gary McFarlane said a cautious approach must be adopted and, while it was not “anti-fracking”, there was “insufficient current evidence to confirm that all the potential risks can be suitably reduced or managed within acceptable levels”.

While it was not yet clear what the downsides of fracking might be, he warned that the chemicals used “could contaminate freshwater drinking supplies” and that there were “well-documented concerns that drilling and extraction have led to minor earthquakes”.

Mr McFarlane called for detailed environmental and health impact assessments, with a full public consultation, before any licences for commercial exploitation were considered.

“We need to learn lessons from existing experiences and design systems that are safe,” he said.

The North’s Minister of the Environment Alex Attwood has stressed that there would be no headlong rush into fracking, due to the need to get the right balance between a potential major economic boost and possible environmental damage from the process.

Mr McFarlane said this was the right approach.

“While there has been speculation that fracking could provide enough natural gas for Northern Ireland for 50 years,” he added, “this must be tempered with a need to ensure that all environmental and planning requirements are complied with.”

Rathlin Energy confirm completion of seismic survey

12 07 2012

Commenting  on the news that gas and oil exploration firm Rathlin Energy Ltd has publicly confirmed the completion of its Ballinlea 2012 VSP & 2D seismic survey undertaken by Tesla Exploration International Ltd, Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has called on the company to make public the results and evaluation of the subsurface geology, and  to declare to the public if it intends to apply for permission to extract shale gas by means of the controversial hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process.

“Moyle Council have already expressed their opposition to fracking, a process which  involves the pumping of millions of gallons of water, mixed with hundreds of highly toxic chemicals, thousands of feet deep into the ground.
“Already in the U.S.A, Canada, Europe and Australia, pollution caused by this process to land, to air, to surface water and to groundwater has resulted in a terrible health toll and catastrophic environmental damage.”
“We have to say no to the possibility of fracking, anywhere in the North Coast Rathlin Basin”

Meet the Frackers – worth a watch tonight

8 07 2012

Meet the Frackers – A Film by ABC Australia

To be shown on RT – Sky Channel 512 Sunday 8th July 10.30pm

­As oil stocks run low, extracting oil from shale, or fracking, is the energy buzz of the year. It’s happening worldwide and in 34 of the United States. But with all the environmental and health risks, is it worth it?

In Texas they’re used to big oil; for generations it has helped to forge the formidable Texas character. But spreading out across the state is the controversial process of fracking. It involves injecting huge quantities of water and chemicals into the ground, which shatter the shale and release gas and oil. It’s part of an accelerated quest within the US for energy independence to loosen reliance on the Middle East and shoot for homegrown solutions to energy demand. For those working in the industry, it’s creating rapid wealth and shows no sign of slowing down. “Every day, probably to the end of this world, we’ll keep drillin'”, says one rig worker. But with otherwise residential neighborhoods becoming industrial zones, this dangerous process is starting to take a serious toll on the health of local residents. “They’re here to rape this land, make as much money as they can and get the hell out of here”, says a North Dakota farmer who blames fracking for her failing health. As this process gains momentum across America, fracking is fast becoming a dirty word.

Precautionary Principle needed for shale gas study field

23 06 2012

Article from Leitrim Observer Saturday 23 June 2012

A crowd of over 150 people were told that the precautionary principle needs to be applied when considering the public health implications of Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking).

Dr. Carroll O Dolan G.P from Blacklion, Co. Cavan was one of the panelists speaking in Manorhamilton at a public meeting organised by the Love Leitrim last, Tuesday, June 12.

The purpose of the night was to review the recent Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) report. Among the limitations of the report according to Rob Doyle MVB was that its terms of reference failed to look at the impact of the procedure on the wider environment and landscape, on climate change, or its potential to displace jobs in agriculture and tourism, along with its risk to community cohesion and public health.

The paper itself drew from only seven core peer reviewed studies. The geology in these parts of America did not compare with the complex geology of Ireland.

The shallow fracking process used would also be closer to the water aquifers, making pollution a higher risk.

Dr O Dolan spoke on public and animal health risks. The precautionary principle states that in the absence of conclusive evidence the burden of proof should lie with the Gas Company to prove that Fracking is safe.

Lack of overall monitoring and the non-disclosure by companies about the chemicals used has meant that public health issues are now only coming to the fore.

Dr. O Dolan reviewed emerging evidence that has been collected by peer-reviewed sources over recent years backing up local communities concerns. Professor Emeritus of Zoology, Theo Colburn was forced to collate evidence at industrial accident sites.

Of her analysis on the chemicals involved throughout the shale gas extraction process, 90% can have adverse effects on sensory organs: 50% can impact the Central Nervous System; 37% the endocrine system; and 25% can cause DNA mutations or cancer.

Further studies illustrated on animals that drank from ponds contaminated by spillages from gas company wastewater, causing death and reproductive disorder. O Dolan warned that animals can be the markers to human health. He said that there was a need to learn from the mistakes made in relation to lead, asbestos, and the tobacco industry, where inaction caused serious public health issues.

Dr. O Dolan finished with a quote from Professor Robert Oswald of Cornell University “Without rigorous scientific studies the gas drilling boom sweeping the world will remain an uncontrolled health experiment on an enormous scale”

Fracking Hell: The Untold Story

25 04 2012

At only 18 minutes in length, Fracking Hell is a great, short introduction to fracking. Watch it then share it with your friends: there’s still a huge amount of work to be done to raise awareness of the issue – there are still too many people who don’t know what fracking is and what will happen if we don’t stop it.

Say “NO” to Fracking in the Rathlin Basin

15 01 2012

Hydraulic Fracturing – it goes by the ugly name of “fracking”, and it could be on it’s way to Moyle.
Rathlin Energy – a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian company Connaught Oil & Gas Ltd has been granted a licence from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Industry for oil and gas exploration in the onshore Rathlin Basin (coloured pink on map above).
In year 3 of their operation Rathlin Energy are planning to apply for permission to sink a test bore 2,700 metres deep , in a bid to exploit the shale gas that could be locked in the rocks deep beneath the earth.
If it finds what it hopes, full-scale hydraulic fracturing – to extract the gas could follow. This would unleash an unprecedented environmental threat .
Fracking involves pumping water or other fluids laced with sand or other particles at high pressure into rock formations deep underground. The process fractures the rock and releases shale gas trapped inside. Only some of the gas can then be collected and brought to the surface.
Shale gas extraction poses many actual and potential environmental and human health concerns including groundwater pollution, air pollution, demand for water and impact on climate change. Moyle District Council at their meeting on 20/10/11 unanimously accepted a proposal from Councillor Dónal Cunningham and resolved to oppose the use of hydraulic fracturing in any part of the explorations on Rathlin or in the Rathlin Basin.
We must continue to say NO to the possibility of fracking in the onshore Rathlin Basin.