By Geert Decock
Irish anti-fracking groups take to the street to stop the biased ‘study’ about the impacts of fracking.
Ireland imports almost all of its natural gas. So, when shale gas exploration companies came over to Ireland and promised royalty payments, fewer imports and more jobs, a lot of politicians were fooled by these empty promises. As a result, three companies were awarded exploration license options in early 2010 to start looking for shale gas.
Public outrage over the decision of the Irish government led to a 2-year virtual moratorium on fracking until 2017. In the meantime, the Irish government tasked its Environmental Protection Agency to commission a study that would answer the question whether shale gas operations can “be carried out in the island of Ireland whilst also protecting the environment and human health.” And if so, what would be the ‘best environmental practice’ for such operations?
While many of the Irish grassroots groups opposed to fracking were skeptical from the start about this study, they continued to monitor its progress. When a progress report became available after the summer, the Fracking Free Network Ireland/N. Ireland and Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI) were appalled by how this study was being implemented. It seems that the study focuses mainly on the second question of “best practices” for fracking, and ignored the overarching question of whether it can be done safely in the first place.
The decision to focus on ‘best practices’ should not come as a surprise: The Irish EPA has commissioned a consultancy firm, CDM Smith, to be the lead contractor and researcher for the study. Another major player in the study is AMEC Foster Wheeler. Both of which are service contractors to the oil & gas industry, servicing clients such as BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Marathon Oil, among others. This is hardly the independent study about the environmental and health impacts of fracking that Irish grassroots groups had in mind.
This is why Fracking Free Network Ireland/N. Ireland and GEAI (Good Energies Alliance Ireland) staged a protest on November 5 in front of the Oireachtas, the parliament of Ireland. Their demands were very clear: Fracking must be stopped. This must happen before the Irish EPA continues to rubberstamp the foregone conclusions of further seismic and water monitoring being carried out during this corporate study, which is funded by Irish tax-payers. Putting two companies with close links to the fracking industry in charge of such a study – without fitting involvement of academics with a greater degree of independence – is deeply problematic. Stop the study and stop fracking!
For more information about the situation in Ireland and the actions of Irish groups, please visit: http://goodenergiesalliance.com/2015/11/06/stop-the-study-rally-and-presentations/