Afri welcomes the decision by Northern Ireland Environment Minister Mark Durkan not to award a license to Australian mining company Tamboran Resources who sought to begin test drilling work on the Cavan-Fermanagh border as part of its ambitious fracking plans for the island of Ireland. The group say nothing short of an all-Ireland ban on fracking is needed and that leaders in Dublin and Belfast should follow the lead of the French and German governments in banning fracking while prioritising renewable energy sources. According to Afri Coordinator Joe Murray, fracking is a short-sighted solution to job creation and energy supply, which he says compromises water supplies, farming, wildlife and air quality.
Afri’s campaign is backed up by leading international scientists who are supporting Afri’s online campaign for an all-Ireland ban on fracking.
These include renowned scientist Dr. Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University who said:
“We know we need to be heading towards a near zero emission energy and transportation systems. Expansion of the dirtiest corners of the fossil fuel industry is a step in the wrong direction. We need to be developing and deploying the near zero emission clean energy technologies of the future, not expanding last century’s archaic energy system. We can no longer afford to be building energy and transportation systems that assume we can continue to use the sky as a waste dump.”
Dr Caldeira’s view is backed up by Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smit, Senior Advisor at the National Toxics Network in Australia who is also supporting Afri’s campaign.
“Ireland should head the warnings from Australia and the US about the impacts of fracking. Hydraulic fracturing (HF) releases vast amounts of unassessed chemical mixtures directly into the environment. While coal bed methane may use up to 20 tonnes of fracking chemicals per frack, industries’ own data shows that frackingshale uses far far more. The HF fluids are mixtures of carcinogens, neurotoxins, sensitisers, reprotoxins and endocrine disruptors. The industries produces large quantities of contaminated wastewater, for which there is no ready solution. In Australia, where the gas companies must report their toxic emissions to the National Pollutant Inventory, their releases include hundreds of tonnes of toxic air emissions including small particulate pollution, volatile organic compounds and other toxins that are now being measured in the air around homes near the gasfields. This is being linked by some medical practitioners to the growing health problems experienced by the residents, particularly the children. HF also releases of wide range of naturally occurring contaminants from the shale or coal seam; radioactive substances like uranium, thorium and the carcinogen radon. These naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs) are released through the drilling and fracking processes ending up in the drilling cuttings and the flowback water. The BTEX group; benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, are also found naturally in oil, coal and gas deposits and are released by HF. Benzene is linked with cancer such as leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Fugitive emissions of methane can find their way into water bores and wells and rivers. US studies have shown that methane in drinking-water wells within one mile of shale gas wells had up to 60 times the methane levels found in water wells not associated with gas fields. In Australia, we now one of our main rivers in rural Queensland, the Condamine River bubbling methane for many kilometres. ”
Fracking or ‘hydraulic fracturing’ is a controversial process that involves drilling down and injecting chemicals into the earth at high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas. Fracking has been linked to tremors and earthquakes in England, the U.S and elsewhere. The French government has described it as a massacre on the landscape. Fracking is now banned in France and in the state of New York, and Germany looks set to follow. A growing chorus of campaigners are demanding leaders in Belfast, Dublin and London do the same. A new UK government report also shows that fracking has a negative impact on house prices near where drilling occurs. Exploratory licenses have been granted for Antrim, Down, Derry, Fermanagh, Cavan, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Monaghan, Clare, Cork and Kerry. County Councils in Leitrim, Donegal, Sligo, Roscommon and Sligo have all passed motions calling for a ban, as has Omagh and Fermanagh District Council. Their opposition to fracking is shared by well known figures including Paul McCartney, Robert Redford, Matt Damon, Adrian Dunbar, Yoko Ono and Alec Baldwin.
“Our campaigning efforts are set to esculate in the coming weeks and months. Already our supporters have sent almost 2,000 emails to politicians north and south and we’re only just beginning. If our leaders in Dublin and Belfast truly do have the best interests of their people at heart then they will do the right thing and implement a fracking ban without delay. Until then we will work to ensure our land and water is protected for future generations while promoting viable and sustainable policies that tackle our employment, energy and climate challenges.” said Mr. Murray.