A group of 27 environmental groups has called on the Government to “put a stop to all fracking activity” in Ireland because its “known impacts are so serious”.
In a new policy document on hydraulic fracturing of shale gas – commonly known as “fracking” – the Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership referred to the “proposed industrialisation and degradation of our environment across at least nine counties”.
According to Frank McDonald
writing in The Irish Times,
Michael Ewing, co-ordinator of the Environmental Pillar, said the environment and long-term development of rural Ireland was “at risk from the secrecy surrounding the polluting processes involved – the damage done to communities, water supplies and wildlife”.
Instead, the Government and EU should “focus their attention on increasing energy efficiency and accelerating the move to renewable energy rather than allowing the development of high-risk, inefficient and polluting gas extraction processes that just add to the problem of climate change”.
In its policy document the pillar says there was no scientific agreement that unconventional gas extraction would have significantly lower total greenhouse gas emissions compared to other conventional fossil fuels, and its development “will be at the expense of cheaper and safer policies”.
It warns that fracking “could cause the contamination of surface and ground water (including drinking water) with toxic chemicals used in fracking fluids and increasing the concentration in such water of methane and hazardous and radioactive materials that naturally occur in shale and coal”.
The document notes that fracking “involves pumping vast amounts of freshwater underground, much of which becomes irretrievable and/or contaminated [and] this will create significant social and environmental pressures at a local and regional level, and particularly in regions suffering from water scarcity”.
It also caused air pollution from soot, methane and natural gas as well as noise pollution that would affect local residents, livestock and wildlife and “increases the risks of earthquakes, which in turn increases the risk of damage to, and leakages from, gas wells”, according to the document.
“Many of these impacts are not only local but can be felt regionally and even globally. Without a comprehensive scientific assessment of the impacts of fracking in Ireland and across Europe, an unconventional gas boom would be an enormous experiment on the environment and human health.”
It says fracking also runs counter to the EU’s commitment to achieving a high level of environmental and human health protection as well as the precautionary principle – especially in the absence of a comprehensive and detailed analysis of fracking by an independent Irish or EU regulatory agency.
Such a study would have to examine fracking-related air pollution and the long-term health impact, fracking-related water contamination and a full cost-benefit analysis of the socioeconomic and environmental impacts – possibly through a European Commission green paper with full public participation of stakeholders.
To date, the pillar says, “there is no consistent process in Ireland or Europe that properly includes citizens and communities in decision-making” related to fracking, while the companies involved “are not disclosing an exhaustive and detailed list of the chemicals used” for each project.
“Until all these problems are adequately addressed, we believe that no further shale gas, shale oil and coal bed methane activities should proceed. We call on the Government and the European Commission to suspend all ongoing activities, to abrogate permits and to place a ban on any new projects,” it said.
Membership of the Environmental Pillar, which was set up in 2009, includes An Taisce, Birdwatch Ireland, Feasta, Friends of the Earth Ireland, the Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association, the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, the Irish Wildlife Trust, the Organic Centre, Sonairte and Voice.