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Issue No. 82 - June 15, 2016

1. Three fracking ban proposals before the Dáil

Dail Fracking Bills


To date, three legislative fracking bans have been proposed to the Dáil.
The details of which are as follows:

1. Prohibition of Hydraulic Fracturing Bill 2015

On December 17, 2015, near the end of the term of the last government, Richard Boyd Barrett, TD (People Before Profit) introduced the Prohibition of Hydraulic Fracturing Bill 2015, accompanied by this explanatory memorandum. Mr. Boyd Barrett has reiterated his commitment to pushing this legislation: "We intend on moving this bill as soon as we can in the Dáil."

This bill focuses on preventing the use of hydraulic fracturing onshore and offshore in Ireland.

It is presented as follows:

"Bill entitled an Act to provide for a prohibition on the issue of any consent, licences or permits for the exploration, prospecting or  leases or other permissions to facilitate Hydraulic Fracturing projects or the exploitation of shale gas from within the State, together with the development of any infrastructure or facilities required for Hydraulic Fracturing within the State, and includes a prohibition on the pursuit by any Minister, or State Agency or Body on behalf of the State engaging in Hydraulic Fracturing within the State, or to hold or otherwise act on as if they held any consent, licence or permit for the exploration, prospecting or leases or other permissions to facilitate Hydraulic Fracturing projects or the exploitation of shale gas from within the State, including development of any infrastructure or facilities required for Hydraulic Fracturing within the State. The prohibitions referred to include a prohibition extending to the territorial waters of the State."

2. Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2016

On June 2, 2016, Deputies Martin Kenny and Brian Stanley (Sinn Féin) brought before the Dáil a proposed amendment to the Petroleum and Other Minerals Act of 1960.

This bill aims to amend the existing Act to prohibit UGEE (unconventional gas exploration and extraction). It proposes to define "petroleum" in the Act to exclude "gas extracted through unconventional gas exploration and extraction methods" as well as "coal and bituminous shales and other stratified deposits from which oil can be extracted by distillation".

The proposed amendment states that "No ancillary right shall be deemed to exist where the extraction of gas is by way of unconventional methods of gas exploration and extraction", requires public consultation and a cost-benefit analysis prior to the granting of exploratory licenses, and includes other provisions to ensure benefit to the local area and the use of an amount of the profit for renewable energy.

The bill is presented as follows:

"Bill entitled an Act to amend the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act 1960 to ban unconventional gas exploration and extraction, provide for social clauses and public consultation on the granting of leases and ensure greater accountability through initiating an annual review of the lease by an Oireachtas Joint Committee".

3. Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016

On June 8, 2016, Deputy Tony McLoughlin (Fine Gael) introduced the Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016 with this explanatory memorandum.

This bill would prohibit the exploration and extraction of petroleum from shale rock, tight sands and coal seams, onshore and in Ireland’s internal waters, as specified in the statement below.

The bill is presented as follows:

"Bill entitled an Act to provide for the prohibition of the exploration and extraction of petroleum from shale rock, tight sands and coal seams in the Irish onshore and Ireland's internal waters."

All of the above three proposed bills are Private Members Bills (PMB) at the first stage of the legislative process.

2. Scottish parliament votes in favour of fracking ban

Scottish Parliament Bans Fracking


On June 1, the Scottish parliament narrowly voted in favour of a ban on fracking, reports The Guardian.

The ban was proposed by Scottish Labour as an amendment to a motion put forward by the new cabinet secretary, Roseanna Cunningham. The amendment passed by 32 votes (Green Party, Liberal Democrats, and Labour) to 29 (Conservatives), with the government SNP members abstaining.

A further amendment by the Green Party, which said that "fracking and other forms of unconventional gas extraction are incompatible with Scotland’s low-carbon ambitions", was also passed, 32 to 30, with 61 abstentions. See this Drill or Drop summary of the debate for more details.

While the amendment is not binding, it puts pressure on the SNP government to clarify its position on fracking. Labour environment spokesperson, Claudia Beamish, cited in The Guardian, said: "The SNP government must now clarify whether or not they will respect the will of parliament and introduce an outright ban on fracking. It would be outrageous for this important vote to be ignored. There is no doubt about the science – to meet our climate change goals and protect our environment we need to develop low carbon sources of energy, not another fossil fuel. Labour’s position is clear: no ifs, no buts, no fracking."

A moratorium on fracking has been in place in Scotland since January 2015. The new SNP energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said the party’s position is in line with its manifesto for last month’s elections, which committed to a fracking ban "unless it can be proven beyond doubt that there is no risk to health, communities, or the environment."

Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the vote, saying: "…there is a growing consensus that stopping climate change means we have to say no to new fossil fuels like fracked gas," while INEOS Upstream said it made little difference: "The vote this evening changes very little… INEOS has been clear that it believes shale gas can be extracted safely and that Scotland is losing out as the centre of excellence moves south." Source: Drill or Drop.

3. Studies show that shale gas has not been extracted safely in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania residents show water samples collected from Dimock


A number of recently-published studies have confirmed that in Pennsylvania the extraction of shale gas has polluted the air and drinking water and had significant health impacts on local communities, particularly in poorer communities.

The Health Implications of Unconventional Natural Gas Development in Pennsylvania, a paper to be presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, presents the findings of an investigation into the health impacts of unconventional natural gas development in Pennsylvania between 2001 and 2013 by merging well permit data with a database of inpatient hospital admissions. The researchers found "significant associations between shale gas development and hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), pneumonia, and upper respiratory infections (URI). In particular… county-level hospitalization rates for AMI among young adults (aged 20-44) increased by 24 percent due to shale gas development. Hospitalizations for pneumonia and URI also increased by 8.5 percent and 17 percent, respectively, among the elderly. These adverse effects on health are consistent with higher levels of air pollution resulting from unconventional natural gas development."

In addition, the US National Public Radio (NPR) reports that a federal public health report on the notorious problem of water contamination in Dimmock, Pennsylvania found threatening levels of chemicals in 27 private water wells and explosive levels of methane in 17 private water wells during a six-month period in 2012. The chemicals found included cancer-causing levels of arsenic in 13 wells, as well as cadmium, copper, iron, lead, lithium, manganese, potassium, sodium and 4-chlorophenyl phenyl ether at potentially toxic levels. ProPublica provides an in-depth summary of the findings and the background of water problems in Dimmock.

Finally, Environmental Health News reports on a new study by researchers from Clark University, which examined whether vulnerable populations were unequally exposed to pollution from unconventional gas wells in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The researchers found that "environmental injustice occurs in areas with unconventional wells in Pennsylvania with respect to the poor population", and that in all three states there were clusters of vulnerable people (for reasons such as poverty, old age, education level, and children) in areas exposed to pollution from fracking.






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