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Minister's support for ban on fracking welcome, as EPA identifies key uncertainities

30 Nov 2016

Keep it in the ground

EPA report identifies key uncertainties in impacts of fracking on the environment and human health

Minister's support for ban on fracking welcome

Research commissioned by the EPA on Unconventional Gas Exploration and Exploitation UGEE, or fracking was published today.

The research, which was limited to a desk study analysis, concludes that there is inconclusive data and evidence to quantify many of the risks of fracking on the environment and public health, particularly in relation to the pollution of groundwater aquifers.

Commenting Kate Ruddock, Deputy Director of Friends of the Earth said

“Although extremely lengthy, this research does not actually address many of the big concerns people have with fracking. There is no analysis on the risks of fracking to public health, nor is there an assessment of the impact fracking would have on Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change obligations."

"the report identifies there could be significant pollution of groundwater aquifers as a result of well deterioration and pollution pathways that are created as a result of the fracturing process. It also identifies the impact of gas emissions on human health and the evidence that capped and sealed wells tend to leak and deteriorate overtime."

"The report does recognises that the uncertainty of the carbon footprint of shale gas is an important climate change issue, yet it fails to actually quantify that impact. Instead it notes the biggest impact of fracked gas occurs at the burning stage which is not considered in this research which focusses soley on the extraction process. "

Sinead O'Brien Co-ordinator of the Sustainable Water Network SWAN commented,

"The research supports many of the findings of the SWAN research in relation to impacts on water resources, including from poorly constructed wells leading to leaks; spillages and inadequately treated wastewater. However, there is a naïve faith in industry adherence to best practise and the ability of our current, fragmented and under-resourced regulatory system to control and mitigate risks. This is of concern given that the report finds regulatory systems in the US represent “examples of how a mature, rule-based system leads to specific controls and guarantees related to UGEE..” This despite documented violation rates at up to 20% of wells in Pennsylvania, historically lax enforcement in states such as Texas and ongoing difficulties with regulation typically lagging behind developments in this evolving and burgeoning industry. "

Friends of the Earth welcome the Minister’s comments that this research justifies the continued prohibition of fracking in Ireland and his re-iteration of the support for legislation to ban fracking in Ireland.

Kate Ruddock concluded,

"The Paris Agreeement commits Governments to keeping global warming well under 2oC, and aiming for 1.5oC. In energy, and in Ireland this means taking steps to ensure our future energy comes from clean, renewable resources. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with extracting and burning fracked oil and gas are as polluting as with coal. Government policy is for a carbon free future. There is no place for fracking in a carbon free future".


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