Fracking is ecocide
Science = No Fracking
Irish – Eco Timeline
Ireland is a front line in the global fight against the LNG industry. Our land features shale basins, ripe for fracking. We are also on the shipping route from North America. We have deep water harbours and an interconnector, through which gas can be brought into the UK and onwards into Europe. Geopolitically, we have ties with the USA, while Irish MEPs also have influence in Europe. What happens on this battleground is important, and slowly but steadily, the Irish anti-LNG movement is winning.
In 2017, the Republic of Ireland banned fracking. This was a response to a long campaign rooted in communities threatened by fracking. Irish people have a deep connection to land and communities are tight knit. Here, the threat of fracking was close and visceral. Ordinary people said no to fracking’s devastation of the land and of human health. They educated themselves and their neighbours. This was a true grassroots campaign and a popular win. But the threat continues.
This is a country divided. Several companies are applying for licences to frack Northern Ireland, which is still part of the UK. Other gas companies have plans to turn Ireland into an LNG transportation hub, with terminals and floating terminals along the Irish coastline, receiving LNG for domestic and European markets. One applicant exclusively deals in US fracked shale gas. Another says the gas it plans to bring in would not be fracked. But the global LNG market is based on a vast and expanding fracking industry, and gases from different sources mix. Who would take responsibility for ensuring the imported gas is not fracked? Regardless, right now, there is no legislation to stop a private company bringing fracked gas into this country which has banned fracking.
The campaign to win the fracking ban created activists who had a deep understanding of the LNG industry and Ireland’s geopolitical importance in it. In the wake of their victory, these activists looked towards a bigger ambition – to disrupt the global LNG industry, to stop the expansion of so-called ‘natural gas’, not just fracked gas. But how to achieve something that big? They developed a strategy of ‘death by a thousand cuts’, dismantling the industry’s Irish opportunities one strike at a time. Fracking is the weakest link in the LNG industry’s armour, so this is where activists struck first. Fracking’s climate, health and pollution effects are documented – and indefensible; afterall, Ireland used many of these facts in support of the fracking ban on Irish land. Literally and figuratively, campaigners brought the latest science on fracking’s methane emissions to the government’s door, exploding the ‘fracked gas as a clean transition fuel’ myth. The new objective? A ban on fracked gas imports, disrupting this crucial Irish gas transit route into Europe.
This new campaign is a battle fought in courtrooms, on the street and on social media. Crucially however, activists chose to leverage the power of the Irish Green Party in 2020 new government formation talks.
A Green tide has been rising across Europe. More people have become aware of the environmental crisis, and are giving votes to the Green parties. The Irish Green Party had previously spoken out against fracked gas imports. Yet in late 2019, with an election imminent, Irish activists wanted more. They knew that the Greens would get a record number of votes – enough to be an essential coalition partner for one of the two main parties, putting the party in the position of ‘kingmaker’. The Irish anti-fracking movement decided to make LNG an election issue, using social media to educate new Green voters to the fracked gas imports threat, and calling on the Irish Green Party to make a fracked gas imports ban a ‘red line’ in government talks – to use their power as kingmakers to make this ask a non-negotiable. Green Party members too heard the campaigner’s call and were empowered to apply pressure from within the party.
Exactly as predicted, no party had a majority in the February 2020 election; the Greens did indeed have the power of kingmakers. And after tense negotiations, the Greens made a ban on fracked gas imports a ‘red line’ in the Programme for Government, a document which lays out the new leadership’s intent for the term ahead.
Now, Ireland awaits the promised ban. Leading legal advice has confirmed that the world’s first fracked gas import ban, in Ireland’s Climate Bill, would be compatible with EU and world trade rules. Irish activists see another extraordinary opportunity is this Climate Bill. The #fixthebill campaign calls for the ban and calls for Ireland to take responsibility for upstream and non-territorial emissions – currently, emissions from imported fracked gas are not counted in Ireland’s total under the Paris Accord. Such a Bill would change that, and have game-changing implications across many sectors, bringing climate justice and transparency to Irish industry and to how we consume. Campaigners want it signed at the beginning of 2021.
But the ambition doesn’t stop there. At every step of the anti-fracking campaign, fresh activists and an educated public and bureaucracy are created. They see achievable goals and experience incremental victories. Step by step it builds. Piece by piece, the fracked shale gas industry is dismantled. And then? Then the Irish movement sets its sights on something bigger, on dismantling the global LNG industry – all ‘natural gas’. And the movement sees the transition towards this bigger ambition as seamless – immediately after the 2017 fracking ban, some policy makers began to speak of a total ban of all gas.
Ireland is a small country on the edge of Europe, but also in the eye of the global LNG storm. Here, a small group of ordinary people are punching far above their weight, using strategy to leverage Irish geopolitical power and take down an enormously damaging industry before it is too late. And the Irish anti-LNG movement will succeed.
The Irish anti-LNG story – Current threats and opportunities
New Fortress Energy, a US gas company, bought and revived a project that was started by US firm Hess that was first granted permission in 2008, in the Shannon Estuary, on the West Coast of Ireland. The Shannon LNG terminal would facilitate the importation of fracked gas from the Appalachian Basin, Pennsylvania, US. It has been suggested that an existing Interconnector between Ireland and the UK could be upgraded to facilitate reverse flow, which would make Ireland an important hub for the importation of US fracked gas into the European market, via the UK. The proposed site for Shannon LNG is an EU Area of Special Conservation for Wildlife and is one of the most important sites for whales, dolphins and porpoises in Ireland. It is the home of our only known resident group of bottlenose dolphins and a known calving area. The site is a hugely important coastal wetland area, and is home to over twenty species of wetland and water birds.
The upstream impact of the Shannon LNG project is that Ireland becomes a direct market for fracked gas which is devastating the people of Pennsylvania at the point of extraction. Globally the downstream effects of the project will form part of the catalytic impact that fracking has on climate breakdown. Irish and EU governments are currently refusing to count upstream and non-territorial emissions. If Ireland became an exchange hub to bring gas into Europe,we will indeed be contributing directly to climate breakdown which is already devastating many parts of the globe.
Local activists are wary of the risk of explosion of the terminal and illnesses and contamination which could be caused by leakages from storage units. The Shannon LNG project would also cripple the developing Irish renewable industry and slow down the necessary transition from fossil fuels by locking us into 30+ years of dependence on US fracked shale gas.
The Shannon LNG project received planning permission in 2008 from local authorities, Kerry County Council.An extension to the planning permission in 2016 was issued by the Irish State Planning Authority, An Bord Pleanala. The project also got government support when they placed the project on European Projects of Common Interest list and on all consecutive lists including the current 4th PCI list. This allows projects to fast track through planning processes and environmental assessments and would make the project eligible for millions of Euros of European public funding. The government agreed in June 2020 to take the Shannon LNG project off the 4th list of EU Projects of Common Interest by 2021. Talks have now commenced to agree the 5th PCI list.
The government and invested interests are brainwashing the public by saying that we need energy security and that ‘natural’ gas is the only way forward. They continue to greenwash ‘natural’ gas, selling it to the Irish as the ‘cleaner’, ‘transition’ fuel needed to decarbonise the country as we move away from coal, oil and peat dependency.
Meanwhile, Gas Networks Ireland and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, semi-state bodies responsible for developing and maintaining the gas infrastructure in Ireland remain fully committed to growing the gas customer base and expanding gas infrastructure.
The Irish government is using the development of data centres as an economic strategy going forward. With about 50 facilities already up and running and they have given permission for at least 30 more data centres to be built. Data centres need huge energy resources to operate and currently many propose to rely on ‘natural’ gas to generate their own electricity. The companies behind them often quickly buying up any renewable energy projects which could be used to power Irish homes. Eirgrid, Irish electric power transmission operator, estimates that data centres, together with a small number of large industrial centres, will account for 31 per cent of the national electricity demand by 2027. This is not just an Irish problem, a recent study (On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030) estimated that information and communications technology (ICT) will account for 51 per cent of global electricity demand and 23 per cent of emissions in 2030.
Momentum started to build again when scientific findings exposed the scale of the impact fracked gas has on climate change. Local and national grassroot organisations started to come together and many victories against the project which will help the movement against fracking have since been won.
June 2020: Ireland’s coalition parties endorsed a five year political programme that ‘opposed the importation of fracked gas’ and stated that ‘it does not make sense to develop LNG terminals for the importation of fracked gas’.
September 2020: The European Court of Justice (ECJ) stated the opinion that the Irish State Planning Authority, An Bord Pleanala, should not have extended planning permission for a fracked gas import terminal to the advantage of US fracked gas exporter ‘New Fortress Energy’ and that a final decision by the Irish High Court should remove all permits and permissions for Shannon LNG. They advised that a new Environmental Assessment under the EU Habitats Directive must take place.
November 2020: The Irish High Court removed all permissions for the Shannon LNG project to build its fracked gas import terminal, after a 13-year battle.
November 2020: Food & Water Europe, an NGO prompted an inquiry into the EU Projects of Common Interest. The European Ombudsman recently stated that; for the past seven years, [the EU Commission in] Brussels has funded and fast-tracked cross-border natural gas projects without sufficiently weighing the environmental risks. Stating that ‘Given the EU’s objectives concerning climate change and sustainability, it is regrettable that gas projects were included on previous PCI lists, without having their sustainability properly assessed’.
Next Decade, a US gas company, plans to build a Floating Regasification Storage Unit and the associated import terminal facilities in the Port of Cork. The terminal would be used to import fracked gas from the Permian Basin and the Eagle Fort Shale Basin in the Rio Grande region of southern Texas, US. Campaigners from the Rio Grande Valley and from Ireland have been working together to fight both the export terminal in Texas and the import terminal in Cork.
Nov 2019: The Port of Cork (semi state owned) faced calls to cut ties with Next Decade following a near unanimous vote by city councilors in support of a Green Party motion to formally request that Port of Cork cease any work to develop facilities in the harbour to ‘enable the importation of LNG extracted using hydraulic fracturing’.
Nov 2019: Grassroots opposition group Not Here Not Anywhere collected over 2,000 signatures opposing construction of the terminal.
Dec 2020: ‘The Port of Cork company advise that the project remains at a very preliminary stage and that the Memorandum of Understanding expires at the end of this year’ – Eamon Ryan, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, 10th June 2020, parliamentary question by TD Brid Smith (People Before Profit).
Three more Floating Storage Regasification Units
Predator Oil and Gas Holding Ltd. is a UK based gas company. They propose to install three new Floating Regasification Storage Units (FSRU) to import LNG into Ireland, on top of the existing two LNG terminal projects proposed at the Port of Cork and in the Shannon Estuary. Predator is promising energy security after Brexit. They are investigating options and are in discussions with the Irish government, through Gas Networks Ireland, to dock an FSRU near the existing Corrib Gas Field in Co.Mayo to take advantage of the ‘wasting assets’ at the currently operational Corrib Gas Field. In the south, they are proposing an FSRU at Rams Head near the Kinsale Gas Field (almost fully exploited) off Co.Cork, where they can connect up to existing infrastructure. To the east, near Drogheda they propose a third FSRU where they could connect up to the existing infrastructure, the Interconnectors 1 and 2, which link Ireland and the UK but currently only import gas from the UK.
Proposals to frack in Northern Ireland:
Lough Neagh and Belcoo, Fermanagh
EHA is applying to start fracking in an area around the base of Lough Neagh, Ireland’s biggest lake, west of Belfast in Northern Ireland.
Infrastrata had carried out exploratory drilling in the nearby Woodburn area, north of Belfast, in 2015. They are currently trying to get permission to build gas storage facilities for up to 500 million cubic metres of gas in the salt caverns at the Island Magee, where Northern Ireland’s main gas-powered power station at Ballylumford is located.
Tamboran Resources Ltd., an Australian gas company, is proposing to carry out fracking in the Belcoo area of County Fermanagh in the western part of Northern Ireland.
There is a growing public consensus against fracking and drilling in Northern Ireland and the campaign against fracking is supported by NGOs in the Republic of Ireland and around the world:
Over 5,700 official submissions were made against the Tamboran and EHA license applications.
A local Fermanagh petition against a research study that could lead to the lifting of the current fracking in Fermanagh gathered 627 signatures.
February 2020: Almost half of the politicians (TDs) in the Republic of Ireland signed a pledge against fracking in Northern Ireland.
October 2020, a unanimous vote supported the motions from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council called for a ban on oil and gas prospecting in the Department for Infrastructure Strategic Planning Policy Statement.
October 2020: Over 80 groups calling for an immediate ban on fracking in Northern Ireland.
http://www.frackaware.com/ PERMISSION SOUGHT
https://frack-off.org.uk/locations/ PERMISSION SOUGHT
Working towards a Global Fracking Ban
July 2017: Ireland adopts a ban on hydraulic fracturing, the ‘Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016’. Together with the ‘Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act’ 1960 it is illegal to “work petroleum by means of hydraulic fracturing” and “includes digging, searching for, boring for, getting, raising, taking, carrying away, storing and treating petroleum.” Communities where fracking was already taking place were a vital source of knowledge and support in the fight to get this legislation to protect communities here in Ireland. We remain very grateful for their input and support and will continue to support them in their ongoing struggles to fight fracking.
March 2020: Irish anti fracking activist, Eddie Mitchell of Love Leitrim, joined residents and campaigners of New York and Pennsylvania to meet Satya Tripathi, UN assistant secretary general and Head of the New York Office at UN Environment (UNEP) to discuss possible support for a global ban on fracking. The Irish government now has the opportunity to step up and become a world leader for climate and social justice.
November 2020: Legal opinion was submitted to the Minister of Environment by researchers at the highly-respected Human Rights Law Clinic at the Irish Centre for Human Rights of NUI Galway to the Irish Joint Committee on Climate Action tasked with pre-legislative scrutiny of Ireland’s new Climate Bill. It confirmed that the world’s first fracked gas import ban in the Climate Bill would be compatible with EU and world trade rules, set out by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and World Trade Organization (WTO). It is hoped that a strong Climate Bill, which takes into account upstream and non-territorial emissions, will be signed at the beginning of 2021. #CountAllEmissions
For more information:
We are renewing our demand that the Irish government puts promised policy and legislation against fracked gas imports and new LNG infrastructure in place immediately, on the grounds of climate and global social justice.
WHO benefits by importing fracked gas into Ireland? (Written by anonymous member of Irish group…)
The curious thing is that with prices the way they are now for both ‘natural’ gas and for petroleum there are few companies that can make a profit in this sector — especially with the cost of hydraulic fracturing specialised equipment (fracking) — it can be hard to find a winner unless you dig below the surface into fossil fuel subsidies. This is even more so when the cost of liquefaction (to LNG) maritime transport and re-gasification (in Ireland for example) is taken into account — there is no margin without state aid. Fracked gas in the US in 2019 went below zero dollars. Yes that means the companies that produce gas at the minehead were paying pipeline and storage facilities to take away their gas (as the gas was mainly produced in association with oil which was marginally profitable, and federal agencies like the EPA did not allowed the companies fracking oil to flare the “associated” gas off or leak it to the atmosphere). Those companies that have survived (many are now bankrupt) in this sector was to spend money lobbying governments to pay them to keep producing.
The psychotic reaction of the Trump government was predictable: subsidise production and reduce environment protection. So taxpayers subventions to oil producers helped to keep them in business while the interventions in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) help to keep companies from losing money laying pipe to add gas to the pipelines at ridiculously low prices allowing them instead to vent the gas into the atmosphere or flare it (burning it into the atmosphere).
One might question the fiscal soundness of subsidising extremely expensive oil production locally rather than importing cheap oil from abroad. There are two logics here (neither of which make sense) a) Subsidise local businesses that make profits from friends and political supporters while telling the press they are saving jobs. b) Make the US independent of exporting oil states by having sufficient production at home to provide for local requirements. These are geostrategic requirements of the US empire with 800 bases globally the pentagon is the largest consumer of fossil fuels on the planet. Sending this oil to Europe also allows the US to intervene in Europe’s gas dependency on Russia from where Europe imports most of its gas.
It should be noted however that a gas terminal in Ireland would not be cheap and the costs for this gas would be passed on to the consumer, the Irish government and the EU subventions (mainly because it does not make economic sense to import gas this way). For example when some of these regasification ports were mooted and there was excellent resistance to planning permission etc… the companies said they would do a floating dock instead to avid the planning restrictions. Experience in Argentina for these floating gas docks indicate that the rental for same, can go to USD $100,000 per day — paid for by gas customers and their generous governments.
http://www.safetybeforelng.ie/ permission granted
www.notherenotanywhere.com (permission granted, by Richard)
Friends of the Earth Ireland. www.foe.ie permissions granted, Deirdre.
www.stopshannonlng.ie PERMISSION SOUGHT
https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/ PERMISSION SOUGHT
Extinction Rebellion Clare: https://www.facebook.com/ExtinctionRebellionClare/
Safety Before LNG: https://twitter.com/safetybeforelng?lang=en
Extinction Rebellion Clare: XRI?
Fridays for Future?? I’ll ask Kate in Clare to put it to their group…
Possible supply for Ineos, Scotland via Ireland? (I’ll ask Friends of the Earth, Ireland if they know, they’re working on plastic a lot…)
Extinction Rebellion Week Oct 2019 – Pasting The Science on Dept of Environment.
Solidarity action Feb 2020 – Barcelona, Texas, Mendoza, Dublin…
Do we have any from Northern Ireland??
fighting to get fracking ban in Ireland?
fighting against Shannon LNG??
– no response…
‘That’s gas’ joke section:
One of our biggest gas greenwashing semi-state company, Gas Networks Ireland, gets a Green Award!!! NOOOOOO!!!!
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