EPA Sponsors Fracking Health Research Workshop in London as part of Plan to "Okay" Fracking.
feature Thursday November 14, 2013 22:47 by Fracking watch
Licensed fracking areas in Leitrim, Cavan & Fermanagh
The Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sponsoring an invite only fracking workshop in London this Friday 15th Nov 2013 as part of its long term plan to introduce fracking in Ireland. It has already commissioned research to help 'determine best practice guidelines to regulate the shale gas industry in Ireland' (all their own words). There is no hint here fracking will NOT be allowed whatever the findings. This same body though is immune from prosecution under Irish law (See Box 1 below) making a mockery of it's regulatory role.
Indymedia Fracking page |
We are Awake, Informed and We are Saying No to Fracking |
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Statement from some of No Fracking Ireland on EPA 'consultation' process which ended today. | Twelve Canadians – Fracking: Experiments in Sacrifice Zones - Fear & Loathing in Canadian Frackland |
ShaleBubble.org -Explains the Ponzi dynamics of the Fracking industry
ttp://nofrackingireland.wordpress.com/ -Campaign against Fracking (Shale Gas) in Lough Allen Basin |
http://www.FrackingFreeIreland.org -Fracking Free Ireland |
https://sites.google.com/site/frackingireland/ -Fracking Ireland |
http://www.frackaware.com/wordpress/ -Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) |
http://NotForShale.com/ -Fracking covering Northern Ireland |
http://NoToFracking.com/ -No To Fracking
The EPA claims the workshop is a fracking health research workshop and out of it they will produce a scientific report to be published in a prominent scientific journal. The questions to be asked are how much of our taxpayers money is being used to fund this conference, and how transparent the "findings" will be. The fear is that this is an industry biased attempt by our pro unconventional gas Government to "whitewash" the health issues connected to the industry, and to parrot the corporate line of "robust regulations will minimize health risks to communities".
Given the pattern established already and the enthusiasm the Irish government and it's cronies are showing for Fracking, this conference is likely to be nothing more than a sham and it will attempt to use the reputation of scientific respectability, an area where the public still retains a certain measure of trust, to justify the rush to pollute vast areas of Ireland and enrich a small number of people in the process. Unfortunately in the past two decades science has increasingly become under corporate dominated interests and areas that intersect with money have suffered most and there are many scandals yet to come to light which will badly tarnish this last remaining corner of official respectability.
People think the EPA is there to regulate but what is increasingly becoming plainly evident in country after country around the world is that regulatory agencies are being 'captured' by corporations who pimp our elected representatives and engage in a revolving door policy between regulatory authorities and the boards of large multinational companies. This is now an everyday occurrence and is widespread. The influence and control is insidious and often hidden and subtle. The common thread is retain the facade of independence and scientific authority whilst things are different behind the scenes where the full range of techniques of influence go from sponsoring research, withholding negative results often with gag orders, share options, kick-backs and intimidation and threats against those who speak out and challenge the consensus. Academics are well known to be a conservative lot and are often reluctant to speak out if they feel they don't have the backing of their university/research administration who in these times of cutbacks and job-insecurity feel the winds of influence from officials higher up who can cut off or reduce funding. The worst and most powerful form of control is to be at the receiving end of industry backed media campaigns to tarnish their reputation and social standing.
We have seen this sort of behaviour for many years with the Tobacco industry and in the Climate denial industry but is a rampant phenomena whenever there is money to be made. Had we had a real functioning democracy and proper regulators during the property boom in Ireland and elsewhere, a lot of people who are now in crushing debt and suffering ill-health effects and that goes with it.
Today we have to seriously probe what is happening with Fracking in Ireland and Europe in general. The outcome will be devastated farm land poisoned by the seepage and contamination of fracking fluids, the destruction of our tourism, the loss of clean drinking water, inland fisheries and our reputation for a clean environment. And this can potentially happen over vast tracts of the countryside in Ireland because exploration licenses have already been handed out for the counties of Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Cavan, Monaghan, Clare, Kerry and Cork.
It appears the aim of this conference and it must be stressed unlike science which is supposed to be open, this is closed, seems to be to pretend to do the research and due diligence but so far and this is what is happening in many other countries, it is all about public perception management while laying the ground work so that the industry can work away largely unhindered and without fear of legal challenges or opposition. The way these things work is that the findings are cherry picked and anything that would cast a bad light on it is denigrated as unscientific enough to be considered, even though usually the pro findings are the unscientific ones. Then these "findings" are used as the reference in any further debates whether on national TV, radio or any discussion in the media while in the background any necessary legislation is drafted with lots of assurances about protecting the public but when a critical eye is cast over the final outcome, one usually discover special clauses and protections for the vested interests.
EPA Immune from Prosecution Arising Out of "Environmental Protection"
By the terms of the 1992 EPA Act, the EPA is immune from prosecution and this removes any responsibility by them for decisions made, including decisions based on their Aberdeen report or outcome from their London conference, that would impact on the environment or on public health.
Relevant paragraphs in EPA Act 1992:
Para 15 – Immunity of Agency
“No action or other proceedings shall lie or be maintainable against the Agency or any body referred to in section 44 or 45 for the recovery of damages in respect of any injury to persons, damage to property or other loss alleged to have been caused or contributed to by a failure to perform or to comply with any of the functions conferred on the said Agency or body.”
Para 16 – Indemnification of Director General, directors and other persons.
“Where the Agency is satisfied that the Director General or other director or authorised person appointed by the Agency, or any other employee of the Agency has discharged his duties in relation to the enforcement of the relevant statutory provisions in a bona fide manner, it shall indemnify the Director General or other director or authorised person of the Agency or any other employee of the Agency, against all actions or claims howsoever arising in respect of the discharge by him of his duties.”
However they are aware of this implications of this as per:#
EPA Review report (2010) stated: “…doubts have been expressed about the constitutionality of this immunity and whether it is compatible with obligations arising under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Review Group concluded that the absolute nature of the EPA’s immunity … should be revised, as appropriate, when the opportunity arises.”
Phil Hogan, Minister for Environment: “The review recommended that immunity from prosecution, as applicable to the EPA in carrying out its functions, be reconsidered. As set out in the implementation plan, I propose to consider this issue, which is likely would require primary legislation if it is decided to progress it in the latter half of 2013.” (June 6th 2012)
The EPA has in fact already done some preliminary research into the effects of Fracking which was published back in May 2012 by a Dr David Healy from the University of Aberdeen. It turns out and Healy does not hide, that he receives significant funding from the Oil and Gas industry such as Total E&P and BG International. A reading of the particular report shows quite a heavy reliance as a reference to another report from the University Of Texas by a Dr. Charles Groat when covering the environmental aspects of fracking. Since the publication of the EPA's Aberdeen Report, it was subsequently found that Groat had not declared his conflicts of interests and it was discovered that he served on the board of the Plains Exploration Production, a gas and development company where he had over $1.6 million in shares and been paid over $400,000 in cash and stock . Plains Exploration had been issued 187 violations at 94 (17% of total) and 53 separate fines were levied at them for a total of $2,008,925. At the same time Plains Exploration contributed $118,493 to candidates running for state offices. 
At the time the when the University of Texas report was presented at a major science conference in Canada in February 2012, Dr Groat told reporters that the university had turned down all industry funds for the study. So this just confirms the pattern where the industry lobbies government and contributes to election campaigns, lies about it's involvement, completely hide the fact the break the law and are fined and then get themselves as lead authors on fraudulent scientific reports which are then presented at major scientific conferences.
In the EPA's Aberdeen report it does point out that much of the environmental hazard comes from ground water and aquifer contamination and from cracks in the borehole wall casings that pass through the water table to the depths below, but it puts undue emphasis on saying that the actual deep underground fracking process is safe. This is part of the long game to shift the focus and terms of the debate as if surface operations have nothing to do with it. A good example is this paragraph from the Aberdeen report:
Results from a University of Texas study of several incidents of possible contamination in the US show no confirmed evidence for ground water contamination from the subsurface fracking operation itself, but suggest leakage stemming from fracking-related waste water above ground (University of Texas, 2012).
And the reference to the Univ. of Texas, 2012 is to the report by Dr. Groat. The question is how come Groat did not include the 94 incidents of his own company?
The wording between the lines in the above text is saying fracking is safe but it is just the surface operations and that is separate. They are not. They are integral to the whole process. Each fracking well requires anything from 100,000 to 13 million gallons of water. With all this amount of water sloshing about and going up and down boreholes and then sitting in holding ponds, the contamination is great and even more so in a country like Ireland with heavy rainfall and a near certainty that any of the holding ponds will overflow. These holding ponds hold the returned fluids from the fracking wells and they can contain a lot of toxic chemicals like: hydrogen sulphide, lead, arsenic mercury, arsenic and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) hydro-carbon compounds benzene trace amounts of radioactive material like radium, thorium, uranium. Many of these are carcinogens and can lead to chronic long term contamination or are just outright poisonous. The reason this happens is because the rock has these chemical embedded in it and they may not be oxidised as they would near the surface but they are bound up in the solid rock. When fracking happens, the trillions and trillions of cracks, basically open up the interior of the rock and these chemicals should were formerly secure within the rock now find themselves on the surface and then washed over by the fracking fluids which then flushes out huge quantities of what would normally be small amounts of chemicals and vastly raising the concentration. These then get carried in the return fluids and muds to the surface since a certain proportion of these are continually recycled. This gunk is the stuff that flows up and down the boreholes and sits around with its deadly load in holding ponds.
The EPA conference in London this week is likely to dance around these issues and ignore any reports or incidences of pollution. Part of the reason is that a typical farmer or resident who has their water supply poisoned is extremely unlikely to write it up in a scientific report and get it published. The EPA and Fracking industry will justify the lack of this as evidence that fracking is safe.
Call Out for Peaceful Protest in London: Safe and healthy fracking is an oxymoron.
The Anti-Fracking groups in Ireland are calling on people who happen to be in London to make a presence outside their conference to show that we know what is going on and to oppose the waste of taxpayers money in this charade. This conference claims: "...The aim of this workshop is to ..... will provide an opportunity to share what is known, to discuss the evidence gaps that should be priorities for research and to offer recommendations as to what actions, if any, should be taken as fracking becomes more widespread. ... ". It is more likely to be about excluding what is known and recommending further research to cover their own backs and at the same time recommend fracking go forward with the proviso that it be carefully monitored which we know from experience is largely empty words.
The EPA sponsored event: Fracking and Health Research Workshop
is taking place on Friday 15 November 2013, 9am - 5pm
at: Mary Ward House, 5-7 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SN
Proposed location of just 13 fracking wells in Leitrim showing how the fracking wells are drilled out horizontal to cover a huge area and pollute the soil and contaminate the water. This will affect crops, livestock, drinking water, fisheries and more. If fracking is given free reign then we will see hundreds of these wells all over the country.
Areas Licensed in Ireland so far. More may be added.