This article is a good indication of where our Government stands on Fracking
The Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte called the advent of unconventional gas a “game changer” which must be considered here when he spoke on fracking at an information session at the Royal Academy in Dublin last week. His comments have been welcomed by Tamboran Resources but refuted by local anti fracking group Good Energies Alliance Ireland.
The Minister said “I believe that there is considerable genuine concern about the potential environmental and health considerations related to this activity and that the nature of the debate so far has tended to exacerbate these concerns,” he explained that “decisions taken must be based on transparent assessments of solid evidence. We need to study more of the science and less of the propaganda – on both sides of the argument.”
“The advent of unconventional oil and gas has been a ‘game-changer’ on the US energy market with global repercussions. As the EU is likely to remain a “higher” energy cost region in the future, it is unavoidable that we consider the impacts that unconventional oil and gas production will have on security of supply, energy prices and competitiveness,” he stated.
He said in Ireland we import all our oil and more than 90% of our gas and are vulnerable to interruptions in supplies, “The shale revolution is indeed a game-changer the effects of which must be considered on this side of the Atlantic.”
Speaking about the EPA study he said it will be 2014 before we have the geological and ground water data, impacts and mitigating measures and regulatory issues to inform the policy options here.
He noted that “our shared goal is to maximise the benefits to Ireland from our indigenous oil and gas resources. But we need to ensure that both exploration and production – conventional or unconventional, on land or at sea – are conducted safely and on an environmentally sound basis.”
This week, as President of the EU Council, Pat Rabbitte will host an informal meeting of the EU’s Energy Ministers in Dublin. The meeting will include an initial discussion on unconventional gas and oil.
Tamboran Resources, the company seeking to develop shale gas in North Leitrim welcomed the above comments. A spokesperson for Tamboran told the paper, “Energy costs are hurting households and businesses. Shale gas is one of the few game changers that can truly address these rising costs. The Minister’s reference to the impact of shale gas in the US, where it has resulted in a major boost in competitiveness and energy self-sufficiency, are noteworthy, particularly how shale gas is giving an advantage to America over Europe. The debate in Ireland about shale gas will continue, but we are now starting to see serious consideration of the issues based on science and economics.” The company said they are looking forward to the completion of the EPA study.
Ballinaglera’s Aedin McLoughlin of Good Energies Alliance Ireland said, “The EPA study, as described appears to be an exercise designed to pave the way for fracking.” She said the Minister’s speech “confirms that, despite 1,300 submissions being made to the EPA, the majority of which demanded a study of the health impacts of fracking, Minister Rabbitte confirmed that the study is confined to identifying “best practice in respect of environmental protection for the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques”.
She said it is “extremely disturbing that no health study is mentioned despite the clear wishes of the people.” Disputing that the shale revolution is a “game-changer,” GEAI said “Shale gas does not change the game of burning fossil fuels; it is not clean energy, despite the propaganda of the oil/gas industry; it is not a sustainable source of energy, disappearing once the gas is extracted; the gas produced would belong to the industry, not to the people, and would be sold on the international market at market price. Fracking will not bring cheap gas to Ireland, nor will it make us energy-secure.”
No Fracking Ireland called on the EU Ministers meeting in Dublin Castle this week to join with campaigners to work towards imposing an EU wide ban on hydraulic fracturing. In a statement the anti fracking group called on them to make it clear “that the citizens of the EU will not accept a technocratic imposition of extreme energy policies on the continent.”
A recent survey conducted by Eurobarometer at the request of the European Commission has shown that less than one in ten EU citizens think that unconventional fossil fuel extraction should be prioritised by the EU. Seven out of ten citizens, think that the EU should be prioritising the development of renewable fuels.
The group stated “Thousands in Ireland have already signed petitions calling for a ban on the process and campaigns are growing all over Europe against the development of such an industry. Moves to impose such an industry on the citizens of Europe in an anti-democratic manner by the EU Commission and by national governments will only serve to fuel the rapid development of the anti-fracking movement.”
Complaint lodged by Irish Whale and Dolphin Group
It has also asked the State to explain what measures are being taken to monitor and to minimise the impact of seismic surveying on whales and dolphins.
Seismic surveys conducted to map the ocean floor use airguns, comprising long submersible cannons towed behind vessels that fire shots of compressed air into the water every few seconds. The pulses penetrate the sea floor and rebound, giving results which are analysed for geological content. Explosives have been used in the past.
The commission’s environment directorate is acting on a complaint by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, which is concerned about the impact on marine mammals of such surveying for oil and gas.
A 2007 study for the International Whaling Commission found that 250 male fin whales appeared to stop “singing” for up to several months during a seismic survey.
Ireland is a declared whale and dolphin sanctuary, and the group maintains the State is obliged in any case to comply with the EU’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) directive and habitats directive when licensing surveys.
This would ensure oil and gas firms carried out baseline whale and dolphin abundance surveys for areas which they are seeking licenses to survey and explore.
“As all development costs incurred by oil and gas exploration in Irish waters is tax-deductible, the costs of these baseline surveys will not affect company profits,” the group said.
A seismic survey licensed for the Corrib gas field last year resumed last month, and is due to last four months.
The group sent a complaint to the European Commission and to Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte last May, pointing out that the licensing for this should have been subject to the EIA directive.
It also maintains Ireland failed to comply with the EU habitats directive in approving the survey. The group says a risk assessment for the Corrib field survey which was published by Shell E&P Ireland was “deficient” because baseline information was not collected, or requested, by the regulatory authorities.
The commission informed the group it had raised the issue with the authorities here, and noted that all cetaceans (whales and dolphins) were in need of “strict protection” under the habitats directive.
It also asked the State to explain whether EIA directive requirements were applied to approval for site investigation and exploratory well drilling on the Kish Bank off the east coast.
A Department of the Environment spokesman said it had already informed the commission that Providence Resources had surrendered its foreshore licence for Kish, because elements of the directive were not transposed correctly into law in 1999 by the Government.
The Department of Energy said last week its initial understanding was that seismic surveys were not listed as an automatic requirement relating to the EIA directive. Shell E&P Ireland did not respond to a request for comment.
Greg Palast in Dublin. Photo: William Hederman
Ireland is totally unsuited to the process of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ to extract natural gas, according to the best-selling author of a book on the global oil and gas industry. Greg Palast, a renowned investigative journalist, said there was “no chance whatsoever” that US regulators would allow the controversial process in the kind of terrain for which it is proposed in Ireland.
“You may think American regulators are bad – and they are, they’re in the pockets of the oil industry – but even the worst of them would not allow fracking in areas like those proposed for Ireland,” he told Liberty. “If you took the counties where fracking is proposed in Ireland and stuck them down in the middle of the USA, there is no chance whatsoever that they would allow any drilling there.”
Fracking involves pumping tens of thousands of gallons of water, mixed with chemicals, at high pressure into shale rock in order to fracture the rock and release natural gas. The process has been banned in France and Bulgaria, as well as several states within the US, Germany, Canada and Australia.
Three companies have been given preliminary authorisations to explore for gas in parts of 12 Irish counties, including Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Fermanagh and Clare. One of the companies, the Australia-based Tamboran Resources, has said that fracking is the only way to extract this gas.
These areas have seen a growing campaign of opposition to fracking, due to major health and environmental risks, including possible contamination of water supplies. Five Irish local authorities have voted to ban fracking.
Palast was invited to Ireland by the No Fracking Ireland campaign and spoke to packed audiences in Enniskillen, Carrick-On-Shannon and Dublin. He says that when he visited some of the areas of Leitrim and Fermanagh for which fracking is proposed, he was shocked. “In the areas of the US where most fracking takes place, you can drive for days without seeing anyone. There are no people, there’s no water.”
“In areas such as Maryland and Pennsylvania, that are geologically and agriculturally like Ireland, they’ve pretty much stopped it,” he says. “In America you aren’t allowed to drill through aquifers [deposits of groundwater] to get to gas. In Ireland you’d have to drill through aquifers, because the whole country is on top of aquifers.”
In May, a preliminary study into fracking in Ireland by the University of Aberdeen for Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified potential risks to groundwater purity and tremors or earthquakes. Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, has said no fracking will take place here before a much more in-depth study is carried out.
Palast says the Aberdeen University study was misreported by the Irish media. “What the Aberdeen study said is that nobody has studied this: nobody knows about the geology, the water tables, nobody knows anything. You’re digging a hole and you’re wishing.”
Tamboran has said it will not use any chemicals during fracking in Ireland. However, campaigners argue the company has yet to show that it will be possible to frack without chemicals. Furthermore, as Palast warns: “Even if you don’t use chemicals, nature does. There are poisons that nature has locked away for many thousands of years and we’re unlocking it.”
Palast, who has been investigating pipeline explosions for more than 20 years, initially as a US government investigator, warns against “destroying Ireland’s tourism potential for a few quick bucks”.
His latest book, Vultures’ Picnic, explores how environmental disasters such as BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 are caused by corporate corruption and failed legislation. Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, he discovered that an identical blow-out had occurred two years earlier on another BP rig in the Caspian Sea but was covered up by the company.
“If you trust oil companies, talk to the people of Louisiana about trusting BP,” he says.
This article was orginally published in the July 2012 issue of Liberty, the newspaper of the trade union SIPTU.
Earlier this month, Providence Resources announced that an oil field at Barryroe, off the coast of Cork, is expected to yield 280 million barrels. The company’s CEO, Tony O’Reilly Jr, the son of the media mogul, told the Today programme that this was ‘very good news for Providence shareholders and the Irish economy’. The first part of his statement is undoubtedly true: Providence’s share price rose sharply on the back of the Barryroe news. That Ireland’s economy will benefit is much less likely.
According to the World Bank, Ireland offers ‘very favourable’ fiscal terms for oil and gas companies. At 25 per cent, Ireland’s government take is among the lowest in the world. Norway’s, by comparison, is 78 per cent; Yemen’s is 95 per cent. Ireland also boasts some of the most generous tax-write offs in the industry: companies can offset all costs before they declare profits, including any ‘incurred in the 25-year-period prior to commencement of field production’, from such activities as drilling unsuccessful wells in Irish waters.
When a company finds oil or gas in Irish territory, ownership and control of the resource is transferred in full to the company; no royalties are paid to the state; the company can choose to export the oil or gas; they do not have to land the resources in Ireland or use Irish services or personnel.
In the late 1950s, the minister of industry and commerce (and future taoiseach) Seán Lemass sold the first exclusive exploration drilling rights in Ireland for £500 to Madonna Oil, a shell company owned by three American representatives of the Messman-Rinehart Oil Company of Wichita and the Ambassador Oil Corporation of Forth Worth. In 1961, a two-thirds share in the rights was sold to Continental Oil and Ohio Oil International for $450,000.
In 1971, Marathon Oil (as Ohio Oil International had become) discovered gas off Kinsale, Co. Cork. The terms of the government deal under which the gas was extracted were so favourable to the company that it became an issue in the 1973 general election. Influenced by Norway’s creation of a state oil company, the new minister for industry and commerce, Labour’s Justin Keating, set about recalibrating Ireland’s relationship with oil and gas companies: the state would have a stake in any commercial find; corporation tax on oil and gas revenue was set at 50 per cent; production royalties would be levied.
eating’s amendments did not last long. In 1987, the energy minister Ray Burke – who in 2005 was jailed in relation to corrupt payments received in office – abolished royalty payments and state participation in oil and gas development. In 1992, the finance minister (and another taoiseach in waiting) Bertie Ahern cut corporation tax for the industry from 50 per cent to 25 per cent, where it broadly remains, despite some alterations to the new licensing terms made by the Green party minister Eamon Ryan in 2007.
Ireland’s oil and gas regime reflects the dominant logic of Irish economic policy: low taxes will make Ireland attractive to foreign companies, even if they are simply harvesting the country’s natural resources and creating little in the way of jobs or tax revenue. That speculative Irish licence holders get rich in the process is no cause for concern.
A year ago, the minister for communications, energy and natural resources, Pat Rabbitte, announced that 13 new offshore exploration licences had been awarded. ‘Ireland must continue to communicate the message to international exploration companies that Ireland is open for business,’ he said.
In 1973, the Union of Students of Ireland published a pamphlet entitled What’s Mined is Ours! The Case for the Retention and Development of Irish Minerals under Public Ownership. According to the foreword, ‘those with a vested interest in the development of Irish mineral resources appear to have access to unlimited finance for public relations purposes.’ One of the text’s three signatories was the USI president, Pat Rabbitte.
Special Needs Assistant
Every time the government says ‘we need to pay the unsecured bondholders; A’ Special Needs Assistant dies inside.
New Movie channel
Three hundred thousand homes to face blank TVs as switchover to the digital system looms.
Solution- bring back Terry Wogans blankety blank.
Leo Varadkar estimates this will bring in €15m per annum to local business.
Funding not yet allocated, no route yet decided. How can, Mr. Varadkar, know how much money will be generated from a project that is still in its infancy and may well not even happen?
Mr. Varadkar is currently considering grants for kite flying.
The Fianna Fail Think In
Top of the agenda was the search for brains – this proved to be a fruitless exercise.
The Leader Mr. Martin said his party would oppose the proposed Government property tax. Now Micheál rattle the old brain cells if you can find them and youwill recall your lot proposed this very same tax two years ago.
Perhaps just maybe we are seeing the death throes of this shambolic lot.
The Fianna Fáil motion was brought before the Dáil by the party’s health spokesperson Billy Kelleher who criticised Reilly for what he said was an unsustainable and “dishonest” health budget proposed last year.
The heated debate was notable for the considerable criticism levelled at Fianna Fáil by Reilly himself, Fine Gael TDs, and Labour minister Rabbitte for the opposition party’s handling of the health service while in government between 1997 and 2011.
“Because of your incompetence and inability to deliver a budget and manage a budget you had people outside government buildings protesting because their personal assistance was being withdrawn,” Kelleher said referring to the disability protests in Dublin a fortnight ago.
During the debate the issue of Reilly’s relationship with the junior ministers in his department arose with Kelleher claiming that the minister does not have “confidence among your cabinet colleagues”.
Stern letter leaves no doubt excessive pay rates at indebted broadcaster will no longer be tolerated
RTE is forecasting a deficit for 2012 of more than €50m once major restructuring costs and a raft of redundancies are factored in, and pressure is coming on director general Noel Curran to put the station on a “sustainable footing”.
Documents released to the Sunday Independent under the Freedom of Information Act include correspondence from Mr Rabbitte to RTE chairman Tom Savage ordering that the broadcaster adopt the Government’s new policy on reduced pay.
The dept of communications Minister Pet Rabbit sometimes referred to as the Burrower assisted by Minister of State F. O’Dud confirmed that they would sponsor the inaugural sprout union wide, imaginary lyrics song contest.
The minister advised that the payment to meet the cost of the contest would be leprechaun gold IOU’S or medium grade photocopied Anglo bondholder’s notes. Minister of State O’Dud would be responsible for issuing payments in relation to the cost of the festival
It took some work on the burrower’s part to ferret out this deal for the nation so full credit to the Burrower. Looks like we will be singing all the way to the bank in no time at all.