Leitrim County Council is making a submission as a body on the terms of reference for the EPA’s Programme of Research on Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration & Extraction.
Cllr Mary Bohan asked the Council to make the submission by the deadline this Friday, March 8, stressing the current terms of reference were not broad enough. She asked that the submission include a call for a Health Impact Assessment and also called for the Government to reverse the immunity the EPA currently enjoys from prosecution. Cllr Bohan also said the submission should call for a Senior Official of the Department of Health to be on the steering committee.
A proposal was also put forward to have a Farming representative on the Steering Committee also. County Manager, Jackie Maguire noted that the change in prosecution status of the EPA was not a matter for the Council but she agreed to raise the matter once again with the Minister. She said the Council would draw up a submission containing the remaining proposals.
Last week, to mark the deadline for gas companies to apply for an exploration licence on February 28, a delegation from Love Leitrim went to the Dail to ask the Ministers to make a positive stance on behalf of the people and grant a licence not to frack Ireland.
The Application not to Frack Ireland campaign had been rolled out nationally and requested the right to have unpolluted water, their right to live in a rural area, the right to maintain and safeguard indigenous industry, and fundamentally the right to their health and the health of future generations. It also called for a halt in any further licences as a gesture that people are being put first.
Love Leitrim said “while research has been commissioned it does not consider public health and does not have public health expertise on the steering group guiding it.” Deputies Michael Colreavy (SF), Tony McLoughlin (FG), John Perry (FG) and Senators Michael Comiskey (FG) and Paschal Mooney (FF) along with other concerned TDs met with the delegation.
Last Saturday, March 2 Jessica Ernst, a Canadian scientist taking a, multi million dollar lawsuit against Encana Corporation, the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, and the Alberta government for contamination of her property and drinking water due to Encana’s fracking programme gave a lecture in Leitrim Village. Jessica joined in a discussion regarding the new study being commissioned by the EPA at present and the invitation to make submissions on the study’s Terms of Reference. The meeting was told that the EPA’s immunity from prosecution removes any responsibility by them for decisions made, based on the report, that would impact on the environment or on public health.
Jessica advised, “A hand-written letter is worth dozens of type-written letters that you just sign. They pay attention to all letters personally written. Send thousands from the campaign, make your voices heard,” she said.
The meeting agreed that any response to the call for submissions on the proposed Terms of Reference for the research study “Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction” should include a demand for this immunity to be removed immediately by an Act of the Oireachtas. They also agreed that until this immunity is removed, the research study should not be considered.