US gas support would see Ireland ‘complicit’ in harm from fracking industry

Published by Niall Sargent on

October 10th, 2019

Irish support for US liquefied natural gas imports would make us complicit in harm caused to communities living near the fracking fields of Pennsylvania, the Climate Action Committee has heard.

Speaking at a hearing on the potential impact of imports yesterday, Julia Walsh of US-based Frack Action questioned the Government’s support for the planned Shannon LNG terminal in Co Kerry.

Ms Walsh warned that the proposed terminal would facilitate the importation of fracked gas from the US as the American company behind the terminal, New Fortress Energy, receives gas supply from fracking.

At a meeting in Brussels last Friday, Government officials nominated Shannon LNG for the European Commission’s projects of common interest (PCI) list.

Projects on the list can gain access to a €5.35 billion funding pot and go through a fast-track planning and permit granting process owing to their overriding strategic and public interest significance.

Shannon LNG is currently embroiled in a legal challenge from Friends of the Irish Environment in relation to the extension of planning permission for the terminal. The case was recently referred to the European Court of Justice over a number of environmental and planning concerns.

Gasfields in Wyoming Photo: The Wilderness Society / Peter Aengst
Gasfields in Wyoming Photo: The Wilderness Society / Peter Aengst

‘Locking yourself into complicity’

While the EU argues that PCI projects support the bloc’s climate goals, critics think otherwise, pointing to the numerous gas projects on the list, including the Southern Gas Corridor linked to human rights issues in Azerbaijan.

Ms Walsh stressed that Shannon LNG support could see our Government culpable for health and human rights issues in Pennsylvania where New Fortress Energy plans to build an export terminal on the Marcellus shale basin, a fracking hotspot in the state.

She referenced a recent investigative report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that examined the potential links between fracking and a rise in cancer cases among children in areas of the state where the fracking industry has a stronghold. 

Ms Walsh said that there is currently a glut of gas available in Pennsylvania that is stranded and in need of a market. The build-out of the Shannon LNG terminal would accommodate this, she said, ensuring that Ireland would prop up the fracking industry there.

“If Ireland imports fracked gas at the Shannon LNG terminal then you will be locking yourself into over a decade of complicity in harming people and children in Pennsylvania,” Ms Walsh said.

New Fortress’ project in Pennsylvania would be capable of handling 2.15 million tons of gas per year that it plans to move by truck. This would see it bypasses oversight from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as it does not regulate gas transported by road.

Natural gas pipeline USA Photo: Bilfinger

European energy plan

John McEligott of Safety Before LNG said that the project’s PCI inclusion supports the EU’s strategic energy cooperation with the US that will “flood Europe with US fracked gas over any climate considerations”.

The Listowel native, and long-term opponent of the Shannon LNG project, said that in order to quality for PCI status, a project must be in the national interest. In this case, however, he said that there is no proof that Shannon LNG is genuinely in the national or public interest.

He said that there is no evidence that the project was assessed for its sustainability criteria as the Commission is obliged to do alongside market integration, competition and security of supply.

Last Thursday, the Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton said that he is “conscious of the concerns” raised by opposition parties and NGOs.

He said that he instructed his officials to ask the Commission if the implications of LNG imports have been examined in terms of sustainability.

“If not, we have asked that such an examination should be undertaken,” he said.

Mr McEligott asked why the Minister would “risk approving the project going on the PCI list” last Friday if he had already recognised the potential sustainability issues surrounding US gas imports.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London