Gas fracking should not be allowed anywhere, says top environmentalist

Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 01:00

THE GOVERNMENT would “become the shoeshine boy of the [shale gas] industry” if it allowed fracking to take place anywhere in Ireland, according to the Nigerian human rights activist who heads Friends of the Earth International.

Nnimmo Bassey said Ministers “should not be allowed to sacrifice the environment on the altar of corporate greed” – as they had done for decades in his own country, where “the entire nation was Shell’s concession”.

Over the weekend, Mr Bassey addressed public meetings in Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim, where he spoke of the dangers of fracking in the Lough Allen Basin, and Glenamoy, Co Mayo, where Shell’s Corrib Gas project has long been the focus of bitter opposition.

“This struggle over the gas pipeline has been going on for a decade and the harassment of local activists is globally known,” he told The Irish Times. “I’m focusing on what communities are struggling on and standing with people confronting impunity.”

Mr Bassey blamed an “unwillingness to have dialogue with local communities” for causing most of the conflicts.

There were plans to carry out fracking – the hydraulic fracturing of rock to extract shale gas – in the Karoo, an arid area of South Africa’s eastern Cape, where the wells would be up to 5km deep, and there was “no indication where the water would come from”, he said.

“The most dangerous thing about fracking is that the drill holes have to go through the water table, and there’s a huge cocktail of chemicals used in the process. Thus, there were two levels of contamination – from fracking itself and then the handling of the waste water.”

He believed fracking “should not be allowed anywhere” and that it would “lock us into further dependence on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, which is exactly what the industry wants”.

It was necessary to press the Government “not to give licences, because the damage we’re going to face may not be reversible”.

He believed oil companies “thrive in dictatorships, which Nigeria was for 30 years, where they can do things without people asking too many questions. If people here have doubts about trusting Shell, they should look at its record in other places, especially Nigeria.”

Mr Bassey will speak at a public meeting in Dublin’s Liberty Hall at 7pm tonight. He will be joined by Pat “the Chief” O’Donnell from Shell to Sea and Leah Doherty from No Fracking Ireland.