A national meeting in Leitrim of groups and individuals campaigning against shale gas extraction last Saturday was delighted to welcome Jessica Ernst, a Canadian scientist taking a court case against the oil compangy, Encana.
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 emphasised the importance of writing letters to Government and local representatives. “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.
1. 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.
2. That until this immunity is removed, the Research Study should not be considered.
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.”
Relevant statements: 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)
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