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Mark Ruffalo says fossil fuel companies want to 'junk Ireland up' with fracked gas

The Greens have brought in some Hollywood big guns to get the PfG over the line

Eamon Ryan and Mark Ruffalo during tonight's live stream.
Eamon Ryan and Mark Ruffalo during tonight's live stream.
Image: Zoom

Updated Jun 22nd 2020, 8:33 PM

US ACTOR MARK Ruffalo joined Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin of the Green Party in a webinar tonight as voting continues on the programme for government (PfG) . 

Ruffalo is a high-profile opponent of the use fracked gas and has previously lent his support to the campaign against the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Co Kerry

This evening he joined Ryan, Martin and a number of other anti-fracking campaigners from both Europe and the US as part of a live discussion. 

It comes following commitments in the PfG to prevent the importation of fracked gas.

Green Party members are currently voting on whether to accept the PfG, with party rules dictating that two-thirds support is required. 

Speaking this evening at the end of the live stream, Ruffalo said the proposals in the PfG represent “a win” for the movement against fracking. 

“I love you, I appreciate you, I hear you, let’s keep doing this, we’ve got a long haul ahead of us, but this is a win,” he said.

This is a win, see it as what it is and celebrate it and then let’s move on to the next one.

Fracking works by drilling down into the earth and using a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to release gas trapped inside rock beneath the earth’s surface.

The process is seen as advantageous for fossil fuel companies because it allows them access difficult-to-reach resources. It comes at a high environmental cost, however, because it uses huge amounts of water and has been shown to release potentially carcinogenic chemicals during drilling. 

The proposed LNG terminal in Kerry would likely be used to transit fracked gas extracted elsewhere, such as in the US.

The PfG states that the parties: “do not support the importation of fracked gas and shall develop a policy statement to establish that approach”. 

It also states the government will: “withdraw the Shannon LNG terminal from the EU Projects of Common Interest list in 2021.”

Ahead of this evening’s webinar, the Green Party quotes Oscar-nominated Ruffalo as saying the pledge would represent “a monumental achievement for Ireland”. 

“For years, US and Irish campaigners have worked together to achieve a ban on fracking in Ireland. Now the PfG is an opportunity for a monumental achievement for Ireland to become the first country in the world to ban fracked gas imports. This is crucial for our shared climate, as well as for the public health of Americans,” Ruffalo said.

I have been advocating for ten years with Americans who have been poisoned by fracking, many who live in the areas that would supply Ireland with fracked gas. I’m thankful that US anti-fracking activists contacted Green Party leaders to support the Programme for Government and that I can lend my support in this critical moment.

shutterstock_753597286 Ruffalo plays The Incredible Hulk in the Marvel cinematic universe. Source: Shutterstock

During the live stream, Ruffalo said that fossil fuel companies were attempting to use Ireland to export fracked gas around the world:

“In the face of all these new technologies that promise so much better live, so many better lives for people, whether it’s your job or your health, or just the beauty of your surroundings. Why would you move forward in creating more natural gas use, more fossil fuel use in the world.

And taking Ireland. I’m telling you, they’re using you. You hear the plan, they’re gonna junk your country up, they are using you to bring this product into your country and disseminate it through the rest of Europe. And you are going to be the suckers on the end of the line here. I’ve seen it time and time again, and this is not hyperbolic, this is the way this industry works.

Julia Walsh, campaign director of the New York-based activist group Frack Action, also said the PfG represented “a tremendous achievement” in what it does to combat fracking. 

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“There’s a chance here to choose between forming a coalition and getting some really significant accomplishments and achievements that would set Ireland on a course as a world leader on climate,” she said. 

“Or you can be an opposition party and that’s a choice for your members and we wanted to just make sure that you could hear from those of us on the ground and hear more about this tremendous achievement of this program for government.” 

Policy statement

Despite the pledge in the PfG, some have questioned whether the government’s policy statement would actually prevent the importation of fracked gas. 

Speaking this afternoon, Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton said such statements “clearly have a weight”. 

“The government has committed that a policy statement on fracked gas will be introduced. And you know, those policy statements clearly have a weight and
that’s why there is a desire by many that there would be clear government statements
regarding the use of fracked gas,” he said. 

I think there is genuine evidence around fracked gas and the impact that it has on climate. I think that evidence is strong and that’s why the government has decided that the government should issue a policy statement. What implication will be for private interests is obviously a matter for them.

“It also clearly is an issue that various bodies will take into account, what government policy statements are, so I think many would feel that having a policy statement would be a significant factor in any decisions.”

Asked how soon such a statement could be made and whether it would actually lead to an effective banning of fracked gas, Bruton said: 

I think that that remains to be seen. I mean, obviously that statement is to be put together but I think we have made the decision already to ban fracked gas in Ireland because of the adverse environmental impacts, and I think there is growing concern about fugitive methane, as it’s described, that is associated with fracking.

“I think that is why there is a broad agreement within government that the importation of fracked gas is not something that the government supports and that we will go a step further and issue a policy statement to that effect.”

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Rónán Duffy

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