Mark Ruffalo wrote to Varadkar to ask him to ‘protect the American people’ and block imported US fracked gas

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HOLLYWOOD ACTOR MARK Ruffalo pleaded to Leo Varadkar in a letter not to allow US fracked gas to be imported into Ireland via the Shannon LNG terminal. 

In an email sent to the Taoiseach on 18 October 2019, Ruffalo asked the Taoiseach to “please take into consideration the lives of the American people”. 

The proposed energy project in Kerry made headlines last year when Ruffalo, as well as pop icon Cher, called on the Irish government not to back it.

The Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal is being proposed by US company New Fortress Energy. If constructed, it will be located in Ballylongford, Co Kerry, and would be the first of its kind in Ireland.

LNG terminals work by importing natural gas in a liquefied state at an extremely low temperature – making it easier to transport – and then turning it back into gas for use in a new market.

The gas terminal came under the spotlight last year when it was included on a list of EU ‘Projects of Common Interest’, which would allow it to gain access to funding and a fast-track planning process.

If it’s constructed, it’s proposed that the project will form part of an EU gas interconnector scheme from running north-south from Scotland to Malta.

Much of the opposition to the Shannon LNG terminal derives from its expected energy source: fracked gas.

Fracking itself is a very controversial method of extraction.

It 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 because it allows companies to access difficult-to-reach resources which could contribute to future energy needs.

Campaigners, such as Ruffalo, Cher, as well as Extinction Rebellion and a number of opposition TDs, have raised concerns that the construction of the terminal will mean Ireland will import fracked gas from the US, despite fracking being banned here. 

The email from Ruffalo to Varadkar, released under the Freedom of Information Act to TheJournal.ie, states that while the Hollywood actor is “grateful and supportive of one of the first actions you [Varadkar] took as the Taoiseach in banning fracking in Ireland” he called on the Taoiseach to consider the wider implications of importing fracked gas from other jurisdictions. 

Ruffalo continues:

“After seeing the devastation that fracking has caused in the US, you have protected the lives of the Irish people. I’m writing to ask you to please take into consideration the lives of the American people and our shared climate and not lock Ireland into decades of US fracked gas by allowing the Shannon LNG project.”

He goes on to state that the gas that would flow into the Irish energy market would come from areas such as Pennsylvania, where Ruffalo has been volunteering for over ten years to help people harmed by fracking. 

It is a travesty what has happened here and while I know it is not your decision to frack in the US, your decision will matters worse here if you decide to move ahead with this project. 
I also know, having working in politics long enough, that this is a political decision that you and your party will be making next Wednesday about whether or not to take the Shannon LNG terminal off the European Commission’s PCI list. You have every reason you need to remove it from the list – economic scientific, procedural and moral. 

Ruffalo acknowledged that the project brings a promise of 50 jobs to the region, but he told the Taoiseach that “there will be no silver lining in bringing US fracked gas to Ireland”.

“Right now, on both sides of the pond, people are asking you to do the right thing. In New York State, our governor stropped an LNG terminal and put offshore wind in its place – both protecting our climate and creating lasting renewable energy jobs, not temporary ones. You are in a position to do the same and I believe that you can,” he said. 

The actor concluded the letter by stating that he would like to discuss the issues with the Taoiseach “one-on-one”. 

Responding to the letter from Ruffalo, private secretary to Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton, said the Climate Advisory Council will examine the role of oil and gas exploration, adding that any new exploration for oil will cease. 

The email goes on to state that the Shannon LNG terminal has been on the Project of Common European Interest for six years and aims to provide security of supply, “particularly as our gas from the Corrib s exhausted. 

Ruffalo is told that natural gas is an important transition fuel because “stand-by capapcity is needed when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine”. 

“The official advice which the minister has received strongly supports the continued value of an LNG import facility in the context of our transition to a low carbon economy with security”. 

The actor is told that the minister is aware of the concerns and recent research papers which suggest that fracked gas can generate additional greenhouse gas in the form of methane and is also told that the government will first carry out an energy security assessment before proceeding with the project. 

“It is also important to point out that our existing source of piped natural gas from Scotland can use gas from combined sources and can include fracked gas,” states the letter. 

When asked about the concerns about the LNG terminal in Kerry, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last year that gas will be part of the “energy mix” well into the 2040s. 

He said there are currently only two ways Ireland can get gas into the market – through the Corrib pipeline and through the pipeline from the UK. 

Varadkar said there is a need for Ireland to have energy security, adding that the “LNG terminal would be part of the answer that”. 

“It is already the case that there is probably fracked gas coming into Ireland from the connector from the UK,” he said, adding that the government has not made any commitments to back the project or fund it in anyway. He said the government will first carry out an energy security assessment. 

The Taoiseach has also stated in the Dáil that he is unsure if he can move to ban fracked gas being imported into Ireland. 

This content was originally published here.

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