TOUR DE CONFUSION: JIM RATCLIFFE’S GLOSSING OVER OF FRACKING IMPACTS

“The government is just not listening to the science [on fracking] at all,” according to INEOS’s Jim Ratcliffe, during a BBC interview on INEOS’s new cycling sponsorship project, Team INEOS, at the launch of the Tour De Yorkshire, where Ratcliffe was given a free BBC platform to promote fracking without any journalistic balance.

Protests have overshadowed the rebrand from Team Sky cycling to Team INEOS, with campaigners highlighting the greenwashing attempts by INEOS and the need to ban the sponsorship of sports teams by fossil fuel companies.

Pittsburgh

Ratcliffe used Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania as a positive example of successful fracking benefits, stating:

“Fracking has been so successful in America. It has transformed places like Pittsburgh. It’s now full of new cars, new buildings and people with smiles on their faces.”

This is the same Pittsburgh, where the rapid spread of the oil and gas industry has also seen a correlated increase in public health impacts and diminished air quality. Pittsburgh sits on top of the rich Marcellus Shale, where fracking activities are widespread – upwards of 11,500 wells have been drilled and fracked in the state of Pennsylvania, with permits for another 10,000.

Ratcliffe surely can’t have missed the internationally-reported Dimock Township scandal either, where a community of 18 residential wells were allegedly contaminated by Cabot Oil and Gas Corp’s fracking activities. One report said that “…the well water at Ken Morcom and Kim Grosso’s house in Dimock, Pennsylvania is laced with so much explosive methane that a Pennsylvania environmental regulator who went there to collect samples this summer decided it would be safer to coast her SUV down the driveway.”

Occurring over 10 years ago, the battle for liability in Dimock is still ongoing, with dirty tactics from the industry side including a lawsuit against resident Ray Kemble, with the intent of silencing his voice in the fight against fracking.

There are serious concerns from environmental and medical professionals that the fracking industry has impacted health and life in the Pennsylvania area. The industry has been accused of bringing, “polluted wastewater, dirty air, roads crowded with gas industry trucks, and rural areas dotted with noisy and unsightly drilling platforms,” to the area, with politicians still backing new developments, citing the employment and investment benefits over health and the environment.

Dragon ships

INEOS transports liquefied ethane gas from the USA across the Atlantic, to their Grangemouth plant, to use the ethane as feedstock to make more plastics. The gas travels through the Mariner East pipeline – fraught with accidents and shut-downs, including sinkholes, where the operator – a distributing partner for INEOS – Sunoco, has just bought-out two homes close to sinkholes in Chester County where residents claim Sunoco had:

“…negligently drilled through porous rock near their homes without recognizing that sinkholes would likely result, and ignoring the results of a geotechnical investigation there.”

The gas is then shipped from the Marcus Hook terminal in Pennsylvania on bespoke ‘dragon class’ ships – the name given to the colossal vessels. According to INEOS’s website, 5,000 workers took “between 1-2 million man-hours to build each vessel”.

The dragon ships dock at INEOS’s Rafnes facility in Norway and the Grangemouth site in Scotland, where the raw materials are converted into yet more plastics – the polluting scourge of our oceans.

INEOS isn’t exactly famed for their safety record, with a whole catalogue of breaches and safety incidents they’ve managed to clock up. From plastic nurdle pollution littering the beaches surrounding their polymers plant near Fife to their Grangemouth complex being partially evacuated after ethylene gas leaked from a pipeline at Kinneil Gas plant. Local roads were closed and school children kept inside, police asked schools to keep children inside (the second gas leak in three years that forced school children to remain indoors).

Ignorance

Ignorant of the dangers inherent in fracking, just today, Jim Ratcliffe was quoted as stating:

“I wouldn’t want to get involved in fracking if it was dangerous. All you do is pump water down.”

The executive director of Food and Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter, has previously said:

“Fracking is creating a public health and climate disaster while propping the highly polluting plastics industry.

“People on both sides of the Atlantic are suffering the costs, with extremely detrimental effects to our global environment—everything from air pollution and climate-altering emissions to the proliferation of plastic waste can be tied to the companies benefiting from this poisonous process.”

From Pennsylvania to Scotland, the climate and community-damaging impacts of fracking for plastics cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.