Vulcan Insight

Mark Ruffalo warns Europe against fracking

7 February 2020

Hollywood actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo visited the European Parliament this week to encourage MEPs to vote against a proposal by the European Commission to install liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals in Europe. He believed that fracking for LNG gas would result in toxic chemical contamination of the water supply as well as encourage the use of more controversial fracking methods in America and beyond.

The proposed infrastructure projects are contained in the so-called fourth EU list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI), which contains 32 proposed gas projects, five of which are the installation of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. A PCI, which is considered to have a significant impact on energy markets and market integration in at least two EU countries, are given priority through accelerated planning and permit granting.

Fracking is the process of drilling into the earth and injecting water, sand and PFAS chemicals at high pressure, causing the rock to fracture, thereby allowing the gas to flow to the head of a well.

The Commission, which acknowledges that PFAS pollution is caused by industrial wastewater releases, considers that the sheer number of known PFAS (4,700) makes conducting a risk assessment and environmental monitoring too lengthy and resource-intensive.

Ruffalo, who stars in a new film Dark Waters, a legal thriller about the chemical contamination of the drinking water in DuPont, warned against the EU’s LNG projects. He told MEPs, “It is going to be fracked gas taken from my community, it’s going to poison our people and it is the antithesis of moving forward with the European Green Deal”.  The European Green Deal is the EU’s plan to become climate neutral by 2050 and, of particular relevance, to ensure the protection of human life, animals and plants, by cutting pollution.

The warning from the star of the Avenger films came a month after he emailed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asking him to not allow the import of fracked gas from the U.S. at the Shannon LNG terminal. As well as the Irish terminal, another terminal in Krk, Croatia, has been designated to receive natural gas that is fracked in the US. Speaking previously on The Tonight Show, Ruffalo said, “I’ve been fighting against fracking, hydrofracking and the poisoning of our communities for the last ten years, and I’m here to tell you that the gas that you’ll be getting is harming people here and killing them”.

If the list is approved, EU taxpayers could fund up to 50% of the use of the LNG terminals projects through the EU’s Connected Europe Facility funding programme. The European Commission defended the  number of gas projects back in October 2019, on the basis that the number of the projects had decreased from 53 two years ago to 32 under the proposed fourth list. However, a study by the consulting firm Artelys for the European Climate Foundation concluded that most of the 32 gas projects are “unnecessary from a security of supply point of view, and represents a potential over-investment of tens of billions of euros”.

The last word fell to the German MEP Manfred Weber, who responded to Mark Ruffalo’s tweet to reject the Project of Common Interest list, by saying that the EU will support the list as the projects are crucial for the EU’s energy market and to provide a clean, affordable and reliable energy source. He ended with a call for the veteran actor and environmental activist to urge the U.S. to support the Paris Climate Agreement. Donald Trump quit the Agreement in 2017.