Residents Action on Fylde Fracking

LCC full council debate on fracking motion

Newsflash from Counterbalance:

“For those interested in Fracking, we see a motion from County Councillor Paul Hayhurst that will be debated at LCC’s Full Council meeting starting at 1:30 today (Thurs) which says “This Council urges the new government to extend to the people of Lancashire the same rights as those proposed for Scotland in relation to shale gas, with any decisions regarding exploration or extraction in Lancashire devolved to Lancashire County Council.” The debate on this motion will be viewable on the LCC webcast of the meeting. For those interested the webcast is at: http://connect.lancashire.public-i.tv/site/mg_bounce.php…

Can you help collect signatures around the Fylde?

The Lancashire County Council planning meetings will soon be upon us but we still have time to obtain more signatures to add to the thousands we already have. Please can you help make this last push a major success.

It would be helpful if you could bring your own clipboard and 2 or 3 pens with you. Objection letters will be supplied. The dates and locations are:

 

Monday 18th May Poulton From 10am – We will either be around the Home Bargains area or the Market area at the other side of the arcade

 

Wednesday 20th May Great Eccleston From 10am

 

Thursday 21st May Garstang From 10am

 

Thursday 21st May KIrkham From 11am Meeting at the Fishstones, Market Square

 

Saturday 23rd May St Johns Square Blackpool From 11am

 

Sunday 31st May Preston Guild Hall from 10-4   Stall  at Preston Wellness Event

Further information kelky@tkelk.freeserve.co.uk 

 

Two solar farms public exhibitions, 21 May

Two public exhibitions on possible solar farms are being held on 21 May – one for Todderstaffe Hall Farm, Singleton and the other for Cask Farm, Mythop Road, near Blackpool.

Todderstaffe Hall Farm, Singleton

SPI Solar are proposing to develop a Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Scheme on agricultural land at Todderstaffe Hall Farm, Singleton and would like to hear your views on the proposals.

The proposed scheme involves the installation of up to 5 MW of ground mounted solar photovoltaic panels that will generate enough renewable energy annually to power 1,500 domestic homes.

SPI Solar are holding a Public Exhibition to ensure the community are fully involved in the proposal and understand the potential benefits that successful implementation of the scheme would bring.

The exhibition will be held at Staining Village Hall, between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursday 21st May 2015. The exhibition will provide an explanation of the proposed development and how the scheme works. Most importantly, the exhibition provides you with the opportunity to comment on the scheme, ask the questions you have and to ensure your opinions have been heard.

Cask Farm, Mythop Road, near Blackpool

Lightsource Renewable Energy is currently in the early stages of preparing a proposal for a solar farm on an area of grazing pasture at Cask Farm, Mythop Road, near Blackpool. The company’s planners conduct a range of studies and assessments which are still underway. A community information drop in evening has been arranged for Thursday 21st May 2015, between 5.30pm – 8.00pm, at Weeton Village Hall, Church Road, Weeton PR4 3WD.

A leaflet detailing the proposal is available here

Lancs County Council set planning dates for 23-26 June

Lancashire County Council has contacted us with the following dates for the presentations and committee meetings to decide on the planning applications for Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.

 

Development Control Committee  – Planning applications LCC/2014/0097& 0098 and LCC/2014/0101 & 0102

It has been agreed that an additional meeting of the Development Control Committee will be held to consider the above planning applications.

It is proposed that the 30 minute presentations and the committee meeting will be held over the course of 6 days. The dates are as follows:

  •  Thursday 18 June  2015 -  10.30am to approx. 3.30pm – 30 Minute Presentations (Preston New Road)
  • Friday 19 June 2015  – 10.30am  to approx. 3.30pm – 30 Minute Presentations (Roseacre Wood)
  • Tuesday and Wednesday 23 & 24 June 2015 at 10.00am – Committee meeting re: Planning applications LCC/2014/0096 & 0097 (Preston New Road)
  • Thursday and Friday 25 & 26 June 2015 at 10.00am -  Committee meeting re: Planning applications LCC/2014/0101 & 0102 (Roseacre Wood)

Further information on the arrangements for the committee meeting will be issued in due course.

30 minute presentations – Preston New Road

At the last meeting of the Development Control Committee when the above applications were deferred, the Chair of the Committee gave assurances that those groups who made presentations would be given the opportunity to do so again. This remains the case.

The 30 minute presentations associated with the Preston New Road applications will be held on Thursday 18 June 2015 commencing at 10.30am in the main Council Chamber at County Hall, Preston. Please report to the Pitt Street entrance of County Hall no earlier than 10.00am that day.

During the 30 minute presentation, your group will have an opportunity to show a Powerpoint or pdf presentation, photographs and other relevant information.

Please note that the council’s laptops do not accept memory sticks/flashdrives.  Therefore, please send your Powerpoint presentation via email to democratic.services@lancashire.gov.uk by 12 noon on Tuesday 16 June 2015.  It is also recommended bringing a copy on a disk as back-up if you have the facilities to do so.

If your presentation contains music files, video clips etc, then please advise as soon as possible as separate timescales will apply.

Please provide the names of the presenter/s and of the members of your group who wish to attend the presentations as soon as possible and before 8 June.  Please note that the presentations allow the opportunity for groups to give a private presentation to the committee. These are not public meetings.  Therefore, the number of people attending will be limited and restricted to the presenters and 5 members of your group (including yourself). To avoid confusion, we will only accept nominations from yourself as the group representative.  

No formal invitations will be issued so please advise the appropriate members of your group accordingly.  A list of names will be provided to the receptionist at the Pitt Street entrance. Anyone whose name does not appear on the list will be refused entry.

It is proposed that the running order for the presentations will be as follows:

  •  10.30       Preston New Road Action Group
  • 11.00       Little Plumpton Awareness Group
  • 11.30       Defend Lytham
  • 12.00       Frack Free Fylde

12.30pm Lunch break

  •  13.30       Residents Action on Fylde Fracking
  • 14:00       Friends of the Earth
  • 14.30       Cuadrilla
  • 15:00          Questions (by the Committee to the presenters)

What could possibly go wrong?

David Cameron is busily appointing new heads and ministers including those involved in energy, the environment, climate change, etc. We’ll take an in-depth look at these new appointments at a later date but initial research reveals that, without exception, they have all, at some time, promoted the advantages of shale gas.  Less than a week after the election, the Conservative Party has already made a statement about its plans for shale,  vowing to “support the shale gas and fracking industry in the UK, especially in the north of England”.

While we wait for Lancashire County Council to arrive at a decision over plans to frack Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the litany of planning breaches and disastrous technical failures incurred by Cuadrilla in Lancashire so far.  Our thanks to Frack Off for collating this data.

Banks/Becconsall, Lancashire

1) Cuadrilla drilled beyond agreed 90 day time limit

Cuadrilla’s application 08/10/0973, approved Oct 2010 under delegated powers, included Condition 1 which required: “The drilling operations shall be completed within a period of three months from the date of their commencement”

In September 2012, Lancashire County Council’s planning officer, Stuart Perigo, gave evidence in a case at Preston Crown Court (ended Thursday 6th September) that Cuadrilla had drilled beyond the permitted 90-day limit. Guardian article

2) Cuadrilla drilled beyond agreed cut-off date to protect wintering birds

The same application (08/10/0973), included Condition 22 which required: “No site clearance, site preparation or development work shall take place until a method statement detailing the measures to be implemented to mitigate the impacts of the development on ecological interests (overwintering birds) of the Marsh Farm Fields BHS has been submitted to and approved in writing by the County Planning Authority. The method statement shall include provision for seasonal restrictions on site development works and measures to avoid impacts on ground nesting birds”.

In September 2012, Lancashire County Council’s planning officer, Stuart Perigo, gave evidence in a case at Preston Crown Court (ended Thursday 6th September) that Cuadrilla drilled beyond 30th September 2011 and so breached the planning condition designed to protect wintering birds at a nearby sanctuary. Guardian article

3) Cuadrilla failed to restore the site within 18 months of the start of development

The same application (08/10/0973 included Conditions 1 and 23 which required work and site restoration to be completed in 18 months of start of development. Development started 28th March 2011 so site to be restored by September 2012. But this has not happened.

4) Cuadrilla drilled a sidetrack to the wellbore even though planning permission was for one vertical well (Becconsall 1 & 1z)

A DECC Landwells spreadsheet and a map from the UK Onshore Geophysical Library shows that two wells were spudded at Becconsall, even though permission was granted for only one. Becconsall 1 was spudded 23rd August 2011 and Becconsall 2 was spudded on 13th October 2011. The HSE said: “The Becconshall well is vertical. Becconshall 1z was a side-track drilled to bypass equipment which had become stuck in the original borehole and could not be recovered. It was drilled to the original planned depth. A side-track is a planned deviation from a previously drilled section of the wellbore.”

5) Land set aside by Cuadrilla for over-wintering birds displaced from its Becconsall site had already been let to a local gun club

Link to the full report here…

Preese Hall, Lancashire

6) Cuadrilla seismic events, deformation and failure to report immediately to DECC

A report by Green and Styles report for DECC concluded a series of earthquakes in Spring 2011 in Lancashire were caused by fracking at Preese Hall. The first was on 1 April 2011, magnitude 2.3M. Well-bore deformation was discovered on 4th April 2011 when a caliper log run showed that deformation was greater than 0.5 inches over a depth range between 8,480-8640ft. There was another earthquake was on 27th May 2011, magnitude 1.5M. A total of 50 seismic events were detected from 31st March 2011-27th May 2011. Fracking was suspended on 30th May (Source: Independent)

The Guardian reported that the Energy Secretary, Charles Hendry, wrote to Lord Browne, on 11th May 2012: “My department is concerned Cuadrilla failed to recognise the significance of the casing deformation experienced in the earth tremor triggered by fracking operations on 1 April 2011. …. “So much so, that the company did not report it to my officials … as to the possible cause of the tremor and the possibility it might be linked to fracking. In the light of Cuadrilla’s responses to the department’s subsequent inquiries, I have formed the view that this failure discloses weaknesses in Cuadrilla’s performance as a licensee, which need to be addressed.”

7) Cuadrilla failed on four occasions to restore the site by the date set in the conditions

  1. Application 05/09/0572, approved October 2009, included Conditions 1 and 2 which required work to start no later than 3 years from date of permission (October 2012) and site to be restored within 18 months of start of development. A planners’ report said work started on 16th November 2009 so the site should have been restored by 15th May 2011.
  2. Application 05/11/0431, approved in January 2013, varied the condition of application 05/09/0572 on time limit for site restoration. Condition 1 of that application required “No works other than those associated with the plugging and abandonment of the borehole and for the restoration of the site shall be carried out on the site and the site shall be restored in accordance with condition 14 of this permission by not later than 31 December 2013”.
  3. Application 05/13/0800, approved in February 2014, again varied the condition in 05/11/0431 on time limit for site restoration. Condition 1 required: “No works other than those associated with the plugging and abandonment of the borehole and for the restoration of the site shall be carried out on the site. The site shall be restored in accordance with condition 16 of this permission by not later than 31 July 2014.”
  4. Application 2014/0123, approved September 2014, again varied the condition in 05/11/0431 on time limit for site restoration. Its Condition 1 required “No works other than those associated with the plugging and abandonment of the borehole and for the restoration of the site shall be carried out on the site. The site shall be restored in accordance with condition 15 of this permission by not later than 30th April 2015.” The site remains unrestored.

8) Well integrity problems

A VICE News report on December 2nd 2014 said emails between Cuadrilla and the Health and Safety Executive, released following a Freedom of Information request, showed a leak of gas within the well. There was no evidence of any leaks outside the production casing and into the surrounding environment. But three engineers told VICE News this amounted to a technical breach of well integrity. Cuadrilla has denied the emails indicate this.

9) Flowback fluid problems

According to an Environment Agency response to a Freedom of Information request, in 2011, Cuadrilla sent more than 8,000 cubic metres of flowback fluid (the volume of 3+ Olympic swimming pools) from hydraulic fracturing at Preese Hall to the United Utilities Daveyhulme Industrial Waste Water treatment facility in Greater Manchester.

An investigation by BBC Inside Out in January 2014, found that radium levels were 90 times the permitted level for drinking water. The flowback fluid contained what was regarded as low level naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and at the time, under the regulations, it was classed as industrial effluent, not hazardous waste.

In October 2011, the Environmental Permitting regulations changed to incorporate the Radioactive Substances Regulations. As a result, Daveyhulme could no longer accept flowback fluid without a permit. The fluid was disposed, under licence, into the Manchester Ship Canal. There are reports that the fluid was not adequately treated. At the time, the BBC Inside Out said there were no treatment works equipped to treat flowback fluid in the north west.

A further 120 cubic metres of flowback fluid was used in laboratory and batch scaled trials at a number of industrial waste treatment sites. The Environment Agency said these sites had permits to treat effluents. The trials were designed to “help determine disposal routes should the industry be given permission to continue. After these trials no further flowback remained at the Preese Hall site.

Other sources: BBC press release; breakdown of contents of flowback fluid, Residents’ Action Against Fylde Fracking quoting EA/Mike Hill correspondence; EA document on flowback fluid December 2011

Anna’s Road, Lancashire

10) Cuadrilla failed to restore the site by the time in the planning condition

Application 05/10/0634, approved November 2010, included Conditions 1 and 2 which required the development to begin no later than 3 years from the date of the permission and the site to be restored within 18 months of the start of the work.

A planning officers’ report in February 2014 for a new application (05/12/0729) said work started on 19th September 2011 and the site should have been restored on 18th March 2013.

Another application 05/12/0729, approved February 2014 varied the condition on the time limit for restoration. Condition 1 requires the site to be restored no later than 31st July 2014.

11) Cuadrilla abandoned well after a packer tool becomes trapped

A Cuadrilla statement on 16th November 2012 confirmed that it would discontinue the current well and drill another 10ft away. It said a cement bond log showed the possibility that the cement had not adhered evenly to the casing near the bottom of the well below the aquifer. During tests, a packer became trapped by the pressure and the company said it was not feasible to drill through or around it.

12) Cuadrilla abandoned fracking at Anna’s Road over EIA but blamed wintering birds

On 21st January 2013 a Cuadrilla statement announced plans to frack at Anna’s Road.

On March 14th 2013, Cuadrilla issued a statement saying it was “modifying” its planning application before Lancashire County Council to include an EIA covering drilling, fracking and flow testing and would resubmit later in the year.

On March 16th 2013, the Guardian reported Cuadrilla had halted operations at Anna’s Road because of need for environmental assessment. The paper said the assessment would not be completed before autumn when work would be disrupted anyway by wintering birds.

On 7th October 2013, Cuadrilla announced it would not submit an application for fracking at Anna’s Road. A statement said: “The background to this decision includes technical constraints related to wintering birds.”

On 17th December 2013, a Cuadrilla statement said Anna’s Road would be restored by the end of July 2014.

On 11th December 2013, Lancashire County Council recorded the withdrawal of Cuadrilla’s application for a horizontal borehole for exploration, core sampling but not fracking.

Grange Hill/Singleton, Lancashire

13) Cuadrilla failed to restore the site by the time set in the planning condition

Application 05/10/0091, approved February 2010, including Conditions 1 and 2, which required work to start within 3 years of the permission and the site to be restored within 18 months of commencement

A planning officer’s report from July 2014 said work started on 20th July 2010 and the site should have been restored by 19th January 2012. On 20th December 2011, Cuadrilla submitted another application (05/12/0003) to extend the time period for completing the well testing by fracking and for restoration to May 2014. This application was withdrawn.

14) No planning permission at Grange Hill/Singleton since 2012

See above. On 8th April 2015, Lancashire County Council’s development control committee refused application LCC/2014/0084, for seismic monitoring, pressure testing, abandonment and restoration. The decision has yet to be confirmed but it means there has been no planning permission for the site since the original planning permission expired on 19th January 2012.

15) Cuadrilla drilled a sidetrack to the wellbore, which was not mentioned in the planning permission

Application 05/10/0091, approved February 2010, was for a vertical well. A DECC Landwells spreadsheet and UK Onshore Geophysical Library map shows that Grange Hill 1 was spudded on 15th January 2011 and Grange Hill 1Z on 15th April 2011. A reply to an FOI request to the Health and Safety Executive (27th January 2015) confirmed that Cuadrilla drilled the sidetrack to bypass a drilling assembly stuck in the original borehole which could not be recovered.

16) General seismic testing, Lancashire

A Guardian report in August 2013 said that Cuadrilla’s contractors repeatedly trespassed on private land during geological surveys from April-June 2012. The paper said Cuadrilla had paid out to at least one homeowner to settle legal action over trespassing. Mark Mills, who lives near Lytham St Annes, said Cuadrilla operatives repeatedly trespassed into his large garden in May to lay cables and drive in dozens of sensors to make seismic recordings. After the first cables were laid, he said: “I told an operator don’t go back on my land and he said, ‘I won’t.’ But lo and behold, the next day they had been in again and put a big red mark on the ground.” Mills said the operators’ maps, which he copied, showed the mark was to be the site of a detonation. “It was right near a gas main and my septic tank,” he said.

The Guardian also reported that the issue was raised at a meeting between senior Cuadrilla staff and the then Energy Minister, Charles Hendry on 2nd July 2012. Hendry is said to have expressed concern over “recent reports of intrusion into developed areas for the seismic testing over the Jubilee weekend” and said “these incidents only served to strengthen what was now becoming a national campaign”.

17) Publicity

In April 2013, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld six of 18 complaints against Cuadrilla Resources for its brochure Summer 2012 Exploring For Natural Gas. The pressure group, Refracktion, claimed the document was misleading, exaggerated and unsubstantiated. The ASA ordered that the brochure must not appear again in its complained-of form.

An incompetent drilling company and a whole load of planning breaches doesn’t exactly inspire confidence does it? Do the gung ho Tory ministers who are pushing for this to go ahead even know about these issues. Do they even care?

Gathering on the Green (4)

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1 August 2015 at 2.00 pm. Lytham Windmill

As this event is created to mark the FOURTH Gathering on the Green event – there has been NO further fracking because of community resistance – brilliant! BUT… we need to keep at this, we cannot ease off. A gathering shows our unity, our numbers and our ability to co-operate for shared goals… and the frackers really hate that.

As each community here in the NW (and throughout the UK) was given access the truth and reality of what fracking for shale gas involves… a new group would form to defend that community and further share the information.

So again and this time much more LOUDLY – we call for a gathering on Lytham Green (by the Windmill) of all who are concerned about Fracking (shale gas extraction).

Around this time last year and the year before, and the year before that.. we had our first, second and third ‘Gathering on the Green’ events and now in 2015, as Cuadrilla plans are still stalled – we are in URGENT need of another one.

The politicians just aren’t sure we mean it when we say shale gas extraction in Lancashire (or anywhere else) comes with too many risks.

The industry & Government have suggested we can be bought-off with ever-increasing ‘sweeteners’. That WE would sell our right to health, safety and quality of life…and that of our children; as if we live by the same morals they work by.

The fantastic work of residents, communities, local, national and international groups has meant that ‘fracking’ has stayed in the news and despite the wealth and power of those behind this dangerous industry – the opposition to it grows more informed and numerous.

We need to make it loud and clear that we do not accept this threat to our community and to do that, we need to gather ourselves together and show we are united on THIS ISSUE.

The gathering is for residents, friends, families, businesses and any who feel that the shale gas industry comes with too many risks. A day for picnics, conversation, information and a show of numbers that makes our position clear and says ….we will not be bought-off.

Please share this and help us, we need you.

Another energy company making false claims in the NW: time to contact the ASA

A few weeks ago, a petition was started on 38 Degrees urging David Cameron and the leaders of Europe to scrap plans for Moorside.  The petition site said: “The UK Government is planning to sell a vast area of Cumbria to the same companies responsible for the Fukushima disaster, so that they can build new nuclear reactors.   Please don’t risk the safety of Europe by turning Cumbria into a nuclear sacrifice zone. Why is this important? Cumbria already has Sellafield.  The Sellafield site has the biggest amount of radioactivity on the planet. A major accident involving the liquid high level waste tanks would have catastrophic consequences and make the area uninhabitable for many generations.”

Since then the developers NuGen have been placing adverts in Cumbrian newspapers containing false claims about how much energy nuclear reactors actually produce. Radiation Free Lakeland is asking that we write to the Advertising Standards Authority and complain about NuGen’s false and exaggerated information. The ASA takes this sort of complaint very seriously – remember Cuadrilla got its knuckles wrapped quite severely a couple of years ago resulting in the banning of its newsletter.

Below is the letter we received from Radiation Free Lakeland. Please do read it and use the information to send to the ASA. Thank you.

Dear Friends,

Thank you for all the campaigning and letters sent to Stop Moorside.  NuGen the developers have put a double page advertorial in every  Cumbrian newspaper advertising the CONsultation which starts on 16th May. https://mariannewildart.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/moorside-consultation.jpg. On behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland I have lodged a complaint with  the Advertising Standards Authority regarding the fantastical claim  that the proposed Moorside nuclear plant would provide 7% of the UK’s energy.  It would be fantastic if the ASA recieved lots of complaints on this lie – that NuGen’s Moorside Project aims to provide approximately 7% of the UK’s current energy requirement. Government ministers, never mind the public, are genuinely confused about the scale of nuclear energy and this has been no accident. The  confusion between energy-power-electricity has been going on for  years, always in nuclear’s favour.

NuGen’s claim that Moorside will produce 7% of the UKs energy is what it is – a lie. Nuclear reactors have generated only about 3 .6 % of UK  energy demand over recent years. Nuclear reactors worldwide only produce 2.4 % of global energy.  These percentage energy figures do /  does not reach the media because the major energy organisations don’t want to give the game away.  Sometimes the energy content of uranium fuel is compared with renewable electricity output. However, this comparison is wrong, making nuclear look three times bigger than it is because nuclear power stations are only about 35% thermally efficient.

Independent Energy Consultant Neil Crumpton states that: “Nuclear supporters may be surprised, if not shocked, to hear that nuclear reactors produce such a small percentage of UK and global energy demand. Nuclear energy is widely portrayed as a significant and crucial technology in the battle against climate change. Yet it is just a dangerous, complex and unnecessary technology with a tiny 2.4 % energy output now and facing major limitations for even reaching 3 % in the future”. Neil Crumpton is a member of the DECC-NGO Nuclear Forum representing People Against Wylfa B.

Please send complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority  http://www.asa.org.uk/Consumers/How-to-complain.aspx

References: Advertising: Moorside Nuclear Power Plant
Media: Newspaper – Westmorland Gazette date 16th April – and other printed media in Cumbria
Company: NuGen

Here is some more info: Nuclear power only represents about 2.4 % of global ENERGY supply, officially termed ‘final energy demand’. Nuclear energy (mostly electricity) output was around 2,461 TWh/y in 2012 and global final energy demand was 104,400 TWh/y in 2012 (8,979 mega-tonnes of oil equivalent pr ‘mtoe’ x 11.63 TWh per mtoe) see pages 16 and page 30 in  IEA’s Key World Energy Stats 2014 :  http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2014.pdf.

Nuclear output will not have changed much since then and has fallen from a high of around 2,700 TWh/y around 10 years ago.

With Best Wishes,
Marianne  https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-moorside-biggest-nuclear-development-in-europe>>

FoE advert a riposte to Soames “try it out in the North” suggestion

guineapig2

 

This great ad was published in tonight’s Lancashire Evening Post (28:04:15) by Friends of the Earth. The guinea pig reference is particularly appropriate as it was only a couple of days ago that the newspaper carried the story about Sussex MP Nicholas Soames suggesting that fracking should be tested in the North West rather than the South East.

He told a public meeting that rural areas in the North would be the perfect place to try out the controversial drilling process to see if it is safe. Specifically, he suggested it should be tried out in the Trough of Bowland. He said, “Where do I think it should be? I would go and start in the Trough of Bowland in Lancashire which is a very underpopulated area. I think it would be a very good place to start.”

You can watch him making these remarks at hustings in Haywards Heath, Sussex, on 21 April, here.

Soames isn’t the first politician to suggest that fracking should start in the North. In 2013, former Energy Minister Lord Howell, who is also George Osborne’s father-in-law, said, “There are large and uninhabited and desolate areas. Certainly in part of the North East where there’s plenty of room for fracking that there was plenty of room for fracking in the ‘desolate’ North East. He later apologised and said that he had meant the North West.

These remarks from Saomes and Howell leave us in little doubt about the Conservative Party’s attitude to fracking – they want it as long as it isn’t on their patch in the South.

Medact publishes rebuttal responding to UKOOG criticisms of its report on Fracking and Health

On 31st of March, Medact published its report on Health and Fracking which concluded that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas (‘fracking’) poses significant risks to public health and called for an immediate moratorium to allow time for a full and comprehensive health and environmental impact assessment (HIA) to be completed.

In addition to this, shale gas is not a clean source of energy. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and its use is incompatible with global efforts to prevent global warming. There are clear grounds for adopting the precautionary principle and prohibiting fracking entirely.

In response, the report was challenged and criticised by UKOOG: the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry. A number of pro-fracking individuals have also criticised the report via social media, in person at the report launch, and in an ‘open letter’ to Medact; while a news item published by the Times falsely claimed that the Medact report had been written by an ‘activist’.

On 21 April, Medact published a rebuttal and a letter addressing these criticisms.

Dr Patrick Saunders, a co-author of the report said, “all the substantive criticisms were looked at carefully, but none of them have given us reason to change our conclusions and recommendations. We can conclude that shale gas development will have a negative social, ecological and health impact, even though we cannot quantify the effect with any precision”.

Among the key findings of the report is that regulatory systems and policies are insufficient to provide assurance that fracking could or would be conducted safely. These concerns have been echoed in a separate recent study on the regulatory system for fracking which was published by Joanne Hawkins from the University of Bristol.

Dr David McCoy, Director of Medact, said:“Even if we can’t quantifiably predict the scale of risk and harm associated with fracking, shale gas development in the UK appears incompatible with our need to respond to climate change. Put together, these reasons, have led us to conclude that shale gas development should be abandoned in favour of renewable energy development.

The claim that the report was written by an ‘activist’ is wrong. A request to the Times to correct their inaccuracy has thus far gone unanswered.

Graham Jukes OBE, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, in explicitly endorsing the Medact conclusions and content as a valuable contribution to the literature on this subject said: “It is a shame that the detailed analysis and arguments presented in the Medact report have not been widely or accurately reported in the mainstream press given that this is a vital and contentious policy issue”.

Medact have asked Public Health England to respond to its report on fracking and health, and to convene a meeting where these issues can be debated in public. David McCoy stated: “The public health community in the UK needs to come together to have an open and frank debate about fracking and climate change. But such a debate needs to take place without undue pressure from government ministers or inappropriate lobbying from industry”.

Is political expediency behind LCC’s announcement to delay planning application decisions?

As we predicted, Lancashire County Council has once again – at Cuadrilla’s request – delayed a decision on the company’s planning applications to frack Preson New Road (Little Plumpton) and Roseacre Wood. The LCC statement said:

“Lancashire County Council has agreed with Cuadrilla to extend the time period to make decisions on planning applications for shale gas development at two new sites to 30 June 2015.

“The council has received applications from Cuadrilla to drill, frack, and test gas flows, with associated separate applications for environmental monitoring, at two sites in Lancashire – Preston New Road at Little Plumpton, and Roseacre Wood at Roseacre.

“The extension follows a request by Cuadrilla to consider additional information about the applications. Cuadrilla’s request resulted in the deferral of a meeting of the Development Control Committee in January 2015 at which councillors had been due to make a decision on each application.

“The council has subsequently consulted upon the new information provided by Cuadrilla and planning officers must now review the feedback from the consultation period, and the details supplied by Cuadrilla, before preparing reports for a further meeting of the committee.

“Consultation on the further information relating to both sites took place from Friday 20 March to Friday 17 April to allow representations to be made. It had previously been agreed that both applications would be decided by 30 April 2015.

The council will announce dates for the applications to be determined by the Development Control Committee in due course.”

No one will be surprised by the news. Coming a week before the general election the 30 April was always in doubt – fracking is an electoral toxic issue. It does beg the question though – has LCC been leant on? Is this political expediency by the Tory party – had the applications been approved it’s likely that many Fylde Conservative votes would have been lost. The decision favours both Cuadrilla and the pro-fracking Tories.

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