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If you are considering switching to a greener energy supplier then please choose Ecotricity. Please go to the Ecotricity web site here and select RAFF  on the right hand side of the page. For each new customer RAFF will receive a £60 donation from Ecotricity, which will help us fight fracking in the Fylde and beyond. Thank you.                                                 

Letter from Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, to Secretary of State Greg Clark

The following is the full text of a letter sent from Lancashire County Council’s leader Jennifer mean to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

 

Dear Mr Clark

I have read with interest and concern a number of reports in the media this week about the Government’s plans to support the roll out of a shale gas industry in the United Kingdom, as set out in your letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer dated 7 July 2015. You will be aware that such matters have particular resonance in Lancashire, given the history of local planning applications and this being the location of the UK’s most recent fracking operations.

I would like to highlight my particular concern about any intention to take decision-making powers on shale gas related planning applications away from local communities.

It is abundantly clear from the response of our communities to recent planning applications that there is considerable public interest in these matters. As part of a visible and local democratic process, people from across Lancashire have invested significant time in expressing their views. The county council received and made publicly available a huge amount of relevant information about each application. Residents, business people and a wide range of other individuals and organisations took time to consider it and gathered their own evidence, which they had a meaningful opportunity to present to councillors as part of the planning process.

In turn, locally elected representatives considered at length all of the information presented to them by all parties who chose to contribute before, again very publicly, making their decisions.

The themes of accountability and transparency are at the heart of good government and they are achieved most effectively when decisions are made thoughtfully within the communities they affect by people who are locally elected, accessible and familiar with local issues. The devolution agenda rightly gives impetus to that notion. A proposal to take important decisions away from our communities would, I believe, do the opposite and undermine trust in our democratic process. On a practical level, the opportunity to exert local control through planning conditions (informed by local understanding) on matters such as noise and traffic control is important and will itself help to underpin confidence in the process.

I would urge you to ensure that any changes to the planning regime on these matters do not serve to bypass local decision making powers and to ensure that local communities are able to continue to have a strong voice in decisions which clearly affect them.

With reference to some of the other points in your letter, one of the concerns identified by the county council, including through a health impact assessment led by our Director of Public Health, is the damaging effect of a lack of information and assurance about the potential long term impact of fracking. If the Government succeeds in accelerating this agenda, it should not do so without thought for the communities living and working near to fracking sites, wherever they may be. Clear information and evidence is needed on key issues such as concerns about health, and people deserve to be informed by real facts rather than speculation or partial viewpoints.

To that end I would draw your attention to the Notice of Motion supported unanimously by our county councillors as long ago as October 2013. The county council called on the Government to establish industry-specific regulation which, implemented effectively, could go some way to addressing these issues. The same Notice of Motion added that industry- specific regulation must ensure that local planning control is maintained. I enclose a copy of the full Notice of Motion for reference.

Yours sincerely

Jenny Mein
Leader of Lancashire County Council

Notice of Motion

“Further to the motion regarding Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) of Shale Type Rock which was passed by Lancashire County Council in December 2012, this Council:

I Notes

a.The debate about benefits and disbenefits of extracting on-shore gas resources and the local environmental impacts

b.That large amounts of water are needed for hydraulic fracturing to extract shale.

c.The risk of groundwater contamination as a result of fracking where well integrity is compromised.

d.The impacts of noise, visual intrusion and air pollution from heavy traffic in communities close to fracking sites

e.Increasing concerns over potential direct and indirect impacts on human health and wellbeing, and awaits investigation into those concerns

f. that potential economic benefits need to be carefully balanced against the potential disbenefits to other sectors such as tourism and agriculture and to the opportunity for investment in the renewable energy sector;

g. the conflicting claims about whether UK shale gas will affect energy prices in the UK

ii. reiterates its call on the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to introduce Industry Specific regulation of hydraulic fracturing for the UK shale gas industry, as there are still no specific onshore exploration or extraction regulations for natural gas (and the offshore regulations developed in the 1990s are not sufficient to address all the issues that arise from moving the process onshore especially in populated areas of Lancashire);

iii) demands that such industry specific regulation must ensure that local planning control is maintained and that there should be a regular and rigorous inspection regime;

iv. will seek to attract to the county appropriate funding for projects which increase energy efficiency, sustainability and self-sufficiency, stabilise energy bills, and create jobs in the green economy.”

Govt survey shows “Those who know more about fracking tend to be more likely to oppose it”

The Government’s own survey shows what we’ve always known: “Those who know more about fracking tend to be more likely to oppose it” Amongst people who know a lot about fracking, 53% oppose it and 33% support it AND amongst people who know a little, 40% oppose it and 26% support it

The statistcs are from the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) PublicAttitudes Tracker, which monitors public attitudes to the Department’s main business priorities. The Public Attitudes Tracker consists of one annual survey every March and three shorter surveys, in June, September and December, which repeat a subset of questions where it thinks attitudes might shift with greater regularity or be influenced by seasonal factors. The latest report (Public Attitudes Tracker – Wave 16) presents summary headline findings from December 2015 and primarily makes comparisons with data from the previous quarter, September 2015 (wave 15), and that from the same period last year, December 2014 (wave 12).

Wave 16 includes new questions on fracking, energy use and concerns about energy dependence. I

Just under three quarters of the public were aware of fracking at wave 16 (74%). This compares with 77% at wave 15. Awareness of fracking has remained stable over the last 18 months, following a significant increase between wave 2 (42%) and wave 8 (70%). However, at wave 16 only 15% claimed to know a lot about it, compared to 43% saying they knew a little, and 16% saying they were aware of it but didn’t really know what it was. Awareness of fracking was higher for over 45s (87%), social grade AB (92%), males (81%), incomes over £35,000 (87%), and people in rural areas (81%).

When asked whether they support or oppose extracting shale gas, just over four in ten of the public neither supported nor opposed it (44%). This is most likely a reflection of the lack of knowledge people have about fracking. Amongst those that were only aware of fracking (but knew nothing about it), or that hadn’t heard of it, over 60% selected the neutral option or ‘don’t know’ when asked if they support or oppose its use.

Amongst those that did offer an opinion, slightly more opposed (29%) fracking than supported it (23%). This is similar to the findings seen since wave 14, but still a reversal of the findings when these questions were first asked at wave 8, when 27% supported it against 21% that opposed. This shift towards opposition has happened gradually over the last two years.

Support for fracking appears to be inversely linked to awareness, as those who know more about fracking tend to be more likely to oppose it. There is more opposition than support amongst those who know a lot about it (53% vs. 33%), and know a little about it (40% vs. 26%). For those who are aware of it but don’t really know what it is, the stances are even (both 18%).

Support for fracking differs by gender, with men (28%) more likely than women (17%) to support it. Older people also tend to support fracking the most, with 32% of over 65s saying they support it. Opposition to fracking is highest amongst social grade AB (39%) those aged 45-54 (36%) and 55-64 (38%). People in rural areas are also slightly more likely to be opposed (33%).

Two additional questions were introduced at wave 16, asking people to identify reasons why they support or oppose fracking. Of the 496 people asked who supported fracking, the three most commonly cited reasons were: needing to use all available energy sources (35%), reducing dependence on conventional fossil fuels (34%) and reducing dependence from other countries for UK’s energy supply (32%). Of the 596 people asked who opposed fracking, the most common reason by far was the loss/destruction of natural environment (61%). Beyond this, the next most common reasons cited were the risk of contamination to the water supply (32%), and fracking being too much of a risk/uncertainty to support at present (25%).

The survey also shows that support for renewable energy has been consistently high during the tracker at around 75-80%. This pattern has continued at wave 16, with 78% expressing support for the use of renewables. Opposition to renewables was very low at 4%, with only 1% strongly opposed.

The full summary can be downloaded here.

Leaked letter shows there will be no democratic process in planning applications for fracking

“Communities could lose the right to block fracking wells as part of a Cabinet plan to create a shale gas industry within a decade, the Telegraph can reveal.

“The 10-page plan, leaked to anti-fracking campaigners, sets out a timeline for the expansion of the shale gas industry in Britain. Three Cabinet ministers put their names to the scheme which would see fracking wells classified as ‘nationally significant infrastructure’.

“If that was to happen, then councils would be stripped of the ability to block planning applications for fracking wells in local communities.

“Instead unelected planning inspectors would be given the power to decide if shale gas drilling sites got the go-ahead, paving the way for a huge uptake in fracking.”

The Telegraph article can be downloaded here

What a sham. Coming a week before the Public Inquiries are due to start in Blackpool, this makes a fiction of democracy. It also makes a mockery of due process. Are the hearings a waste of time – a tick box exercise for the government to show that it has adhered to the democratic process? What about the communities who have suffered months and months of anguish, rising the funds, getting to grips with legal processes, etc. Does this government care? Of course it doesn’t – as we have repeatedly said there are too many vested interests of too many ministers and their cronies to care about communities. What will Fylde’s MP Mark Menzies have to say about it – let’s ask him and find out if he’s prepared to put his constituents before his party.

Write to: Mark Menzies, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Phone: 01253 739848 or 0207 219 7073

E-mail: mark.menzies.mp@parliament.uk

Egan grilled on BBC’s HARDtalk

At last a BBC journalist who knows, his facts, has done his research and is prepared to give Cuadrilla’s CEO Francis Egan a good grilling. The 23 minute interview is available on You Tube and is really worth watching. Egan, of course, trots out the usual stuff about employment, need for gas, support for fracking and all the other myths he has been peddling for the last five years.

ScreenShotRAFF062

Cuadrilla’s Appeal Information

Reposted from Preston New Road

The information for the Public Inquiry for Cuadrilla’s appeal hearing has been released. This is where local democracy is truly tested in full public view and will set a precedent for all fracking applications in the UK.

Appeals have been lumped together and will all be heard as one: both Preston New Road and Roseacre’s monitoring works and exploratory works will be included in one long hearing lasting up to 20 days +, if longer is required.

The inspector will then make her report after the conclusion of evidence, and then forward to Greg Clark in Westminster for him solely to make his decision, after being present at none of the evidence hearings. Seems sensible.

“The Inquiry will open at 10.00hrs on Tuesday 9th February 2016 at Blackpool Football Club Conference Centre, Bloomfield Road, Seasiders Way, Blackpool, FY1 6JJ. The Inquiry is set down for 20 days, over period of 5 weeks, normally between the hours of 09.30 and 17.30hrs. It will not sit on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Information about how documents relating to the Appeals can be viewed in advance of and during the inquiry can be accessed via the following web link:

http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/council/planning/major-planning-applications/shale-gas-developments-in-lancashire.aspx

The following sessions will be held with the specific purpose of providing members of the public with a convenient opportunity to speak at the Inquiry:

  • Wednesday 17th February at 18.30hrs until 21.30hrs for Roseacre Wood appeals
  • Thursday 25th February at 18.30hrs until 21.30hrs for Preston New Road appeals
  • Tuesday 10th March at 11.00hrs until 17.30 hrs for all appeals

If you are interested at speaking at the Inquiry, we request that you email your name, address, postcode, the day or evening, (from the three options listed above), at which to speak and the Appeal you wish to speak on, to Yvonne Parker, the Programme Manager by Wednesday 10th February 2016 at: appealsinquiry@virginmedia.com

Depending on the numbers wishing to speak, it may be necessary to limit the time allocated to each speaker at these sessions. In those circumstances it is anticipated that the Interested Persons will be given no longer than 5 minutes each to speak. If you are proposing to make oral representations by way of reading from a short written statement at one of these sessions, then a copy of that prepared statement should be submitted to the Programme Officer in support of what you wish to say, to the above email address. If all those who wish to speak cannot be accommodated within the dates and times set out above, then another opportunity will be provided within the Inquiry Programme before the Inquiry closes. Details of any such additional sessions will be announced at the Inquiry and published on the website at a later date.

All enquiries regarding this hearing can be directed to Leanne.Palmer@pins.gsi.gov.uk

Is it game over for the international shale industry?

Oh dear. During the last few days the industry and news press has been full of doom and gloom items reporting on a downward spiral for shale oil and gas. Industry experts are suggesting that the sector has peaked and that fracking will not be commercially viable, with small companies suffering the most.

These are just a few of the press items published in the last few days:

 

 

Tokyo Gas expects $90 million writedown on U.S. shale assets :  Tokyo Gas Co., Japan’s largest city-gas distributor, expects to book an impairment charge of ¥10.6 billion ($90 million) on its U.S. shale gas project and is reviewing its profit forecast following a drop in energy prices.

Job Cuts at Shale Companies Prompt Estonia to Consider EU Help : Largest private shale producer to eliminate 500 jobs; hundreds more positions at risk in industry, minister says. Estonia, the only country in the world that depends on oil shale for most of its energy needs, may ask for European Union aid as job cuts in the industry brought on by tumbling prices threaten efforts to boost energy independence and risk stoking social tensions.

BHP impairs US shale assets :  In response to ongoing weakness in oil and gas markets, BHP Billiton announced on Friday that it expects to recognise a $4.9 billion post-tax impairment charge against the carrying value of its onshore US shale assets. BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie said: “Oil and gas markets have been significantly weaker than the industry expected. We responded quickly by dramatically cutting our operating and capital costs and reducing the number of operated rigs in the onshore US business from 26 a year ago to five by the end of the current quarter.”

Fracking is an expensive business : Depending on site structure, companies need prices of between $60 (£40) and $100 per barrel of oil to break even. Yet now the alarm bells are ringing about the financial health of the fracking industry, with talk of a mighty monetary bubble bursting − leading to turmoil on the international markets similar to that in 2008. The cost of drilling is also going up as deposits become more inaccessible. Besides ongoing questions about the impact of fracking on the environment − in terms of carbon emissions and pollution of water sources − another challenge facing the industry is the growth and rapidly falling costs of renewable energy. Fracking operations could also be curtailed by more stringent regulations designed to counter fossil fuel emissions and combat climate change. Its backers have hyped fracking as the future of energy − not just in the US, but around the world. Now the outlook for the industry is far from certain.

The economics simply don’t add up. Investors are being advised to sell their shares in oil and gas companies as share prices in some of the larger companies, such as iGas, are tanking. Surely the international market situation will impact on plans to develop our nascent shale industry here in the UK.

 

Cuadrilla have not gone away from Singleton – they have just been lying in wait

STOP Press: The original date for sending in objections has been extended well into January. If you haven’t already objected please do so now

Cuadrilla appeal decision at Grange Road, Singleton

 Posted on behalf of SAFE (Singleton Against a Fracked Environment)

Cuadrilla is appealing against the decision by Lancashire County Council to refuse the application for seismic monitoring and pressure testing at Grange Road. They have applied for a written appeal. We are seeking legal advice as to whether this can be challenged. The reasons given for a written appeal include

– the application is not linked to PNR and Roseacre

– there is little public interest

For your information the appeal number is APP/Q2371/W/15/3137918 if you wish to make comments.

And the documents relating to the appeal are on the LCC Planning Applications website.

The timetable has been set out and is very short so we need to be acting quickly. Comments must be in by 25 December 2015.

If you are willing to help and support us in opposing this appeal please will you either contact Chris or Karen directly by phone or respond or email (safesingleton@hotmail.com) and we will arrange a meeting.

Chris 01253886787 or 07714186971 or Karen 07443613986

We need help in raising awareness locally and with local residents, fund raising and writing responses to the appeal .

We look forward to hearing from you

 

Many potential fracking areas are at significant risk of flooding

According to analysis by Energydesk almost 20% of fracking licence blocks offered by the government substantially overlap with zones at significant risk of flooding. The news comes in the wake of severe flooding in Cumbria and Lancashire – some of the fracking blocks also appear to overlap with areas which have recently been flooded.

23 out of 124 blocks offered to firms as part of the 14th licensing round were significantly covered by areas at a high or medium risk from flooding, while almost all of the rest of the blocks are partially covered. The analysis highlights one of the challenges faced by shale gas operations, which must ensure chemicals and flow-back water from drilling is kept from entering the ecosystem.

The analysis was made by visually comparing the Environment Agency’s Risk of Flooding from Rivers and Seas geospatial data with the most recent oil and gas blocks where there could be fracking – by overlaying them on the above map.

Shale gas drilling can involve the storage and local transport of chemicals or contaminated water – though both are normally stored in sealed tanks.

Flooding of fracking sites in Colorado in 2013 prompted a number of spills, though testing did not find large-scale water contamination.

Flood Risk Assessments could have to be considered as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a site, depending on whether they are deemed necessary.

STOP MOORSIDE: “Biggest Nuclear Development in Europe”

RAFF is urging its supporters to sign the STOP MOORSIDE: “Biggest Nuclear Development in Europe” petition which is demanding that David Cameron and the leaders of Europe  scrap plans for Moorside. 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. The area around the Sellafield site should be an untouchable buffer zone to:
a) provide a measure of safety for surrounding towns and villages
b) to accommodate the documented leakage of radiation from the Sellafield site into groundwater.
c) to minimise the target area for terrorist attack (instead of doubling it)

Instead of honouring a beautiful wildlife diverse landscape bought by the public purse and guaranteeing a buffer zone around Sellafield the UK government are planning to sell off a vast area. The land stretches to the villages of Beckermet, Braystones and Calder Bridge. Not only this but the companies who are being wooed to buy the land are the very same companies responsible for Fukushima.

“The Moorside Project” is being promoted by NUGEN a company 60% owned by Toshiba.

Toshiba’s proposed three new reactors are AP1000s. These are the next generation of the same old uranium burning technology. The difference is that these reactors burn the uranium for longer and harder. The resulting radioactive wastes are much hotter and have to be cooled for decades longer. The NDA have told Radiation Free Lakeland that the fresh water resource for cooling is “a matter for the operators.” Currently Sellafield uses over 4 million gallons of water daily to abstracted from Wastwater, the River Ehen, the River Calder and boreholes in the area. Sellafield stopped producing electricity in 2003.

The elephant in the room is of course Toshiba’s track record in nuclear safety. Toshiba supplied the steam generator, architecture and reactor for Fukushima reactors numbers 3 and 5, while Hitachi (merged with Toshiba) supplied the reactor, steam generator and architecture for Fukushima reactor no 4.

Remember too that the recent Infrastructure Bill not only allows fracking under our homes but also supports the disposal of radioactive waste underground – very possibly in the shales that have been fracked.

Please sign here.