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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.

Ask your councillor to reject plans for fracking in Lancashire

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A number of us – Anne and Pam from RAFF, Gayzer from Frack Free Fylde and Jamie from Friends of the Earth have been out and about in St Annes getting signatures to letters which will be sent to Lancashire County Council councillors. Members from other local anti-fracking groups have been covering other towns in Lancashire.

Don’t worry if you missed us – you can download and print the letter here. Please send to your local councillor. If you’re not sure who s/he is then you can find out here just by entering your post code.

Please do this ASAP. A number of county councillors are against fracking and it’s important that they know they have the backing of their constituents.  Remember – Lancashire has been frack free now for four years, all down to the actions of local people – and that’s the way we want to keep it. Thank you.

New York State activists praise our “phenomenal work”!

A couple of weeks ago we met up with three fellow anti-fracking activists from New York State. You may remember that NYS issued a moratorium on fracking at the end of last year because it claimed the risks to public health were just too great. It was both inspiring and encouraging to meet and chat to John, Julia and Renee. Below is the message we received from them after their visit:

Hi everyone,

 We wanted to email to say thanks so much for having us in Lancashire, and for all of your phenomenal work. It was wonderful to meet you all, and we left with a great feeling that you all can win. We’re standing with you, as are many other New Yorkers and Americans.

We’ve been very busy meeting with all of the groups and doing some interviews and presentations in Ireland since we left, but we’re following up on a number of the action steps we discussed in Lancashire. 

 We also wanted to send along the important public health resources that we discussed at various of our meetings. We know that these substantive arguments about public health and other problems with fracking can be very powerful, particularly when paired with unrelenting organizing and public pressure.

1. The New York State Health Review that found fracking poses “significant public health risks” and should be banned.  https://www.health.ny.gov/press/reports/docs/high_volume_hydraulic_fracturing.pdf

2. The Concerned Health Professionals of NY Compendium of risks and harms. It is organized into 16 categories, ranging from air pollution and water contamination, to direct public health effects, noise and light pollution, occupational hazards, agriculture and soil quality threats, and more.  Note the executive summaries near the start of the document for each section; these are very helpful for talking points. The Compendium concludes, “All together, the findings from the scientific, medical, and journalistic investigations indicate that fracking poses significant threats to air, water, health, public safety, and long-term economic vitality.” Furthermore, it finds that, “Our examination of the peer-reviewed medical and public health literature uncovered no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health.” http://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/

3. When the Compendium was first released, we did a series of memes for social media about each section that highlight some of the key findings/threats. Feel free to download the images for your own use on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s the album:https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.845360388809525.1073741829.134846486527589&type=3

4. A 292 page report in 2014 by the Council of Canadian Academies, a prestigious scientific body, examined the evidence on fracking. Their findings about well integrity are important and certainly relevant to Lancashire. They found, “Natural gas leakage from improperly formed, damaged, or deteriorated cement seals is a long-recognized yet unresolved problem” and also that, “the greatest threat to groundwater is gas leakage from wells from which even existing best practices cannot assure long-term prevention.” For the key excerpts on this, see the May 1, 2014 entry of the Inherent Engineering Problems section of the Compendium. http://www.scienceadvice.ca/uploads/eng/assessments%20and%20publications%20and%20news%20releases/shale%20gas/shalegas_fullreporten.pdf

Also feel free to use us as a resource for the technical issues as well as organizing strategies and tactics.  From our assessment of the situation on the ground – this is all going to come down to public pressure on the Councillors much like it did here in New York. We hope that you will all do everything you can in the next few weeks to get businesses and residents in those Councillors districts that could go either way. Every vote will surely count. We have a few follow up items to assist with on our end and will be in touch with Jamie.

Thanks to you all, we look forward to being in touch, and we are all cheering you on!

Best,

John, Julia and Renee

NYS activists advise “promote Medact report”

Last week RAFF and representatives from other Frack Free Lancashire groups met up with three activists from New York State (NYS). This was a valuable meeting because at the end of last year NYS imposed a moratorium on fracking based on the risks to public health. Coincidentally, here in the UK, Medact has just published its report, Health & Fracking: the impacts & opportunity costs, which concludes that “hydraulic fracturing for shale gas poses significant risks to public health and calls for an immediate moratorium to allow time for a full and comprehensive health and environmental impact assessment (HIA) to be completed.” The advice from the American activists is to push this report to highlight the health risks of fracking in the UK. A copy has been sent to all councillors on the Lancashire County Council Development and Control Committee, who will shortly be considering the applications for Preston New Road (Little Plumpton) and Roseacre Wood. MEDACT represents health professionals who aim to educate, analyse and campaign for global health on issues related to conflict, poverty and the environment. The report is a 34-page, well researched, document prepared by medical professionals. It’s well worth reading and provides compelling reasons why fracking should not be allowed to go ahead.

Dr David McCoy, Director of Medact said:

“Today, Medact, alongside a wider group of health professionals, has called for a moratorium on fracking because of the serious risks it poses to public health. Fracking has already been suspended in Wales and Scotland because of health and climate risks and New York State has banned fracking because of the ‘significant health risks’.”

The report highlights the limitations of Public Health England’s report on fracking, including the fact that it was narrow in scope and failed to critically assess the adequacy and reliability of the regulatory system.

Working with various experts in energy policy and climate change, Medact’s report also describes how shale gas produces a level of GHG emissions that is incompatible with the UK’s commitments to address climate change.”

Executive Summary

Background

The United Kingdom (UK) is presently set to expand ‘hydraulic fracturing’ of shale formations (‘fracking’) as a means of extracting unconventional gas. Proponents of fracking have argued that it can be conducted safely and will bring benefits in the form of: a) energy that is cleaner in climate terms than coal and oil; b) greater energy security; c) lower energy prices; d) more energy diversity and competition; and e) local employment and economic development. However, fracking has proven to be controversial and there are serious concerns about its safety and impact on the environment.

This report reviews fracking and its associated activities through a comprehensive public health lens. It examines the direct and immediate effects of fracking on health; the adequacy and capacity of the regulatory system; and the relationship between fracking and climate change.

It builds on a number of existing reviews of the evidence and interviews with various academics and experts (in the UK and abroad). Medact also requested short papers in particular subject areas to inform the production of this report. Given that much of the literature about fracking has been derived from experience in the United States (US), this report also highlights the specific features of the UK that need to be considered.

Fracking and its risks and threats

The word ‘fracking’ is used to denote high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) and related activities. It describes a relatively new technology that is not to be confused with other forms of hydraulic fracturing that have been in use for decades. The term ‘unconventional’ describes the fact that the gas embedded in shale formations does not flow out as easily as in the case of conventional sources of gas. To extract unconventional gas, the shale needs to be fractured (or pulverised) by large volumes of fluid (water combined with various additives) injected into the ground under high pressures.

In doing so, fracking and its associated activities create multiple actual and potential sources of pollution. Leaks of gas can occur across the entire process of extraction, treatment, storage and transportation. There are also emissions from diesel engines, compressors and heavy transport vehicles; as well as the potential release of silica into the air. Oxides of nitrogen, hydrogen sulphide, formaldehyde, benzene, ethylene, toluene, particulate matter and ground-level ozone are among the more significant airborne health hazards. Surface and ground water can also be contaminated by gas, fracking fluid, or wastewater which consists of original fracking fluid combined with a range of new materials generated from underground (including lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium; and naturally occurring radioactive material).

The health effects of these different hazards vary depending on the type and pattern of human exposure. But they include increased risks of cancer, respiratory disease and birth defects.

Shale gas development involves continuous activity conducted over a sustained period of time for the entire course of a day, seven days a week. Noise (from compressors, generators, drilling and heavy trucks); light pollution; bad odours; and heavy traffic can cause distress and negative health impacts on nearby communities, especially in the context of quiet rural and semi-rural areas.

The introduction of a temporary and intensive extractive industry will also disrupt and divide the social fabric of local communities, compounding both the mental and physical effects of other hazards. When conducted on an industrial scale, it will also alter the character and aesthetic of the local area and potentially affect wildlife and biodiversity as well.

Although fracking may bring local benefits in the form of new jobs and increased revenue, it can harm other economic sectors such as leisure and tourism; and affect the value of nearby homes. It is worth noting that employment generation associated with shale gas in the US has been over-stated and that initial economic booms often transform into long-term social and economic declines.

Red Pepper’s People’s Agenda includes profile on RAFF

In the run-up to the election, Red Pepper‘s ‘People’s Agenda’ series will be looking at the breadth of exciting grassroots political activity across Britain.  The series kicks off  with an item on us – RAFF!

Frack Free Lancashire launch

 

You can read it here. Thanks to Red Pepper for giving us the opportunity to explain what RAFF is about and what we hope to achieve.

18 leading UK doctors and academics call for a ban on fracking

Eighteen leading UK doctors and  academics have written a latter to the British Medical Journal calling for a ban on fracking. The group said that the arguments against fracking on public health and ecological grounds are overwhelming. The letter was written in response to the Medact report which was published today (30:03:15). We will be commenting on this latest report in a forthcoming post.

The letter said:

Dear Editor,

We write as concerned health professionals who seek to draw the public’s attention to the dangers associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and shale gas extraction in the United Kingdom, as highlighted by a recent report published by Medact.

Fracking is an inherently risky activity that produces hazardous levels of air and water pollution that can have adverse impacts on health. The heavy traffic, noise and odour that accompanies fracking, as well as the socially disruptive effects of temporary ‘boomtowns’ and the spoilage of the natural environment are additional health hazards.

Such risks would be magnified in the UK where fracking is projected to take place in closer proximity to more densely populated communities; and where there are concerns about the effectiveness of the regulatory system for onshore gas extraction.

But in addition to this, shale gas is not a clean source of energy. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas in its own right, and when burnt, produces carbon dioxide. Shale gas extraction would undermine our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and be incompatible with global efforts to prevent global warming from exceeding two degrees centigrade.

The arguments against fracking on public health and ecological grounds are overwhelming. There are clear grounds for adopting the precautionary principle and prohibiting fracking.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Robin Stott, Co-Chair, Climate and Health Council
Professor Sue Atkinson CBE, Co-Chair, Climate and Health Council
Professor Hugh Montgomery, UCL
Professor Maya Rao OBE
Professor Martin McKee, LSHTM
Dr Clare Gerada, GP and former Chair of RGCP
Dr Christopher Birt, University of Liverpool and Christie Hospital, Manchester
Professor John Yudkin, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, UCL
Dr Sheila Adam, former Deputy Chief Medical Officer
Professor Klim McPherson, Chair of the UK Health Forum
Dr John Middleton, Vice President UKFPH
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, KCL
Helen Gordon, Chief Executive, RPS
Dr Frank Boulton, Medact and Southampton University
Dr Sarah Walpole, Academic Clinical Fellow
Professor Allyson Pollock, QMUL
Dr Julie Hotchkiss, Acting Director of Public Health at City of a York Council
Professor Jennie Popay, Lancaster University

Competing interests:           No competing interests

Only three of Fylde’s Parliamentary Candidates have signed the Frack Free Promise so far

Despite backing the moratorium on fracking, Fylde MP Mark Menzies has not signed the  Frack Free Promise, even though requested to do so by his constituents. The Frack Free Promise is supported by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. Across the UK, they’re asking local election candidates to oppose fracking in their constituencies if they’re elected.

So far three of Fylde’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidates have signed – Bob Dennett (Green Party), Mike Hill (Independent) and Jed Sullivan (Labour). We won’t hold our breath for Fred van Mierlo (LibDem) or Paul White (UKIP) as both parties are pro-fracking. Depsite his posturing on the moratorium, Menzies has always been pro-shale and we aren’t holding our breath about him signing either.

Please visit the Greenpeace site and add your postcode, click on the Take Action button and fill in your details – let’s see if we can shame the rest of our candidates to sign.

 

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Lancs County Council launches public consultation – there’s still time to object

Lancashire County Council has announced that it has launched its public consultation on the extra information submitted by Cuadrilla for its two planning applications for shale gas development at Little Plumpton (Preston New Road) and Roseacre Wood. The consultation is on-going and will run until Friday 17th April. The applications will be decided on 30 April.

Earlier this year, LCC recommended that Cuadrilla’s two planning applications be refused on the grounds of noise and traffic. Cuadrilla asked for a deferment in order to gain extra time to address the objections. All the formal information on the two applications, the reasons why they were rejected and current activity is available on the Lancashire County Council website here.

 

RAFF, together with other anti-fracking groups, has been busy obtaining signatures for objection letters for  both the Preston New Road and Roseacre sites. This campaign has, so far, been hugely successful and LCC have received an unprecedented number of objections. The determinations will be heard 30 April 2015. There is still time to lodge your objections:

Post: Outline your objections in a letter or print out the pro-forma letters below and post them to: The Development Management Group, County Hall, PO Box 100, Preston, PR1 0LD. Preston New Road Pro-forma Letter   Roseacre Wood Pro-forma Letter

(IMPORTANT: Please include your name, signature, full address, post code and date in all correspondence to Lancashire County Council, otherwise your letter may not be valid).

Email: Compose your own comments or copy and paste comments from the pro-forma letters above and email them to: devcon@lancashire.gov.uk

Phone: You can talk to someone and list your objections by phone: 01772 531929

Online: To object online follow these steps: Step 1 – Click here then select ‘make a representation online’ Step 2 – Fill in your name, address and email, then click ‘Next’ Step 3 – State why you oppose Cuadrilla’s plans. IMPORTANT – Include the following details Application number – Preston New Road: LCC/2014/0096 Roseacre Wood: LCC/2014/0101; Location of development – Can be left blank; Your objection – Explain your concerns and consider using the pro-forma objection letters above for guidance; Step 4 – Click ‘Submit’.

*  Write to your MP and tell them why you think fracking is a bad idea. The website www.writetothem.com provides details of all MPs, how they voted, what they have spoken on and other information.

Lobby your Fylde Borough Councillors and Lancashire County Councillors

Please don’t delay. These two sites are in the heart of two communities, close to homes, schools and farms. Cuadrilla’s plans show that they will:

  • Use 9 million gallons of water per well
  • Produce 5.6 million gallons of radioactive waste
  • Supply sites via 20,000 truck movements
  • Use 7% of entire region’s spare water capacity – with EACH well

Remember too that the recent passing of the Infrastructure Bill means that should Cuadrilla obtain planning permission they can drill under your house without your permission. The Bill also makes it easier to dispose of radioactive waste in the gas boreholes left behind after the well has been fracked and abandoned – again under your house.

Frack Free Lancashire and all the local groups will be organising events over the next four weeks. Please keep an eye on our Events page for news.

 

New energy saving centre opens in St Annes

In order to stop the rapid acceleration of global warning we need to develop renewable energy and implement energy saving measures. We’re delighted to hear of a new Energy Centre opening in St Anne’s on the Fylde which aims to promote new technology energy as well as trying to make fossil fuels more efficient. If you’re local do go along and have a chat to Frank and Caroline, and wish them luck. Their press release is below.

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George Brown’s are pleased to announce they are opening their new Energy Centre on Orchard Rd Lytham St Annes on March 21st 2015.

The concept of the Energy Centre will be to promote new technology energy as well as trying to make fossil fuels more efficient by encouraging upgrades of controls and regular appliance services

We will be able to offer a wide range of energy solutions to both commercial and domestic markets with flexible finance packages available for both.

george brown2Our aim is to reduce energy consumption on the Fylde coast which in turn will help reduce the carbon footprint of our area.

LED bulbs are just one example of how everybody could help to make a difference and at the Centre we have working examples to show how effective this can be against traditional light sources

Keep an eye out for our mascot “George” featured at the top of this release. He will be featured heavily in his fight to defeat “Runaway Bill!!!!”

Hope to see you soon at the centre.

Kind Regards,

Frank & Caroline