WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT & WHAT TO ASK....
There are many concerns associated with Unconventional Oil & Gas extraction, and in other parts of the UK Coal Bed Methane and Underground Coal Gasification. Different people will prioritise different issues, therefore it is always better to try and communicate with 'the powers that be' in your own words.
Here is a list of concerns and questions that you may wish to raise with David Cameron, your MP, your town Councillors, parish Councillors, The Environment Agency, The DECC, East & West Sussex County Council, The Police, The newspapers or any other official bodies or organisations. It is followed by some example letters to inspire you!
How are (insert name of drilling company) going to control the chemical emissions from this site?
Who will be monitoring or controlling the emissions data regarding this site?
What will happen to the 600 or so chemicals used in fracking fluid? Will they be seeping into our water table?
Are (insert name of drilling company) going to be using fluids that contain any of the following; Lead; Uranium;Mercury; Ethylene Glycol; Radium; Methanol; Hydrochloric Acid;Formaldehyde?
How will you ensure that no traces of these chemicals end up in our water supply, as has happened on their sites in the USA?
How will emissions be reported to us the public?
Who is monitoring the scale of the flares used? Who is reporting to us on the time that flares are used for?
What odors will be released into the air of Sussex and how do we know if they are toxic?
What could you do to contain possible methane leaks?
What emissions will result from the use of compressors, drilling rigs and pumps?
Who will be ensuring noise levels so not exceed those set down in the planning conditions?
Accidents, Spills, Leaks, Waste
Have the local farmers been informed? How will you ensure that chemicals are not leaking into the water supply of local cattle?
How could a quiet area of Sussex cope with a disaster such as the recent lethal inferno at Lac Megantic in Canada? What emergency provisions are in place for coping with a potential explosion of lethal fuel? How will the local residents protect their property?
How do (insert name of drilling company) propose to move shale oil without endangering the residents of South East England?
How could an explosion affect the London-Brighton train line?
How will waste be stored? How long will it remain there? Where will it be transported to and how will it be treated?
What happens if there is a spill on the roads?
How can toxic liquids be disposed of without affecting our local environment?
When the well has been abandoned who will be monitoring it and for how long?
(insert name of drilling company) will be hiring contractors- who is permitting and controlling them?
We know fossil fuels are problematic. Why are we not investing more in a sustainable future?
Please describe the tax incentives you are giving to renewable energy firms?
How many meetings have the cabinet taken this year with renewable energy companies?
Geology and Seismic hazards
Has appropriate baseline seismic monitoring to establish background seismicity in the area of interest been carried out?
Do you have characterisation of any possible active faults in the region using all available geological and geophysical data?
Has there been application of suitable ground motion prediction models to assess the potential impact of any induced earthquakes?
How can you ensure us well integrity when the oil industry itself still admits they cannot guarantee it.
industry studies clearly show that 5-7% of all new oil and gas wells leak. As wells age, the percentage of leakers can increase to a startling 30 or 50 per cent. The worst leakers remain "deviated" or horizontal wells commonly used for hydraulic fracturing.
We are a small island that already has water provision issues and a growing population. Where are the millions of litres of water required for fracking going to come from (on average about 8.4 million litres of clean water per well)?
What will be the impact on water bills? We talk about saving money on fuel bills (a fact that is widely refuted in the UK for a variety of reasons) but what will happen to water bills?
We already have limited resources and we are talking about mixing what we have with toxic chemicals (such as hydrochloric acid) that would not be allowed to be used so freely above ground due to their polluting effect.
How are we going to make sure that those thousands of litres of chemicals (a conservative estimate puts it at 0.5% of the fluid content = 42 000 litres per well) will never cause environmental pollution?
How can anyone can know what the long-term environmental impact will be?
Half of this fluid will never reemerge from the well and therefore will remain in the environment. Water, by its very nature, is in permanent circulation. How can you regulate for this?
What will be done with the fracking fluid that is collected back after? About half of all this liquid is going to come back out again (About 4.4 millions litres per well).
Is it correct that much of the frack fluid in Lancashire is still sitting in storage tanks, as no one is sure yet how to dispose of it?
Where are these licensed disposal sites you talk about? We have seen the impact disposing of these fluids can cause politically between New York and Pennsylvania.
How is the infrastructure going to deal with the thousands of lorries that are need to create and support these platforms?
Harm to the Environment
What is the impact of this going to be on our already marginalised wildlife?
Where are your independent baseline tests to show the water and air composition of the site?
Has an extensive survey of the wildlife of the area been undertaken?
How will you protect the local endangered species such as bats, water voles, great crested newts and red kites? (Check on species at the specific site)
How will rare lichens, amongst other important flora and fauna be protected?
Mention any specific local features ie. Ancient woodland, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, South Downs National Park, Resevoirs, Victorian viaduct.
Harm to Human Health
How can you ensure that this sort of activity will not harm human health when of the chemicals used 25% are linked to cancer or mutations; 37% affect hormones; up to 50% affect kidneys and nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems and 75% affect sensory organs?
650 of the 2500 hydraulic fracturing chemicals are known carcinogens, so how can you possibly assure the public that there will be no harm to human health?
How will the EA be monitoring the site? How is this feasible in the light of recently announced job cuts at the EA?
What happens when mining waste documentation is not comprehensive?
It is well documented that in Pennsylvania a well was shut down after a leak of 8000 gallons of fracking fluid leaked into the local water supply. How can you ensure this wont happen in Sussex? What will you do if it does? Where will we get clean water to drink from if such a leak occurs? How will the local population, livestock and farmland be protected from poisoned water?
How will I be compensated to the loss in value of my home?
Insurers will not insure against fracking damage -how will I protect my home?
An open letter to Geoff Davies, CEO of Celtique.
Dear Mr Davies
I know your PR company monitors this site, so I am sure that you will see this letter. In The Times (Saturday, February 15th), you referred to me as being an unpatriotic, selfish, Nimby because I am opposed to your proposals to drill for oil and gas in Fernhurst.
I think there is nothing unpatriotic or selfish about having legitimate concerns over the potential environmental and health impacts that this activity could have. In fact, I believe I have a social responsibility to point out these risks; there is strong evidence from studies by Duke, Colorado and Cornell Universities and the American Association of Paediatricians of adverse health impacts on those living near to fracking sites.
Neither are those who oppose your plans, depriving the country of energy security or the economic benefits you claim. Using your own figures, each well (and you claim to want only three or four in production) would, over its lifetime, supply just three days of the UK's oil or gas consumption. I have yet to understand why we suddenly need energy security. Almost all of our gas imports come from Norway and Qatar, both friendly countries, and the USA will start exporting soon. Personally, I would prefer food and water security. As for the claimed economic benefits, not even the Government is any longer trying to claim that domestic gas prices will come down, and any jobs that are created will almost certainly be taken by skilled foreign workers. Meanwhile it is the taxpayers who will have to pick up the extra costs of road repairs and environmental clean ups. The only people who will gain financially are you, Mr Davies, and your US private equity backers.
As for being a Nimby, of course I don’t want this to happen within 300m of my house (which would be illegal in Texas), but neither I do I want it anywhere. And I suspect that you would not welcome fracking anywhere near your £2.4m home in Buckinghamshire. I believe this is the wrong site for any number of reasons, and 2000 other local residents, visitors to the National Park, the National Trust, CPRE, and our local MP, Andrew Tyrie, who have all submitted objections, agree with me.
You say “the geology is not moving”. This may be the one thing we agree on. But you must also be aware that the right geology also covers at least 2/3 of the country. Celtique has four exploration blocks in the Weald over 1000 sq km, so why do you insist on having a site in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in what is currently a tranquil rural location? Mr Davies, you seem to think that the rolling hills and ancient woodlands of our Sussex countryside are fit for one thing only – screening for noise and visual pollution from the fracking sites that you want to pepper them with.
Marcus Adams, Fernhurst
AN OPEN LETTER TO LOCAL NEWSPAPERS FROM SUSSEX GROUPS July 2nd 2014
To the Editor of The Argus. July 2nd 2014
An open letter from; Frack Free Sussex, Frack Free Arun, Frack Free Forest Row, Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green, Frack Free Horsham District, Worthing Against Fracking, Brighton Action Against Fracking, Frack Free Mayfield and Five Ashes, No Fracking in Balcombe Society, Worthing Downlanders, Broadoak Residents Against Fracking, Mid-Sussex Friends of the Earth, Hastings & Rother Says NO to fracking, Chichester Anti-fracking, Lewes Against Fracking and Frack Free Fernhurst.
The Sussex groups listed above have many thousands of supporters from all walks of life, in both the towns and rural villages of Sussex. These groups represent a vast array of concerned local people, spanning all professions and age groups, committed to defending our beautiful counties and our right to clean air and fresh drinking water.
We are appalled that the Environment Agency Chairperson, Lord Christopher Smith would “not rule out fracking in our National parks.”
The South Downs National Park Vision for 2050 aims to achieve an outcome where ‘the iconic English lowland landscapes and heritage will have been conserved and greatly enhanced. These inspirational and distinctive places, where people live, work, farm and relax, are adapting well to the impacts of climate change and other pressures;’ (1)
Approving plans to extract shale oil and gas, fossil fuels that drive climate change, directly contradicts this vision. And that’s before you assess the impacts and risks on people, communities, land and wildlife due to contamination, pollution, industrial traffic and noise.
Lord Smith should know that for shale gas and oil extraction to be economically viable it would require the construction and drilling of THOUSANDS of well pads plus supporting infrastructure. The UK uses 3 trillion cubic feet of gas per year. To meet just one year’s supply 3,000 wells per year would have to be drilled in the UK- that’s 8 per day! To meet the UK’s annual demand for 550 million barrels of oil 4,400 wells would have to be completed each year.
To call this ‘minimal visual intrusion’ is an outrage. The South Downs are ‘recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ (1) and our National Parks exist for the purposes of conservation of flora and fauna, preservation of a way of life and protection of biodiversity and wildlife. By their own definition they ‘are protected areas because of their beautiful countryside, wildlife and cultural heritage.’ (2) If fracking is permitted in the UK our downland, meadowland, farmland and woodland would be subject to wide-scale industrialistaion. Our National Parks would be utterly destroyed.
In 2012 the guidance issued by the EA was unequivocal, potentially limiting shale gas extraction:
‘The Environment Agency would not allow hydraulic fracking to take place in an area where there are aquifers used to supply drinking water. If there were sensitive groundwaters present in an area where a company wanted to carry out hydraulic fracturing, we would object during the company’s planning application and refuse to grant an environmental permit.’
It was also recently stated in the House of Lords debate on the Water Bill that ‘the importance of protecting ground and surface water must not be under emphasised’.
As most of Sussex water comes from the chalk aquifer, we must ask WHY has the EA’s view on fracking changed so drastically? And WHY are the Government, and agencies, willfully choosing to ignore the ever-increasing number of peer reviewed scientific reports that prove fracking is not and cannot be made 'safe'.
Many doctors and scientists are now linking poor health outcomes, such as infertility, cancer and birth defects, with the high level of endocrine and hormone disrupting chemicals used in the fracking process. Just two weeks ago, New York once again voted to continue the moratorium on fracking in the state, a position supported by many health professionals, researchers and organisations including the American Lung Association, Breast Cancer Awareness and the American Academy of Paediatrics.
The British Government is desperately trying to persuade the public that the rules and regulations here in the UK will be better than those in other countries, yet they are not. For example, in December last year Dallas ruled that fracking should not to take place within 1,500 feet of homes, schools, hospitals and other protected areas, yet no such restrictions exist here, even though we are far more densely populated (430 people per sq mile in Sussex as opposed to 22 per sq mile in Texas)
David Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at University of Glasgow states: ‘The UK shale basins are heavily faulted, from the shale layer right to the surface, in contrast to those of the USA’ and further warns ‘We have 400 times the amount of faulting as in the US, we are completely different’
This dramatically increases the risk of chemicals, naturally occurring radioactive materials, gas and oil leaking into water sources or to the surface. In other words, shale gas/oil extraction would be even more dangerous in the UK than in the USA.
The Environment Agency's stated purpose is ‘to protect or enhance the environment, taken as a whole’ so as to promote ‘the objective of achieving sustainable development.’ The vision of the Agency is of ‘a rich, healthy and diverse environment for present and future generations’. The South Downs National Park Authority state that: ‘We all have a shared responsibility to care for the National Park and the South Downs.’
If Celtique Energy’s drilling applications are permitted at Wisborough Green and Fernhurst, we believe the South Downs National Park Authority and the Environment Agency will have completely betrayed their purpose.
To allow unconventional onshore gas or oil exploration and extraction in ANY part of Britain is reckless. To allow it in a NATIONAL PARK is unthinkable.
To the land owner at Balcombe
Dear Mr Greenwood,
Please excuse this unsolicited communication. As a group of mothers from the village who total 11 children between us, we feel compelled to implore you to do anything you possibly can to halt the work of Cuadrilla before it begins.
As a community we feel we were not fully informed in the process that allowed the licence to be granted in the first place and we are shocked to discover that the drilling that is about to commence will result in polluting the ground with chemicals and releasing toxins into the air through flaring.
The evidence of Marian Lloyd Smith (Senior advisor to the Australian Toxics Network with 20years plus experience in chemicals policy and waste management- please see enclosed flier for more on her credentials) was that this early exploration and drilling stage presented particular risk to our children. Children living close to these exploratory wells have presented such symptoms as headaches, running eyes and nose bleeds. In Australia this has caused legislation to be put in place preventing this kind of work from happening within two kilometres of the closest dwelling.
The evidence of Mr Laurie Dunn (Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics) who lives within the village and who has made this the subject of extensive research is that this flaring is indeed something we should be extremely concerned about. Numerous peer reviewed studies, notably that from the University of Colarado, which focused on air pollution at the early drilling stage by Pheocolborn, also bear this out.
We also felt it important to inform you about the ‘lock the gate campaign’, which is taking place in the village at the moment. Every member of the village has a copy of the following leaflet and DVD and are being surveyed about whether they want fracking to go ahead so close to their homes. Estate agents are already reported to have mentioned to prospective buyers, that we have fracking ‘hanging over us’ and we fear that not only is our health at risk, but the value of our homes too. We felt concerned that possibly you were not fully aware of the risks at this early drilling stage and that if you were, we felt you would want to make the right decision to protect the community.
We hope that you will take the time to read and watch the enclosed material,
Here is an open letter from the residents of Balcombe.
It deals with the incompetence of West Sussex CC and other agencies to properly monitor and regulate the drilling activities at Balcombe. Yet, this Government and the local authorities insist that, should planning permission be granted, they can guarantee that drilling would be conducted safely.......Dream on.
We in Balcombe have had a pretty miserable summer due the unconventional exploratory drilling operation by Cuadrilla in our village.
We have fought to be heard by the government, West Sussex County Council, the Environment agency, DECC and the Health and Safety Executive. We went to every planning meeting, we objected to planning, thousands have signed our petitions; we’ve lobbied the Environment Agency ( 9000 signatures on the Mining Waste Permit and 890 enquiries- the permit was passed within 72hours of receiving the bulk of those questions and they were never answered) the HSE, our MPs and our councillors. A door to door survey in the village showed that 85% of this village did and does NOT want Cuadrilla here, the industrialisation of our area of outstanding natural beauty and the unacceptable risks to the purity of our water, our air and soil. We, and many committed people have done everything humanly possible within the bounds of law to stop this industry despoiling our rural community and we have got nowhere and we have not been heard.
We are proud to call ourselves Balcombe residents AND protestors and protectors of our land. The majority of the village supported the protest camp, and marched in our hundreds down there. What else could we do? There has been nothing democratic about this whole process, and in fact I'm sure you know the government are legislating to bypass all local planning.
And we need to protest because the West Sussex County Council has done nothing to help us and everything to facilitate Cuadrilla. Where is our apology from the council for allowing this to disrupt our village life for months in the first place, for allowing up to 120 trucks and tankers on our road weekly ? Where is our apology for allowing trucks in to the site past agreed deadlines? Where is our apology for providing incorrect information that an extension would be a full planning application and then it turns out to be a “minor amendment”? Where will the council officers be when the 13.7m flare which did not have planning permission, is lit? Where are the enforcement officers? We needed the council to enforce the constant breaches of planning by Cuadrilla, which were not being enforced. In what sort of organisation or structure of decision makers allows an oil company to potentially risk our water supply, the road safety of primary school children but takes action against allowing peaceful, lawful protest? In what sort of organisation does it take 5 weeks to release a report on excessive drilling noise, causing weeks of sleepless nights, and in the meantime forcing Balcombe residents to do their own monitoring to prove the breaches? What sort of organisation allowed drilling to go ahead knowing there was not enough time to complete the operations at the site or without the correct planning for horizontal drilling. ?The council needs to provide answers and as yet our questions, letters, emails, phone calls are not being answered.
So you see, Mr Hickish we really dont "have a say" at all . The Balcombe Parish Council in the national press and TV, apologized profusely as the application never saw the light of day. Re; your "stringent regulations" there appear to be very few, Cuadrilla have been sending a weekly "catch up" fax to the authorities, we believe the HSE didn't even visit this major industrial site for the entire time Cuadrilla were active. We residents in Balcombe, the FOE lawyers and our MEP forced Cuadrilla to delay drilling for four weeks to get Mining Waste and Radioactive Permits which they hadn't done previously in the North, even though they had applied for the licence 3 years before!. The Radioactive Permit was only issued 2 days after Cuadrilla left the site. More concerning, we have just had a gill stream go fluorescent green down its entire length, 75 yards from the well pad last Monday, it was reported early afternoon by numerous residents, and the EA only arrived at night to take samples, went to the wrong stream, so came back the following day at lunchtime...They haven't been back and they still have not found the source, they havent had the results back, though they think its harmless. If this is an example of their "emergency pollution incident plan" God help us all if there's a toxic spill!
With statements vehemently opposing hydraulic fracturing from the RSPB, The Woodland Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust, the Angling Trust, The National Trust and one of our greatest landowners, Lord Cowdray, we hope very much residents will follow the positive leads of these organisations and protest against the government, this billion dollar industry and their massive PR machine white washing this filthy industry invading our country
To The Mid Sussex Times from Balcombe residents
As a Balcombe resident I had voted against Fracking, so when I heard about a camp recently set up and opposing Cuadrilla and Fracking at Lower Stumble I wanted to see it for myself and find out what friends and neighboursin the village were talking about. During the first week of August I went to the Balcombe protection camp. I had never been to anything like this before so it was with some trepidation that I went, unsure of what I would find . What I did find there was a most amazing, diverse group of people of all ages and backgrounds , lecturers, teachers, scientists, environmental advisers, musicians, artists, builders, students, and retired people- so many skills, many had taken time off work to come to the camp and be a part of protecting our beautiful village and woodland. Some were from Balcombe others from all over the UK, but what they all had in common was an absolute belief in the environmental catastrophe of allowing Fracking in the UK. They created together a most beautiful peaceful clean organised safe camp. This was not what I expected. After my first visit I was so impressed I went to the camp as often as other commitments would allow and my respect and awe of the people at Balcombe protection camp just grew and grew. Their willingness to put up with difficult and challenging conditions day after day remaining peaceful welcoming and inclusive was inspiring. Those who have insulted, derided and verbally abused those at the camp without ever having spent time with them should feel shame at their ignorance, how easy it is to abuse others from afar often anonymously but how much more kind dignified and human to meet and listen and learn.
“Fear always springs from ignorance” Ralph Waldo Emerson
We wish our protest to be registered against this current pollution and damage to the country-side in Balcombe.
I notice that several of the pro-fracking element live outside the village to the north, well clear of the noise etc. We have lived almost 40 years in the village in a period house which we renovated, on the old stage coach road to Brighton, and we are probably the nearest privately owned property to the drilling site.
Whilst the drilling was going on over the past few weeks at night we were kept awake by the noise. It is also noticeable that the morning bird song has been greatly reduced to an almost non-existent level.
It is imperative that there is a national awareness of this rape of our countryside. This is being done by the 'antis' but surely should also have the support of our politicians, which is currently sadly lacking.
Letter from Balcombe resident to the Parish Council
There are many concerns that bring me to this meeting. I am concerned that Cuadrilla are drilling just outside our village with very little support from the village itself to do so. I’m concerned that Cuadrilla as a company have not proved themselves one that we can feel comfortable trusting. We know that they drilled for 2 months over time agreed in Lancashire and told someone at the Balcombe consultation ‘because no-one told us not to’. I am also concerned that they were rebuked by government ministers by failing to report that they had damaged a well. Yet the EA are trusting them to self-regulate. We know also that they were in breach of noise conditions for some time before complaints were investigated, why was noise monitoring not in place from the beginning? I am also concerned that tankers of hazardous material are passing the school between 3 and 4 oclock when Cuadrilla made an agreement not to, we can confirm that these have not all been obstructed by protestors. What is this hazardous material and why is it being used? I am also worried that Francis Egan has re-assured people on the news that it is only a ‘5 inch drill’ yet recent paper work from the EA states that it is a 12inch drill. Not only this, but we know that the advertising standards authority told them to withdraw a leaflet because of exaggerated safety claims.
I hope, therefore that the Parish Council will regard anything they receive from Cuadrilla as ‘propaganda’, see it with a strong eye of suspicion and undertake to check in detail their plans and that Cuadrilla are sticking to the letter in everything that they are undertaking.
I note that a vote is proposed for the next phase of exploration. As you know, many in the village are opposed to exploratory drilling. Growing evidence suggests that this phase is a very worrying one for air purity. I hope you are doing all you can to follow any research into this. I gather 3 American Universities have undertaken peer reviewed studies on the health effects of fracking to local populations and the air pollution has caused a great deal of illness. Indeed recent evidence seems to suggest this phase is of more risk to local populations than a full-fracking phase, when the flare may well be capped. Given that we know we are all downwind, this is very worrying.
I am also concerned that a recent reply I had from the EA on the question of flaring said that ‘their air quality experts ‘can draw on a wealth ofknowledge and experience related to land fill gas flare emissions.’ The flaring from this sort of activity will contain levels of radioactivity as well as traces of whatever is deep under-ground...I know I'm a lay person but it seems utterly wrong to assume the risks are comparable with that of waste dumps. I gather also that their ‘Atkins Report’ on flaring does not take into account the huge numbers of chemicals that will be released into the air, and tests them under dry-gas, rather than wet-gas conditions. Despite Francis Egan’s re-assurances, from correspondence with the EA and DECC we know that there are no other wells that have been explored under the same circumstances we have in Balcombe or in the same way, so no direct comparison can be made and no health studies have been carried out. I for one, do not want to find that my children become part of a future statistic on this.
I gather the EA have agreed to undertake air quality monitoring and would be interested to know the results. I hope again that you will do everything to push the EA to look into this with extreme care. I quote from a family member who is an Environmental Impact Assessor for a Nuclear Power development and who receives updates on this process through her job. 'I hope the EA will see sense on this one'. Indeed she would rather live next to a Nuclear power station than this. The next phase of extended well testing is even more worrying as that may involve many wells per square mile and related cumulative health effects.
Again, I hope that the Parish Council will undertake to investigate all of these things with extreme care and attention.
You may also be interested to know that 150 Balcombe residents walked to the site at one protest in the summer and 92 at another (the vast majority of which were adults). I'm aware that both your poll and our survey only asked about fracking as we were unaware of any other phases at that point. We started another petition aimed to cover the exploratory well phase. This calls for a halt to Cuadrilla's activities on the grounds that it 'poses an unacceptable threat to our water supply, air purity and overall environment.' This is because we began to become aware (and are certainly aware now,) that what they are doing at this phase is extremely close to fracking.
Indeed, is seems that the main thing that separates this from being 'fracking' is the pressure of water, otherwise the chemicals and process are much the same. Nevertheless, of those that have signed the petition early indications (I have yet to verify some of the names and need to check a few addresses) are that we have approx 250 signatures on this petition from Balcombe alone. I thought you should be aware of these large numbers. The petition has not gone door to door and is only out around adhoc, it is growing all the time and I'm well aware that many have not had the opportunity to sign it that may like to due to man-power and access issues on our part.
Finally, I would like to suggest that Simon Greenwood’s place on this Council is untenable given recent events. While I respect his role as landowner, protector of large swathes of the local land and employer; I believe his actions have been so in opposition to the interests of the village, that as an undemocratically elected member he should step down. I believe it is an offense not to declare interest when on a parish council and is certainly a social offence to continue leasing land to Cuadrilla when he knows the village is opposed.
Letter to the Financial Times from Mr Tom Brown, Senior Credit Executive, Norddeutsche Landesbank, London EC2, UK
Sir, Your support for UK shale gas (“Make haste slowly on UK shale gas”, editorial, August 6) based upon “the reduction in energy prices and the improvement in energy security” is unjustified on both grounds. Even if the extraction, transmission and eventual environmental reinstatement costs were lower than those of Norwegian conventional gas, the end user, industrial or residential, will pay the same and the benefit of the presumed (but at this point unproved) higher operating margin for onshore shale gas extraction will accrue entirely to equity and debt investors in the extraction companies and to the exchequer through corporation tax and petroleum revenue tax.
The only way it could be cheaper would be if the government sought to penalise gas imports through higher duties, which would be illegal under EU and World Trade Organisation rules. As for energy security, it is absurd to imply that gas extracted from the Norwegian sector of the North Sea is less secure than from the UK sector, unless you expect FT readers to believe that Norway could be overthrown by a hostile regime.
Import substitution would, of course, benefit the balance of payments (BoP), but you do not mention this and there has been little (if any) economic analysis to suggest that the UK will run into an unmanageable BoP problem because of gas imports alone. Wider issues of competitiveness and whether the UK can continue to attract foreign direct investment if it suicidally exits the EU are far more likely to weigh on the external position over 20 years.
Above all, the pursuit of shale gas is wrong-headed because it distracts from the overriding public policy objective of de-carbonising the economy.
You report today (“A rising power”, Analysis, August 9) how the surge of efficient Chinese production of solar panels has led to an 80 per cent drop in the capital cost of solar photo-voltaic production and how Germany is already producing 22 per cent of its energy from renewable sources, manifestly without any noticeable impact on overall German competitiveness.
Consequently, the suspicion is that the UK government’s support of shale gas is a political sop to its climate-change-denying supporters – led by Lord Lawson – which, however, may yet backfire as it becomes clear that it risks industrialisation of the English countryside.
With a global glut of conventional gas, which has seen the value of Russia’s Gazprom slashed, the sensible course is to continue to work with our excellent Norwegian and Qatari friends to secure plentiful gas imports by pipeline and liquefied natural gas transportation.
Letter to the MP for Hove, September 2013
Dear Mr Weatherly,
I have attached an aerial view taken in the USA of what an unconventional gas field looks like. I would like you to tell me "as an environmentalist" where in the UK you suggest this would be appropriate? For unconventional Gas or CSG drilling to be in any way viable in the UK thousands of wells would need to be drilled. Current figures suggest 6,700 in SUSSEX ALONE.
In areas such as TEXAS the population is less than 20 people per square mile. The population of Britain is currently around 1300 per square mile. In Sussex it is around 430 per square mile.
Please tell me how you propose to build this number of wells in a country as densely populated as ours? The comparisons that your government are making to the USA simply do not add up.
At the moment licenses have been granted to companies such as Cuadrilla before any "strong regulatory system" (mentioned in your letter) has been put in place. Are you aware that there is NO report whatsoever from the Sussex emergency services on how to respond to any sort of accident/spill/blow-out/fire at Balcombe. They have NOT been consulted in the planning process? How can I believe anything you say about regulation when such basics as this are not even covered? Are you willing to risk the lives of Sussex fire officers and medical staff because there has been no training or planning whatsoever on how to respond to any sort of gas/oil drilling emergency?
I have listened to a number of speakers from the oil and gas industry who have CATEGORICALLY stated that drilling CAN NOT BE DONE SAFELY. Accidents ALWAYS happen and are just considered collateral damage of the industry. If you have some proof that drilling can be done safely I would like to see it.
Industry studies clearly show that five to seven per cent of all new oil and gas wells leak. As wells age, the percentage of leakers can increase to a startling 30 or 50 per cent. But the worst leakers remain "deviated" or horizontal wells commonly used for hydraulic fracturing.
In fact leaking wellbores has been a persistent and chronic problem for decades. Even a 2003 article in Oil Field Review, a publication of Schlumberger, reported that, "Since the earliest gas wells, uncontrolled migration of hydrocarbons to the surface has challenged the oil and gas industry."
Please directly answer these questions;
What is more important to you, fresh water or gas?
Have you watched the film 'Gasland'?
What is your comment on the thousands of cases of health being affected by fracking in the USA?
(here is a list from Pennsylvania in case you are unaware of it
What is your comment on the hundreds of cases of ground water contamination in the USA?
What is your comment on the fact that fracking companies in the USA are exempt from the Clean air and clean water act, acts that were passed to advance public health and safety?
What is your comment on the fact that the chemicals used in frack fluid are not disclosed to the general public in the USA?
Do you want the British landscape to look like the picture above? Would you wish that to be the legacy of your party?
Would you wish your children to live next to a drill site?
What investment is your party making into job creation through expanding and developing sustainable energy sources?
What is your view on our long-term energy security? (ie beyond the next election)
We can see that gas well productivity in the USA is already slowing down. We can also see the bi-products of fracking - poisoned water and air, sick people and animals and toxic land. Hardly the commodities of a thriving economy. Meanwhile Germany is already on 26% renewable energy. Please comment.
I look forward to a detailed response from you,
To the Environment Agency regarding the drill site at Balcombe,
I would like to know how granting this permit could possibly fall in line with these two quotes from The Environment Agency
“We are the Environment Agency. It's our job to look after your environment and make it a better place - for you, and for future generations."
“we have set our long-term sights on a future when everyone will be able to enjoy the benefit of a clean, safe and healthy environment”
It is my understanding that so called ‘Fracking’ is a highly dangerous and toxic process, which comes with GREAT risks to the local environment. The chemicals used are not biodegradable and once introduced to the Aquifer will remain there forever. Carcinogenic fracking chemicals will be sinking into the air and water supply of Sussex and England. The process has been banned in countries including France and South Africa for good reason.
I am also deeply concerned that the permit issuers/ councils should have no self-interest, shares or anything to do with the companies they are issuing permits. The fact that Cuadrilla is chaired by Lord Browne, who sits within the cabinet office shows to me a direct conflict of personal financial interest versus public responsibility and duty to the environment of our country.
I am writing because I live in Sussex and I love Sussex and I also have a 3 year old daughter, whom I wish to grow up in a safe and healthy environment.
The thought that our clean air and water supply can be sold off to an untrustworthy and technically inept company for profit disgusts me. We, and above all YOU have a responsibility to protect our environment from dangerous, toxic profiteering companies such as Cuadrilla. PLEASE DO NOT GRANT THESE PERMITS AND LET THIS GO AHEAD.
Letter to Charles Hendry MP for Wealden
I emailed you a 3 weeks ago about your position on fracking and am awaiting a reply.
Since then things have become infinitely more heated in Balcombe and in the country in general about this issue. Friends and family are concerned about the regulation of this process and I am concerned about the environmental impact that fracking may have.
Sussex is not suitable for the huge over-sized trucks that are used and that create dangerous traffic on our roads. It is noisy and polluting which will have an impact on the local communities and wild life of areas near by, and it sounds as if there is no real sustainable or financial benefit from this process - just profit for those with the rights to extract yet more fossil fuel.
I am not convinced that enough assessment, or research has been done into the environmental impacts of 'fracking'. The rising bank ofevidence suggests this is a risky, and unsustainable, way to get energy.
The injection of acids and poisonous chemicals to the ground and the subsequent release of gases are likely to be dangerous and could contaminate what is already a limited water supply in Sussex. I have done much research on the subject of fracking and the evidence from other countries where this has taken place shows that aquifers get contaminated, accidents happen and the environment gets damaged.
I do not support Davis Cameron in his opinions about this topic, as it appears to be driven by short sighted economic benefits of a struggling economic policy in an attempt to mirror the US's recent move towards greater gas self sufficiency.
I am not sure how we are supposed to trust the government or Cuadrilla on this when they are clearly working together through Lord Browne. What happened in Lancashire shows they are unsafe and cannot be trusted to disclose information to the public when accidents happen.
I have two small children that will inherit the environment we give them and it our responsibility as voters and the responsibility of those in government, such as yourself, to make sure the right decisions for the future are made.
For all these reasons I am interested to find out your position on this issue.
Powerful letter to the Greater Manchester Police from an arrested protector...
December 21, 2013 at 5:00pm
Seems appropriate to send this out on the darkest day of the year. As the light will be returning to the world I hope it shines on the decision makers of this country and allows them to see more clearly. It's an open letter to GMP about their actions and my last arrest. Thank you for all your support and well wishes. Maria Sanders.
I am writing to you regarding my treatment by your officers on the 13th and 14th of this month and your handling of the Barton Moss anti-fracking protest, and to voice my sense of injustice at the absurdity of my arrest and subsequent overnight imprisonment for merely exercising my legal right to protest.
To start with I would like to sincerely and publicly express my gratitude to the night officer who showed me firstly the level of respect that we should all show to each other regardless of differing backgrounds, beliefs and position within society. This man then demonstrated his humanity by taking a little time out of what seemed a pretty hectic Friday night to talk to me like a human being. This helped me through what would otherwise have been a much more harrowing experience. I didn't catch your name but thank you.
Barton Moss is the 3rd anti-fracking camp I have attended this year as it's a cause my conscience will not let me ignore. In May I spent a water-logged week in Lancashire where drilling company Cuadrilla first sunk its teeth into the English countryside. I followed their progress though the country to Balcombe in Sussex where the opposition to this poisonous, destructive and corrupt industrialisation of the countryside first gained the national prominence that it so urgently deserves. This was due not least to the well informed creative peaceful protesters being met by overly zealous policing. I would have hoped that the police would have learnt lessons from the 3 month long camp but after less than 12 hours at Barton Moss I discovered this is sadly not the case.
You are still treating peaceful protesters as criminals. You are still making arrests where no crime has been committed. You have wasted your time, court time, tax payers money, and have caused unnecessary suffering to those you are arresting. At Balcombe a disabled protester had their mobility equipment put in jeopardy by an officer forcing their electric wheelchair out of the way instead of facilitating her right to peacefully protest. At Barton Moss in the process of arresting me you pushed a disabled man out of the way into a ditch breaking his leg. And you are still facilitating these ecocidal maniacs in their daily business without questioning whose interests you are serving.
The force should ask why as a public service it is being used at all our expense (not just monetarily) to drive through the infrastructure of this profound pollution. It is clear that a major national debate is needed. It is not right that companies recklessly driven by desire for huge profits that has many of our MPs and members of the House of Lords in positions with conflict of interest should be assisted to risk something as fundamentally important as our drinking water.
Prior to my arrest, my behaviour was no different to the many others I was marching with and if what I was doing was really breaking the law why weren't there many more arrests? Your arrest strategy of ‘just pluck a few from the crowd’ seems driven by the desire to scare other protesters away from exercising their legal right to protest. My arrest seemed rather arbitrary apart from the testimony of one officer (collar number 11505) to his senior that my behaviour was threatening. This is just absurd to anyone in the vicinity, or if you look at the video footage. If this officer towering over me with the full authority of the law is genuinely threatened by a woman who is 5 months pregnant and at the time walking backwards drinking a cup of lukewarm tea, trying to engage him in intelligent conversation, perhaps he should be undergoing some form of psychological evaluation. Exactly what was he threatened by? Does he have a pathological fear of pregnant women, tea, or more depressingly, intelligent conversation? This man was willing to misuse his considerable authority to remove a young woman for peacefully exercising a basic and vital human right. It appears so often the case the authorities would rather violently remove the messenger than confront the inconvenient truth of the message.
Countless times during the protest the front line police and PLO officers were peddling the same line 'you voted didn't you?’ implying the country voted for fracking. Fracking was not mentioned in the 2010 election campaign so how could a vote for the current government constitute an acceptance of fracking. Even if it had been, to suggest that once the country had voted people should simply suspend all democratic activities till the next election irrespective of how our politicians choose to act is just plain daft.
When officers were speaking to those who chose not to vote (1 in the 35% of the electorate that didn't) it was suggested by officers that they should try voting before protesting. I would like to inform those officers that people who protest in the face of injustice have been central to every civilising democratic advance from slavery to the rights of women, to healthcare for all. Protest exposes issues the nation might otherwise be unaware of and when our government is found to be corrupt or simply just horrendously misguided, it is through peaceful protest that we can hold them accountable and ensure the democratic will of the people is actually upheld.
I assume we’d agree the police forces of this nation are there to keep the peace. They are there to protect and serve the people and not simply tools of an oppressive and corrupt regime. I would hope that you could ensure your officers understand why peaceful protest is so crucial to our democracy and stop treating protesters as criminals.
We are rather concerned citizens who are very passionate about his vital issue. This is our nation's drinking water at risk and it shouldn’t be gambled away purely for private profit. What’s more according to stark warnings from the scientific community and to reach our countries carbon reduction targets we need to be moving away from fossil fuels not looking for more.
I hope as the beginning of this letter demonstrates I don’t think the whole of the police force are ignorant bully boys but there are some bad apples and I feel as a whole your great responsibly to the people of this country is not being fulfilled.
I look forward to your response.
Detailed Correspondence With The DECC from Balcombe resident.
This illustrates the way that the bodies supposed to be protecting us are 'whitewashing' us with responses without actually reading what we have written. As you can see they did not answer the initial question, and several people got this same email....
As a Balcombe resident I am seriously concerned about the work that Cuadrilla resources is undertaking so close to the village - less than a kilometre from most residences in fact. Not least because they started drilling yesterday when they have not yet got permission to do so from the EA. I would like to know what you are going to do to stop them working illegally. I heard this drilling in Troymede, further away than many residences, and I can tell you that if this is the kind of noise we are to tolerate if work was to continue, it is too loud and I would like to register my complaint.
I'm particularly concerned that this initial exploratory drilling phase has been put to the village as something that is 'ok because fracking will not take place', when in fact this drilling stage could be extremely polluting to our air. I'm shocked to discover that the local Environmental Health office are not compelled to look in any detail at the possibility of flaring so close to the village (because it is in an exploratory phase rather than full fracking), when Cuadrilla has permission to flare for up to 7 days. A relatively short space of time, does not negate the fact that this process can release potentially hazardous chemicals into our air. Simon Deacon at the local office for Environmental Health assured me that this was ok because it would be little different from the methane that comes from a waste dump. This is clearly not the case as waste dumps are not involved in oil drilling.
I am extermely concerned that there seems to be no legislation for the extremely risky chemicals that could be produced by this flaring. Particularly Volatile Organice Compounds (such as benzene, toluene and xylene), which are both carcinogenic and mutagenic. Although flaring has gone on in other places it seems that there is little legislation to protect us from the flaring that can be produced by new unconventional oil drilling techniques and what could be produced as a result and vented into the air so close to where we live. I am amazed that the DECC will not examine a flare if it is less than 40 tonnes a day. The safe lower limit or time of exposure for some of these toxins is not known. I feel extremely uncomfortable about the fact that my family (including 2 children of 1 and 3) will be living so close to a flare which could continue both day and night. I for one urge you to investigate further what exactly will be released into this flare and the effects it could have. I'm particularly concerned as I'm aware that in the US the EPA is imposing restrictions on flaring and venting with effect from 2015 due to adverse health effects. I'm also lead to believe that legislation has also been passed in Australia which prevents flaring within 2 km of the nearest inhabited dwelling due to the adverse health affects suffered by children (respiratory problems, running eyes, nose bleeds etc.)
Given that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have recently released a paper on what pregnant women should avoid, I feel it important to let you know that I run a baby group in Balcombe and there is great concern about the possible effects of this flare. The paper does, for instance mention Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's). My neighbour recently told me she would advise her pregnant family members not to visit Balcombe while work is being undertaken. I have to ask you how comfortable you would feel if this kind of work was going on so close to your home or that of your family.
I would like to know exactly what is going into that flare and if it is deemed to be ok to be so close to our homes, why. I urge you to stop this work from happening at all costs. If it does happen, I insist that our village has the right to know exactly when this flaring will start and finish so that we can have the chance to evacuate our children, which I can assure you I will be doing if it transpires that there is a lack of protective legislation in place.
It is clear that, even as we move towards a less carbon intensive future, oil and gas are set to remain a vital part of our energy system for years to come. In this context the Government is committed to ensuring that we maximise economic recovery of UK hydrocarbon resources – both offshore and onshore. This has benefits for investment, jobs and security of supply.
The Government’s position on UK unconventional gas resources matches that which it takes towards conventional oil and gas exploration and development. The Government supports industry’s endeavours in pursuing such energy sources so long as tapping of such resources proves to be technically and economically viable, and can be carried out with full regard to the protection of the environment.
The Government and its regulatory agencies are studying the experience already gained with shale gas exploration and production in the US, where there have been many reports of environmental problems linked to some shale gas projects. While many reports, on investigation by the US authorities, have been found to be unconnected to oil or gas production of any kind, there is evidence in some cases of contamination of watercourses by surface spills of chemicals, etc.; and in some cases of methane in water supplies due to inadequate cementing of the wells.
In the UK, however, we have a long history of onshore gas exploration, and have developed a robust regulatory system to ensure that any such operations will be done to high standards of safety and environmental protection. All onshore oil and gas projects, including shale gas exploration and development, are subject first to scrutiny through the planning system, which allows issues such as impacts on local amenity, traffic movements, etc., to be addressed. They are also subject to appropriate environmental controls, including scrutiny by the relevant environmental agency (for England and Wales, the Environment Agency and for Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency), and are subject to safety regulation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They also require consent from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) before drilling or production activities can commence.
Particular concern has been expressed about potential risks to water supplies, and non-disclosure of chemicals used in frack fluids. The Environment Agency has powers to require full disclosure of chemicals used in fracking in England and Wales both under the Water Resources Act 1991 and the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010. It uses those powers to ensure full disclosure and will make an assessment of the chemicals an operator proposes to use.
The Groundwater Daughter Directive provides the framework for the control of the release of substances into groundwater. Substances found to be hazardous under the directive must be prevented from entering groundwater whilst substances found to be non-hazardous may be allowed to enter groundwater but they must not cause pollution and must not be released directly into groundwater.
The environmental regulator (the Environment Agency in England and Wales), makes an interim classification of substances that operators propose to use in fluids used for fracking. This interim classification is subject to a peer review by the other environmental regulators, who work together in the Joint Agencies Groundwater Directive Advisory Group. The interim determinations are subject to a public consultation before they are finalised.
As a consequence, the regulator will not authorise the use of hazardous substances for any activity, including hydraulic fracturing operations where they would be likely to enter groundwater. Non-hazardous substances may be used, subject to their appropriate use but the regulator may restrict or prohibit the use of any substances where they would pose an environmental risk. The Environment Agency has considered all of the chemicals used by Cuadrilla Resources in Lancashire and determined them to be non-hazardous and safe for use in hydraulic fracturing operations at the sites in question.
The Energy & Climate Change Select Committee, in their 2011 report on shale gas, concluded that there is no evidence that the fracking process involved in shale gas extraction poses a direct risk to underground water aquifers, provided the well is constructed properly. They also concluded that there was no case for a moratorium on shale gas operations.
More recently, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society conducted an independent review of the scientific and engineering evidence on the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. Their report, published in June 2012, concluded that the risks can be managed effectively in the UK, provided that operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation; and made a number of recommendations which have been accepted by the Government.
Shale gas exploration in the UK is at an early stage, and only one well has so far been fracked. Fracking operations at this well in April and May 2011 resulted in two small seismic tremors. Further fracking for shale gas was halted pending a detailed investigation, but DECC announced last December that, subject to new control measures to mitigate the risk of seismic tremors, fracking for shale gas would again be permitted, subject to case by case scrutiny and regulatory control as outlined above.
In addition, DECC has set up a new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO), which aims to join up responsibilities across Government, provide a single point of contact for investors, and ensure a simplified and streamlined regulatory process. OUGO also promotes the safe, responsible and environmentally sound recovery of the UK’s unconventional reserves of gas and oil..
It is known that some UK shales contain significant amounts of gas. But as little drilling or testing for shale gas has taken place in the UK, it is not at this stage possible to confirm that these constitute an economic resource, or to offer any estimates of how much of the resource may be technically and economically recoverable.
Further information about shale gas and fracking is available on the DECC website at:
Community benefit from shale gas exploration will be one of the priorities for DECC’s new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO).
OUGO has been created within DECC to promote the safe, responsible and environmentally sound recovery of the UK’s unconventional reserves of gas and oil.
Engaging with industry and communities, OUGO will bring forward proposals by the summer to ensure people benefit from shale gas production if there are future developments in their area.
Shale gas is an exciting opportunity and has the potential to create jobs and support UK energy security. Local communities must be able to benefit from any shale gas development in their area and the new Office will look into how this can be properly achieved.
We are also clear that shale gas operations should be safe and secure to people and the environment and OUGO will play an important role helping to co-ordinate our already robust regulatory regime.
The Government will also:
•Produce technical planning guidance on shale gas by July 2013 to provide clarity around planning for shale gas during the important exploration phase for the industry;
•As the shale gas industry develops we will ensure an effective planning system is in place and by the end of the year will produce guidance for the industry to ensure that the planning system is properly aligned with the licensing regime and regulatory regimes, principally; health and safety; and environmental protection;
•Keep under review whether the largest shale gas projects should have the option to apply to the major infrastructure regime.
Protecting the Environment
Prior to any drilling Cuadrilla will need to gain permits from the Environment Agency before any work can commence. The EA can advise you of exactly which permits were required at Balcombe.
Local communities benefit
DECC are currently working with industry to bring forward a package of community benefits, these will be announced in the summer.
Supporting public engagement
You raised the issue that you were not consulted when Cuadrilla were granted planning permission in 2010. Consultation would have formed part of the process of establishing planning permission. West Sussex County Council as Minerals Planning Authority will be able to advice on what arrangements were required at that time.
Correspondence Unit, DECC I Replies to: email@example.com I www.gov.uk/decc I https://twitter.com/deccgovuk I http://www.youtube.com/deccgovuk I http://www.flickr.com/photos/deccgovuk
Sent: 20 June 2013
To: Correspondence (DECC); Harvey Toni (Energy Development); Harrison Philip (Energy Development); Mohammed Gary (Energy Development)
Subject: RE: Flaring in Balcombe TO2013/11834
Thank you for your detailed response. Interestingly I asked specifically about flaring and venting of Hydrocarbon gas and its effects on local residents and you seem to have answered it by telling me a lot about risks to groundwater. I did not ask about these specifically, but as you bring them up in what I can only assume is a 'standard response email' I will put my thoughts to you on that also.
You say that substances must be prevented from entering the groundwater, but we know that close to this particular site (Lower Stumble) there is a small tributary stream to the river Ouse that feeds Ardingly resevoir. There is a risk, therefore, that this could become contaminated with frack fluid used in the early drilling (etching) process. Lower Stumble is in an area of Natural Beauty and the water in this area is supposed to be able to be drunk at source. It greatly concerns me that this risk will be taken. Particularly as we know that Cuadrilla have already cracked a well in Lancashire and was intending to get on and do the work even though it hadn't got a license to deal with mining waste. Given that we know Cuadrilla drilled over time in Lancashire, I do not feel this company has engendered a great deal of trust in local residents to carry out a job properly. As you said, this technology is at an early stage, but it seems that your feelings of its safety are subject to a lot of provisos about being 'done properly' particularly as regards well casings. Current research on fracking reveals that 50% of wells have cracked after 15 years. Given that you say we are supposed to be 'managing risk effectively' it is shocking that Cuadrilla has managed to crack one of the only wells it's drilled. This, I re-iterate is a dangerous and untested technology that has proved unsafe so far. This is not a risk we should be taking, certainly not so close to an aquifer, water is more important than oil. The Ardingly reservoir feeds many of the homes south of us.
As I have mentioned, Cuadrilla were forging ahead without a mining waste permit. I do not feel that the current local council policies are adequate to consider, let alone grant planning permission for any applications for exploratory drilling or production drilling, I understand that in Sussex under the Minerals and Waste Development Scheme that new Minerals Plan and Water Local Plans are being prepared, however these policies are not due to be completed until April 2016. A company should not be moving into do this work when local councils have not had the time to consider their own policies around this new technology.
I notice that you have not answered any of my queries on flaring and venting of hydrocarbon gas. Does the permit you issue contain details of this? How much exactly are they allowed to flare per day and for how long? What independent research can you show me to prove that this flare is safe, what exactly will it contain? The EA gave me the impression that they did not need to consider flaring at a drilling stage, because it will be for one week or less. Can you confirm this? What protective legislation is there on what they are allowed to flare and how long for?
I would very much appreciate detailed answers to these specific questions, thank you. Please refer to my original email which contains more details on this.
Date: Mon, 8 Jul 2013 14:15:22 +0000
Thank you for copying to DECC your e-mail of 20 June, regarding Cuadrilla’s proposed oil drilling activities near Balcombe. DECC is unable to respond in specific detail to all of the points you raise. However, in summary the current position at Balcombe is as follows:
· Cuadrilla expect the proposed well to test for shale oil, but there may be a small amount of associated gas which would come up with the oil, if it flows. If gas is recovered, it would be flared.
· Consents from both DECC and the Environment Agency would be required for this flaring.
· Cuadrilla have confirmed that the well will not be fracked.
· The Environment Agency is currently consulting on Cuadrilla’s application for a mining waste permit. The consultation can be found at: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/
· DECC is still considering Cuadrilla’s application for consent to drill.
· The recent drilling operations at the site were for a water monitoring well. This will enable future water monitoring arrangements to be undertaken in line with a method statement agreed by the EA. DECC consent is not required for this well.
If you have further questions about the environmental impacts of the proposed drilling, including questions about emissions and the protection of water sources, you should contact the Environment Agency, who are responsible for regulating water and environmental matters. Contact National Customer Contact Centre: 03708 506 506 (Mon-Fri, 8am - 6pm) or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Should you have questions regarding safety or well integrity, you should contact the Health and Safety Executive. Contact: Jim Neilson, Head of Offshore, Pipelines and Diving Policy, HSE, Redgrave Court, 5S2 - Workstation 12, Merton Road, Bootle, Merseyside, L20 7HS. Tel: 0151 951 4434
Other issues regarding local impacts (eg. noise or traffic issues) are matters for the local minerals planning authority, in this case West Sussex County Council.
I hope this clarifies the current position on the proposed operations.
Darwin McIntosh | Correspondence
Department of Energy and Climate Change | 5th Floor | 3 Whitehall Place | London | SW1A 2EY
* email email@example.com
Detailed Response and analysis of the application by Celtique to drill at Fernhurst, within THE SOUTH DOWNS NATIONAL PARK. This letter rips Celtique's planning application to shreds!! by a Pulborough resident 16th January 2014
FAO Ms Lucy Harding.
RE: SDNP/13/05896/CM - The installation of a well and associated infrastructure, including access road and soil bunds, for the drilling of a vertical borehole and contingent horizontal borehole from the same well for the exploration, testing and evaluation of hydrocarbons for a temporary period of three years at Nine Acre Copse, Vann Road, Linchmere, West Sussex
Dear Ms Harding,
I am writing in objection to the above referenced planning application. I have split my response into two parts. The first part deals with the applicant’s submission documents and references made within them. The second part raises several concerns either not included in the applicant’s documents, or for which no reference to a particular passage is necessary.
Please note that many of the points quoted in my responses appear in several other documents other than the one I am referencing, and so in order to avoid unnecessary repetition, I will only comment upon these points the once, although my comments will apply equally to all other occurrences in other non-cited documents. To aid cross-referencing with the relevant document, I have used the same titles as those that appear on the South Downs National Park Authority’s planning website for this application.
1.1) Alternative Sites Assessment – Figure 5.2
1.1.1) This document clearly shows that the proposed site is within close proximity to a number of residential properties, falling just outside the 400m buffer zone of at least eight properties – the most of any of the alternative sites assessed. The application at would therefore have significant impact upon a significant number of residences through noise, light and visual pollution.
1.2) Alternative Sites Assessment
1.2.1) Paragraph 2.13 states “From this evaluation it will be possible to establish whether hydraulic fracturing might be required in the future although no hydraulic fracturing will be used as part of this exploration activity, and therefore does not form part of this planning application.” However, the latest Government graphics clearly state that wells are ‘fracked’ during the exploration process.
1.2.2) Furthermore, Paragraph 2.12 states the applicant intends to assess the porosity of the Great Oolite layer which would indicate that the applicant could well be intending to test ‘frack’ this well.
1.2.3) Paragraph 5.31 indicates that the proposed site is situated within an area of ancient woodland – one of the most important ecosystems in the UK – to which the applicant asserts is a feature that would support the site being considered a suitable location to drill a well because of natural screening. However, Ancient Woodlands are often species rich and the application would impact adversely upon this particular habitat and the associated ecosystem through unacceptable intrusion of noise, light, air pollution and/or contaminants and vibrations. The application would essentially cause much of this habitat to become intolerable for the wildlife in addition to causing them great stress. The application would also result in a sizable area of the associated ecosystem to be destroyed and removed. There is evidence to suggest that plant life is adversely impacted by drilling operations, such as at Singleton.
1.3) Application Drawings – 1 to 14
1.3.1) The drawings indicate that the site is currently wooded and therefore the development would necessitate the removal of a large number of trees. I understand that the purpose of a plantation is for the sustainable growth and felling of trees for timber, but the proposal would see almost the entire plantation felled in one and thus severely impacting upon the ancient woodland ecosystem that incorporates the plantation.
1.4) Application Drawings – 17 to 29
1.4.1) The site section drawings clearly show that the proposed 45m drill rig – including lighting – would tower much higher than the trees, which according to the drawings are no more than around 17m tall. Celtique had the cheek to dismiss Frack Free Fernhurst’s balloon demonstration as not accurately reflecting a drill rig, yet their own drawings demonstrate that the drill would indeed dominate the skyline for miles around, being the tallest structure in the vicinity by far and severely harming the character of the National Park.
1.4.2) Future replanting of the site is not an adequate mitigation measure since the damage to the ecosystem would have already been done. Long-term research into development mitigation measures has indicated that the long-term survival of wildlife removed from their habitat is reduced dramatically.
1.5) Chapter 3 – Application Site and Surroundings
1.5.1) Paragraph 3.9 states “There are no major aquifers under the Application Site, and it is not in an area where people use water from aquifers for water supply, either public or private.” However, an inspection of the Environment Agencies data shows that the proposed site in a ‘Minor Aquifer High Groundwater Vulnerability Zone’ and also in a ‘Surface Water Safeguard Zone’. The latter being non-statutory zones where “activities can impact adversely on the quality of water abstracted in the Drinking Water Protection Area.”
1.5.2) As with many areas of rural Sussex, there are likely to be a number of unrecorded water wells within the vicinity of the proposed site that are still used for a variety of purposes.
1.6) Chapter 4 – Project Description
1.6.1) Paragraphs 4.2 and 4.3 relate to Hydraulic Fracturing and state that the application is for a conventional well (that will explore for hydrocarbons in tight formations), that will not require the use of hydraulic fracturing, and that the extraction technique might not be needed in the future. This is the same statement they have had at their other Sussex sites and so I wish to point out that the applicant are seriously considering using this technique at their Sussex sites in the future and it has been revealed that the company have been in discussions with known ‘fracking’ companies including Halliburton regarding this. Approving this application would risk another application in the future to use this controversial technique and so this exploratory application should not be permitted in order to prevent such a risk coming to West Sussex.
1.6.2) Further to the belief held by residents, and contrary to the claims by Celtique that they do not intend hydraulic fracturing, comes an article in ‘Exploration & Production Magazine’ from 3rd July 2013. In this article it includes an interview with the CEO of Celtique – “Celtique Energie Ltd, backed by US private-equity firm Avista Capital Partners LP, is among companies seeking to pump shale oil in [the South-East]…They’re attracted by UK government plans to give tax breaks to stimulate a shale industry that can buoy domestic supply…Celtique plans to drill a well next year at Fernhurst in West Sussex…While hydraulic fracturing isn’t initially planned, Celtique may apply for such a license should it find shale oil, according to a presentation. “The reason why we’re excited by this position is it has multiple objectives for both conventional and unconventional” drilling, CEO Geoff Davies said in an interview in London.” The full article can be read here http://www.epmag.com/Production-Completion/Fracing-Debate-Looms-Southern-England_118532
1.7) Chapter 5 – Need and Alternatives
1.7.1) This document deals mostly with perceived national matters that are not material considerations for this planning application, or that which the South Downs National Park Authority or West Sussex County Council do not have the remit to consider in the determination of this application. The same is true for a substantial amount of the Planning Statement.
1.8) Non-Technical Summary
1.8.1) Paragraph 18.1 states “The Proposed Development would create employment opportunities directly due to the construction programme and also indirectly by the workforce creating demand in the local economy for supplies, services and temporary accommodation. The indirect benefits would be in job creation and additional local expenditure. The Applicant would seek to recruit the construction workforce from the local area…The Proposed development is anticipated to generate employment for approximately 44 people in trades identified as having a readily available labour force.” I have been intrigued by these claims that local employment will be created, in particular when Celtique Energie claimed that 250 jobs per annum would be created in the local area when they were consulting with regards to their Broadford Bridge site. I must firstly ask the Planning Committee to consider where all the jobs are at Lidsey, at Singleton and at Storrington? Where were all these jobs at Balcombe? Where are all these 250 jobs in Billingshurst and Pulborough? The applicants are not a drilling company, they instead employ sub-contractors to undertake the operations, who bring in their own employees rather than try and recruit at each new site they work at. Additionally, many of the jobs are highly skilled and so opportunities for local employment at the sites are very limited or negligible and on-site accommodation is supplied.
1.8.2) The Planning Committee are aware that whilst economic factors should be taken into account as a balanced assessment of applications, matters of the national economy are not a material planning consideration and so this argument by the applicant cannot be taken into account. Furthermore, the applicant places a lot of emphasis throughout their application documents on the national economy, energy security and job creation matters, seemingly implying that these are perhaps the most important factors. Similarly, several of the supporters claim that this type of operation is necessary for reasons of national energy security and wealth creation. However, the Committee will be aware of the recent High Court case of Cherkley Campaign Ltd, R v Longshot Cherkley Court Ltd  which raised two important points of relevance in this application. Firstly, it was ruled that the applicants claims of ‘sustainable development’ namely economic benefits, jobs for local people and accommodation are not in anyway unusual for commercial developments and so no special considerations should have been given to the application by the Local Planning Authority. And secondly, it was ruled that economic matters, whether local or national, cannot be given greater weight than any other matter such as social and environmental considerations. To do so was considered to be unlawful. Such ‘exceptional circumstances’ are not relevant to Paragraph 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
1.9) Statement of Community Engagement
1.9.1) Paragraph 4.3 shows that even at the pre-application consultation, the majority (55%) of respondents to the questionnaire disagreed or strongly disagreed that this site was an appropriate location, compared to 29% who did agree. Furthermore, Paragraph 4.7 shows that regarding the application as a whole, the total number of respondents not in favour or expressing concerns rises to 90% compared to just 11% in support (I am aware that this totals more than 100%, but I have used the applicants own figures). Note that the number of supportive comments has more than halved the number of people who did agree that the site was an appropriate location.
2.1) The applicant is applying for a three-year initial operation, meaning that if granted, would allow them permission until 2016/2017. However, their DECC Licence for the area expires in 2014 and it would therefore be inappropriate for the South Downs National Park Authority to assume that Celtique Energie and/or their partner Magellan Petroleum would be granted a renewal after expiration. The Authority must be prepared, if permission is granted, to take enforcement action should the applicant continue to operate beyond permitted conditions or licence expiration, and not permit any breaches to go unabated.
2.2) The applicant is only one of a number of small sub-companies with very limited financial assets and a large accruement of financial liabilities meaning that the margin for unexpected costs is very small to say the least. Should there be a major incident at the site then this company would not have the ability to deal with it, whilst they have been formed in such a way that the company could easily dissolve and leave the site without impacting on any of their other sub-companies, and leaving the directors not liable for any repercussions. I therefore question whether the land owner has been made aware that the liability would fall to him to deal with the aftermath of any incident, or even for any future pollution incidents from a capped well should the drilling operation conclude without issue. I also question whether the South Downs National Park Authority would be able to make right repairs to the roads as a result of inappropriate use by numerous Heavy Goods Vehicles in association with the application.
2.3) The applicant at no point makes mention of what chemicals would be used and so the Planning Committee are in effect determining this application with no awareness as to the full details of the proposed operation. I understand that current planning regulations mean that the Authority can only assume that the other regulatory bodies will perform their duties without fault, but it is still not appropriate for the Authority to potentially permit this application whilst not knowing the full extent of it. The Authority has a duty of care to the residents of West Sussex in a way that the other bodies do not necessarily have and so to sign off an application whilst not knowing what substances would be used would show a disregard of this duty.
2.4) Similarly, the applicants at this stage are only stating that the chemicals to be used would be non-toxic or household chemicals. However, I wish to remind the Planning Committee that Cuadrilla also made these exact same claims at Balcombe, but have been found through Freedom of Information Act requests to have used large quantities of hydrochloric acid and ethylene oxide, both of which have potential to cause harm to water-based organisms as well as to human health – particularly the ethylene oxide. It was also revealed that Cuadrilla had wanted to use antimony trioxide, but was thankfully refused permission. Ethylene Oxide and Antimony Trioxide are certainly not non-toxic or household chemicals and neither are the extremely large volumes or concentration of hydrochloric acid used, and therefore claims to the contrary can only be seen as attempts to appease those in the early stages of the planning process.
2.5) Pre-Application Discussions
2.5.1) A Freedom of Information Act request response (WSCC Ref. No. 613) on 31st October 2013 has revealed that
“Officers and elected representatives [Councillors] have met with Cuadrilla and Celtique several times before and during the application processes to discuss proposals…Celtique has undertaken pre-application discussions with WSCC officers as part of their process of Alternative Site Assessments (i.e. identifying potential sites for oil/gas exploration, then meeting with WSCC planners, ecologists, landscape officers, archaeologists and highway officers to garner views)…Officers met with Celtique on 9 February 2012 to discuss site options. Written pre-application responses (confidential) were provided by WSCC on 1 and 3 July 2013…A further meeting with members [Councillors] and planning officers from both WSCC and the South Downs National Park Authority was held on 30 July 2013 to discuss the impending applications at Wisborough Green and Fernhurst.”
2.5.2) This clearly shows that, as happens often with planning applications, the applicants have been permitted several private audiences with Planning Authority members and staff. I have been provided with a copy of Celtique’s Briefing Document handed to West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) members at the above referenced joint meeting held on 30 July 2013. This document emphasises the concerns of numerous objectors regarding the company’s workforce size and abilities. In this document it says “[Celtique] Employs 30 members of full-time staff and longstanding consultants covering specialist areas” thereby highlighting the fact that Celtique do not drill nor operate well sites, but rather sub-contract to other organisations. Celtique’s small workforce of 30 staff, including consultants, would indicate that they also lack the ability to effectively manage and monitor sites to ensure that all regulations and safeguards are implemented appropriately – again, this will be down to sub-contractors (namely two full-time site managers working alternate twelve-hour shifts) to ensure that no problems arise and that the other sub-contractors are operating machinery, equipment and chemicals to the highest standard that Celtique would have us believe in this application.
2.5.3) The document also states that at their consultation event for the Kirdford and Wisborough Green site, 40% of responses at the time did not agree that this site was an appropriate location to drill, compared to only 34% that did agree. For Fernhurst, this feeling that West Sussex residents on the whole are not in favour of hydrocarbon extraction in the County continues with 57% disagreeing that the site is appropriate compared to only 28% that did agree. Clearly Celtique do not have a social license from these communities.
2.5.4) The quoted extract at paragraph 2.5.1 above also highlights the fact that Celtique have been actively engaging WSCC Councillors and Officers and South Downs National Park Authority members in various departments to discuss potential drilling sites. Clearly these discussions have resulted in three locations (that we know of – WSCC refuse to disclose the names of the other locations that have been investigated by Celtique), namely Broadford Bridge, Wisborough Green/Kirdford and Fernhurst. For these three sites to have been selected, WSCC and/or South Downs National Park Authority must have given Celtique some indication that they were potentially acceptable sites and would have a good chance of gaining successful planning permission. This clearly puts the local communities and Parish Councils at a disadvantage when it comes to assessing applications.
2.6) Celtique Finances
2.6.1) Several objectors have highlighted the fact that Celtique has questionable financial support and that the company certainly does not have the financial capability to deal with a serious incident at one of their well sites. This particular applicant, Celtique Energie Weald Ltd, as at the year ending 31st December 2012, had a net worth of £-2,613,021 and total liabilities of £3,148,738. As has also been pointed out, Celtique is part of a conglomeration of six separate companies all trading under the Celtique name and all sharing the same directors (Celtique Energie Ltd, Celtique Vaud Ltd, Celtique Energie Weald Ltd, Celtique Energie Petroleum Ltd, Celtique East Midlands Ltd, Celtique Energie Holdings Ltd). The total combined liabilities amounts to some £11,564,164 as at 31st December 2012. When looking at previously submitted accounts, the trend is clear that for Celtique Energie Weald Ltd, as well as several other of its sister companies, as Net Company Worth has declined substantially (by over £2,580,000 since 2010), the Total Liabilities have equally risen (by over £2,760,000 since 2010). Clearly the applicant is not in the position to be able to deal with any incident that might arise at the proposed Fernhurst site or equally at any of its other sites such as nearby Wisborough Green. The cost of any such incident, and the liability to deal with it, would fall upon the landowners, including WSCC as the Highways Authority and the South Downs National Park Authority.
2.7) Invalidation Issues
2.7.1) Further to all my above listed objections to the Application, upon examination of the Application Form, I consider that the Application is invalid owing to a defective Article 12 Certificate. I have therefore attached a separate Letter of Challenge to the South Downs National Park Authority at the end of this objection, further detailing these invalidity issues.
I would lastly like to suggest that the South Downs National Park Authority perhaps takes the advice of Jenny Massingham, Celtique’s very own Planning Advisor, that she posted on her ‘Pinterest’ website:
“Never base your life decisions on advice received from people who don’t have to live with the results.”
P.S. - I reserve the right to add to or otherwise amend my comments at a later date, up to and including the date of determination.
Matters being challenged:
(1) The decision taken by the South Downs National Park Authority (“the Authority”) to treat Planning Application number SDNP/13/05896/CM (“the Application”) as “valid” for the purposes of Article 12 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management) Procedure Order 2010
(2) Alternatively, the failure of the Authority to treat the Application as “invalid” for the purposes of Article 12 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management) Procedure Order 2010
(3) The Authority’s ongoing entertainment of the Application, despite the prohibition on doing so in s.65(5) and s.327A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
The applicant has failed to submit with the Application Form the Certificate required under Article 12, because the certificate chosen – Certificate of Ownership C - does not list valid entities for the apparent landowners, that is to say an individual or a Limited Company registered at Companies House. In the circumstances, the application submitted fails to consist in the Certificate required under Article 12, and the application ought to have been treated as “invalid” under s.65(5) and s.327A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
In all the circumstances, the Authority ought to have notified the applicant that the Application was “invalid”.
Further, in all the circumstances, the Authority was (and is) actually prohibited from entertaining this application at all by s.65(5) and s.327A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
What is more, given the errors in the application form and Article 12 as to the identities of various parties, one can have no confidence that the applicant has given notice of the Application to all owners of any land to which the application relates. Accordingly, the Certificate is inaccurate as a matter of fact and the Authority cannot lawfully determine the Application one way or the other. If the Authority either ignores a defect in an Article 12 Certificate or is unaware of this defect and proceeds to determine the Application and grant planning permission, then any permission granted would be invalid and can be quashed by the High Court if any person(s) aggrieved by the granting of planning permission brought judicial review proceedings.
(a) To undertake, in accordance with s.65(5) and s.327A, not to entertain the Application any further.
(b) To notify those who submitted the Application that, having considered the application and accompanying documents properly, the Authority considers that the application is actually invalid.
An incorrectly submitted Article 12 Certificate cannot be remedied by a simple amendment to, or submission of, a fresh Certificate. UK Planning Law requires that where any person(s) and/or registered Limited Companies other than the applicant is owner of the land in question, then notice of the intent to submit an application must be made to all landowners before the submission of the application. Unless this notice has been given before the date of the submission of the application, an applicant, therefore, could not truthfully or accurately complete an alternative Certificate. The only remedy is thus to invalidate the application. Even if all the landowners are aware of and support an application, an incorrect Article 12 Certificate would still enable an aggrieved third party to begin judicial review proceedings to quash the decision of a Local Planning Authority if it should proceed to determine the Application and grant permission, whether or not it done so knowingly or willingly. Therefore, since the Authority have now been notified of the defective Article 12 Certificate, for it to continue to entertain the Application would be to do so knowingly and willingly in contradiction to s.65(5) and s.327A unless the Application is declared invalid and the applicant asked to withdraw it.
Furthermore, on the attached Sheet 3 of the Application Form, the two main landowners are combined into the same entry. This is again a defect in the Application (aside from the fact that the list of alleged landowners are not stated on the Certificate correctly), since in UK Law, individual people are separate legal entities from one another. A legal entity to be named on a Certificate must be either an individual or a registered Limited Company and not a grouping of two or more individuals or companies. The argument that the two persons listed are family members is void for this same reason as explained above and it cannot therefore be certain that all landowners were given the required notice of the Application prior to its submission.
For your information and to reinforce my argument, I will quote directly from the “Best Practice Guidance on the Validation of Planning Applications” document. Page 10 of this Government produced document states, under the section entitled “Ownership Certificates” that:
“Under section 65(5) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, read in conjunction with section 5 of the GDPO, the LPA must not entertain an application for planning permission unless the relevant certificates concerning the ownership of the application site have been completed.”
On page 17 of the document, under the heading “Acknowledgement and Invalidation of Applications”, it is stated that:
“Article 5(2) of the GDPO 1995 describes when an acknowledgment of the application must be sent to the applicant. Where, after sending such an acknowledgment, the LPA considers that the application is invalid by reason of a failure to comply with the requirements of regulation 3 of the Applications Regulations 1988, or article 4 of the GDPO or any other statutory requirement (eg the direction made under regulation 4 of the Applications Regulations 1988 in the authority’s SPD) they must as soon as reasonably practical notify the applicant that the application is invalid: article 5(4) GDPO 1995.”
I appreciate that the Application is made invalid purely on a technicality, but that does not excuse the fact that it is invalid, and for the Authority to continue to entertain the Application, and/or proceed to determine the Application would be unlawful and gives ground to the decision being quashed at Judicial Review by an aggrieved third party. I trust the Application will now be labelled ‘Invalid’ and withdrawn at the soonest possible moment.