Cuadrilla inquiry begins, fermanagh at risk

Today marks the first day of the long anticipated Cuadrilla inquiry, where they are set to appeal and overturn the Lancashire County Council decision to oppose two of their fracking test licences.

Whilst inspectors at the hearing are expected to make decisions at the inquiry, the final decision will fall on the lap of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, who is a signatory on the Controversial Leaked letter to George Osborne that backs industrial scale USGE in the UK.

Rt Hon Greg Clark will have teh fial decision on today's Cuadrilla inquiry. He is also a signatory on teh Leaked Letter to George Osborne that backs industrial scale fracking across teh UK. (image source: birminghammail.com)

Rt Hon Greg Clark will have the final decision on today’s Cuadrilla inquiry. He is also a signatory on the Leaked Letter to George Osborne that backs industrial scale fracking across the UK. (image source: birminghammail.com)

 

It is thought that were Cuadrilla allowed to over turn the Lancashire County Council’s decision, then this would provide a precedent for other targeted fracking areas across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, inclusive of County Fermanagh.

The inquiry is to be held at Blackpool Stadium and local community groups are expected to attend as they look for the County Council’s decision to be upheld.

 

Mark ruffalo warns cameron

In a thought provoking monologue, American actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo has  made an informed plea to UK Prime Minister that asks him to reconsider utilising Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction within the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland.

The video can be viewed by clicking the link below: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2016/feb/08/mark-ruffalo-to-david-cameron-fracking-enormous-mistake-video . (source: guardian.)

The video can be viewed by clicking the link below: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2016/feb/08/mark-ruffalo-to-david-cameron-fracking-enormous-mistake-video . (source: guardian.)

Not only does Mr Ruffalo claim that USCE is a ‘huge mistake’, and that ‘there is no fracking that can be done safely’, he draws the Prime Minister’s attention to the concept that renewable energy is ‘the future economy’, and that 200 nations recently came together to decide that it is now time to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Mr Ruffalo also also held Mr Cameron accountable to his own words, stating that: ‘you have already told your people once before that if they didn’t want it, you wouldn’t push them to take it, and you are turning back on your word.’

The Prime Minister is yet to respond to Mr Ruffalo’s comments.

Leaked fracking letter stokes fears

A government letter suggests that UK Government Ministers have backed the controversial process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction. The letter, leaked to Friends of the Earth also suggests removing important decisions away from local community control, and into the remit of national infrastructure bodies, thus reducing the say that local communities have over USGE in their local area.

Craig Bennett, the chief executive of Friends Of The Earth, said: “The Prime Minister has said that communities would have a fair say in whether or not fracking should happen near them, but as this letter makes clear, this isn’t being reflected or honoured in the highest levels of government.”

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, was one of the recipients of the leaked letter. (image source: telegraph.co.uk)

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, was one of the Ministers who sent the leaked letter. (image source: telegraph.co.uk)

The letter was reportedly sent from the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, the Communities Secretary Greg Clark and the Environment Secretary Liz Truss to Chancellor George Osborne.

A Government spokeswoman stressed communities will “always be involved” in the planning application process. “We are backing shale because it’s good for our energy security and will help create jobs and growth,” she said.

Below, is the main body of the leaked letter in full:

fracking-letter1_3562967a fracking-letter2_3562970a fracking-letter3_3562972a fracking-letter4_3562973a

Belfast water supply at risk

The Belfast Telegraph have reported that there is risk that local water supplies that feed the City of Belfast run risk of contamination by Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE) practices proposed for the area.

The USGE project being carried out by company ‘Infrastrata’ will be taking place 380meters from Woodburn Reservoir, Carrickfergus.

Ms. Joyce, a local campaigner told the telegraph:

“The Woodburn reservoir outside Carrickfergus supplies Dorisland Water Works, which feeds water to over 1,900 streets, from Ballycarry right down to Belfast city centre.

“Following a freedom of information request we received a map showing exactly where the water from the reservoir goes. It supplies hospitals, health centres, schools, offices, residential areas and all the eateries in central Belfast.

“We feel that the drill potentially could contaminate the water supply and everyone supplied by it should be aware of this.

“A motion has been tabled for debate in the City Hall at 5pm on Tuesday, proposed by the Green Party and seconded by the Ulster Unionist Party.

South Woodburn Resivoir. According to population review, the greater belfast area has a population of approx. 585,000 inhabitants, making it the 11th largest conurbation in the UK. (image source: doeni.co.uk)

South Woodburn Reservoir. According to population review, the greater Belfast area has a population of approx. 585,000 inhabitants, making it the 11th largest conurbation in the UK. (image source: doeni.co.uk)

“We lobbied hard for this debate to go ahead and are hopeful that it will raise even more awareness of the potential hazard the drill could pose.”

Woodburn Reservoir supplied 705 streets across Belfast, 532 streets in Carrickfergus, 576 in Newtownabbey, 59 in Larne, 80 in Whitehead, four in Ballycarry and one street in Antrim.

Ms Joyce added: “The decision to grant InfraStrata rights to drill 380 metres from our water was made without consultation.

“The right to participate and be informed is being violated. The risks of exploratory drilling are detailed and well documented and it appears that the need for intense scrutiny in relation to this sensitive site has been avoided.”

The debate is to take place in Belfast City Hall tomorrow, 1st September 2015.

The Telegrapgh further reported: “However, Infrastrata says it is committed to the project and is in discussions with a number of other parties to secure the £2.8m lost by Larne Oil and Gas pulling out. Infrastrata also said that all the “regulatory approvals and other permits” were in place for work to begin this winter, but the company added that the timing depended on getting a drilling slot for the rig and completing the funding.”

To read the article in full, click here.

Fracking crops to be labelled?

An L.A. lawmaker believes that food processed with fracking waste water should be labelled as such for the benefit of consumers. Assemblyman Mike Gatto has introduced a bill that will be considered as part of the Legislature’s Special Session on health.

His office says some farms are using recycled hydraulic fracturing water in the name of water conservation: “Few consumers are aware of the potential health issues from consuming produce irrigated by contaminated water.” Food that uses recycled fracking water would have to contain the label, “Produced using recycled or treated oil-field waste-water.”

“Consumers have a basic right to make informed decisions when it comes to the type of food that ends up on the family dinner table,” Gatto said. “Labelling food that has been irrigated with potentially harmful or carcinogenic chemicals, such as those in recycled fracking water, is the right thing to do.”

Recently, farmers in the state of California have been using recycled fracking waste water for crop irrigation. The recycling method has been used in farming instead of fresh water, as a result of the high demand for water in the state of California that has seen heavy drought over the past few years.

Given teh relatively small space of teh Island of Ireland, there are concerns both north and south of the border that the island could lose out agriculturally and economically were consumers to choose foods produced by other nations that didn't undergo fracking due to concerns on health and contaminated produce. (image source: wired.co.uk)

Given the relatively small space of the Island of Ireland, there are concerns both north and south of the border that the island could lose out agriculturally and economically were consumers to choose foods produced by other nations that didn’t undergo fracking due to concerns on health and contaminated produce. (image source: wired.co.uk)

So far, this isn’t to say that the food produce will carry health warnings, rather it is a matter of informing consumers that the food has been processed using fracking waste products.

The concept of notifying consumers as to whether or not their food has been in contact with fracking materials is a moral one. As was found recently with the Tesco horse meat scandal, consumers want to know what they are eating and want to know that it has been prepared safely.

However, the move will raise concerns for farmers globally, and in the Island of Ireland particularly.

It is believed locally that due to the health risks of fracking, both perceived and real, that consumers would rather shy away from food produce that has been exposed to fracking chemicals, and instead would rather purchase food stuffs that had not come into contact with said materials.

If the initiative were to go ahead, what would result would be a decline in profits for farmers who produce food in areas that have gone, and are undergoing the process of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Would you consume food that was produced with fracking waste water or not? Leave your comments below.

Isle of wight faces fracking

Following news that new fracking licences are being offered to oil and gas companies for purposes of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE), mainly across the midlands and North of England, it also appears that the majority of the Isle of Wight will be fracked also.

isle

The Isle of Wight, a well known tourist destination for many, as well as home to134,000 local residents, measures around 148 square miles in total. Below are the proposed licence areas that, when you compare to the image above, cover almost the whole of the island.

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UK fracking revolution comes with big risks

 

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In what it has called ‘the starting pistol at the latest stage of the race’, the Telegraph newspaper has reported that fracking, or Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE), whilst touted as the solution to our energy problems, does in fact come with big risks.

They state: “If all goes to plan, the UK’s 14th onshore licensing round will replicate the kind of shale revolution that has helped to power the US economy out of the financial crisis. But get it wrong and fracking in Britain, which comes with a fair share of environmental risk, will become too politically toxic for any future government to consider.”

To read the article in depth, click here.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/11810171/Britains-shale-fracking-revolution-comes-with-big-risks.html

Amber rudd: ‘stick to the planning timetable in place’

Amber Rudd, Energy and Climate Change Secretary has stated that whilst the United Kingdom has not moved as fast as U.S. counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic on the subject of fracking, all of that is about to change.

Amber Rudd says that there have been delays in UK  on shale exploration, but made clear that she would not allow the current delays to continue, saying they don’t serve anybody.

Amber Rudd, new Energy and Climate Change Secretary says that there have been delays in UK on shale exploration, but made clear that she would not allow the current delays to continue, saying they don’t serve anybody. (image source: reuters)

She stated in an interview with the BBC: “What we’re signalling today is the delays that have been taking place on deciding if these [unconventional shale gas extraction] applications could go ahead, have simply been taking too long. Local authorities are still going to be very much involved, but the secretary for communities and government will have an increased role in making sure they stick to the planning timetable which is already in place.”

The secretary’s comments come after 27 areas were available for auction on the 14th licencing round.

England smashed open with fracking auction

Whilst there were those that knew that this was coming whether they liked it or not, there were many English citizens who did not see this powerful knockout blow-to-their-dreams coming.

Yesterday (August 18th 2015), in their 14th Licencing round, Westminster Government successfully opened up the auctioning gates to 27 plots of land to the Oil and Gas companies for purposes of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE).

The areas up for purchase include several areas across the north of England and Midlands including Middlesborough, Scarborough and the Historical City of York.

Each individual auctioning block measures 10km by 10km, bringing the total area of land to 2,700 sq/km for these particular licensed areas. It is not entirely clear whether or not areas of special scientific interest and environmentally sensitive areas are going to be protected.

Why has this move come as a shock for so many?

In my own opinion, there were three events over the last 14 months that lead the English into believing their land would not be fracked:

  • The collective moratoriums in Wales and Scotland.
  • The (temporary) stalling of fracking in Fermanagh, N.Ireland
  • The ban of USGE in New York.

The success of those three peaceful, law abiding campaigns seemed to build a momentum within the consciousness of many, not just the English, but the Irish, N.Irish, Welsh, and Scottish also, that the practice of USGE was something that could be stopped.

The bottom line here is that as a result of those three successes, people really did feel that if a local area felt opposed to the environmental and health risks of fracking that this meant that fracking wouldn’t go ahead.

However those that could look at the facts properly, and without emotion, could see clearly that this wasn’t the case, in particular when you take into account that David Cameron’s strong Pro-Fracking views.

Further to this, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Teresa Villers has previously backed fracking in Northern Ireland and only 8 months ago FFAN reported that the Minister of State for Environment and Climate Change Matt Hancock expressed his desire for Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction to proceed despite the fact that recent drastic diminishing oil and gas prices may make the energy extraction process even more unprofitable for both government and corporations.

This support for fracking by our collective Government Officials comes despite the fact that The British Medical Journal (BMI) criticising the technical, economical and health deficiencies of USGE and Australian medical journal the LANCET highlighting the health risks of fracking via water, air and soil transport systems.

Yet, fracking can only go ahead, subject with local planning consent by local councils. However, Westminster can over turn this.

As a result, many English citizens have woken up this morning with proverbial bloody noses as the stark reality hits them in the face that their area is now up for grabs, and they will have felt bad for not seeing it coming sooner.

Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales should take heed.

Below is the 14th Onshore Round of Licences that are up for auction.

14th round

Westminster speed up application process once more

The UK Government has once more sped up the application process that relates to Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE).

In a move that is more likely to affect the auctioned areas from the 14th round and beyond, USGE applications now force local councils to grant the application no later than 16 weeks, without extension. Whilst planning applications are already subject to a 16 week deadline, there was the option of extending the deadline so that more information could be gathered. However, that option has now been removed.

If the deadline is reached and the application not granted, the Westminster Government has the right to step in, overrule the local council in question, and grant the application to the Oil and Gas companies.

This move may not be in the spirit of the law that would allow time for research for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and Health Impact Assessments (HIA). However, the move to keep application processes within 16 weeks is within the letter of the law, and is therefore not illegal.

The move can be deemed as a shame because  EIA’s and HIA’s should be carried out so that the risk to human health and quality of live can be assessed before any new industry moves into an area, in particular fracking, which has already earned itself such a dark shady past, despite Governments globally stating that the practice is safe.

Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services at Lancashire county council. His councils conflict with Cuadrilla was only possible due to the fact that they could apply for extension on deadlines for the purposes of carrying out more research on the subject. Those extensions are now now longer permitted to licences granted from 14th round on wards.

Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services at Lancashire county council. His councils conflict with Cuadrilla was only possible due to the fact that they could apply for extension on deadlines for the purposes of carrying out more research on the subject. Those extensions are now now longer permitted to licences granted from 14th round on wards. (image source: council.lancashire.gov.uk)

Sadly, the 16 week ‘no-extension-available’ deadline won’t allow the local councils the time to assess the dangers to the people and environment in their area properly.

This runs risk of hurting other humans, children and adults, today and tomorrow and the option of an extension for further research is a good thing, and it should not be removed.

But it has been. And it is not illegal.

Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services at Lancashire county council, who have had to deal with Cuadrilla, said that the Cuadrilla case had “dragged on” so long, because the deadlines his council sought had been extended to get more information. He said: “I can see what the direction of travel is: it’s to remove local determinism, and the right of local people to have a say,” Furthermore Johnstone felt that reducing the role of local planning risked storing up problems later. “If they [government] don’t gauge the anger now, they run a real risk of not giving the public any outlet to express their views. If you shut out off the safety valve, you’re going to have problems.”