West sussex council reject exploratory shale gas license

In what is regarded as a UK first, a local county council in England have rejected an application for exploration license for shale gas.

Protest against Fracking traffic and Celtique Energie drilling rig in Fernhurst West Sussex

The Guardian report:

An application by a shale company to explore for oil and gas in a picturesque part of West Sussex has been turned down. West Sussex County Council’s planning committee refused the application by Celtique Energy for oil and gas exploration near Wisborough Green, a conservation area just outside the South Downs National Park.

The refusal, thought to be the first time a council has rejected a planning application by a shale company, was welcomed by local campaigners and environmentalists who feared that the exploration would lead to controversial fracking for oil or gas. The county council said it turned down the application because Celtique did not demonstrate the site represented the best option compared with other sites, it had unsafe highways access and would have had an adverse impact on the area.

Heidi Brunsdon, chairman of the council’s planning committee, said: “There were simply too many highways issues and other issues of concern for any decision other than refusal in this instance. We have noted the objections of the local community and I felt that the debate today was a full and robust one.”
Almost 100 people attended the meeting at County Hall North in HORSHAM to hear the debate and the decision, including actor James Bolam and his wife, actress Susan Jameson, who are local residents who fought against the scheme.

After the decision, Brenda Pollack, South East campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “This was absolutely the right decision. Nobody wants to see Sussex ruined by industrial drilling for dirty fossil fuels. If Celtique had been allowed to test for oil or gas, then there’s every chance that fracking would have followed.

“Local people would have seen their peaceful neighbourhoods shattered by the drilling and the extra lorries and other industrial traffic that comes with it. It has been CLEAR from the start that this application must be refused for a range of reasons.”

To read the article in full, click here.

The news came a day after drilling equipment arrived in Belcoo, County Fermanagh for an exploratory borehole drill, to be carried out by Tamboran Resources, an event which is rejected by local residents.

EU eyes US gas imports, citing current ukraine crisis

A two page document produced by the Council of the European Union Council Committee (EUCC) on May 27th 2014, outlines the desire of the EU to lift EU-US trade restrictions. This would allow the US to freely trade oil and gas exports across the atlantic to the European Union.

As a result of encouraging more crude oil and natural gas exports to the EU, the proposal would no doubt lead to an increase in fracking unconventional shale gas wells in the US, and would push more climate-disrupting fuels into the European Union as a whole, dealing a significant blow to efforts to avert climate change.

ULRAINE CONFLICT

The EU made no secret of its desire before in July 2013 for the right to import US shale oil and gas.

The 2014 leaked document, obtained by the Washington Post, cites the current Ukrainian crisis as a driver for the desired change in trade regulations as the EU looks to strengthen its energy security over the next few decades.

In summary, the document outlines six main points:

1) That the EU and US should continue to negotiate Energy and Raw Materials (ERM) commitments that would improve transatlantic ERM rules and thereby strengthen diversity and strength of supply, consumers and corporations. The EU propose the inclusion of a new chapter within the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that would accommodate this goal.

2) For the EU and US, TTIP would benefit from the inclusion of such a chapter for the following reasons:

a) Improving International rules.
As things stand, it is easier for the EU have to source ERM from third party countries, reducing their ability to import shale oil and gas from the US. The EUCC also state that improving international rules will permit EU-US trade for US oil and gas resources, and improve regulatory policy for corporations.

b) Geo-Political factors.
The new TTIP chapter that aims to improve ERM trade across the atlantic would signal to other nations globally that there exists a strong relationship between the EU and US. The new chapter would be required to be all inclusive, streamlined, and would benefit partners of both the EU and US (for instance EU access to ERM from Canada and Mexico who are partnered with the US.)

c) Security of Supply
Previously, the energy supply provided to the EU included imports from Russia, that travelled in through the nation of Ukraine. However in light of the Ukrainian conflict, imports from Russia have reduced, which weakens the energy supply granted to the EU. As a result, the EUCC wish to bolster the security of their energy supply with imports from the US. A new ERM chapter in TTIP, would combine EU support for regulation on one hand, while also lifting bilateral restrictions on gas and crude oil on the other.

d) Systematic Issues
Here, the EUCC points out that, to an International audience, it looks awkward when the EU and US are such close allies, yet what exists between them are rules and regulations that reduce their ability to trade ERM with one another, the result being a reduced economy for both parties.

3) The EUCC have pointed out that there has been notable lack of desire for such a chapter from the US. Furtherstil, the EU still waiting for a clear signal of desire from the US on the matter.

4) The US has shown lack of effort for implementing legally binding rules which can lift trans atlantic trade restrictions for oil and gas to the EU. As a result, the EU proposes to produce a legally binding commitment in the TTIP guaranteeing the free export of crude oil and gas resources that fast-tracks licenses for exports to the EU. These licenses would be granted automatically and expeditiously in such a manner that does not require effort by the US, making no change to their existing legislation.

5) The EUCC propose that new rules should accommodate both existing existing EU and US legislation in order to increase the ease of the process of trading ERM transatlantically

6) In conclusion, the EU ask for teh US to signal their support for a new chapter in TTIP that would encourage and facilitate ERM trade of oil and gas from thE US, to the EU. This would build upon political support recently expressed by the U.S. Administration.

To read the leaked energy paper in full, click here.

Australia: loophole to remove environmental impact study from fracking

The Sydney Morning Herald have reported that in Australia, an amendment to existing legislation, which is up for public consultation, will provide a loophole within which unconventional shale gas extraction can take place without a full Environmental Impact Study.

The result of which would allow fracking closer to local residences.

FRACKING

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The government plans to modify the State Environmental Planning Policy in a way that may allow AGL to carry out hydraulic fracturing – usually referred to fracking – close to homes in the Gloucester area of the Hunter region without completing a full environmental impact study.
A similar large-scale drilling project planned for western Sydney was ruled out in 2013, partly as a result of its proximity to homes near Liverpool, Campbelltown and Camden.
Local opponents say fracking of existing wells, or the drilling of new ones nearby, can have unforeseen consequences on aquifers as the 1000-metre deep wells intersect with fault lines.

They say the proposed amendment, open for public comment until July 16, appears specifically designed to enable AGL to do exploratory fracking at four gas wells near family homes without an EIS.
Under existing rules, since the proposed wells are within three kilometres of an existing one, they are deemed a state-significant development requiring an EIS. The rule change, however, will measure the three kilometres from the geometric centre of the new wells, not from the nearest one.
“The absurdity, if this goes ahead, is that you could design a set of wells in such a way that some of the wells you propose to frack could be within just a few metres of existing wells,” said John Watts, a spokesman for Groundswell Gloucester. “It is the closeness of the wells that could cause a problem, not the closeness to the centre point.”
Fracking involves the injection of a mix of sand and chemicals under high pressure to create small fractures in the rock, allowing natural gas to migrate to the well. The closeness of wells to homes in the Camden area was one reason the government curtailed AGL’s CSG plans in south-west Sydney.
“The government considered the amendment to be minor,” a spokesman for Planning Minister Pru Goward said. “The amendment creates certainty for industry and the community” by removing “ambiguous” wording in the policy, he said.

To read the article in full, click here.

U.S.EPA aim to regulate unconventional shale gas extraction

It has been reported by the U.S.Chamber that the Environmental Protection Agency aims to regulate Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, despite the fact that the practice is already regulated by officials at both State and Federal levels.

U.S.Chamber reports:

“EPA continues is quest to regulate hydraulic fracturing. This time, the agency is asking the public if it should collect information on the fluid used in the technique and how it should be done.
It’s doing this despite the agency’s history of jumping to conclusions that hydraulic fracturing contaminates groundwater then backing away from the charges.
EPA also is doing this despite then EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson telling Congress in 2011, “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”
Even today, former Obama administration officials agree with Jackson’s comment. “We know that, from everything we’ve seen, there’s not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone,” former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently said recently, and former Energy Secretary (and Nobel Prize winner in Physics), Steven Chu said in 2013, that hydraulic fracturing is “something you can do in a safe way.”

Beyond whether there’s a problem that needs to be addressed, additional federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing would be duplicative of state efforts, a report from the Senate and Congressional Western States Caucuses concludes.”

EPA Headquarters.
EPA Headquarters.

To read the article in full, click here.

Westminster told that fracking does not contaminate ground water

Just over a week ago, Michael Fallon MP, the Minister of State for Business and the Minister of State for Energy, previously the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, stated within the house of commons that in the USA, there have been no examples of hydraulic fracturing contaminating ground water.

The statement has been contested my many environmental groups as false, including the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network.

Conservative MP Michael Fallon arrives at Downing Street

There are many examples of water contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing, in particular Carrizo, a company who last week were fined near 200,000 US Dollars for a well control incident that occurred during the hydraulic fracturing of a well, an event that released 200,000 gallons of toxic fluid into local environment.

Further to that, there was also a hydraulic fracturing well blow out that release toxic drilling fluids into local waterways, and the now famous 3 million dollar lawsuit that was awarded to the Parr family, who had suffered as a result of their air and water being contaminated by the over all process of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Not to mention peer reviewed science provided by a 2011 study in northeastern Pennsylvania by Osborne et al that found that concentrations of methane gas increased with proximity to gas wells undergoing high volume hydraulic fracturing.

The questions and answers from the House of Commons is laid out below:

Debate on shale gas in the House of Commons
19/6/14
Priti Patel (Witham, Conservative)
What recent estimate has he [the Energy Minister] made of the value to the UK economy of the shale gas sector.

Michael Fallon (The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change; Sevenoaks, Conservative)
The Government are promoting responsible shale development for greater energy security, to deliver jobs and growth and to support investment. The recent EY report estimates that there could be £33 billion-worth of spend on shale gas exploration creating about 64,000 jobs, including over £20 billion on hydraulic fracturing and £8 billion on drilling and completion of the wells. That is why we are supporting exploration to understand just how much of this potential can be realised.

Priti Patel
I thank the Minister for his response. Given the enormous projected value of the shale gas sector and the opportunity shale provides for energy independence, do the Government have plans to support more investment in shale gas infrastructure?

Michael Fallon
Yes, we have set out the new fiscal regime that will apply to shale exploration. We have a system of robust regulation in place. There are some dozen companies now exploring, and I shall shortly be inviting applications for new onshore licences under the 14th licensing round, which will afford more opportunities for new companies to enter this market, and I know colleagues across the House will want to champion applications for licences in their area.

Tom Greatrex (Shadow Energy Minister; Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Labour)
The Minister in his reply referred to robust regulation, and he is right that robust regulation is important, as is comprehensive monitoring of those regulations to meet the higher public acceptability test for this technology. Given that groundwater can contain methane naturally, will the Minister explain why it is that, more than two and half years after the issue being raised with his predecessors, it is still the case that the regulations do not include the baseline monitoring of methane in groundwater, especially as there are concerns about such contamination in the US and elsewhere? Surely it is important that we have that as part of the regulation to ensure confidence in the regulatory regime for shale gas.

Michael Fallon
There are no examples from the United States of hydraulic fracturing contaminating groundwater because, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the fracturing takes place verymuch deeper than any groundwater levels. I am happy to look at the specific point that he mentions about baseline monitoring.

For a copy of the House of Commons exchange, please click here.

New York state extend fracking moratorium until 2017

The New York State Assembly has provided a Bill that extends their current moratorium for three more years, until the year 2017.

new york1

The Assembly passed a three-year, state wide moratorium of oil and natural gas drilling permits by an overwhelming 89-to-34 count to allow for more time to study the environmental and health  impact of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, a horizontal drilling process used to extract natural gas and oil, and its potential to contaminate drinking water supplies and harm the environment.

New York state has been under a fracking moratorium since 2008, with the most recent one passing in 2013, that would have expired in May 2015.

The news was announced by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney on 16th June.

“We have heard from thousands of residents across the state about many issues associated with hydrofracking, and prudent leadership demands that we take our time to address all these concerns,” said Silver. “We do not need to rush into this. The natural gas deposits within the Marcellus Shale are not going to go anywhere. Before hydrofracking can be authorized, we need the best scientific information available to help us make informed decisions that will not compromise the safety of our drinking water, public health and the environment.”

“These energy resources found in our state have the potential to provide great economic benefit to New Yorkers, but we cannot let that blind us from thoroughly looking into and investigating hydrofracking’s impact on our environment and human health,” said Sweeney. “I call on the Senate to pass this bill so there will be time for a comprehensive review of all the available information well before this process gets the green light.”

new york

Carrying a total of 63 sponsors including Sweeney and Silver, the bill (A.5424-B) suspends the issuance of drilling permits to ensure the legislature has adequate time to review its impact on public health and the environment via multiple toxic and hazardous air and water contaminants, including a number of known or suspected carcinogens.

The Bill also states that:

– There shall be no horizontal natural gas or oil drilling

– no high-volume hydraulic fracturing shall be conducted

– the department of environmental conservation shall issue no permits for well drilling of oil or natural gas that will involve use of horizontal or high volume hydraulic fracturing.

To view the Bill, click here.

Stormont to conduct research into fracking

It was reported by the Impartial Reporter that the Department of Environment shall conduct research into fracking.

FRACKING

The Impartial Reporter quoted Department of Environment Minister Mark H. Durkin:

“Fracking is a hugely important and controversial issue in Fermanagh especially but also right across the North and, indeed, the world. Therefore, it is vital that we carry out as much research as possible into the potential dangers and risks associated with it. That is why I have been keen for my Department to work with the EPA on this research programme.”

To read the article in full, click here.

Federal Government failed to inspect high risk oil and gas wells

The Associated Press have revealed that the US Federal Government has failed to inspect high risk gas wells, and that this failing has been recognised by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Associated Press stated:”Investigators said weak control by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management resulted from policies based on outdated science and from incomplete monitoring data.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his speech as an oil jack pumps in the background.
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his speech as an oil jack pumps in the background.

The findings from the Government Accountability Office come amid an energy boom in the country and the increasing use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. That process involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow. It has produced major economic benefits, but also raised fears that the chemicals could spread to water supplies.

The audit also said the BLM did not coordinate effectively with state regulators in New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.”

To read the article in full, click here.

North carolina to penalise any one that discloses fracking chemicals

The state of North Carolina has set laws that allow energy companies mining for unconventional shale gas, to sue any party that discloses information on the chemicals used.

The Energy Modernisation Act, SB 786 (Act) was passed on the 15th of May this year was primarily sponsored by Senators Rucho, Newton and Brock.

FRACKING

Located on page ten of the Act, Section 7(a) makes an amendment to Article 27 Chapter 113 of the General Statutes stating that: “while confidential information must be maintained as such with the utmost care, for the protection of public health, safety, and the environment, the information should be immediately accessible to first responders and medical personnel in the event that the information is deemed necessary to address an emergency.”

Section 7(a), subsection (c) goes further to reveal that the only parties exempt from prosecution of disclosure penalties are:

1. The Division of Emergency Management of the Department of Public Safety, who are expected to treat the list and names of chemicals as confidential.

2. Medical responders who may need to treat injured parties in the event of an accident or emergency. However, the medical responders are automatically held liable to a confidentiality agreement that they cannot break without penalty.

3. Fire Chief, who , upon emergency, may need to treat an accident and will need to know what chemicals have caused the problem. In the same instance as the Medical responder, the Fire Chief and their personnel too will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement that they cannot break without penalty.

On page 11, subsection (d) of section 7(a), provisions are outlined for the penalties of disclosure of the fracking chemicals used during unconventional shale gas extraction, stating that outside the persons named in subsection (c): “any person who has access to confidential information pursuant to this section and who discloses it knowing it to be confidential information to any person not authorized to receive it shall be guilty of a Class I felony, and if knowingly or negligently disclosed to any person not authorized, shall be subject to civil action for damages and injunction by the owner of the confidential information, including, without limitation, actions under Article 24 of Chapter 66 of the General Statutes.”

If you wish to read the two page Article 24 the Trade Secrets Protection Act, click here.

All in all, in North Carolina, the Energy Modernisation Act is a legal blow to local communities who wish for fracking chemicals, many known to be harmful to the environment and human health, to be disclosed fully, without punishment.

Whilst County Fermanagh is not affected by the Act, one must consider what European or National equivalent will be passed that holds us to the same effect, as we ask for disclosure of fracking chemicals, as we look to avoid imbibing, through our air, water and soils, chemicals that pose a serious risk in diminishing the quality of our human health.

Councilman Brad Koplinski chastises fracking effects on pennsylvania communities

In Pennsylvania, USA, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski provided a press release highlighting the environmental, economic and social liabilities experienced in Pennsylvania at the hands of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Koplinski, running for candidacy for Lieutenant Governor, not only asked for tighter regulations on the process, and a closing of the ‘Halliburton Loophole’, but also underlined the need for better protection for landowners who live nearby unconventional shale gas operating plants, wether they signed land agreements with energy companies or not.

Brad Koplinski. Source: politicspa.com
Brad Koplinski. (image source: politicspa.com)

Providing the polite, yet damning press release in front of the Chapin Dehydration Station which faces a 29 litigant lawsuit, Koplinski stated that ‘nuisance’ was too light a word for the local situation which has reduced the quality of human life for local home owners, referring to the high number of detrimental effects an ‘aberration’.

He also lamented on the fact that the shale gas extraction industry makes promises and “say things that are half truths are best most of the time. That certain chemicals won’t be put into the atmosphere, that certain practices won’t be put into place, and yet they are. Through legal contracts and other regulations that they can skirt around, we’ve seen the damages that they cause, and not just here, but throughout the commonwealth.”

Unfortunately, for Koplinski and residents of Pennsylvania, the British Medical journal have already drawn attention to the fact that the process of unconventional shale gas extraction, set to arrive in County Fermanagh, cannot be made safe for local communities, regardless of the level of regulation, stating:“To the extent that they are technically and economically feasible, risk reduction technologies that mitigate adverse health outcomes should be deployed. However reviewing the public health aspects of the development of the shale gas industry requires more than merely gesturing to technological improvements that lack empirical data on their effectiveness in the real world. optimism that fail-safe engineering solutions can ensure safe shale gas development may result more from a triumph of marketing than a demonstration of experience.”

To see the press release by Councilman Koplinski in video format, click here.