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

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.”

Texas pass ban on hydraulic fracking bans

The U.S. State of Texas has passed a bill through Texas Senate that limits the ability of municipal powers to place bans on fracking related operations.

In other words, the Texas Senate has passed a ban on fracking bans.

Texas Senate Chambers (image source: eaglefordtexas.com)
Texas Senate Chambers (image source: eaglefordtexas.com)

As reported by EaglefordTexas.com:

The Senate voted 24-7 for House Bill 40 — also known as the Denton fracking bill. It reasserts state control over drilling while spelling out some limited powers that cities have in regulating surface operations. The bill will now go to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature. The push for the bill came after Denton residents approved a ban on hydraulic fracturing in November.

Lawmakers have said that the bill is necessary to clarify state and local regulations and prevent a statewide patchwork of unreasonable ordinances that would threaten oil and gas production. The fight over who controls urban drilling began after Denton residents approved a ban, not on all drilling but simply on hydraulic fracturing. A grassroots group felt that the city and the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the industry, were not doing enough to protect them.

To read the article in full, click here.

Minister: methane extraction to go ahead in UK, despite drastically diminishing gas prices

In an interview with Bloomberg News, 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.

Matthew Hancock, the U.K. Conservative party's business and energy minister, pauses during a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. The ruling Conservative Party is lining up investors to kick-start fracking across swathes of rural Britain, and challenge opposition from the village halls and country estates in its political heartland. Credit: Getty Images.
Matthew Hancock, the U.K. Conservative party’s business and energy minister, pauses during a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. The ruling Conservative Party is lining up investors to kick-start fracking across swathes of rural Britain, and challenge opposition from the village halls and country estates in its political heartland. Credit: Getty Images.

When asked by co-anchor Guy Johnston that current low oil and gas prices may postpone and delay the need to extract methane gas from the strata of the UK, Hancock denied any reduction in what he called a ‘neccessity’ to drill for methane gas as he looked to minimise any fear that gas prices were being hit as hard as oil prices.  In response, Johnston gently forced the Minister to confirm that it follows that gas prices diminish soon after oil prices. The minister firmly replied:

“The contracts are tied. This is a long term project for the UK, we’re right at the start of a long term project [that] has cross party support in the UK for the principle of getting this potential that could be enormous out of the ground. Geologists are clear that there is a huge quantity of gas deep underneath the UK. The question is how much of it we can economically recover. There are planning decisions this month…and later this year just to get the first extraction out….. It’s an exciting prospect. It is the duty of the government to [make sure] it happens.”

When challenged again by female co-anchor Francine Laqua on the fact that oil and gas prices are diminishing and that this would reduce the sense of urgency for unconventional shale gas extraction, the Minister replied:

“I don’t think that’s quite right, [as] the benefits are not only obviously just for getting the shale out of the ground for the companies involved, but also [for] the security of supply domestically.”

In an interview that did little to tackle scientifically proven environmental or social liabilities of the practice of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction experienced elsewhere around the globe, the Minister further reconfirmed that significantly lower natural gas prices in the UK will not have any impact on the desire of the UK government to conduct the controversial process of fracking.

When Anchor Johnston, by way of analogy, stated that if methane was extracted at a price that was higher than the selling price, an economic loss would be incurred, inparticular if gas prices are tied to oil prices. The Minister for Energy and Climate Change stated in response:

“From the government’s point of view….the benefits remain…. In terms of companies who may be looking to take part, we’ve got to make the margins work….we need to change the fiscal regime [to make it] economic.”

Anchor Lauqua questioned if the government planned on giving any benefits to alleviate the [financial] burden [of lower sales price for oil and gas] for the drillers. To view the Minister’s measured response to Anchor Laqua’s question, you may watch the Bloomberg interview in full, click the link below.

UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change discusses methane extraction with Bloomberg News. 05/01/15.

The right honourable Matt Hancock not only serves as Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, but also as Minister of State at the Dept. of Business, Innovation and Skills. Previously he gained a Masters degree in Economics from the University of Cambridge.

 

Tamboran seek injunctions against MLA’s Durkan and Foster

The Impartial Reporter have reported that Tamboran Resources plan on taking out seperate injunctions against Mr Mark Durkan MLA of the Department of Environment and Mrs. Arlene Foster MLA of the Departmant of Enterprise Trade and Investment.

Tamboran Resources’ Petroleum Licence has not been extended and the fracking company is to take a judicial review against Environment Minister Mark H Durkan’s decision on Belcoo quarry AND Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster’s decision not to extend their licence.
Tamboran Resources’ Petroleum Licence has not been extended and the fracking company is to take a judicial review against Environment Minister Mark H Durkan’s decision on Belcoo quarry AND Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster’s decision not to extend their licence.

A spokeswoman from DETI tells Impartial Reporter.com that the six month extension granted to Tamboran in March “was granted by DETI and accepted by the Company, on the basis that it would enable Tamboran to complete Part I of its work programme by September 30, including drilling of a stratigraphic (test) borehole, and to decide whether or not to proceed with carrying out Part II of the work programme within the initial five year term of the Licence (31 March 2016) or to relinquish the licence.”
She concluded: “The company has not completed Part I of its work programme and Petroleum licence PL2/10 will expire on 30 September 2014.”

A Tamboran spokesman reveals that, following the Environment Minister’s decision, the company sought a second extension from DETI to allow them to take a judicial review. DETI refused.
The spokesman states: “Tamboran Resources can confirm that it has instructed its Lawyers to judicially review the decision by the Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan announced on 11th August to reject its submission to drill an exploratory borehole under existing Permitted Development rights…..We have consulted with counsel and we are also moving to a judicial review of DETI’s decision.”

To read the article in full, click here.

License for fracking in fermanagh terminated

BELCOO QUARRY

The BBC have reported that the license previously granted to Tamboran Resources to conduct unconventional shale gas extraction has now come to an end, after DETI Minister, Ms. Arlene Foster denied renewal of their license as a result of Tamboran’s inability to uphold the current terms of their license which was renewed on the 30th of March 2014.

To read the BBC article in full, click here.

Environment Minister rejects proposals for exploratory drilling

FRACKING

The Fermanagh Herald have stated:

The Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan today rejected Tamboran’s proposals for exploratory drilling in Fermanagh under permitted development rights. The Department of the Environment received notification from Australian Mining Company Tamboran of their intention to drill a core of rock from Cleggan Quarry, Belcoo on 21 July 2014. The company sought confirmation that this work could be carried out under current permitted development rights without the need for full planning permission as part of their ongoing exploration into the viability of extracting shale gas by means of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in County Fermanagh.

Minister Durkan stated: “I have given very careful consideration to Tamboran’s proposal to drill a core of rock from Cleggan Quarry near Belcoo and whether this is permitted development under current legislation. I have concluded that this is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) development requiring full planning permission and that permitted development rights do not apply. In making this assessment I have been mindful of my Department’s responsibility to ensure that the environment is protected at all times and that full consideration is give to any likely significant environmental impacts of such a proposal.

To read the article in full, click here.