Water companies have issued stark warnings over the government’s plans to allow shale gas exploration across half of the UK mainland.
Britain’s fracking push facing resistance from nation’s heartland
The Conservative Party is in pursuit of a shale gas boom like that in the U.S.
LONDON – 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.
Britain got 95 bids for onshore oil and gas licenses this year, after 60 in the last round in 2008, Energy Minister Matthew Hancock said. Celtique Energie, Ineos Group and IGas Energy were among bidders, as interest in hydraulic fracturing grows even after protests stalled earlier projects.
That’s testament to the Conservative-led coalition’s drive to emulate a U.S. shale gas boom that profited producers, cut energy bills and created scores of overnight millionaires.
Britain offers tax breaks to explorers and plans to change laws on trespass to allow drilling under land without owners’ consent. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne says he’s proposing the world’s most generous tax system for shale.
“There’s clearly a large amount of interest in license applications despite some of the negative press coverage, local opposition campaigns and environmental concerns,” said Caroline May, a lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright in London who has advised U.S. operators seeking to enter the British market. “There is a determination to see shale gas succeed.”
In the affluent village of Fernhurst, nestled in West Sussex’s rolling green hills 40 miles southwest of London, 70-year-old Aphra Peard is having none of it.
“It’s terribly dangerous,” Peard said in the village community center, where she was finishing off a woolly hat with her knitting group. “If they’re successful, there’ll be a well every 2 miles. Every well needs 4 acres of heavy industry with traffic going backwards and forwards.” The trucks threaten houses in the village like hers built 350 years ago, she said.
The local South Downs National Park Authority declined an application by London-based Celtique, which won a British license in an earlier bidding round, to drill at a site at Fernhurst after receiving about 5,000 objections to its plans.
Michael Pearson, the fourth Viscount Cowdray, whose estate hosts the competition for polo’s most coveted trophy, is among opponents. Pearson, a Buddhist whose great grandfather struck oil in Mexico in the 19th century, has obtained a preservation order for ancient oak trees lining the access road.
Even the area’s Conservative lawmaker, Andrew Tyrie, wrote to the national park planning officer to voice locals’ concerns.
Celtique, which partnered with Magellan Petroleum Corp. of the United States, on Tuesday said it was considering its options for Fernhurst, after the company filed an appeal over a rejected application in the nearby settlement of Wisborough Green.
“While the government takes seemingly positive steps in support of the shale-gas concept such as the trespass law, the reality is the onus is on the explorers to go out and show the public that it technically works and is safe,” Mark Wilson, an oil analyst at Jefferies Group in London, said by phone.
High population density in Britain relative to the U.S. and the lack of the mineral rights laws that enriched American landowners make it harder to win over local communities.
Cuadrilla Resources, faced with protests over plans to drill at Roseacre village and Preston New Road in England’s northwest, is considering ways to curb trucks coming into its project. It is studying recycling waste water on site, as well as seeking permission to use alternative routes.
The government sees such efforts and its argument that the United Kingdom needs to secure low-cost energy supplies winning the day.
“I am not prepared to pass up a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity,” Hancock, a Conservative lawmaker, said as he opened the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas on Friday. “Shale gas is an enormous opportunity for the U.K. and one that we simply can’t afford to miss out on.”
Just as the UK Government is stirring up public anger against human rights, writes Anna Grear, its fast-track development of shale gas and oil shows that we need these legal protections more than ever. A new report shows how the ‘dash to frack’ is endangering our most cherished rights – to health, water, security and life.
“Human rights exist to protect ordinary people from state action threatening certain core human interests – and fracking makes us all vulnerable”
The Lancashire County Council Cabinet will be asked to:
– Receive the report on the initial health impact assessment of the proposed shale gas exploration sites in Lancashire;
– Authorise the Director of Public Health to take the necessary steps to address the potential influence of shale gas exploration activities on the health and wellbeing of local communities.
Last Thursday Lancashire County Council considered the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on Lancashire’s two fracking site applications (Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood) from Cuadrilla.
The HIA makes it clear that the current level of regulatory safeguards governing this new industry is not sufficient to protect public health.
A new study published in Environmental Health reveals air pollution data on major, in some cases previously underestimated, health risks from toxic contamination at gas production sites related to fracking. Air samples gathered around “unconventional oil and gas” sites by community-based environmental research teams contained unsafe levels of several volatile compounds that “exceeded federal guidelines under several operational circumstances,” and that “Benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide were the most common compounds to exceed acute and other health-based risk levels.”
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF HOW THE GOVERNMENT TREAT THE VOTING PUBLIC
Subject: RE: Fracking – Invitation to Roseacre Wood proposed fracking site
Pro-fracking campaign in the global media is fading fast. A year or two ago the extraction method suitable for the Arizona desert was presented as a key component of the EU’s energy security policy by high-ranking officials in the European Commission. Many large corporations that announced an influx of investment into Eastern European fracking projects between 2010 and 2013 are now gradually reducing the scope of their planned work. Their decision was prompted by environmental and political problems that receive insufficient coverage in the industry media. It’s becoming clear that fracking technology can’t be brought to the EU “as is” from the United States.
Recently published data by Rice University, Texas indicates that simple recycling of the tainted waste water is not safe, OilPrice.com writes. A year or two ago supporters of hydraulic fracturing used to preach about “green innovations in the shale revolution” with the passion of small-town televangelists, but now, after the publication of new data, they have switched tactics and simply remain silent about environmental problems. Yet concerned citizens of New York City are more aware.
“Making fracking safe is simply not possible, not with the current technology, or with the inadequate regulations being proposed,”
Fracking by the Numbers
Key Impacts of Dirty Drilling
at the State and National Level
Some great info in this report from the US.
Earlier this year we attended the community workshop, at Ribby Hall, which helped shape a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of planning applications received by Lancashire County Council (LCC) relating to proposed shale gas exploration.