Out Of Your Fracking Minds

Mon Mar 20 15:35:20 2017

Introduction

This week[1] a court case has started, once again, concerning Cuadrilla and the Fracking in Lancashire. I thought at this point it was time for me to raise my objections to the Fracking as an individual and a business owner, especially in light of some claims that this was ‘good for [local] business’.[2]

the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector at IR12.769 that the local economic benefits of the exploration stage would be modest

For those of you that have been following the case this will come as no surprise that we have once again heard of a legal challenge to the proposals to test drill.[3] The events have been drawn out over a number of years and involve the test drilling before the proposed longer extraction period.[4] For those new, and to put things in a linear order, let me recount some of the main points.

  1. Shale Gas has been discovered under the area of North West England and I am discussing the site for the extraction is the area roughly between Preston, Lancaster and Blackpool.[5]

  2. A test extraction that was carried out was successful, however it was linked to a small earthquake in the Blackpool region.[6]

  1. Cuadrilla, the company applying to extract gas asked for a licence for further extraction. After a long local debate the County Council, Lancashire, responsible for the region turned down permission.[7]

  2. The matter was taken, via an appeal, to the ruling Conservative Government who have overturned the local decision and allowed the extraction to continue.[8] This was announced as being almost a progressive step to secure the future by the Communities Secretary (Sajid Javid)[9]

Shale gas has the potential to power economic growth, support 64,000 jobs, and provide a new domestic energy source, making us less reliant on imports,” said Javid. “We will take the big decisions that matter to the future of our country as we build an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

  1. Opposition to the go ahead has been fierce, [10] with tensions being significantly, and progressively, heightened on both sides including arrests of protestors and site incursions.[11] Accusations seem to be levelled of wrongdoing[12] on both sides and these are causing a great deal of tension.
  1. Cuadrilla have started a campaign to ease objection with a series of PR stunts. One of the most significant being headline sponsors for events such as the local Be Inspired Business Awards (BIBAs).[13]

Objections

I have been asked about my general objections to Fracking and I thought that it was time to place them in a formal narrative and to do so as a business professional as well as an individual. This is the reason for using this blog. We are now going to examine some of the reasons for why I am opposing fracking in Lancashire in what I hope is a broadly balanced manner.

Environment

This is an obvious choice and place to start. Whether there is a link, or not, to leakage of poisons from shale gas extraction in the local region into the water table (which has been claimed in other fracking areas)[14] we still have a broad environmental impact.

Shale gas is a fossil fuel and will result in conversion to energy by ignition. This will result in pollution. However it is extracted the process of refining and then consumption is dirty and will lead to further global impact. Our reliance on fossil fuels for energy production is myopic and is best avoided. Our focus should be on cleaner[15] and more sustainable sources of energy production.

the issues raised as to how shale gas relates to the obligations such as those set out in the Paris Agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change carbon budgets are a matter for future national policy and not for these appeals[16]

It is undoubted that this is a more costly route, especially in an early stage. But strong government support and local industry can bolster a stronger long-term economy based on continuous production. This is certainly the route taken successfully in other countries.[17]

Democracy

There is an issue here with local representation and choice. I agree that there are times when a broader picture of the economic impact of an decision has to be taken on a national stage. However, it was originally agreed that local councils would decide on fracking.[18]

In Lancashire the decision by Lancashire County Council was to reject the licence/planning permission and not allow fracking to proceed.[19] The matter was then taken to the governing political party of the country who overturned the local decision.[20] Although I am not a political legal expert I think this is an abuse of political powers for a matter of ethos and personal political capital. I have looked through the Secretary of State’s letter and some of the extensive report.

Most of the letter and report concern the initial exploratory work and do not extrapolate to the broader longer term impact. It feels as if it is a political move, I get this feeling from the tone of both the Secretary of State, the Communities Minister (Greg Clark),[21] who sounds belligerent and threatening, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the Government’s own website which is broadly promotional as opposed to factual.

no one benefits from uncertainty caused by delays in planning decisions. By fast tracking any appropriate applications today’s changes will tackle potential hold ups in the system

If we are to have local representation for local matters and for them to have strength they must be allowed to govern under the rule structure provided. Those rules should not be changed to satisfy a broad political goal that cannot be demonstrated as wholly in the national interest. The gains from the extraction of shale gas to the nation as a whole can be achieved in other manners so this choice was not vital to the national interest.

The notion that we can change the rule structure to force through decisions by allowing less chance to consider the implications is troubling. I advocate a cautious, balanced and moderate approach to matters that have greater, or longer term, impact. If there is valuable resources under the ground there is little rush to utilise them, they will still be there if we take 6 weeks or 1 year to make a decision.

This was a decision that seems to be based solely on protecting a government initiative and showing a 'short-term' positive economic impact and not on the local rights of councils. It is a broadly undemocratic move.

Business

The broad business impact from locally extracted fuel will generally benefit the local area. The promise to allow revenue to go to local councils will also be of benefit. However how are these offset by the costs to roads, infrastructure, policing and the legal issues that are already impacting the region.[22]

There is also no longer term sustainability from such business. Once the process of extraction is completed then the companies will leave and the impact of such on local economies could be devastating. Consider the closure of industries such as coal and steel and the threats facing Scotland as North Sea Oil slows and stops production.

What provision is being made for changes that will impact in less than a generation. Will funds be set aside for future economic development or will we see twenty years of decline as experienced in other regional areas that have lost profitable industries after a period of growth?

I cannot see how the local tourist, digital and housing (which are the three main growth businesses in the region and amongst the main economic sources) will benefit by the adoption of locally extracted gas. At best the economic gain will be slight once we have factored in all the negatives and at worst it will be a detrimental point in the region’s economic future. The short-term economic gain is not enough justification for such large risks.

Community

I left this until last as it is the strongest source of objection for myself. I have stated in previous writings and presentations that the staff at Shadowcat are big believers in communities. We are involved in a lot of online and offline community efforts. I also like to think that we move forward broadly enriching the environment we exist in.

The extraction of Shale Gas in the local region, and on a national level, does not benefit in a progressive way the communities of people who live here:

  • Our health will be affected to a lesser, or greater, degree by the extraction, refining and consumption of a fossil fuel.

  • There will be a detrimental cost in the look of the local region.

  • The addition of large vehicles to the local road infrastructure will cause some issues.[23]

  • Erecting large towers and pumping liquid into the ground is generally considered to be aesthetically ugly.

  • The potential for further earth tremors that cause structural or social issues is worrying. Of most concern are the number of unknown variables. The answers given by the report, Cuardrilla and Government sources indicate some 'affect' and that it is 'within expectation' but I can find no hard data about what that expectation is or how it will affect the local residents.

  • The abuse of political position to overturn local decisions is an abuse of our democratic system and seems to show that local voices are suppressed and ignored by a national government.

This last point, the strength of local objection versus the voices calling for the extraction to go ahead, shows that we as a community do not broadly desire this current situation. The sponsoring of local initiatives and events in light of that seems like a cynical ploy to buy us off, distract us and gain a positive image to hide the fact that we have already rejected this enterprise.

As a company so heavily invested in communities; as an individual who cares about strong, and justifiable, arguments; I have to say that I reject the current decision to allow fracking in the local region.

[Don't forget that you can join in this conversation by using the comments form or by tweeting at @shadowcat_mdk]





Notes

[1] The actual date was in the last calendar week but less than seven days ago so this is still correct: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/12/anti-fracking-protesters-take-government-to-court-in-lancashire

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/558278/16-10-06_DL_Cuadrilla.pdf

[3] This particular challenge is by a new residents group and concerns the planning permission and the possibility that the Government have breached local planning acts.

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/558278/16-10-06_DL_Cuadrilla.pdf

[5] Using a very loose triangle but those are the regional areas of population density that are most affected. Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton in Lancashire.

[6] https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21120-how-fracking-caused-earthquakes-in-the-uk/

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/29/fracking-application-cuadrilla-rejected-lancashire-county-council

[8] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/558278/16-10-06_DL_Cuadrilla.pdf

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/06/uk-fracking-given-go-ahead-as-lancashire-council-rejection-is-overturned

[10]

  • http://stopfyldefracking.org.uk/
  • http://appgshalegas.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/APPG-Communities-Representation-Preston-New-Road-v-2.pdf
  • http://frack-off.org.uk/sites/land-north-of-preston-new-road/
  • http://www.cpre.org.uk/what-we-do/energy-and-waste/shale-gas/the-issues?gclid=Cj0KEQjw-73GBRCC7KODl9zToJMBEiQAj1Jgf5XVroCTi_0QgStLebgkDgI_xcSrsDfV-H7RSB4So8saAhhI8P8HAQ
  • http://www.refracktion.com/index.php/category/locations/preston-new-road/

[11] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-39187020

[12]

  • http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/our-region/blackpool/drone-images-show-scale-of-fracking-operation-1-8439194
  • http://www.kallanishenergy.com/2017/02/09/cuadrillas-suppliers-quit-on-protesters-bullying/

[13]

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-38182508
  • http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/our-region/blackpool/fracking-firm-s-benefits-pledge-to-the-fylde-coast-1-8271924
  • http://www.thebibas.co.uk/

[14]

  • https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fracking-can-contaminate-drinking-water/
  • https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/problems/fracking
  • https://www.epa.gov/hfstudy/hydraulic-fracturing-water-cycle

[15] I am not so nave as to claim they are clean and without issue or environmental impact.

[16] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/558278/16-10-06_DL_Cuadrilla.pdf

[17] There are a number of countries with high renewable energy targets, Close to home there are Germany, Finland and Norway as good examples.

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Germany5* https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-16/germany-just-got-almost-all-of-its-power-from-renewable-energy
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Norway
  • https://makewealthhistory.org/2012/07/09/countries-with-100-renewable-energy/
  • http://www.cleanenergygroup.no/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Finland
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finland_National_Renewable_Energy_Action_Plan
  • http://www.res-legal.eu/search-by-country/finland/

[18] Via the Planning Permission process: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/about-shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking/developing-shale-oil-and-gas-in-the-uk

[19] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/29/fracking-application-cuadrilla-rejected-lancashire-county-council

[20] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/558278/16-10-06_DL_Cuadrilla.pdf

[21] https://www.localgov.co.uk/Councils-could-lose-say-on-fracking-if-decisions-are-too-slow/39223

[22]

  • http://www.vividresourcing.com/marketing/client-energy-recruitment/shale-gas/shale-gas.aspx
  • http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/14808444.Cost_to_police_Lancashire_fracking_protests_revealed/
  • https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0ahUKEwjh_vnliOXSAhUJDcAKHbrkCUcQFgg3MAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.fylde.gov.uk%2Fassets%2Ffiles%2F5535%2FNWETF-Local-Benefits.pdf&usg=AFQjCNE30btGtPXupZS9kAzQym1dWMqWyQ&sig2=AJnySMjOmcqvoN_8xhL6XA&bvm=bv.149760088,d.ZGg&cad=rja
  • http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/fracking/11712040/fracking-house-prices-defra-report.html

[23] https://www.localgov.co.uk/Fracking-causes-noise-pollution-and-road-damage-scientists-say/40372





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