Week Ending 8th June 2014
Special Report - Cuadrilla's disgraceful history.
One more time! No case to answer!
The police keep arresting nevertheless
Spill proves West Newton site is not waste-secure
Greenpeace frack Cameron's home
UK news highlights
Major stories -
The Queen's speech on Wednesday was widely trailed as including measures to strip landowners' legal rights. A disappointment for the LibDems was the government's watering down of commitment to force developers to build high standard energy-efficient homes. The greenest government ever is now showing its true colours and giving two fingers to climate change. Greenpeace mock-fracked Cameron's home in protest.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the text of the Queen's speech did not spell out that her government was going to take her subjects' rights away, nor that there would be a zero-carbon loophole for developers if the paid for the privilege to build shoddy homes.
The CLA was unhappy that landowner concerns were not addressed, and in NI the SDLP said it would oppose the fracking plans. Opposition is on the cards from Welsh Plaid Cymru MPs. Naturally the Green Party will oppose the measures.
On Friday Shadow Environment Secretary Caroline Flint confirmed Labour will NOT oppose the plan to deprive landowners of their rights. In the House Of Commons she said
"As the Secretary of State mentioned, the changes to underground access rights announced in the Queen’s Speech will put shale gas on the same footing as other industries such as coal, water and sewage, so we will not oppose them, but we will continue to push for the environmental framework to be strengthened, and for assurances that the responsibility for clean-up costs and liability for any untoward consequences rests fairly and squarely with the industry, not with taxpayers or homeowners."
So Labour will allow fracking but promise to help clear up the mess afterwards, a shameful stance, particularly given that only earlier this week Ms Flint was expressing her concerns about fracking to her local press.
Unfortunately, the CPRE has NOT taken a stand on the landowner rights issue. Last month they refused (along with the National Trust) to join Greenpeace, RSPB, FoE and other groups writing to David Cameron to invite him to ditch changing the trespass laws. When this was reported in the press they fudged the issue by refusing to give a reason. They did, however, suggest the reason is that they support a planning system which can sometimes overrule the rights of landowners. To justify their position they quoted their earlier response to the SEA strategic review, which, to be fair, expressed a great deal of concern. CPRE's policy remains that they are not anti-fracking in principle, but their lack of opposition to the government's plans for landowners rights is not praiseworthy.
URGENT CALL FOR FRACKING MORATORIUM
Friends of the Earth published an important new report destroying the idea that in the UK we have a "gold standard" of regulation. It calls for an IMMEDIATE moratorium on fracking.
Paul McCartney joined around 150 other celebs, scientists and politicians in a call for a suspension of fracking pending further debate. In a counter move, a north west pressure group got 50 academics to press for fast-tracking fracking.
The text of a letter to the Times read -
The government’s plans to introduce fracking will change the UK for ever. David Cameron and the energy minister Michael Fallon have both told us to get ready for fracking. Already more than 60 per cent of the country will be licensed for fracking, and planning rules are being changed to allow for central government to override community objections.
The government says that fracking is safe even though it is banned in several European countries and US states. There is substantial evidence showing that fracking causes water stress and risks water contamination and soil contamination, earth tremors — and is a threat to human, wildlife, bird, fish and livestock health.
This technology will not bring down fuel bills and will not provide a jobs boom, but it has the potential to leave a damaging environmental legacy for future generations.
We urge the government to suspend fracking immediately while a genuinely independent, balanced and thorough public debate is held into the potential dangers this industry holds for the UK.
Outrage over unacceptable police behaviour at Crawberry Hill
A serious charge was levelled against police at Crawberry Hill on Wednesday that they were acting unlawfully kettling protectors and denying access to toilets, putting health at risk. One protector with kidney problems was taken ill as a consequence of this, requiring an ambulance call. She was taken to Hull Royal Infirmary. Another female disabled protector was denied access to toilets after a telephone call request from a solicitor to allow an escorted visit was denied. Shameful. Police were unrepentant.
Simon Pook, Human and Civil Rights Solicitor said
"I am extremely concerned that Humberside Police appear to have acted outside of their lawful duty in the manner they ‘kettled’ my clients for over two hours. I am of the view having watched the footage the right to protest was not balanced in a proportionate way manner to allow compliance with the European Convention Of Human Rights. Lord Mance drew attention in R (Laporte) v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary  Containment is only permitted where a breach of the peace is taking place or is reasonably thought to be imminent. It is clear, therefore, that containment is not permissible for some purpose other than to prevent a breach of the peace which is taking place or reasonably thought to be imminent. It is my view having considered the video this test was not met and brings into question the lawfulness of the policing used today.
I am particularly concerned that Inspector Holmes refused my request to allow a disabled woman to use a toilet some 30 feet behind the police lines .As a result of the police actions and complete refusal to allow the disabled woman to use the toilets, she was taken by ambulance to Hull Infirmary.
I will be compiling a dossier on the actions of Humberside Policing of the protest at Crawberry Hill and other proposed sites in Humberside. This dossier will be sent to Maina Kiai, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association."
Police tactics have failed totally against protection camps at Balcombe and Barton Moss (see below), and the courts have recognised much of the police action was not lawful. Now police are acting to prevent lawful protest rather than to tackle any perceived public disorder threat. This pre-emption is clearly the result of a policy decision to stifle protest against fracking and should be opposed at all levels.
All was not going well at West Newton on Monday
"Had call from west newton camp... the borehole moorhouse are drilling for rathlin is pissin water and s*** all over the pad.road.land etc... one of their employees has been seen taking buckets of water out of the ditch to sample them and he fell in the ditch to neck depth... all this is on film ive called the environment agency and told them to get their inept a***s over there to stop this madness... please spread far and wide and if possible please get down there"
Tuesday saw a spill at West Newton. Observers, backed by video evidence, recorded water flowing from the site outside the compound, showing clearly that the drilling compand was not leak-secure. The Environment Agency were informed.
Another two arrests on Tuesday at West Newton.
"Nick and 'Gadget' Ben have been arrested at West Newton Protection Camp for obstruction of highway while walking in vehicles into the fracking compound! The police have refused to tell us which station they have been taken to! Nick was put on the ground and handcuffed by 4 officers who painfully twisted his arms behind his back. This is despite Nick peacefully walking down the road and posing no threat to anyone or himself. He asked that he be released from the cuffs as he was willing to to walk to the van without resistance and in response the officers picked him up and carried him into the van! Absolutely outrageous disgustingly heavy handed approach on peaceful protectors! It is most likely the arrestees will he kept overnight in the cells and released tomorrow morning."
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden is becoming aware that fracking is a big issue.
Thoughts in the North East are turning to the North Sea to solve a perceived energy security problem. A "green" coal harvest (??) project was said to be capable of providing huge amounts of energy and have the government's backing and is seen as of strategic importance. If true, yet another reason for asking the question - why onshore shale?
The government showed its determination to frack by Owen Paterson's announcement that the preferred successor of Chris Smith as head of the Environment Agency will be Philip Dilley. To demonstrate open government there will be a vetting of this appointment by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. Who is Dilley? Recently left Arup. Who Arup? You know - the people who do all the environmental work for Cuadrilla.
As the Financial Times correspondent Nick Butler said in March-
"The Environment Agency needs someone who can stand up to all the lobbyists, loud-mouthed backbenchers, ministers and on occasion the media. The agenda facing the agency – from floods and wind farms to shale gas, new airports and High Speed 2 rail is enormous. This is a big job and it needs to be filled by someone who can speak with real authority on the basis of a lifetime of experience. The Environment Agency does not need a chairman whose principal qualification is that they hold the right party card."
Seems like that's exactly what we've got.
Other UK News
It is becoming a regular circus event in the Manchester courts. Yet another Barton Moss protector found not guilty, no case to answer.
"Joe was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing a police sergeant in her duty. However the sergeant in question Sergeant Hogan was seen on the Protectors video footage (shown in court) to have violently pushed Joe off the road and into a fence on one occasion, and again shove Joe off the road on another occasion that night. She argued that this was for his own health and safety because she feared he may get run over by a (barely moving) IGas worker's van. Judge Saunders was not taken in by this and ruled there were other actions Hogan was obliged to take, rather than shove him off the road when he was acting totally peacefully. In the footage Sergeant Hogan is then seen running at speed at Joe a third time. It is then that Joe ducks under her and runs forward to avoid her. Joe is then tackled to the ground by 5 TAU. TAU officers Cook and Izzard took the stand to argue that Joe then resisted arrest. However Judge Sanders ruled that because Sergeant Hogan had acted outside her lawful duty then none of the charges could stick, and this was effectively an unlawful arrest."
Police obviously think the residents of Beverley are hot house flowers who know nothing of the real world. Darren Nesbitt appeared at Beverley Magistrates' Court charged with using threatening or abusive behaviour within sight of persons likely to be caused alarm, harassment or distress. He pleaded not guilty to the offence. I should think so too. Singing "stick your new world order up your arse" is hardly a hanging offence. He was released, but on bail conditions banning him from Beverley until his trial.
It is now looking a safe bet that the 14th Round bidding for licences will start in June.
IGas announced plans for fracking at two new sites - “It is our intention to have permits in place such that we can drill and flow test wells at two sites – one in the North West and one in the East Midlands – in 2015,” CEO Andrew Austin said.
More warning signals for the Midlands soon followed with Union Jack Oil (in partnership with Egdon) making a bid to boost their share price by claiming their PEDL201 licence area has 5.5 billion barrels of shale oil in place, and 1.7 trillion cu ft of shale gas. Union Jack has only a 10% stake in the licence area.
The International Energy Agency produced a new report giving some food for thought for fossil fuel freaks. Although focusing on investment needed to fuel the world's energy demand, there are stark warnings about today’s policies and market signals being simply not strong enough to meet the world’s climate change target, and energy investment falling short of requirement because of political inaction or malfunction. A Guardian commentator reads into it the fact that the US shale boom is over.
Germany is drafting new fracking regulations. However the regulations are likely to said to be so strict that they will effectively still rule out fracking.
Nevada- Lander county filed a protest over plans to lease government land for fracking.
In Illinois fracking is seen as green as the state is forced to wean itself off coal.
More concern was expressed about the link between fracking and birth defect and still birth spikes. Anyone within a ten mile radius of a fracking site may be at risk, it is suggested.
One press report came in of scientists reporting fracking definitely to blame for flaming Texas wells, after studying gas fingerprints from tests carried out by the Texas Railroad Commission.
Almost unbelievable in the wave of new concern about US fracking and health comes the news that North Carolina is going ahead with a bill to criminalise revealing fracking constituents.
Wall Street Journal described the water utilities lining up to fight the frackers after high-profile pipeline spills. Another concern of the frackers is legal costs, after a high-profile court compensation payout.
Middlesex County became the first in New Jersey to ban fracking.
In Australia, NSW's top health scientist urges a stop to CSG if the health risks can't be determined.
In New Zealand - mixed messages about fracking as the country's Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment gave the green light to fracking at the same time as warning of inadequate regulation. Councils should be be able to ban fracking in their backyards, Parliament's environmental watchdog said.
Attention was drawn to a new Canadian study on leaking wells, and the fact that wells are not designed to last forever.
Any opinions here not quotes from the
week's news reports are my own.
News As It Came In
links to original stories
McCartney calls for halt to fracking
Search for shale gas heads east as IGas plans fracking in East Midlands
Rural county files protest over fracking in Nevada
Illinois can go green and get fracking
At the Wellhead: Ukraine’s civil strife has a shale angle
Union Jack Oil confirms shale potential at PEDL201
PEDL201 Shale Report
Government bribes won't buy public opinion
Sir Paul McCartney leads new band of celebrity fracking campaigners
Leicestershire shale oil potential 'outstrips south-east England'
Will the Monterey Shale Downgrade Cause Climate Activists to Change Strategy?
The Questionable Staying Power Of The U.S. Shale Boom
Upbeat reserve report boosts shale gas stock
Maternal health and fracking: Is there a link?
Cops and Firefighters Could Soon Be Charged for Disclosing Fracking Chemicals in North Carolina
Small housing developers exempt from 'zero carbon'
Government must not relax fracking laws, says CPRE
Queen's speech: fracking to get boost from trespass law changes
Environmental watchdog gives fracking final tick
New Zealand said to be unprepared for fracking
David Cameron's house 'fracked' by protestors
Fracking risk to drinking water greater in Britain than United States, warns expert
Shale LNG “expensive” says IEA
Anger as fracking protesters are ‘kettled’
National Trust reaction to fracking plans announced in the Queen’s speech
We will fight fracking law extension, says SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell
Queen's speech shale gas proposals fail to address landowner concerns
Plaid Cymru give ‘fracking’ warning over UK Government plans
'Stick your new world order' fracking protest singer Darren Nesbitt banned from Beverley
Councils should be be able to ban fracking - environmental watchdog
Shale gas firms to get more power to drill under homes
Lancashire's shale gas can fill UK energy gap
It's Watershed vs. Pipeline in Latest Fracking Battle
MP’s warning over fracking law changes
Shale Gas Deflates Renewables: Fooled Again
Fracking regs tarnished - new report
Will Legal Costs Drain Fracking Companies?
New fracking rules won't change tough German stance on shale gas
Is fracking the answer?
US shale boom is over, energy revolution needed to avert blackouts
World needs $48 trillion in investment to meet its energy needs to 2035
Scientists: Tests prove fracking to blame for flaming Texas wells
Middlesex County bans fracking; first in NJ
Philip Dilley selected as the preferred option to succeed Lord Chris Smith
Canadians Scientists Discover That Old Gas Wells Leak. A Lot. Forfrackingever.