Week Ending 8th September 2013
Government planning to undermine centuries-old landowner rights.
Balcombe News Headlines
Another blow for Cuadrilla - forced to stop drilling again!
PRESS COMMENT Sunday September 8th FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No FiBS (No Fracking in Balcombe Society)
Cuadrilla admitted yesterday that they have been in breach of the noise restrictions attached to their planning permission, and have agreed to suspend drilling in Balcombe. They must now erect sound barriers before drilling can continue.
Although Cuadrilla’s own monitoring had established that noise from drilling was exceeding the 42 decibel limit, neither they nor the county and district councils had made this information public. Distressed by the noise of drilling, the Balcombe community bought their own monitoring equipment and sought the help of our MP Francis Maude to obtain Cuadrilla’s figures. Suspension of drilling was agreed last night (Saturday) at a meeting between Cuadrilla, the Environment Agency and Cuadrilla’s new acoustic consultants.
Village mother of two Louisa Delpy said: ‘A noise survey was meant to be carried out within five days of drilling. Yet the noise report was released after almost five weeks, and then I believe only after the intervention of our MP at our request. Despite repeated complaints about excessive noise, Mid Sussex District Council and West Sussex County Council have failed to act. Clearly they have neither the tools nor the skills to carry out the enforcement on noise that they are supposed to. It seems they have asked the EA to do it despite it being a condition in the planning permission.’
Balcombe resident Robert Greer added: ‘We’ve been complaining to the local authorities for weeks, while having to suffer this unbearable noise day and night. This is yet another instance of Cuadrilla not sticking to the terms of their permission. And it illustrates yet again how wrong it is to drill so close to a village'.
No FiBS asks that the noise levels be monitored again as soon as drilling starts, and that the data be released immediately.
Cuadrilla already faces a tight deadline, and erecting sound barriers will delay drilling by three to four days. They plan to complete drilling the well under the terms of the original planning permission, which runs out on September 28th. On September 27th they will apply for new planning permission to test the well. They must cap the well and have cleared the site by the 28th.
Cuadrilla forced to withdraw two planning applications
Cuadrilla have withdrawn their applications for modifying their existing application (6 months extra time, and the modified flaring). That's the good news. The bad news is that they plan to put in a new application, by 27th September.
The major point at issue seemed to be the failure of the original appliation to specify details of the planned horizontal well.
It seemed as though Cuadrilla and WSCC have got the message that the amendment applications could not be reasonably granted lawfully. In which case congratulations are due to those in Balcombe who have been working on the technical side (as well, of course, to the Balcombe Protection Camp!).
What we must now push for is an Environmental Impact Assessment to accompany the new application.
The announcement by WSCC-
"Re: Lower Stumble Hydrocarbon Exploration Site - Planning applications
On 2 September 2013, the two planning applications relating to oil exploration at Balcombe (ref. WSCC/061/13/BA seeking a six month extension in time, and WSCC/063/13/BA seeking increased flare height) were withdrawn by the applicant.
The applicant (Cuadrilla) has confirmed their intention to submit a new planning application by 27 September 2013 to allow for additional time to carry out the well testing at the site allowed under the current permission (WSCC/027/10/BA). They have confirmed that the activity sought under the new application will not involve drill stem testing, additional drilling, or hydraulic fracturing.
Once the new application has been registered, you will be contacted as part of the public consultation process.
Cuadrilla’s emails withdrawing the applications and setting out their intentions for the site, are available on the County Council’s website - see the above links.
For information, the meeting of the Planning Committee on 19 September 2013 has been cancelled."
The notification from Cuadrilla
"Dear Mr Elkington
I refer to our recent discussions in connection with the drilling operations at Balcombe and the
arrangements to secure an extension of time for the completion of these works. As discussed, we
have decided to reassess our programme and, in turn, the terms of our current planning application.
Cuadrilla has decided to submit a new planning application for its site at Lower Stumble, Balcombe
which will include revised boundary lines showing the extent of the horizontal well which is to be
flow tested. The application will cover the same well testing that is in the currently permitted
activity, subject to there being no drill stem test, additional drilling or any hydraulic fracturing.
We believe that this approach will provide clear benefits to the County Council and the local
residents of Balcombe. The replacement scheme will define the terms of our proposal and will make
clear that we do not intend to hydraulically fracture the well during this testing operation. The
revised scheme will also provide the opportunity for the county council to consult with interested
third parties and further public engagement.
In the circumstances, we now intend to complete all drilling operations in compliance with the
extant planning permission and confirm that these works should be completed by mid-September. In
any event, the site will be suspended before the expiry of the temporary consent on 27 September.
In the interim, we will replace the current section 73 application with a full planning application. As
discussed, this will be submitted to the County Council in advance of the expiry of the current
I hope that this assists in clarifying our position.
Other Balcombe News
The press have grown bored with reporting the Balcombe protection camp activities. Apart from a brief mention of last Sunday's music event they have moved on, leading some members of the public, it seems, to think the camp and the protest is over
This is of course far from the truth, as was shown on Monday when Rob locked himself on top of a tanker for five hours.
Protests (and arrests) continued on Tuesday. The tripod stunt hero Jamie on Thursday earned more exposure and the inevitable arrest, and police retaliated by serving a section 14 public order act notice on the area escalating the likelihood of firm and aggressive action. Police costs were reported to have reached nearly £2.4 million.
Can anyone confirm that trucks are being stripped of their hazardous materials signs before making deliveries to Cuadrilla's site?
Other UK news
The week started off with a gloomy note from The Lawyer, the opinion confirming what we already know, that onshore regulation of shale is next to non-existent and the government is fighting regulation every inch of the way in the rush to get companies to start drilling.
But on Tuesday Greenpeace announced their plan to bolster the Lancashire anti-fracking campaign, which will prove to be a significant factor in attempts to stop fracking there.
Lord Stern issued a strong condemnation in the Independent of David Cameron's "baseless economics" and ridiculed the idea that shale gas would bring prices down, together with a strong condemnation of cliamte scepticism.
Balcombe's apparent temporary reprieve was not good news for Lancashire, as Cuadrilla told the Guardian it now intended to restart operations in the county "within weeks".
No doubt having anticipated this move, Greenpeace protestors set up a protest outside LCC's offices.
Up and down the UK local groups continue to raise their voices against fracking, CBM and UCG.
The Ecologist made it clear that DECC will not support Cameron's claims that shale would bring gas prices down, and even Dan Byles was forced to admit he needed to move away from that argument in order to proclaim the benefits.
On Friday another twenty years of production was agreed for the Dorset Wytch Farm oilfield project with 39 applications granted. A token restriction on fracking for shale gas was imposed. Totally irrelevant as the permission is now granted for fracking to deal with the declining oil production rates.
This fiasco illustrates the lunacy of anyone claiming Wytch Farm is the prime example of UK fracking.
The government's frustration at the realisation of how deeply unpopular they are was revealed further by another attempt to deny democracy in the UK. They want to prevent legal challenge to their policies and plans for energy (ie fracking!) and infrastructure projects.
Sussex landowner Lord Cowdray told the BBC he was set against fracking, and while he was not an advocate of direct action, he saw it as inevitable that Fernhurst, too, would become a focus of attention when Celtique's planning application for well testing in the South Downs Nationa l Park came in.
I still find it puzzling that there seems to have been very little objection (only 4 public responses recorded) to the Celtique application for drilling at Woodbarn Farm near Billingshurst, which was given permission only in February this year. As one concerned resident said, "It seems I am (to date) the only member of public to offer any comment.....
It is inconceivable no other resident has an opinion on the matter."
Celtique claimed to be looking for gas in ("conventional") sandstone, but their planned exploration borehole penetrates shale and it is inconceivable they will not be exploring shale gas potential. Fortunately there is a group now established as Frack Free Billingshurst who will no doubt be taking up these issues.
Celtique have another application in the offing at Wisborough Green.
On Friday 6th September Dorset County Council was reported to have extended the production of oil at Wytch Farm for another 21 years until 2037.
Wytch Farm has come into prominence because pro-frackers first of all claimed this as Europe's largest onshore oilfield. (The majority of the oilfield is offshore.) More lately they have boasted that fracking has been carried out repeatedly there.
This is difficult to assess as the relatively new owners Perenco have allegedly refused to release details of any hydraulic fracturing that has been carried out there. DECC have said only recently that any hydraulic fracturing that has gone on before the Preese hall shale fracking was different and not comparable.
Now we have apparently a DCC permission which as a condition imposed a no-fracking-for-shale-gas rule. Especially if fracking has been going on at Wytch Farm, this new condition makes no sense. It ignores the fact that when the oil flow decreases they can frack to their hearts content. As long as it's not shale gas they have licence to frack. Dorset County Council have had a very uninformed and knee-jerk reaction to the concerns about fracking.
We will, however, continue to assert that nothing comparable to shale gas fracking has, as DECC say, yet been carried out at Wytch Farm, and the pro-fracker argument is based on a falsehood.
North Carolina legislators plan to force landowners to let their land be fracked, like it or not. Will this be the pattern here in the UK?
The Daily Mail ran a story under a headline saying fracking DID cause 109 earthquakes.
Any opinions here not quotes from the
week's news reports are my own. Alan Tootill
News As It Came In
links to original stories
Energy set for shale of a time - government turns its back on regulation
Officials OK rule to force fracking on NC landowners
Greenpeace to launch local anti-fracking campaign in Lancashire
Fracking firm withdraws Balcombe application
Cuadrilla admits Balcombe planning application "legally ambigious"
BREAKING NEWS: Cuadrilla withdraws drilling application
'Baseless economics': Lord Stern on David Cameron’s claims that a UK fracking boom can bring down price of gas
Fracking firms could drill under homes without telling the owners: Green groups' fury over horizontal drilling plans
Company at heart of fracking protests applies for new drilling licences
Cuadrilla plans to reopen its Lancashire operations within weeks, and seeks extension for oil exploration at Balcombe
Greenpeace protesters 'frack' Lancashire council hall
Water firms fear fracking risks
County Leitrim calls for ban.
New Scientist: Fracking leak kills threatened fish
Derbyshire villagers get ready to fight fracking proposal
Fracking DID cause 109 earthquakes in Ohio, confirm scientists as opposition to controversial process grows
Fracking firm is told ‘hands off’ Middleton
Fracking: Dart ‘desperate’ to revive Airth plan
Fracking eco warriors fire up opposition to Warwickshire underground blazes
Fracking is 'not evil', says Ed Davey
Wales: AMs show support for fracking moratorium call
Sheffield City Council: Green Motion opposing fracking passed by Full Council
Wanted: a green theology that probes fracking
DECC won't back Cameron's fracking price promise
Wytch Farm oil production extended in Dorset
Oil production extended at Wytch Farm for another 21 years
I'll stop activists playing legal games, vows minister: Justice Secretary reveals plans to stop charities and campaign groups using courts to delay building projects
Balcombe tripod protest man arrested
India: Water or Shale Gas?
Lord Cowdray speaks out against fracking
Barking mad MP’s backing for fracking