17th March 2013
Delay for Cuadrilla's plans, Browne
Big news of the week was that
Cuadrilla told the press that they would not be
fracking Annas Road site until 2014, setting
their plans back a year.
The trailer to this announcement was in the
Guardian on the 12th March. Lord Browne said he
would invest whatever it takes to
ensure success of the dash for gas.
Naturally this was not all Brownes money,
not that he is exactly a pauper. He was talking
about equity finance, then equity and debt. He
admitted that the US experience was not all good.
However he expressed confidence in the UK onshore
regulations which have plenty of
regulators. What Lord Browne did not say is
that the regulators may be many but toothless and
under-financed. He expressed frustration at the
system which according to him needed
Given that he gave this release to the Guardian,
known for a more balanced viewpoint than the Tory
press, he was clearly sending a signal to the
environmental lobby that he would spend, spend,
spend his way to ensure its defeat.
The real reason for Brownes childish
outburst came the next day. Cuadrilla said they
had put their exploration plans on hold until the
next year. They were now preparing to carry out a
full Environmental Impact Assessment on their
planning applications, but specifically at Annas
Road, where they have a current application in
with Lancashire County Council.
This was in marked contrast to their earlier
position when their scoping application said they
- following LCC advice - would not undertake as
part of their assessment socio-economic impacts,
landscape, visual, noise, traffic,
archaeological, climate change and agricultural
So what brought about this significant change?
Nick Grealy, ex-gas salesman and Cuadrilla payee,
was up in arms, ranting on his web site No Hot
Air against Mike Hill, David Cameron and the
Lancashire anti-fracking lobby. He claimed the
delay would cost Cuadrilla at least 12 million
pounds, but at the same time said this was
back of the sofa peanuts for the
Carlyle Group, Behind Brownes Riverstone
venture capital company.
Grealy was clearly outraged - good news for the
anti-fracking lobby. Anything that sends Grealy
into an illogical rant had to mean they had done
something right. Grealy did not hide his contempt
for Conservative ministers and in particular
v Grealy did make one interesting comment, that
allegedly LCC planning department had
requested the government to call in the Annas
Road planning application, in accordance with the
Tories attempt to undermine local democracy
and the spirit of their localism legislation by
centralising decision-making on nationally
important projects. If true this would be an
appalling move by LCC to avoid their
responsibility to the Lancashire public.
Grealy further suggested that if the UK
didnt play ball, Cuadrilla could take its
billions elsewhere. Go ahead and do just that, I
can hear anti-fracking protesters saying.
The main question is - why Cuadrillas
change of heart? It is simply not credible that
they elected for full EIA of their own accord.
They were pushed, which would explain
Grealys anger at the government. However Refracktion has
suggested another option, that Cuadrilla have
secured a bigger player as backer, who can afford
to wait an extra year in order perhaps then to
use the UK good practice example to
sell Cuadrillas reputation to a wider
European or international audience.
Jessica Ernst reaches
Lancashire minds and hearts
The Lancashire anti-fracking movement had a
significant move forward when Counterbalance, the
Fylde commentary on local politics, published an
appreciative review of Jessica Ernsts visit
to St Annes. Ernst has been involved in a
protracted legal battle against drillers and
regulators in Alberta, Canada, and was invited
over from an Ireland tour by RAFF to give a talk
in St Annes.
The fairly comprehensive Counterbalance report was not
only complimentary to the organisers (slick,
upbeat and professional) but appreciative of
Jessica Ernsts qualifications and stand. It
accepted that fracking had indeed ruined
Ernsts land and water, and that corruption
and undue pressure from the authorities had
affected Ernsts case. It suggested that
what had already been seen in the Fylde was
perhaps a sign of turning a blind eye or
weakening regulatory control, and was a matter of
In itself, had this come from a dyed-in-the-wool
anti-fracker, this would not be significant, but
given that Counterbalance started off with an
open mind but a detectable pro-fracking starting
view the changeround is important, and indicates
progress in getting the message across in the
Fylde and West Lancashire.
Cuadrilla - fish deaths
Another black mark against Cuadrilla was revealed
this week with the information emerging that back
in early May 2012 their geophysical survey had
caused fish deaths in a pond near Greenhalgh. A
number of fish were killed by explosive charges,
and Cuadrilla within minutes had phoned the local
angling club to apologise.
Although not directly linked to fracking, another
victory for direct action against gas expansion
came when EDF, who were threatening to sue 21
protesters for five million pounds, backed down.
On the 29th October 2012 the protestors had
scaled and occupied the chimneys of EDFs
West Burton power station, shutting down its
operation.and halting further construction.
EDFs original announcement that they were
to sue caused outrage, and within days some
64,000 signatures had been collected in support
of the No Dash For Gas heroes. They still await
sentencing, having all pleaded guilty, at a
February court hearing, to aggravated trespass
International news was generally
positive, with Australias Metgasco
announcing it was withdrawing from coal seam gas
in northern New South Wales, blaming the NSW
governments delaying policies and Federal
governments increased attention to
strengthening regulation. Following the previous
weeks announcement from Ireland that there
is now in effect a moratorium on exploration
licences, campaigners against fracking have had a
good two weeks.