Week Ending 20th October 2013

UK news highlights

Regular readers of Fracking Digest and those with whom I've had personal communication over many months will know that an issue I have raised is the legal status of below-ground horizontal fracking wells. (see Could this kill off UK fracking?
and Government planning to undermine centuries-old landowner rights. )

Finally it seems there is a major take-up of this theme, with Greenpeace launching on Monday an initiative for landowners to declare the land beneath their feet a no-fracking zone. This was greeted by shock horror and was destined to be the major talking point of the week.

By Tuesday the frackers had recovered their composure. They fell back on the lame excuses that the oil and gas industry had coped with the law for many years, and anyway the law was medieval and out-of date. Much was also made of anti-frackers exploiting a "loophole" in the law.

None of these claims holds up. It is true that the law regarding landowners' rights is very old, but then so are many good laws. In this case it was tested in the courts as recently as 2010, putting a lie to the claim the industry had happily existed alongside the law. A long and drawn-out case that finally ended up in the Supreme Court confirmed that even in this day and age, and with deep underground drilling, landowners retained access rights, and to drill under land without permission constituted trespass.

After going through two lower courts, clearly the eminent judges in the supreme court saw the landowner's right as much more than a loophole in the law. It was fundamental to those rights. We have heard so many times from pro-frackers about the right of law, and how disgraceful it is for protestors to (allegedly!) break the law. Expect an outbreak double standards.

UKOOG issued a statement including saying that drilling a mile deep was not regarded by the law as impacting the surface. This is inaccurate and irrelevant, as they would know if they read the Star Energy v Bocardo judgement. If the industry body which is trusted by the government to self-regulate the industry can not get its facts on law and regulation right, what help is there for us if shale gas production goes ahead? It is a recipe for a widespread abuse by the frackers of law and safety issues.

The FT noted that a new report for DECC on the potential jobs created by shale gas revealed figures far lower than the Institute of Directors report which was seized on by pro-frackers including David Cameron. The report also pointed out that the jobs created would be of a temporary nature, and the experience in the Fylde showed only a small proportion went to local people.

At Crawley Magistrates Court Caroline Lucas pleaded not guilty to two charges arising from the Balcombe camp and along with other fellow courageous co-accused will face trial in the new year.

Cuadrilla published the claim that from a limited 500 telephone sample a majority of 57% supported Lancs fracking.

The Independent revealed Peel Group's unsavoury links with the BBC and local planners. Frackers IGas are planning to frack Peel Group land.

If the support came from the belief that fracking would create jobs, that idea had already taken a battering this week. And if support was based on the claims that gas prices would come down this was shown to be a myth by a new report that in US prices continued to rise despite the shale gas "bonanza". It is becoming clearer and clearer that there is no justification for UK shale gas. Ed Davey handed a gift to frackers on a plate by telling people to reduce heating bills by wearing a jumper. Davey may have a grasp of the real and overriding need to reduce energy conspumption, but a poor grasp of practical politics.

In Scotland campaigners welcomed new changes to planning law which would inhibit fracking.

Police fear about civil unrest due to anti-fracking sentiment is growing. Bird watching is now a crime, apparently. In Greater Manchester, in a fit of hysteria and intimidation which will prove counter-productive, police attempted to disrupt and cancel a birdwatching event at Barton Moss, a proposed fracking site. As one of the organisers of this peaceful event, not an anti-fracking demo, said, after cancelling the event regretfully, "The desperately sad reality of all this is that conservation/caring about nature is now considered to be some form of social terrorism which is utterly sickening when we are supposed to be living in a free society."


In Canada anti-fracking took on a violent aspect as protest resulted in pepper-spray, rubber bullets, snipers, torched police cars and arrests.

Sympathy protests were predicted to spread across the country.

In Romania villagers clashed police with more success, as US Chevron closed down local fracking operations.

Also from Canda came a report from the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission which accepted that fracking had caused a series of small earthquakes. Significantly, this was put down as due to fracking itself, not due to fracking-related waste well injection, as is now accepted a cauise of quakes in the US.

Election voting papers went out in Colorado, including a citizen initiative ballot whether to implement a 5 year fracking moratorium in Fort Collins.

Any opinions here not quotes from the week's news reports are my own.
Alan Tootill

News As It Came In with links to original stories


Shale extraction: North America sets pace that others will find hard to match

Climate change: a survivors' guide

Greenpeace plans fracking legal challenges: No-go areas planned across the country


Lancashire Evening Post: Legal challenge against fracking

EA: Still no news on what turned Balcombe water green

KCC 'conflict of interest' over gas drilling plan

Exposed: KCC's £153m investment in fracking


Fracking jobs now forecast to be a third of what Cameron quoted

Stormont row on the cards over fracking in Northern Ireland


Cuadrilla sees growing support for Blackpool fracking

Scots survey shows (no, actually - to show - another rubbish headline) future of fracking

Fracking Opponents Find Lawyers Beat Superglue in Slowing Shale


Usual patronising guff from America: (European) Fracking debate may have turned a corner

Canadian First Nation anti-fracking protest

Romanian villagers force Chevron to suspend fracking operation

More trouble for the embattled fracking industry – employment prospects are plunging

Violent anti-fracking protest spreads across the country


No Freeze on Winter Energy Prices, Despite Natural Gas Boom

Ed Davey: I wear a jumper at home to keep energy bills down, says minister as British Gas raises prices by 10%

Fuel price rises are sparking a new wave of direct action

The biggest company you've never heard of: Lifting the lid on Peel Group

Campaigners hail ‘anti-fracking’ policy changes


Fracking causes minor earthquakes, B.C. regulator says

What a 5-year fracking ban in Fort Collins would, wouldn't do


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