Week Ending 21st July 2013
Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland has awarded 'Campaign of the Year' to RAFF - Residents Action on Fylde Fracking.
RAFF said - "The REAL prize comes WHEN we stop shale gas and other unconventional energy extraction here in the UK and beyond... but for now, this award presents a great opportunity to access the resources and support of Friends of the Earth who have groups throughout the UK and the world."
Accepting the award, Julie Daniels of RAFF mentioned all the founding members and said that the award was for ALL the anti-fracking groups who have worked tirelessly to confront this threat to our communities. Praise, thanks and inclusion in the acceptance of the award went to Ribble Estuary Against Fracking, Frack Free Fylde, Refracktion, Defend Lytham. BIFF ! (Britain & Ireland Frack Free), Frack OFF and others.
Presenting the award, Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth said:
"We're delighted to recognise Residents Against Fylde Fracking for their outstanding campaigning against dirty shale gas.
They have inspired communities across the UK with their creativity and commitment, and show what can be achieved when a group of ordinary people come together to protect their community.
They deserve to win not just this award but the bigger battle against fracking."
The main news of the week came from Parliament, with two debates on fracking, an announcement of overgenerous tax breaks, and a new planning guidance on shale gas.
The first debate, stimulated by Fylde MP Mark Menzies, concerned plans for bribing local communities. It became clear that the supporters of fracking, led by Dan Byles, knew little about the plan details, so Menzies emerged no wiser. However, he failed to display any real grasp of fracking facts, surprising when this issue is so important to his constituents.
His Conservative neighbour MPs joined in the debate, which started to remind me of pigs fighting their way to the trough.
On Thursday Caroline Lucas brought some sense to the political arena, but generated such hostility, both on grounds of her being a woman and her views, that I really have to admire her for her bravery and perseverance. Pro-frackers Peter Lilley and Dan Byles, in particular, showed again either a very poor knowledge of facts about fracking or, putting it less charitably, skills in bald deception.
Caroline referred to 55 recent incidents of pollution from North Sea oil and gas operations as evidence that the UK's regulatory regime is flawed. "The idea that our regulations when it comes to drilling are so much better than elsewhere is questionable." More than questionable, in our opinion, especially as no specifc rules for onshore shale have been developed beyond an attempt to limit seismic events. The government has turned down its own advisers; recommendations on the need for relevant shale-specific regulation and improvement in the operation and training of the regulatory bodies.
One further issue Caroline raised was the fact that the trailed release on Thursday of the new planning guidance for fracking had not happened. She also complained that there was to be no public consultation on this, and failure to publish gave MPs no chance of comment either.
Huge tax breaks announced.
Consultation there will be, for the benefit of the frackers, on the huge tax breaks George Osborne has planned for them.
Peter Lilley has complained that tax breaks are not needed for fracking (which industry people have told MPS in the past). Unfortunately, one can only imagine Lilley raises this point out of pique that the companies involved in Asian oil and gas he has his interests in do not get similar breaks.
Osborne said he aimed to make the UK a world leader in shale gas, and suggested his measures would lead to £14 billion in the industry. Critics might say plans to halve the tax burden on producers is a sign of desperation, of how difficult shale gas exxploration and production would be in the UK, as well as being a clear signal that shale is not seen as a temporary bridge but a longer term commitment to fossil fuels and turning the government's back oin investment in renewable energy.
New Planning Guidance
On Friday, too late for debate in parliament, since it had already gone into summer recess, the new shale gas planning guidance for Mineral and Waste authorities was published. This is a significant attack on the rights of planning authorities to determine planning applications based on environmental issues. See the Special Reports page for more comments.
Also slipping in under the radar was the government's response to the Energyy and Climate Change Committee's April report on shale gas and energy markets. There was nothing startling in the reply - they have no idea whether shale gas will be economically viable or provide energy security but give a commitment to push ahead with shale exploration at any cost, mealy-mouthed words about CCS, the promise of some new reports into shale greenhouse gas emissions.
Other news included a fresh report by Navigant Consulting for the government which claimed that gas prices could come down with or without fracking.
Not so good for frackers was the widely-reported news that Britain's water companies are unhappy about water use by fracking and the possible threat of water supply contamination.
In the real world outside Parliament, there was a significant development in Sussex, as it emerged that Cuadrilla have been forced to apply for an extension of their 2010 planning permission, which expires in September. Since the permission was granted with conditions specifying details different from what Cuadrilla are now saying, without much publicity, handled by delegated powers rather than taken to committee, and without any Environmental Impact Statement, the extension application will prove controversial. It is thought Cuadrilla will also have to apply separately for other changes to the conditions. In our view any extension should be refused and any further work required should be handled with a new permission application. Cuadrilla have had three years to do there work, and wasted 2 1/2 of those sitting on their hands.
Following close of the consultation on Cuadrilla's waste management EA permit, they have now applied for a radioactivity waste permit. Extraordinarily, it emerges that this is NOT needed for the drilling operation. Extraordinary, because the drilling waste, including drilling debris, cores and drilling mud, is waste that may be contaminated with NORM, naturally occurring radioactive material. But apparently Cuadrilla could just go dump this on a waste landfill site, as they are said to have done in Lancashire.
After the reports of concerns by water suppliers about fracking it was surprising to read the end-of-week Telegraph report which said Cuadrilla was in discussions with United Utilities about not only water supply but using UU's land for fracking purposes. This is bound to be bitterly contested, if true. The water suppliers have an overriding duty as priority - to supply a clean safe drinking water supply to the public. To put this at risk for financial gain would be criminal.
A US study partly released this week will no doubt be seized on by pro-frackers to back claims fracking can not contaminate groundwater. Frankly, I can not see that injecting fracking fluid with tracer and then testing shortly after proves a single thing. The concerns about contamination are not to do with what happens a few minutes, days or weeks or even a year after fracking, but what problems can arise after decades or even longer.
Any opinions here not quotes from the
week's news reports are my own. Alan Tootill
News As It Came In with
hyperlinks to original stories
Independent: Now Cameron aide Lynton Crosby’s links to fracking industry are explored
Nottingham Post: Could fracking start just over the county border?
Shale gas is not Europe's get-out-of-jail card
Fracking research: What's behind EPA's abandoned studies?
Incredible complacency from councils? Or are they bamboozled?
Anti-fracking group picks up green award
Water industry lays down challenge to UK shale gas fracking industry
Spectator report from Fernhurst: Fracking the village
Guardian: Investors back away from fossil fuel assets and fracking
Guardian: Fracking companies should not get tax breaks, says No 10 adviser
Peter Lilley says shale gas firms are likely to be profitable without incentives as government prepares to offer 'allowances'
Guardian: George Osborne unveils 'most generous tax breaks in world' for fracking
Mail: Tax breaks to kickstart the fracking revolution: Bid to make Britain world leader in new dash for gas
George Osborne will launch a shale gas allowance based on oil production tax breaks
New tax regime aims to create investment in shale gas of £14billion a year
Sky: Shale Gas: 'Generous' Tax Breaks For Fracking
FT: Osborne looks to create world’s most generous shale tax regime
Metro: Energy companies to be given huge tax sweeteners to spark ‘shale gas revolution’
Yahoo/Reuters: Government unveils tax breaks for shale gas investment
CityAM: Government in bid to slash taxes for shale explorers
Guardian: Fracking: tax breaks raise questions over agenda for tackling climate change
It’s official: US-style shale revolution could soon slash gas prices in Britain
Telegraph: Water firms raise fears over shale gas fracking
Fracking for shale gas will raise the risk of water shortages and could contaminate drinking supplies, Britain's water companies have claimed.
Balcombe - fracking fete worse than death
The Engineer: Putting our faith in a fracking dream is a dangerous mistake
Independent: Osborne accused over gas lobbyist father-in-law
Good Energy: On the wrong track with fracking
The new planning guidance
The tax breaks consultation document
FoE slams new planning guidance
BBC: Fracking 'could put gas and chemicals' in drinking water
Mail: Water industry warns of fracking dangers as Chancellor unveils 'most generous shale gas tax breaks in the world'
Sky:Fracking Water Warning As Tax Break Announced
Mirror: Water firms say taps could run dry due to huge strain caused by drilling
Greenpeace energy campaigner comments on the week's Osborne BS
Government response - ECC Committee report on shale gas and energy markets
Lytham St Annes Express: Fracking tax break deal blasted
United Utilities opens talks with Cuadrilla over fracking deal
Pennsylvania Fracking Study Shows Chemicals Did Not Contaminate Water
Experts are encouraged by the Department of Energy study's findings, but say there is not yet enough research to reach any conclusions.