#Fracking hypocrisy from Fylde MP

“Dear Aunty, is it true that MP Mark Menzies is being more than a little hypocritical in his statements on shale gas?”

It certainly seems so poppets.

Following the news that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, has “recovered” the Cuadrilla planning appeals and will now make the final decision himself instead of the unelected planning inspector, Mr Menzies is reported in the Blackpool Gazette to have asked the Secretary of State to justify his actions, asking this question in Parliament:

“For what reasons he has decided to recover the planning appeals by Cuadrilla Resources to build shale gas wells at Roseacre and Preston New Road?” to be told it is because the drilling appeals involve proposals for exploring and developing shale gas which amount to proposals for development of major importance having more than local significance.

He has previously said, on the same topic:

“The fact that this major planning application has been called in by the Secretary of State is a well-established process for such important developments.

“While I am sure there will be claims that this is some kind of Government conspiracy, it is actually more democratic in that the decision will be taken by an elected representative of the UK Government, rather than an unelected civil servant with no democratic oversight.

“I know in the past there have been major planning appeals, such as the Queensway development in St Annes and the travellers’ site application in Newton, where residents have successfully campaigned for the Secretary of State to call in decisions to ensure the proper level of oversight.

“The process is well-established in that the full public inquiry will still be carried out by the inspector, a report and recommendation made before a final decision by the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, meaning there will be that additional level of oversight on these crucially important matters.

“I will be speaking to the Secretary of State about these applications and will impress upon him my belief that the decision made by the local council should be adhered to.”

On 4th December, he also asked this Parliamentary Question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what he weight he plans to give to the views of people living close to the proposed shale gas well at Roseacre and Preston New Road in the process for considering planning appeals by Cuadrilla Resources to build wells at those sites.”

He seems rather intent on making sure that local views trump national interests, doesn’t he dears?

Which is strange, because on 27th November, Mr Menzies expressed entirely the opposite view on the matter of Heathrow expansion.

Here’s what he said:

“We have one of the biggest airports in the world, with a proven track record of success, at the edge of one of the greatest cities—possibly the greatest city—in the world, so it is frustrating that we have spent all this time prevaricating and being sucked down by, in effect, glorified nimbyism. I say to Members from west London: “It is not about you; it is about the future of the United Kingdom.” I find the stance taken by some people in recent years quite frustrating; it really is starting to wear a bit thin. This is not about electoral or mayoral campaigns; it is about the economic future of the UK.

“It is frustrating that national infrastructure issues that affect not just London but my constituents in Fylde are being sucked down to the lowest common denominator of what is right for a handful of constituencies in west London.

“My constituents, and many others in the regions of the United Kingdom, would be delighted by such an opportunity for jobs and growth—they would absolutely bite your hand off—but we have been pulled down into a very narrow debate about what is right for west London. What is right for the United Kingdom is that we build a third runway and identify Heathrow as the hub airport for western Europe. What is right for the United Kingdom is not that we have a fudge, but that the Government’s decision is clear and timely, and that we get on with it. Let us get it built.”

So, where fracking is concerned, Fylde MP says local not national interests should win the day. Where Heathrow is concerned, we should ignore local NIMBY’s and just get on with it.

Mr Menzies appears to be tying himself in hypocritical knots. He should stop playing this silly political game and throw his weight behind shale gas in Lancashire, helping to secure much needed jobs and investment. Because, as he rightly points out to Members representing West London constituencies: “It is not about you; it is about the future of the United Kingdom.”

Until next time xxx

Ideology, Nimbyism, Solar power, Technology, Wind power

A renewable energy future. Really?

“Dear Aunty, is it true what Gail says – that we can meet all our needs with just renewables?”

It’s certainly true that more and renewable energy generating capacity is being added to the network every year, dears, but I’m afraid the notion that we can somehow power the UK just with renewables is somewhat fanciful right now.

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RAFF, a Lancashire anti-fracking group, has been forced to withdraw misleading literature after being caught with its pants on fire by the ASA
Ideology, Leaflets, Nimbyism, Publicity

RAFF, a Lancashire anti-fracking group, has been forced to withdraw flawed leaflet

“Dear Aunty, is it true that Residents Action on Fylde Fracking has been forced into an embarrassing withdrawal of anti-fracking literature in Lancashire?”

Yes, it most certainly seems so dears.

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Economic impact, Ideology, Local Impacts, Nimbyism, Uncategorized

“Dear Aunty, is it true that fracking related pollution has occurred in the UK?” Yes.

Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. Fracking related pollution does seem to have occurred in the UK, and it appears that it is not limited to a single location.

There is evidence of fracking related pollution in every town or village where exploratory drilling has taken place, including around sites on the Fylde coast in Lancashire, Hull, North Yorkshire, Salford, Balcombe, Wrexham, Ellesmere Port and more.

And the pollution is highly mobile, meaning it can spread easily.

But this pollution, dears, isn’t affecting the air we breathe, the water we drink or the soil we grow our crops in. It is much, much worse.

It’s the pollution of the communities themselves. Or, more to the point, it’s the pollution of how otherwise right-thinking and rational people in those communities view the world.

Let me give you an example of what I mean, poppets. Earlier this year, when Cuadrilla Resources announced plans for two new shale gas sites in Lancashire, residents of the Roseacre village formed a loose alliance, eager to understand what it could mean for them. They began as a neutral group, but soon they became vehemently opposed, using increasingly aggressive and confrontational language and spewing anti-fracking rhetoric about the harms they say fracking for gas causes.

Barbara Richardson, who represents the Roseacre Awareness Group, is probably a mostly nice lady. But the way she attacks anyone that proffers an opposing view to hers suggests to me that she’s been ‘radicalised’ my loves.

It’s the same with Resident Action on Fylde Fracking, also in Lancashire. A scroll back through their Twitter timeline shows they were very balanced in the beginning, but now their Twitter feed is full of bile. Which is a shame, because watching them from afar, most of the members seem like decent people.

So, how has this pollution occurred? How and why are these people being radicalised, and by whom?

Well, sweeties, there are two things at play here that are influencing this behaviour in our otherwise mild-mannered neighbours. Firstly, there is the group of disaffected, anti-corporate, anti-establishment types called Frack Off. They don’t really care about the environment, they just don’t like the fact that the major political parties are all aligned in support of shale gas and that what they perceive to be the rich and powerful stand to gain from it. This group are expert at spreading lies and fear, and travel the country meeting with local residents groups, infiltrating them and poisoning their thinking, playing on their concerns and amplifying them to give the impression that they are a real and present threat.

I know they don’t care about the environment, because they’ve opposed a wind farm off the coast of Brighton. Why? Because, they claimed, it was just going to provide electricity to the communities of London.

Frack Off and it’s cohorts like Tina Rothery from Blackpool are also closely aligned with the Occupy movement, which is also anti-capitalist.

Secondly, there is the unholy alliance of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, cherubs. These are simply opposed to any form of fossil fuel development, and remain ideologically (and quite wrongly) glued to the notion that we can survive entirely without them. They are concerned about issues such as climate change, but they know that’s too distant a concept for many, so they too go into our communities and spread fear about air and water pollution, at the same time peddling the myth that renewables can meet all of our energy needs right now. Once they’ve stirred up those communities, they gradually relax their rhetoric on local environmental concerns, and shift their language to embed the climate change arguments instead. Suddenly, the communities near planned shale gas sites are all avid proponents of renewables (although few of them sport solar panels on their roofs).

But at what cost does all this pollution come, dears?

Let’s say that these outside interests win, and that shale gas extraction is halted. What then? Will we wake up to a world powered entirely by renewables? No. Will corporate interests melt away? No – and, in fact, the companies behind renewables technologies are all profit-driven, and so we’d simply see fossil fuel capitalism supplanted by renewable energy capitalism. Will climate change be stopped in it’s tracks? No – because coal, the dirtiest of all fuels, will continue to be burned instead of switching to cleaner burning gas.

And what will neighbours think of those in their communities if they succeed in derailing shale – will they be welcomed as conquering heroes? Perhaps, for a little while dears, but that will change soon enough once the UK’s reliance on gas leads to even higher and more costly imports, driving up the cost of household energy bills. If Barbara Richardson thinks that the people of Roseacre and other nearby villages will thank her for landing them with increasingly expensive home energy, she’s very mistaken. Right now, she is setting herself up to be attacked by her community at a later date but she can’t see it because she’s been radicalised by those outside interests.

But home energy bills aren’t where it stops. Without a reliable supply of affordable power, our hospitals can’t function. Has Barbara considered this impact, I wonder, and what she might say to the families whose loved ones perish because of power outages? And what of the factories that also rely on a steady supply of affordable energy, that may be forced to close without it, making many people jobless. Has Barbara given any thought to what she’ll say to local people that are made redundant?

I doubt it. Those groups and individuals that are expert at dripping poison in the ears of those that are susceptible to it won’t be highlighting these stark realities, and by the time it’s too late, they’ll be gone – off to battle the next perceived government-backed, corporate ill somewhere. Leaving poor Barbara, and others like her, to fend for themselves, pumpkins.

Until next time xxx

Ideology, Legislation, Local Impacts, Pollution prevention & control, Well integrity

“Dear Aunty, is Tony Bosworth right to criticise UK environmental laws?”

Put simply, dears, no.

If you take a look at Tony’s LinkedIn profile, here, you’ll find precious little evidence that he’s ever worked in the real world and certainly not in industry.

Which leads one to question whether he’s even qualified to pass comment on the UK’s regulations, let alone attempt to do so with such apparent authority.

Let’s take a look at some of his recent comments in this Fiends of the Earth blog post.

Writing about a recent radio programme, Tony says:

“Much of the attention in the programme was on the key issue of well integrity: will fracking wells be properly constructed and who checks this? This is critical because poorly constructed wells increase the risk of leaks of fracking fluid or of methane gas. Analysis for Friends of the Earth reported that between 7 and 9% of newly-drilled shale gas wells in Pennsylvania have problems leading to a risk of leaks.”

Right away, we have to take what he says with a pinch of salt cherubs, because a ‘risk’ is not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination. Whilst it’s true to say that badly constructed wells could pose problems, it’s wholly wrong to conclude or give the Impression that they will be badly built and that they will definitely leak.

Weasel words, you might think…

Speaking of which, sweeties, Tony thinks the US shale industry is playing with words when responding to a recent report on well integrity from America:

“And a couple of months ago, the Pennsylvania Department for Environmental Protection published the details of 243 cases of water contamination as a result of oil and gas drilling between 2008 and 2012. The industry was quick to point out that the problem wasn’t fracking (ie the process of pumping water, sand and chemicals down the well at high pressure) but badly-constructed wells. Weasel words you may think: the wells wouldn’t be drilled if they weren’t going to be fracked.”

This is a particularly fatuous statement, for four main reasons: Firstly, 243 cases as a percentage of the thousands of wells drilled in that period is very low. Secondly, Tony doesn’t mention the fact that many of the private water wells impacted would themselves have been so badly built that they offer little protection to the water they supply, and that this would have been a contributory factor. Thirdly, he leaves the impression the leaks weren’t fixable or fixed. And, lastly, the attempt to conflate drilling and fracking is contemptuous – as Tony would know if he had any real, first hand experience, a badly built well targeting conventional oil reservoirs, or to tap geothermal energy, or even just to abstract groundwater, can all pose a risk to the surrounding environment poppets.

He then switches his attention to monitoring:

“Key to deciding if there are problems with gas leaking from wells is monitoring of methane levels before, during and after drilling. The Royal Society told the Government this should happen, but Francis Egan could only say he expected it would be the case.”

Now then, dears, the first thing we should recognise here is that when giving that interview, Francis Egan may have spent an hour or more answering questions, but the programme producer would have edited this down into just a few soundbites, chosen to suit the intended tenor of the piece and not necessarily with due context. I can’t say for certain, darlings, but my guess is that he was referring to the fact that it’s not clear what monitoring the Environment Agency will undertake – but it matters not; read their Environmental Impact Assessment for their proposed Lancashire sites and you’ll see that Cuadrilla proposes all sorts of methane monitoring in soil and groundwater. As is common in most sectors, careful monitoring is performed because it’s best practice, not just because someone is looking over your shoulder.

And speaking of someone looking over their shoulder, Tony goes on to criticise Energy Minister, Matt Hancock, and the lack of site-based, physical inspection by the Health and Safety Executive.

“Mr Hancock’s mask probably slipped further. Asked if the regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, would inspect every fracking well, he attempted some classic ministerial obfuscation saying “there is a process so that the regulator has the opportunity to inspect every well as required”. Despite the Sir Humphreyism, listeners got the point: the answer is no, the regulators won’t inspect every well.”

What Tony doesn’t tell us is why he thinks the HSE must inspect every well itself.

Does a HSE Inspector check that the lifting chains of a crane are still ‘in date’ after their last inspection under LOLER, before every lift? If the chains fail when a heavy lift is being performed, the load could fall and people and property could be harmed. Does a HSE Inspector stand and watch every delivery of petrol to your local forecourt? If it isn’t done properly, and there’s an ignition source present, the whole thing could explode in a fireball. Does a HSE Inspector sample the discharge from your local sewage works into the river behind your house to make sure it’s safe? There’s a chance that untreated sewage and dangerous chemicals could be released, polluting the river for miles. Does a HSE Inspector stand and watch the farmer next door to where you live storing and applying pesticides? These are toxic chemicals, used in large quantities, that could affect the food you eat, the milk you drink, and the air you breathe. Does a HSE Inspector do this in any industry, dears? No, of course not. And there’s no reason to demand it in shale gas exploration either.

“What actually happens is drillers such as Cuadrilla run tests on their wells and send the data to the Health and Safety Executive. The companies are marking their own homework. As Tom Heap put it, “the experience from America is that without independent inspection, at times the companies have been able to get away with stuff that they shouldn’t have been able to and that’s what people want to see can’t happen here”. There’s no reassurance that won’t happen here too” asserts Tony.

But there’s also nothing to indicate that it will, is there Tony my love? I don’t imagine Tony can point to a single example of an existing onshore oil and gas company deliberately “getting away with stuff they shouldn’t have been able to”. That’s not to say that an unscrupulous operator couldn’t, but then you could say that about any industry: should we ban the production of medicines because of the Thalidomide experience? Of course we shouldn’t, dears.

The simple truth of the matter is that Tony and his colleagues are just opposed to fossil fuels on climate grounds, and I have no problem with that at all sweeties. But he and others in his movement know that climate change is just too abstract for most people, and that in order to get the support of communities in areas where fracking might take place so they oppose it, they can only do so by first of all frightening the people in those communities into thinking that their health and lifestyles will be adversely impacted by shale extraction.

That I do object to and I think it’s a poor show to try and paint the UK regulatory system as an dismal failure when, in fact, it’s truly one of the most robust in the world.

Pulling strings and puppeteering are obviously skills of Tony’s, as seen here.

Until next time xxx


Asthetics and appearance, Ideology, Local Impacts, Nimbyism, Planning consent, Science, Site location, Surface Impacts, Technology

“Dear Aunty, have we seen unfounded scare stories and pseudo-science used to protest any other developments in the recent past – like we now see with shale gas?”

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, we have dears.

The type of development in question met with fierce opposition across the UK, with those objecting to it claiming that it was responsible for breast cancer clusters, unexplained nosebleeds and headaches, motor neurone disease – even skin cancer – and a whole host of other health problems poppets.

All the while, evidence from respected independent bodies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) supported the case of the developers – that the technology was safe and that it wasn’t responsible for the health concerns being attributed to it.

Opponents denounced the science at every turn, often questioning its independence and, in turn, producing their own studies that supported their position. Objectors used emotive, alarmist language, drawing on asbestos and smoking analogies and using phrases such as “as residents, we do not want to be the human guinea pigs.”

Sounds just like the situation we have today doesn’t it, only this time it’s shale gas and fracking.

So, what exactly was this nationwide development that caused such anxiety in Britain?

Mobile phone masts.

It seems like a lifetime ago now, doesn’t it cherubs? And yet, as recently as 2006, the Daily Mail featured this article on the subject claiming that a mobile mast in Stoke-on-Trent was responsible for 27 deaths

Now, though, mobile phone masts are as ubiquitous as the mobile phones, tablets and other communications devices that rely on them, sweeties.

Mobile phones have revolutionised our work and our lives. They’ve made it easier for us to keep in touch, and made business communications much slicker – aiding economic growth.

They’ve also saved lives – it’s much easier to call for emergency help now than at anytime in human history owing to the prevalence of mobile phones.

In fact, the societal advantages can’t be overstated dears.

And what happened to all the health concerns? Well, experience has proved them to be erroneous and unfounded over time.

As with shale gas extraction today, the driver behind the anti-mobile mast campaign was a fear of the unknown when something new appeared – with a dash of Nimbyism thrown-in by those who simply thought the masts were visually intrusive and probably a smidgeon of anti-capitalist sentiment.

Eventually, good sense prevailed and people saw through the scare stories and pseudo-science put about by the vocal minority of people opposed to mobile masts.

Another 10 years from now, once British communities have lived safely alongside sensible shale gas development, I think we’ll see that history repeated dears.

Until next time xxx