Lancashire Council in Britain Deals Blow to Shale Industry by Stanley Reed, June 29, 2015, The New York Times
Britain’s ambitions to produce natural gas from shale rock were set back on Monday when a local government rejected a company’s drilling plan.
Lancashire County Council, in Northwest England, turned down a request by the shale gas explorer Cuadrilla Resources to drill four wells at a site called Preston New Road and test them with hydraulic fracturing….
If it had been approved, the Cuadrilla application might have led to the first major fracking tests in shale in Britain since a Cuadrilla fracking project at a well near Blackpool, the Irish Sea resort also in Lancashire, set off earth tremors in 2011.
The decision on Monday was a blow for the government of Prime Minister David Cameron…. [Watch Cameron force in the Alberta Model (take away municipal, community and citizen rights) on counsels voting to say no to fracing and yes to protecting air, land water and families and other important industry’s]
Before the vote, councilors spoke emotionally against the plan, saying that it would mar the landscape, create unacceptable levels of noise and might also saddle the county with pollution problems years down the road. The rejection was greeted with applause by shale opponents.
In a statement on Monday, Greenpeace called the decision “a Waterloo for the fracking industry and a triumph for local democracy.” It said the decision sent “a powerful signal to other councils that the fracking juggernaut can indeed be stopped.”
Cuadrilla said in a statement that it was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision and that the company “will now take time to consider our options regarding an appeal.”
The company said that its environmental assessments demonstrated that shale exploration and production “can and will be conducted safely and without damage to people’s health or their environment.” [How did Cuadrilla prove that? Where’s the company’s proof and data?]
As things stand in Britain, drilling and fracking require the approval of local governments…. “Clearly, the current regime is not fit for the government’s purpose of gaining a social licence to frack,” Michael Bradshaw, professor of global energy at Warwich Business School, wrote in an email. [Warning! Sounds like promotion of rights decimation to bring in blanket law violations and harms by un-regulate-able frac’ers]
Slides from Ernst presentations
… This month, members of the Lancashire council’s planning staff recommended that the council allow Cuadrilla to drill at the site rejected on Monday. Northwest England is considered to have significant shale gas potential, and residents were presumed to be less opposed to drilling than in some other areas of the country, like the South.
The decision, which had long been delayed, followed another move by the council last week to block drilling at a Lancashire site called Roseacre Wood. [Emphasis added]
Fracking application rejected by Lancashire county council by Adam Vaughn, June 29, 2015, The Guardian
Lancashire county council has rejected a planning application by shale gas explorer Cuadrilla to frack in the county, in a major blow to what would have been the UK’s biggest round of fracking so far.
Hundreds of [citizens] outside the county hall in Preston, where the verdict was announced, reacted with delight and cheers, and people in the council chamber applauded.
The surprise rejection regards a site at Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton on the Fylde, where Cuadrilla had hoped to drill four wells and undertake exploratory fracking for shale gas.
Nine of the councillors on the 14-strong development control committee voted in favour of a motion to reject the application on grounds of visual impact and unacceptable noise, and also rejected a related application for an array to monitor seismic activity. The long-delayed decision by councillors follows their rejection last week on traffic grounds of a bid by Cuadrilla to frack at another site, Roseacre Wood, between Preston and Blackpool. Planning officers had earlier this month recommended the council reject Roseacre Wood but approve Preston New Road.
Councillors said the grounds for refusing the application for a monitoring array at Preston New Road was that it ran contrary to planning policy EP11, in the respect that “the cumulative effect of the proposal would lead to the industrialisation of the countryside and adversely affect the landscape character.”
They were earlier told that rejections were likely to be appealed by Cuadrilla, which is the only company to have fracked in the UK to date. In a statement, the company said it was “surprised and disappointed” at the decision, and it remained committed to extracting shale gas in Lancashire.
“We will now take time to consider our options regarding an appeal for Preston New Road, along with also considering appeals for the planning applications recently turned down, against officer advice, for monitoring and site restoration at Grange Hill, and last week’s decision to refuse the Roseacre Wood application,” the statement said.
Centrica, which has a 25% stake in Cuadrilla, said it was extremely disappointed by the decision. “It has taken a significant amount of investment to get us where we are today so we will be working closely with our partners at Cuadrilla before making any decisions on our next steps.”
Ken Cronin, chief executive of Ukoog, which represents the shale industry, called on the government to review the planning process. “This after 15 months of a long, drawn-out process cannot be right, and I urge the government to urgently review the process of decision-making.”
Alister Scott, professor of environmental and spatial planning at Birmingham City university said an appeal was certain. Professor Andy Aplin, director of the Centre for Research in Earth Energy Systems at Durham University, said a legal challenge was likely.
… Liz Hutchins, a senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth, spoke from outside the town hall where she said the atmosphere was “absolutely electric” and a “massive celebration.”
“This is a bigger win than anyone was expecting, it shows the huge strength of feeling here. There was no way councillors could go against feelings of local people. This is a real blow for Cuadrilla and government.
“Obviously Cuadrilla will try to appeal, and that will go to the national planning inspectorate, and we want a commitment from David Cameron that they won’t intervene in the wishes of local people here.” [Will the new Alberta NDP government intervene against Ernst in her case before the Supreme Court of Canada against the AER?]
… The Green party MP Caroline Lucas described the decision as a fantastic victory and said: “The decision proves that, in spite of all the government’s efforts to force through fracking, local communities can prevent it from going ahead.”
Around 500 people were protesting outside the town hall, according to organisers. More than 50,000 people signed a petition calling for the fracking applications to be rejected. [Sounds like Lethbridge Alberta, NL, NS, NB, Yukon, NWT~!]
The share price of iGas, the UK’s biggest shale company, dropped sharply after the council’s announcement.
Several councillors on Monday morning said coming to the decision had been extremely difficult, with one saying it had been “one of the most difficult decisions of our lives”. One member of the committee last week said they had faced intolerable pressure on the case.
Marcus Johnstone, a member of the development control committee, said the application had been of the biggest it had ever considered: “The decision to refuse this application has been reached by a vote of the committee, which is composed of elected councillors, and each member of the committee has ultimately cast their vote based on the evidence they have heard and whether they think the proposal is acceptable in planning terms, and to the people they represent.”
… Both frontrunners for the leaderships of the Labour party and the Lib Dems support a ban on the controversial technique for extracting shale gas, which involves pumping large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to fracture shale rock and release gas. Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Central Manchester, said she was pleased by the result and that “much more evidence [was] required on [fracking’s] impact”.
Management consultancy Poyry said the decision was a big surprise and “a serious setback for shale gas in the UK and many must be wondering if it can ever reach production phase.”
Prof Jim Watson, research Director at the UK Energy Research Centre, said: “Today’s decision illustrates yet again that shale gas is highly controversial, and that has implications for how quickly the shale gas can be developed. Whilst this shows that local decision making about our energy choices will continue to matter, this particular decision is likely to be challenged.” [If the companies appeal, they prove that they have no regard for the well being of communities they want to frac or the authority (Lancashire County C0uncil) that manages them]
Any appeal by Cuadrilla could land on the desk of Greg Clark, secretary of state for communities and local government, if he decides to “call in” the appeal. [Emphasis added]
Subject: Fwd: Legal precedent for PNR rejection set last year in Sussex
Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2015 16:39:08 +0100
As a follow up to my previous email about the legal opinion from Dr Ashley Bowes – countering that which LCC Councillors were given by their own Counsel – Please see below Professor David Smythe’s letter today to all Councillors, about the WSCC legal precedent for refusal.
From: Prof David Smythe
Date: 27 June 2015 at 15:04
Subject: Legal precedent for PNR rejection set last year in Sussex
To: Lancashire County Councillors
Cuadrilla Bowland Ltd: Planning application: LCC/2014/0096 (Preston New Road)
I am aware that you have an onerous task ahead on Monday in determining the PNR application, and that the possible legal consequences of your decision will weigh largely in your deliberations.
I should like to inform you about the refusal by West Sussex CC of a similar planning application last July. It sets a good legal precedent, demonstrating that you are free to make up your own minds on the evidence you have heard, and not to feel obliged to follow all the recommendations in your Officer Report. This is what the WSCC councillors did. On the determination day, in front of the public, they drew up an amendment to insert a new, fifth, clause as ground for refusal, this clause directly contradicting what their own officers had recommended. You can find more details on this case, and access the original documents if need be, in my blog.
The Sussex councillors suffered no adverse come-back from their decision. The applicant threatened to appeal, but later withdrew. So as long as your own decision is based on the rational evidence-based grounds, which are already in your possession you should have no fear of costs being incurred by a possible successful appeal.
I criticised your Officer Report in a short (two-page) document submitted to your officers last Sunday, but I am not sure whether it was distributed to yourselves. I am therefore taking the liberty of attaching it, in the hope that you might find time to read it over the weekend. In summary, your Officer Report is flawed and biased towards the applicant in two main ways: (1) denigration of expert witnesses, and (2) summaries and assessments written up in such a way that expert witness evidence has been sidelined and in effect ignored. If undue weight is given to this biased Officer Report it might well lead to Judicial Review.
[Texts from both attachments copied below]
Lastly, I attach a report from Professor Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Geology at Edinburgh University, which he submitted to LCC last Tuesday but which, again, may not have reached you. In short, he supports my own call for a moratorium until a great deal more of the science has been sorted out.
[Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, University of Glasgow]
Ventenac en Minervois, France
Inadequate and prejudicial Officer Report [Planning applications by Cuadrilla Bowland Limited to drill at Preston New Road no. LCC/2014/0096 and Roseacre Wood no. LCC/2014/0101] by Professor David Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, University of Glasgow, 21 June 2015
1. Marginalisation of expert witness evidence
The Officer Report, published by LCC on 15 June 2015, has deliberately sought to
downplay and marginalise the evidence of at least three expert witnesses, myself
included. At p. 532 I am described in the following terms:
“Comments that the geology of Lancashire is not suitable for fracking have been
provided by a professor who retired 18 years ago and is now living in France running
a B&B. Evidence in the US and UK is to the contrary. “
This outrageous comment, appearing in a section entitled Minimal environmental risks,
has no place in a report such as this. I am clearly identifiable. It is a calculated denigration
of an expert witness. I took early retirement from the Chair of Geophysics at the University
of Glasgow some 16 years ago, and spent around a decade from 2001 onwards
consulting for a variety of oil companies. Projects lasted from a few weeks to a couple of
years, involving studies of onshore and offshore India, Western Australia, offshore
Madagascar, southern England (both onshore and offshore), and the UK-Irish margin of
the NE Atlantic (during this period my wife, not I, ran a B&B for about three years).
I have requested information from LCC under FOI legislation to discover the origin of the
statement quoted above, as I have been unable to find it elsewhere in the published
The Officer Report similarly denigrates the professional expertise and integrity of two other
clearly identifiable expert witnesses, Mr Mike Hill and Dr Frank Rugman. At page 311 the
Report states, à propos of the Medact Report:
“The Medact report has not produced new epidemiological research but has reviewed
published literature and has requested short papers from relevant experts in particular
subject areas. It has also interviewed academics and experts. Unfortunately, one of
the contributors (contributing to three of the report’s six chapters – chapters 2, 4 and
5) has led a high profile campaign in the Fylde related to shale gas. Another
contributor to the report (chapter 3) has previously expressed firm views on shale gas
and has objected to this application. This has led to questions from some quarters
about the report’s objectivity. In light of these uncertainties it is not clear how much
weight the County Council should attach to the report.”
Firstly, why should an alleged “high profile campaign” by the first contributing expert
mentioned (Mr Hill) “unfortunately” reduce the weight given to his evidence? What is the
source of the “questions from some quarters”? Regarding the second expert, Dr Rugman,
why should his supposedly “firm views” nullify or reduce the value of his expert
I have requested information from LCC under FOI legislation to discover the origin of the
several statements quoted above. Even if they are contained in submissions by the
applicant or other individuals or organisations supporting the applications, they have no
place in an objective and balanced Officer Report.
2. Objections not considered concerning geology and hydrogeology
I have a further area of concern about the Officer Report. Since September 2014 I have
submitted four expert technical commentaries on the two applications by Cuadrilla
Bowland Limited, on behalf of local objector groups. My concerns relate to the risk of
groundwater and surface pollution resulting from the fracking process. I take issue
both with the applicant’s geological and hydrogeological case and with the assessments of
the same made by the Environment Agency (EA) and by DECC.
My documentation amounts to over 30,000 words (excluding some duplication of text), 12
unique diagrams, and about 35 separate scientific citations; in all taking up over 100
pages. In the Officer Report my concerns, analysis and conclusions have been reduced to
around half a dozen bullet points, and have not properly discussed with the detail that they
deserve and require. Such an attitude to expert testimony is inadequate.
The following is just one example of the inadequacy of the Officer Report. The relevant
summary and discussion of Preston New Road begins on page 199 (Appendix 8. Hydro
Geology [sic] and Ground Gas). The Assessment section on geology and hydrogeology
(pp. 207-208) merely repeats the EA’s conclusions, and it has been presented in a
misleading order, thereby seeking to imply that all the “concerns [that] have been raised”
and “representations received” have been adequately dealt with by the EA. In fact my
detailed criticisms of the EA and of DECC have not been answered by the government
agencies. The applicant has never deigned to respond to my concerns.
The Officer Report has not tried to arbitrate between, or decide on, the merits of the
technical arguments, and, indeed does not have the in-house technical ability to do so. In
its Conclusion (p. 210) it therefore has not considered my representations, other than
mentioning them in a few bullet points, and has reverted to assuming that the government
agencies (EA, DECC, and HSE) have done, or will do, a competent job.
The example above is just one of several such case histories, in which the Officer Report
has merely gone through the motions of summarising and assessing all the
technical evidence, but has in fact reached unjustifiable conclusions which are no more
than uncritical repetition of the views of agencies like the EA.
In conclusion, the Officer Report has signally failed to take into proper account my detailed
technical concerns on the geology and hydrogeology. If LCC did not have the means to
consider such representations thoroughly, a rational course of action would have been to
commission an independent assessment, which should then have been published and put
out for consultation. In the absence of such prudent action, the only recourse now
available is to refuse the applications.
The LCC Officer Report is inadequate in several important respects, and it contains clear
evidence of prejudice towards expert witnesses who have supplied evidence and
information in good faith. If either or both of the applications are successfully determined,
there may well be grounds for Judicial Review.
Cautionary comments on groundwater contamination relating to high
volume fracking, derived from recent published USA research by Professor Stuart Haszeldine OBE FRSE C.Geol 22 June 2015
LCC/2014/0096 (Preston New Road) LCC/2014/0101 (Roseacre Wood)
I am a Professor of Geology at the University of Edinburgh. I have over 35
years research experience and co-operation with industry research. This
experience includes oil and gas (hydrocarbon) exploration and extraction;
radioactive waste disposal; and deep geological storage of carbon dioxide. I
currently am engaged in several projects funded by research councils on
fracking in the UK, Europe, Canada and USA.
1) Pennsylvania (Bradford County)
1.1) The first suite of commentary relates to the important investigation by
Llewellyn et al, May 2015, published in one of the worlds top three
geoscience journals related to fracking.
Llewellyn, G.T., Dorman, F., Westland, J.L. Yoxtheimer, D., Grieve, P.
Sowers, T. Humston-Fulmer, E. and Brantley, S. 2015.Evaluating a
groundwater supply contamination incident attributed to Marcellus Shale gas
development. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. Early Edition,
The article describes and analyses reports by citizens of foam issuing from
their groundwater drinking water springs in Pennsylvania. These sites were
several kilometres distant from Fracking, which occurred in 2009. The State
regulator failed to detect any contamination by chemical analysis, so the
citizens resorted to hiring a consultant environmental science company to
make investigations. The case went to Court, and the citizens won,
convincingly. Lessons I draw from this include : i) clear evidence that Frack
fluids and gas can travel several kilometres along fractures which were
previously un-recognised; ii) the Regulator had insufficient analytical
equipment or skill to detect contamination; iii) there was inadequate
systematic or scientific investigation of the region before commercial Fracking
Do similar criticisms apply to the present-day propositions for commercial
drilling in Lancashire ? This area is geologically complex, with many steep
(near vertical) faults and fractures. This is like Pennsylvania, but even more
fractured. It remains very unclear if the evidence provided by the potential
developers is adequate, or unique, in its interpretation. The more survey
evidence that is acquired, the more complex the region is known to be.
In my opinion, this is a scientifically very rigorous case study.
But the result is disastrous for the homeowners who used to live near the
fracking sites. The article is written by the Consultants, and can be verified by
the notoriously rigorous peer-review process for this journal.
The geology is convincing – the natural joint pattern oriented NNW is maybe
open, or has been opened by the Frack. Pumping tests suggest that the
natural fractures are open to groundwater flow at depths shallower than 1km,
even with no Frack involved – which will have opened fractures deeper.
A thrust plane should intersect the boreholes at 300-600metres deep (if a 30-
50 thrust dip) – the authors make a similar interpretation. However that is
not well supported by the seismic evidence cited. So the most probable route
for fluid migration from Fracking, is via steep natural fractures, where fluid is
forced through upwards and laterally by Frack fluid pressures; and Frack
pressures can also overcome the natural vertical load of the rock, to force
open sub-horizontal (low dip) bedding planes which allow flow to pass.
There are at least three lines of geochemical fingerprinting which tie the
surface effects to Fracking.
1) The added surfactant 2-Butoxyethanol is not a natural chemical, and is a
well known component of Frack fluids. Its significant that this was below
detection limits for the “commercial analyses” by a Regulator – so Penn State
have acquired a more sensitive instrument to make the analyses. This is gas
chromatography combined with mass-spectrometry and is much more
2) The Cl:Br ratios (Fig 6) measured at surface are clearly not deep brines,
but could maybe be compatible with a mix of near surface water (used in the
Frack fluid ?) and the deep brine. A part (intermediate) mixing is measured in
the flow-back water. This is not 100% sure – and the authors suggest
contamination from a surface leak from a drilling fluid pit. But if that is the
cause, its not clear to me why all this discharges together with deep-derived
gases. So the surface leak is not a strong hypothesis, deep contamination is.
3) The isotopic signature of methane Fig S1 S2, has no deep methane in predrill
boreholes, but after Frack has methane from deep source very similar to
that measured from the deep boreholes
All this is in spite of a cement squeeze to seal boreholes 3, 4, 5 after very
high pressures were measured in the annulus. In Fig S5 its clear that the
casing should have isolated the well from the groundwater – but didn’t
On point (2) the authors suggest that gas pressures from the deep Frack
have moved up the bore, and laterally through fractures near-surface. Thus
the deep gas is sourced from one place, and they suggest no evidence of
deep fluid movement to the surface, but entraining of a spill into the shallow
groundwater, which all degasses at the surface forming springs. That is
possible – but needs better identification of the water to exclude deep water
components at the surface. Deep Frack fluids are more probable.
It is significant that the Frack company ultimately had to buy the
homeowners properties, and that was an out-of-court settlement, so the
evidence was assessed to be legally strong. It can be inferred that purchase
was much less cost than cleanup, which is likely to be impossible
There are three takeaways:
A) Deep gas can migrate up to hit the drinking water table
B) Pre-existing steep fractures can be gas and groundwater conduits to move
contamination vertically and laterally
C) The regulator didn’t have analytical equipment capable of detecting the
contamination. Thats why Leco (the equipment manufacturer) has donated
the analytical instrument ….. Everybody will now need to get one of these
newer and more sensitive instruments GC-GC-TOFMS.
In terms of geological structure, there are three more takeaways
D) The thrust plane is not proven to be relevant, even if it is present – the
seismic evidence is equivocal.
E) Bedding of sediment planes can feature as conduits at shallow depth. That
is where the net load [minimum stress] component is vertical and subhorizontal
beds can be pushed apart vertically by the pressurized fluids.
F) Fractures which pre-exist and are steeply dipping cannot be imaged on
seismic before drilling, but are the most likely conduits for movement of
2) Other regions of the USA
The investigation of groundwater contamination, and inadequate geological
understanding, is only just commencing. Because the USA has undertaken
large numbers of high volume hydraulic Fracking boreholes since 2002, it is
appropriate to look to the USA to learn what has worked well, what has
worked badly. The USA Environment Protection Agency has (June 2015
http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy) released draft analysis of groundwater and
fracking covering all the USA. This concludes that between 1% and 6% of
fracking boreholes fail to contain fluids and gases very soon after
construction. Contamination of groundwater has certainly occurred. This is
“minor” compared to the tens of thousands of boreholes drilled. There is also
clear evidence of localized public health impacts via groundwater and surface
water contamination. But no remedy is suggested to undertake prediction
and assessment to identify the faulty boreholes. How will the UK do better,
when there is minimal site specific information and measurement prefracking?
And when most of the site specific information remains confidential?
3) Barnett Shale, Texas
In the original shale rock drilled for Fracking, the Barnett Shale of Texas, a
groundwater study published in July (Hildenbrand et al 2015 Environmental
Science and Technology
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b01526), sampled 550 water
well groundwaters at shallow depths of 10-1,200 metres, from the Trinity and
Woodbine aquifers overlying above the Barnett Shale. Analyses used a suite
of standard laboratory instrumentation for chemical analysis. Contamination
from 19 different fracking chemicals or from volatile hydrocarbons released
from shales occurred in 381 separate samples, and 10 different contaminant
metals exceeded maximum environmental safety levels – including arsenic,
beryllium and molybdenum. The samples were collected from many different
boreholes across a region of 50 x 100 miles. This is a regional contamination
effect, not from one or two single boreholes. This shows that contamination
from deep fracking is very common, and has clearly reached the nearsurface,
and affects drinking water and agricultural water.
4) Commentary in relation to Lancashire.
It is clear that Fracking can impose large stress and fluid pressure onto
natural underground systems, far in excess of the present natural conditions.
Understanding of natural equilibrium hydrogeology at the present day is
essential, but insufficient. Prediction of fluid movement during and after
Fracking is of minimal use unless those extreme imposed conditions are
simulated. To my knowledge there is only one, preliminary, publication on the
deep hydrogeology of this region (Cai & Ofterdinger 2014 Water Resources
Research DOI: 10.1002/2013WR01494). This shows that a general upward
water flow could exist, leading to the potential contamination of the overlying
Sherwood Sandstone aquifer. Other interpretations are likely with narrower
fractures. But that inadequacy is no basis for confidence in understanding
how and where fracking could adversely affect deep and shallow
groundwater. How will any contamination by Frack fluids be monitored along
the relevant faults and fractures? More investigation is needed to understand
the natural system, before any commercial exploitation can be agreed.
Lessons emerging from studies of recent fracking practice in some states of
the USA, show that is has been difficult to predict the effects of fracking on
fluid flow in some cases. It is of course clear that most fracked boreholes do
not show evidence of adverse consequences. But those that do have not been
cleaned-up and remain contaminated, permanently in human timescales.
It is possible to ask if more extensive geological surveying and measurement
should be undertaken, to provide much better and relevant sub-surface
information before commercial fracking is re-started. Examples of this would
• Accurate measurement of the natural stress in the rock from surface
through the depth range to be commercially drilled. This would include both
the magnitude and the 3-D direction of stress.
• Surveying and mapping in 3-D of pre-existing faults and fractures in the
rock to be commercially drilled has used pre-existing legacy seismic and
boreholes in the UK. This has proven inadequate for such purposes (as shown
by the Preesal-1 Frack borehole). Using specially acquired seismic and other
remotely sensed geophysical techniques has not produced detailed fracture
maps (if they exist) which have been made publicly available. It seems
probable that three versions of geological interpretation exist for this part of
Lancashire: i) An interpretation by the Applicant (where full evidence is not
made public); ii) An interpretation made by the British Geological Survey
(conclusions published); iii) An internal interpretation made by the
Environment Agency (also not fully public). Which is correct?
• Subsurface tests of the ability of naturally fractured rock to permit flow of
gases or aqueous brines, for example by test extraction or injection of brine
and of gas from a borehole into the surrounding rock formation.
• Sampling before Fracking of uncontaminated deep groundwater, at all
appropriate subsurface levels. These can be chemically and isotopically
analysed to provide “baseline” indicators of water “fingerprints”. Archive
samples should be kept, and must be sterile and gas-tight, in case of future
disputes, or the emergence of new analytical techniques.
These types of tests would produce information, which can be combined
together to produce an understanding, specific to the sites being investigated
of i) where the faults and fractures occur (so these can be avoided by drilling
and fracking); ii) which faults and fractures have particularly adverse
positions (especially orientations) which will be the first to become conduits
for frack fluids; iii) the pathways of movement for highly pressurized Frack
fluids, and their chemical discrimination from natural waters.
None of these types of test were undertaken in the Pennsylvania example. All
of these types of test are technically possible in the UK. But this would mean
deferring commercial drilling, to gain better quality scientific information.
Clearly commercial pressures will claim a high probability of “success” by
pressing ahead and learning on the job. The examples of Pennsylvania show
that this can be a disastrously false economy, and that a “Precautionary
Principle” is wise to invoke, to provide the very best chances of avoiding
unintentional damage to subsurface and near surface water supplies and
In concluding this note, I recommend a moratorium, so that truly scientific
investigations can be undertaken. UK Government has allocated £31 Million
for such purposes
( ESIOS http://www.bgs.ac.uk/research/energy/shaleGas/esios.html ).
It has to be wondered why the science will not predate the commercial
drilling, to inform the most secure and best result, but instead the science will
follow after the commercial drilling. Fundamental uncertainties on faults,
fractures, stress, movement of frack fluids, movement of frack gases and
hydrocarbons, and basic understanding of deep hydrogeology remain
unresolved in the sub-surface planning evidence submitted for fracking at
Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.
This is key to what happens at Lancashire County Council on Monday – and therefore the critical fracking precedent it represents for the whole country.
The Preston New Road Residents Action Group has sought independent legal advice – which cannot be presented in the Chamber on Monday, but has now been sent to all Councillors individually.
It confirms that it is entirely reasonable for the committee to decide to refuse the PNR application, as it is contrary to policy by reason of noise and landscape intrusion and that – provided the reasons for refusal are supported by evidence at appeal – there should be no serious risks of costs being awarded against the council even if an appeal were allowed.
Vanessa Vine, of BIFF! Britain & Ireland Frack Free (resident 4 miles from Cuadrilla’s Balcombe site) said:
“There can be no question that being told verbally by Counsel, in secret session, that they would be breaking the law if they refused Cuadrilla’s application to frack Preston New Road, will have influenced some Councillors’ critical votes on Tuesday .. and that had they not been thus bullied – word used advisedly – the result, having come down to the Chair’s casting vote, would have gone the other way.”
Preston New Road Action Group sought legal opinion in relation to advice that Lancashire County Council received from David Manley QC dated 24th June 2015 and made available in written, but different form, to the public on the 25th June.
This concerns the application by Cuadrilla for exploratory drilling, fracking and flow testing covering a period of six years.
Ashley Bowes, of Guildford Chambers presented his advice to PNR on 26th June. This is summarised as follows.
Whilst Dr Bowes agreed with the LCC’s advice as far as it went, it did not reflect the full picture of the evidence before the Committee, or the extent of the members’ duties and powers.
The legal duty on members is to determine the application in accordance with the policies of the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Applications which do not comply should be refused unless other planning considerations of sufficient weight outweigh that presumption.
The Environmental Statement provided by the applicant and the officer’s report both identify demonstrable harm that will arise from the scheme. The officers accepts this could be seen as contrary to policy EP11 of the Fylde Local Plan. It is open to the Committee to conclude that landscape harm also agreed by the officers is a breach of EP11 and also policy DM2 of the Lancashire Waste and Minerals Plan. It is open to the Committee to decide that this harm is not outweighed by the temporary nature of the scheme.
The Committee has before it a noise expert consultant report giving advice that concludes there will be an unacceptable noise impact, and that proposed mitigation conditions are not appropriate to mitigate the harm, which is in breach of policy DM2. It is again for the Committee to take this evidence and their officer advice to come to a view.
Should permission be refused a refusal on both landscape and noise grounds would be wholly defensible on appeal. PNR (Preston New Road) would seek Rule 6 status to support the Council in such an appeal together with their own planning and noise consultants.
Elected members are entitled to come to a different view from their officers, provided there is a rational and discernable basis for doing so. A refusal based on landscape and noise impact would be rational and supported by evidence before the Committee.
Provided any eventual reasons for refusal are supported by evidence at appeal, there is no serious risk of costs even if the appeal is allowed.
This summary is not intended to be a full accurate representation of the barrister’s paper, which should be read in full.
[Refer also to:
2015 06 25: Lancashire County Councillors turn down Cuadrilla’s fracing “because of the impact of traffic on rural roads, which would endanger lives.” In Alberta, frac endangerment of families continues, without oversight or law enforcement
2013 12 20: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Says It’s Unconstitutional For Gas Companies To Frack Wherever They Want; Gas Industry Takeover Law thrown out
“By any responsible account,” Chief Justice Castille wrote, “the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and the future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.”