Daily headlines

Fracking timeline – September 2013

Planning permission expires 
Cuadrilla’s planning permission from West Sussex County Council to explore for hydrocarbons at Lower Stumble Farm, Balcombe, expires.

Cuadrilla leaves Balcombe
 Cuadrilla’s exploratory drilling site at Balcombe is cleared and Sussex Police scales down its operation. Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs says a few officers will remain in the area, mostly to ensure road safety. He acknowledges the policing operation will affect the local community for a long time. Cuadrilla’s planning permission expires on Saturday September 28th.  The company is submitting a revised application so that it can test flow rates at the site. @Louise Delpy on Twitter reports the new application is now at West Sussex County Council and, if valid,  will be online next week.

Protest numbers Sussex Police confirm 125 people have been arrested since the protest outside the site began 65 days ago on July 25th. The cost of policing up to Thursday September 26th is £3.337m and is expected to reach around £4m. Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, is applying to the Home Office for financial support to meet the additional cost of policing.

Farewell to Cuadrilla Friends of the Earth Brighton announces a farewell gathering outside the Cuadrilla site at Balcombe at 11am on Saturday 28th September. The company has until Saturday, under the terms of its planning permission, to leave the site.

Rig leaves Balcombe Vanessa Vine, founder of Frack Free Sussex, reports Cuadrilla’s rig left Balcombe today.

MP’s deep concern about fracking Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, confirms she is being charged with two offences following her arrest at Balcombe on August 19th. In a statement, she says: “I firmly believe in the right to peaceful protest and remain deeply concerned about the impact of fracking on climate change and the wider environment.”  A statement from the Crown Prosecution Service says Dr Lucas will face one charge under the Public Order Act 1986 and one charge of obstructing the highway. She is due to appear before Crawley Magistrates Court on October 9th.

Police help Cuadrilla breach planning permission Sussex Police tells West Sussex County Council that lorries entering and leaving the Cuadrilla site at Balcombe this week will use different routes. This would be a breach of the company’s planning permission. In a statement to the council, posted online by Balcombe Parish Council, Sussex Police says the decision has been made for public safety reasons and to prevent crime and disorder. Under the terms of the planning permission, Cuadrilla has until September 28 to clear the site. Sussex Police also says it will not compromise safety by sticking rigidly to time constraints set out in the conditions of the company’s planning permission. A police statement says: “We would take responsibility … and we have informed Cuadrilla of our position on this”.

Balcombe find Cuadrilla announces it has found the presence of hydrocarbons at Balcombe. The company says the exploration well has now been closed while an application for planning permission  is made to test flow rates.

Road block Sussex police and No Dash for Gas report campaigners parked a van across the road outside the Cuadrilla exploration site at Balcombe. A woman locked herself to the top of the van. 

Disruption warning Sussex police warns of disruption this week in Balcombe, with up to 20 vehicle movements a day as Cuadrilla clears its exploration site.

Dutch delay for Cuadrilla UPI.com reports the Dutch government has delayed for about 18 months a decision on whether to allow drilling for shale gas. The government wants more time to study the environmental impact before approving drilling licences. The delay will affect Brabant Resources BV, a Dutch subsidiary of Cuadrilla Resources, which seeks to drill in two areas of the Netherlands.

3rd Belt it out Balcombe

The UK Independence Party wants profits from shale gas gas extraction to be put in a state investment fund to ensure they are not squandered. Speaking at the party’s annual conference, the energy spokesman , Roger Helmer, says the UK should focus on what he called “grown up sources of energy, such as gas, coal and nuclear”, rather than renewables. He accused anti-fracking campaigners of being “eco freaks” and trying to “kill off the greatest new economic opportunity for our country in our lifetimes”

Anglers come out against fracking. The Angling Trust, which represents game, coarse and sea anglers in England says current environmental regulations aren’t good enough to deal with fracking. It urges the government not allow fracking unless sustainable supplies of water are developed, such as new reservoirs, to avoid taking water from already–depleted rivers. The Trust’s national campaigns coordinator, Martin Salter, says: “We are particularly concerned that the control and monitoring of this new industry will ‘slip through the gaps’ between regulators due to it not being adequately aligned to present environmental protection legislation.” The organisation wants companies licensed to carry out fracking operations to guarantee their ability to finance remediation for any contamination of ground water.

First European Shale Gas and Oil Summit held in London. See our reports from the conference.

West Sussex County Council fails 
in its attempt in the High Court to get an order to evict campaigners from the roadside at Cuadrilla’s exploration site at Balcombe. The court adjourned the case, ruling that there was a need to balance obtaining possession of the highway with the right to peaceful assembly and to demonstrate. West Sussex County Council has until October 8 2013 to reapply to the court in a new form. Cuadrilla’s planning permission to explore for oil at Balcombe expires on September 28th 2013.

A statement from the No Fracking in Balcombe Society welcomed the court decision. No FiBS member, Douglas Wragg, said “This is very good news. This should send a message to the County about the sloppy way they’ve behaved throughout – over permissions and regulations, as well as over this eviction attempt.” A spokesperson for the camp outside the Cuadrilla site said: “We are so happy that we can now stay to finish our protest, and then leave in a peaceful way once Cuadrilla have left. This will give us time to clear and clean up. And to rethink and regroup, for future action against oil and gas drilling – in Balcombe and elsewhere in the country where new drilling sites are in the offing.” Counsel for the Balcombe Community Protection Camp worked pro bono. The judge reserved a ruling on costs but No FIBS are asking the council to pay a donation to a pro bono charity fund.

“Enormous environmental consequences” The government’s former chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, tells the Guardian trying to meet the UK’s gas needs from fracking wold have “enormous environmental consequences”. Sir David, soon to be the Foreign Secretary’s special representative on climate change, says “It [fracking] will not be a game-changer here as it has been in the US.” He also says gas will have a much reduced role in future, as a back-up service in power generation, behind renewables and nuclear power.

Liberal Democrats vote to limit but not prohibit shale gas exploration. A motion to the party conference calls for strict enforcement of pollution regulations and the monitoring of methane emissions. The motion also recommends full consultation of local communities and compensation for damage to local landscapes. 

Costs rise Sussex Police say the cost of policing the Balcombe protest has now reached £2.449m, up to yesterday (Thursday September 12 2013).

Further charges Sussex police give details of charges made against people arrested on Tuesday (10 September 2013) outside the Cuadrilla site at Balcombe. The group include Simon Welsh, the first Balcombe resident to be arrested. Mr Welsh, a writer, and Daniel Ashman, a welfare worker from Wigston, Leicestershire, were each charged with an offence under the Public Order Act. They will appear at Crawley Magistrates Court on September 25. Kenneth Lloyd, from Portslade, was charged with assaulting a constable. Aaron Bell was charged with wilfully obstructing the highway after he had allegedly D-locked himself to a caravan that had been dragged across the road outside the site. A 24-year-old man from Southampton, arrested under the Public Order Act , was cautioned. A 45-year-old man from Brighton, arrested on suspicion of an offence under trades union legislation and obstructing police, was released with no further action.

Three men arrested on Thursday (12 September 2013) will also appear before Crawley magistrates on September 25. They are Mark Dent, 45, of Bristol, Tony Jones, 24, of London and 25-year-old James Wernham, 25 (no address given) are all charged with obstructing a constable. A 45-year-old woman arrested on suspicion of obstructing police and the highway, has been bailed until October 3 2013.

Court date West Sussex County Council confirms the High Court will hear its application for a possession order for the B2036 London Road, Balcombe, on Monday 16th September.

Politicians are criticised for supporting fracking, following the publication of a report on political leadership on the environment. The report by seven environmental charities, including WWF, RSPB, Greenpeace, Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth, says the Conservatives have raised unrealistic expectations that fracking will bring UK energy prices down. John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, criticised the Liberal Democrats for supporting fracking and their “failure to stop the chancellor from undermining efforts to cut carbon pollution”. Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, says there is a “deeply troubling trend among our political elite to disregard [British public] views and favour vested interests. Nothing exposes this more clearly than the appetite of our politicians to start fracking.”

Poor fracking regulation
Balcombe residents write to the Guardian about their experience of regulation of fracking. 12 villagers say planning permission for exploratory drilling at Balcombe allowed for 60 passages per week of drilling trucks. “When Cuadrilla pleaded that they had meant 120 (in and out), the regulators just rolled over.” The letter says only pressure from the community led to the public release of noise monitoring figures. It was Friends of the Earth who forced the Environment Agency to consider the need for mining and radioactive waste licences and pointed out the ambiguous legal position of the horizontal well, which has led Cuadrilla to reapply for full planning permission to test the well.

Fracking vote postponed The European Parliament postpones until October a vote on whether to include shale gas fracking in an update of the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. MEPs are considering changing existing legislation to require environmental impact studies for non-conventional hydrocarbon exploration and extraction projects, as well as measures to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure that the public is informed and consulted.

100 arrests Sussex Police say 100 people have now been arrested in protests outside the Cuadrilla drilling site. Five people are arrested today for alleged trades union and public order offences, for allegedly obstructing the police and on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.

Eviction notice West Sussex County Council confirms it is going to court to get an order to evict people camping on the B2036 London Road at the Cuadrilla site in Balcombe .

Serving notice West Sussex County Council serves notice on campaigners camped along the B2036 to leave the land by 9am. The council says it is taking the action because of increased concerns for the safety of road users. The council sends a letter to Balcombe residents informing them of its action.

Meeting invitation The Environment Agency invites Balcombe residents to a meeting on 9th October to learn about its role in safeguarding people and the environment from the various risks associated with the exploration for and extraction of oil and/or gas. The meeting will be chaired by Geoffrey Lean, of the Daily Telegraph.

Fracking won’t cut gas prices Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, contradicts David Cameron on the impact of fracking on energy prices. Last month, Mr Cameron told  The Daily Telegraph (11/8/13):  “It’s simple – gas and electric bills can go down when our home-grown energy supply goes up”. But Mr Davey says, in a speech to the Royal Society, “North Sea Gas didn’t significantly move UK prices – so we can’t expect UK shale production alone to have any effect.”  Mr Davey says shale gas production will increase energy security by displacing a proportion of gas imports, bring benefits of jobs, tax revenues and growth (mitigating some of the falling revenues from the North Sea) and allow the UK to control the carbon emissions created by production. He quotes a report by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering that said, if properly regulated, fracking would not contaminate water supplies or cause earthquakes. But Mr Davey says the same scientific rigour, methodical engineering and stringent safeguards applied elsewhere must be applied to shale exploitation.

Low CO2 emissions from shale gas extraction A study for the Department of Energy and Climate Change reports that if properly regulated local greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas operations should represent only a small proportion of the total carbon footprint of shale gas. The report, by Professor David MacKay and Dr Timothy Stone, predicts the carbon footprint of shale gas extraction and use is likely to be 200-253 g CO2e per kWh of chemical energy, which is comparable to that for gas from conventional sources. When used for electricity generation, the report says the carbon footprint for shale gas is significantly lower than that for coal (423-535 g CO2e/kWh(e) compared with 837-1130 g Co2e/kWh(e)). The figures are based on the assumption that 90% of methane released would be captured and flared. The report calls for measures to reduce emissions associated with all aspects of shale gas exploration and exploitation and for research into minimising water demand and vehicle movements.

 Fracking companies “responsible for fears” Professor Mike Stephenson, of the British Geological Survey, tells the Daily Telegraph shale gas companies are to blame for failing to prepare the public. He says the companies have to spend money, talk to people and be very transparent, otherwise they will have people lying down in front of trucks.

Police protest control Sussex Police issues a Section 14 notice under the Public order Act 1986 restricting protest outside the Cuadrilla site at Balcombe to a specified assembly area  from September 10-27. Chief Superintendent Paul Morrison said: “This will allow a significant number of people to assemble in close proximity to the site to carry out their protest, but without causing obstruction to the road.”

Footpath closure extended West Sussex County Council extends the closure of a footpath alongside the Cuadrilla drilling site at Balcombe for another 21 days


Statement on drilling noiseWest Sussex County Council tells Balcombe Parish Council it has received complaints about noise from the Cuadrilla drilling rig at Balcombe, despite changes made by the company to reduce the impact of its work and comply with its planning permission. The County Council says Mid Sussex District Council’s Environmental Health Officer has raised concerns about noise data collected in a survey for the company. The survey results are released to Balcombe Parish Council.

Policing costs top £2m Sussex Police say the cost of policing the protests outside the Cuadrilla site at Balcombe reached an estimated £2.381m up to Thursday 5 September.

More arrests Sussex Police say two men were arrested on Thursday 5 September. One was charged with an offence under trades union legislation, as well as obstructing the highway, causing danger to road users and using threatening words or behaviour. The other was charged under the Public Order Act. Both will appear before Crawley Magistrates on September 18. The police say a man was arrested on Friday 6 September on suspicion of obstructing a highway and possession of drugs.

New planning applicationCuadrilla announces it is submitting a new planning application to cover the testing of a horizontal exploration well at Balcombe. The company says the new application shows the extent of the well being tested. The existing application, approved in 2010, showed only the boundary of surface drilling site area. The company says the new application will “resolve any legal ambiguity around how the planning boundary should be drawn for a subsurface horizontal well”.

Cuadrilla withdraws bid for drilling extensionWest Sussex County Council confirms Cuadrilla has withdrawn its applications for a six-month extension to its planning permission for exploratory drilling at Balcombe and to increase the height of a flare at the site. The council says the company will lodge a new application soon but this will not go before the planning committee until a date in 2014.

Letter to residents Cuadrilla writes to Balcombe residents about its plans to submit a new planning application to cover testing a horizontal oil exploration well. The company says: “The drilling rig and associated equipment will be removed from site in September and testing equipment will not be mobilised to site until planning consent has been granted.”

Protestor says ‘No-one is listening’ Nicky Sanger, who handcuffed herself to the gate at Balcombe at 5.30am today, tells You and I Films: “I study environmental science, I know this is wrong, I know this is mad and it’s just about money. I’ve chosen this action because nobody is listening. I’ve signed petitions, I’ve written to the EA. I’ve been here peacefully protesting for the last 6 weeks or longer. The government’s just not listening to its people. Once they start putting those chemicals down into the water table they cannot get them out. I don’t want to leave this mess for the next generation and I certainly don’t want to say I didn’t do anything to stop it.”

Drilling plans condemnedFriends of the Earth condemns government plans to end people’s right to be notified about plans to drill for gas and oil beneath their homes and on their land. The Department for Communities and Local Government launched a consultation yesterday (September 2 2013) to change the law for onshore oil and gas planning applications. Andrew Pendleton, head of campaigns for Friends of the Earth, says: “It’s little wonder communities don’t trust the Government over fracking when their rights are so clearly being bulldozed aside to smooth the path for the big fracking firms.”

Oil company applies for 2nd Sussex drill siteCeltique Energie submits a planning application to West Sussex County Council for a second well site and says it may want to use fracking in future. The company wants to test for oil or gas near the villages of Kirdford and Wisborough Green. Celtique Energy already has permission to drill in Broadford Bridge near Billingshurst.

8 replies »

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s