Daily headlines

Fracking timeline – October 2013

Any decision about fracking in Northern Ireland should be a matter for the Executive as a whole, says the Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster.  Her comments follows a debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly where the Minister of the Environment assured assembly members that in the absence of evidence that fracking was safe he would not allow it to take place anywhere in Northern Ireland.

 The FT reports a British shale gas industry will create far fewer jobs than the 74,000 cited by David Cameron this summer. The engineering consultancy, AMEC,   which is advising the Department for Energy and Climate Change, predicted at a private meeting between 15,900 and 24,300 full-time equivalent direct and indirect jobs would be created at a peak phase for the industry and most would not be local.

launches a legal challenge to fracking in England. The organisation says it is illegal for fracking companies to drill horizontally under people’s homes without permission. Campaigner Anna Jones says “This case is about people explicitly declaring they do not give that permission. This will make it extremely difficult for companies to move ahead with any horizontal drilling plans.” Greenpeace aims to create a patchwork of “no-go” areas for the fracking industry.

The UK Onshore Operators Group says the move could slow progress on fracking but the organisation, quoted in the FT says: “If these landowners said, ‘No, you can’t go a mile under our land’, all we need to do is go to court and say, ‘Can I have a compulsory purchase order please?’ and we would get that. That’s an inconvenience but it’s not a prohibition.”

Balcombe Parish Council announces a new ballot on oil and gas exploration near the village. It will ask questions on Cuadrilla’s latest planning application and any future applications to explore for oil and gas whether or not they involve fracking.

More anti-fracking campaigners appear in Crawley Magistrates Court charged following protests outside the Cuadrilla exploration site at Balcombe. The case against one campaigner is withdrawn by the Crown Prosecution Service. The cases against 11 others are adjourned until October 16th 2013, when they will be reviewed by a district judge. More details

Mandatory environmental tests for fracking The European Parliament votes to make environmental impact assessments compulsory before hydraulic fracturing can go ahead. The measure would apply to any exploration and extraction for oil and gas that uses fracking, whatever the volume. MEPs also propose measures to ensure the public are consulted and that conflicts of interest are avoided between developers and people carrying out environmental studies. More details

Water companies cut costs for frackers Bloomberg reports that Britain’s water companies plan to discount the cost of water to companies that use hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas. It takes on average 5 million gallons to frack a well. In America, between 15% and 80% of this is recovered for treatment. More details

Council pursues case against Balcombe protestors West Sussex County Council confirms it is pursuing its legal action to take possession of roadside verges next to Cuadrilla’s exploration site at Balcombe,  Anti-fracking campaigners have been camping along the verges since July. Last month, the council applied to the High Court  for a possession order but the judge dismissed the case, describing it as flawed. The council  says it is now seeking a full hearing.

Rapid shale gas exploration needed The government is  urged to speed up exploratory drilling of shale gas in the UK . Professor Alan Riley, of City Law School, tells the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee no one is certain how much shale gas is technically and commercially recoverable in Britain, or what its quality will be. He urges the government to encourage the rapid exploration of Bowland shale in Lancashire.

Energy minister meets Cuadrilla The Guardian Diary reports today it has confirmed, through a Freedom of Information request, that Energy Minister Michael Fallon met Cuadrilla on 24 June 2013, a month before the company got the go-ahead to drill at Balcombe. The Department for Energy and Climate Change could not confirm what was said because there was “no record of the meeting”.

Research from the US calls for a halt to fracking. A report from Environment America says fracking produces enormous volumes of toxic waste water that once brought to the surface poses hazards for drinking water, air quality and public safety. The report also says fracking requires huge volumes of water for each well, releases thousands of tons of health-threatening air pollution and significant volumes of global warming pollution.

The Conservatives are considering using tax receipts from fracking to reduce energy bills, according to today’s Daily Telegraph. The paper says the idea is being considered for inclusion in the party’s manifesto for the 2015 general election.

A majority of people attending a public debate on fracking in Lewes, say they oppose the technique for extracting gas or oil. A show of hands at the beginning and end of the event suggest a small number of people are undecided about fracking, slightly more are in favour and a large majority are against. Lewes is about 15 miles from Cuadrilla’s exploration site in Balcombe and several Lewes campaigners are due to stand trial following the protests there this summer. Exploration licences for areas around Lewes are expected to be sold by the government next year (2014). More details of Lewes debate


Council tells Balcombe protestors to go home West Sussex County Council confirms it is asking the remaining anti-fracking campaigners outside Cuadrila’s Balcombe site to go home. The designated protest area established outside the site last month has been removed. The council says it wants to reinstate the protest area because it is concerned about the safety of the campaigners and road users. It is handing out letters asking the people still camped on the verges to leave. In a statement, the council says: “Cuadrilla completed its operations at the site at the end of last week, but people are still camped on the verges and a hut has also been erected.” The council failed in the High Court last month to secure a possession order for the roadside verges. It has until Tuesday October 8th to apply to the court to reactive the order.

Cuadrilla quits Lancashire frack site “because of birds” The Blackpool Gazette  reports Cuadrilla has pulled out of one of its potential fracking sites on the Lancashire coast. The company says it will not seek consent to frack for gas at Anna’s Road in Westby because of “technical constraints related to wintering birds”. Drilling was restricted to a six-month period because of the environmental impact of birds on nearby land. Cuadrilla is now looking at other sites and says it will begin work before the end of the year to return the site to its previous condition.

The Environment Agency reports the green colour of a stream near Cuadrilla’s Balcombe drilling site is still unconfirmed but probably a green dye.

Dates are set for the first trials of anti-fracking campaigners, arrested following protests outside Cuadrilla’s exploration site at Balcombe. A review of the cases set 12 separate court dates for nearly 30 campaigners. A further 32 people have their cases adjourned for legal review on October 16th.  Full details.

The former chair of Lewes District Council and model, Marina Baker, is not to face charges following the protest at Cuadrilla’s site  at Balcombe. A district judge, sitting at Crawley Magistrates Court, reviews about 60 cases arising from the anti-fracking campaign during the summer in Balcombe. The court hears that a charge against Mrs Baker had seen dropped, as has the case against Ben Lucas. Full details.

Environment Agency investigates possible pollution of a stream near Cuadrilla’s exploration site at Balcombe. Villagers report a section of the stream has turned bright green. The Agency says an initial visit found no evidence of “significant environmental harm” or threat to local water supply. Field measures show there is no ammonia present and that dissolved oxygen levels are normal. This appears to rule out sewage or agricultural pollution. Picture

Fracking shale gas won’t cut bills – Bloomburg Evidence submitted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee suggests exploitation of shale in the UK could provide a new source of natural gas but it will not be “a panacea for bringing down gas and electricity bills.” Research by the company suggests exploitation costs in the UK will be 50% to 100% higher than in the USA. It concludes that even under the most favourable circumstances, exploitation of shale won’t make the make the UK self-sufficient in gas and its direct impact on the cost of electricity will be limited.

Reverse in support for shale gas since Balcombe protests Research by the University of Nottingham into public reaction to shale gas suggests the protests at Balcombe may have influenced public perceptions of fracking nationally. This is the seventh test of public opinion by the university. Researchers interviewed 3,688 people from 20-24th September 2013. Surveys up to September suggested an increasing acceptance of shale gas as a safe, cheap clean energy source. Since the Balcombe protests that trend in favour of shale gas has,largely, reversed.

  • Rise in proportion of people who think fracking could lead to water contamination
  • Rise in proportion of people who think shale gas will lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions
  • Fall in proportion of people who associate shale gas with cheap energy
  • Fall in proportion of people who think fracking should be allowed in the UK
  • Fall in number of people associate fracking with earthquakes

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