2014 month-by-month review

January 2014

The first group of people to be arrested at the Balcombe anti-fracking protests are found not guilty at a trial in Brighton. Our FOI request reveals that nearly half the legal cases arising from the protests were dropped by police or prosecutors before reaching court. Sussex Police says the protests cost £3.985 million.

Cuadrilla tells Balcombe residents it has no plans ever to frack in the village. No Fracking in Balcombe Society says it doesn’t believe the company. Balcombe hosts a nationwide anti-fracking meeting, including a short occupation of the drill site. West Sussex County Council says an Environmental Impact Assessment is not needed for Cuadrilla’s new planning application to test its well in the village.

The Environment Secretary, Owen Patterson, calls for fracking wells across the British countryside and Energy Minister, Michael Fallon, says he’ll do anything to remove barriers to shale gas exploration. Lord Deben (the former John Gummer), describes opposition to fracking as “nonsensical” but Chris Huhne says fracking won’t save the British economy.

The Government considers changing the trespass laws to make shale gas exploration easier and announces that councils will keep 100% of business rates from shale gas sites. The UK Onshore Oil and Gas group announces a pilot community benefit scheme.

Research by Nottingham University suggests support for fracking is continuing to fall and opposition growing since the Balcombe protests. A Cambridge University study says shale drilling companies should be paying £6bn a year in taxes by the mid 2020s as compensation for environmental damage.

February 2014

A majority of Balcombe residents who took part in a poll by the Parish Council oppose Cuadrilla’s current planning application. A nationwide poll by DECC finds 27% support for extracting shale, 21% against and 48% undecided.

Natalie Hynde is found guilty of besetting Cuadrilla’s Balcombe site under Section 241 of the Trades Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. Our FOI request confirms that seven arrests at the Balcombe protests for causing harassment, alarm or distress at the Balcombe anti-fracking protests resulted in no convictions

The Ecologist reports that West Sussex County Council pension fund has investments in Celtique Energie, Cuadrilla and IGas, all of which have local drilling interests. The council denies a conflict of interest.

The South Downs National Park Authority puts on hold a planning application from Celtique Energie to drill at Fernhurst because the company has left out “significant details” from its environmental statement. Celtique’s CEO, Geoff Davies, describes opponents of fracking as “selfish and unpatriotic”. Mr Davies is reported admitting to a public meeting in Sussex that Celtique has no experience of fracking onshore. A group of Fernhurst residents form the first legal block to stop a drilling site.

Business Secretary, Vince Cable, tells The Guardian “shale gas won’t be a reality for at least a decade”. The Chancellor, George Osborne, says “I am a huge supporter of shale gas and I think it has the potential to transform the energy debate in the western world.”

Poyry says uncertainty about regulation of fracking could prevent investment in the UK shale gas industry. Cuadrilla announces two new fracking sites near Blackpool.

March 2014

West Sussex County Council’s website has 925 objections and 13 comments in support of Cuadrilla’s planning application to test and flare at its well in Balcombe. The main concerns are air and water pollution, noise, traffic and threat to wildlife. The pro-fracking Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie objects to Celtique Energie’s planning application to drill at Fernhurst in his constituency.

The Home Office agrees to contribute £905,00to the costs of policing last summer’s Balcombe protests. Brighton MP Caroline Lucas and four others go on trial for obstruction and public order offences but the case runs out of time and is adjourned until April.

Cuadrilla Resources announces there could be 330 trillion cubic feet in its licence area around Blackpool – 50% more than originally thought. Work begins on a drilling site at Horse Hill, near Gatwick. Backers suggest the area contains 87m barrels of oil and 165b cu ft of gas.

Opponents of Dart Energy’s drilling plans in Cheshire gather outside the gas exploration site at Farndon. Wrexham Borough Council rejects plans by GP Energy Ltd to test drill for coal bed methane on land near Boras. Rathlin Energy seeks permits for tests at Crawberry Hill and West Newton near Hull.

The Court of Appeal stops the eviction of the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp in Salford after the commercial landowner, Peel, is granted a possession order for land alongside the IGas drilling site. Up to 1,500 people attend an anti-fracking rally in Manchester.

Research on well failure by the ReFine consortium of academics reveals a lack of publicly available data in the UK. The 2014 Public Attitudes to Science Survey finds 51% support fracking, 31% neither support or oppose, and 8% oppose and 10% don’t know.

David Cameron says fracking will be “good for our country” and blames opposition on “lack of understanding”. Cuadrilla’s CEO, Francis Egan, says shale gas could bring tens of thousands of jobs to Lancashire. The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, is revealed to have organised a teleconference with Cuadrilla’s Lord Browne to discuss shale gas regulation. As a result, the Environment Agency offers to halve the consultation time for a waste permit.

Environmental and countryside groups call for a ban on-fracking in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns in its latest report that health, homes, food and safety are likely to be threatened by rising temperatures.

April 2014

Cuadrilla is granted planning permission to flow test and flare its oil exploration well in Balcombe. Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association considers a judicial review.

The MP Caroline Lucas and four others are acquitted of obstructing the highway and a public order offence arising from the Balcombe anti-fracking protests. The judge criticises police tactics. In a separate trial, another eight Balcombe anti-fracking campaigners are acquitted on public order charges. Our research shows that 126 people were arrested at Balcombe, resulting in 114 charges but only 27 convictions.

Dart Energy starts drilling for coal bed methane at the site of a former explosives factory near Daneshill Lakes in Nottinghamshire. Five Quarter plans to extract coal seam gas off the coast of north east England. The Community Protection Camp outside the Barton Moss drilling site closes.

The former energy minister, Charles Hendry, is employed as a consultant for the energy trading company Vitol on £60,000-a-year for the equivalent of one-and-a-half days a month. IGas CEO, Andrew Austin, predicts 10% of UK gas supply in the next 10 years could come from shale deposits in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. EY estimates 4,000 onshore shale gas wells could create 64,500 jobs by 2035.

A poll for DECC finds 29% of people support shale gas extraction, compared with 27% in December last year. Opposition to shale gas extraction stands at 21%, unchanged since December. Research by YouGov for Ecotricity finds 62% would prefer a wind farm in their council area, compared with 19% who would prefer a fracking site.

Local councils that will decide fracking applications are shown to have millions of pounds invested through their pension funds in oil and gas companies. They include West Sussex (see February), Greater Manchester and Lincolnshire.

The Government accepts all the recommendations in the report by David Mackay and Timothy Stone on greenhouse gas emissions from shale production. David Cameron’s official spokesman confirms the government is looking at ways to make shale oil and gas drilling easier. Reports suggest the government plans to change the trespass laws. Energy Minister, Michael Fallon, says shale gas could be a vote-winner. The Happy Monday’s musician, Bez, launches an anti-fracking party.

Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the working group behind the latest report from the Intergovernnmental Panel on Climate Change, says shale gas “can be very consistent with low carbon development and decarbonisation”. A study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America identifies methane emissions at seven shale gas pads in south west Pennsylvania at 100-1,000 greater than official estimates.

In what is believed to be the first successful fracking lawsuit to come before a US jury, a Texas family is awarded $3m after chemicals from nearby fracking left them ill.

May 2014

The Government announces plans to change the trespass laws to allow companies to drill under land without the owners’ permission. A poll for Greenpeace finds that 74% of people oppose the move. The industry proposes a one-off £20,000 community compensation payment for lateral wells.

Cuadrilla submits the first planning application to frack since the Preese Hall earthquake. The plans are for up to four wells at Preston New Road in the Fylde area of Lancashire. Cuadrilla’s CEO, Francis Egan, says shale gas could be heating British homes by late 2015. But Sam Laidlaw of Centrica (an investor in Cuadrilla) says National Parks are “not the place to start” fracking for shale gas.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee says shale gas exploration and development should be an urgent national priority. It says the government must do much more to “get development moving”. Residents Against Fylde Fracking says the committee’s “blinkered and short-sighted attitude is doing a grave disservice to our communities.”

The British Geological Survey estimates 2-8.6bn barrels of oil in the Weald in south east England, but no gas. It suggests extraction may be difficult in places.

Anti-fracking campaigners set up camp outside Rathlin’s gas exploration site at Crawberry Hill in East Yorkshire. One campaigner is arrested in nearby Beverley and two more outside the site. The Chief Constable of Sussex defends policing of the Balcombe protests and reveals that his officers are training police across Britain in dealing with fracking demonstrations.

Scientists in Ohio make a link between fracking and earthquakes. Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University say officials underestimate the amount and potency of methane emissions from fracking. The US Bureau of Land Management is accused of failing to inspect more than 2,100 high priority oil and gas wells. 240 health professionals and organisations call for a moratorium on fracking in New York State for three-five years. US data also shows the rise in shale oil and gas production has coincided with declining investment in wind and solar. But the Obama administration says fracking has created 133,000 jobs.

More than 60 chief executives of the world’s leading insurance companies call for urgent action on climate change. Public Health England is accused of gross scientific misconduct for its report on the impacts of fracking. The European Commission energy security strategy emphasises home-produced fossil fuels and diversified sources of supply. Greenpeace says this will do little to reduce dependence on energy imports.

Research finds that 19% of people would be happy to have a fracking rig within five miles of their home, compared with 48% for a wind farm and 27% for a nuclear power plant. Nottingham University’s on-going study finds the Balcombe effect is continuing as support for fracking falls below 50%.

Ecotricity funds Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association bid for judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission to test Cuadrilla’s oil exploration well in their village. A complaint about a document by Frack Free Somerset is resolved informally. We Need To Talk About Fracking organises five city meetings to debate fracking. Lord Howell, George Osborne’s father in law, says government policy on shale gas is losing the Tories thousands of votes.

June 2014

As expected, the Queen’s Speech includes measures in the Infrastructure Bill to change the trespass laws, making it easier for oil and gas companies to drill without landowners’ permission. Opponents predict the government will face a backlash.

Our FOI request for a police review of the Balcombe anti-fracking protests reveals Sussex Police used covert intelligence-gathering. Sussex Police tried unsuccessfully to redact the details in its response. The review also finds the force was caught off guard. Cuadrilla says testing at its well in Balcombe is unlikely in 2014.

A judicial review allows expert evidence on contamination at Barton Moss to be used for the defence in trials arising from anti-fracking protests at the IGas drilling site. The CPS drops a further 29 Barton Moss cases, bringing the total dropped to 60.

Climate change minister, Greg Barker, accuses green groups of being “foolish” and “morally disingenuous” for supporting fracking. Kent County Council rejects a grant bid to fund a conference about fracking. Research suggests the gas industry and the film Gasland are regarded as the least trustworthy sources of information about fracking. Industry executives believe education, rather than community payments, is the best way to win the fracking debate

The BGS confirms modest amounts of shale oil and gas in the Midland Valley of Scotland. Central estimates are 80 tn cubic feet of gas and 6bn barrels of oil – though not necessarily recoverable.

The outgoing Secretary General of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, says Russia is secretly infiltrating anti-fracking groups. The free market think-tank, the Centre for Policy Studies, says Britain risks being held economic hostage by Russia unless it embraces fracking.

The outgoing chair of the Environment Agency, Lord Chris Smith, says fracking should be allowed in National Parks and fears about it have been “definitely exaggerated”. Vivienne Westwood says fracking will hasten climate change. She is one of 150+ celebrities, scientists and politicians supporting We Need to Talk About Fracking. The group holds five city debates. No-one from the industry agrees to join the panel.

The petrochemical company, Ineos, considers investing in UK shale exploration. Two US companies get permission to export ultralight oil – the first unrefined oil exports from the US in nearly 40 years – and a permit is granted for Denmark’s first shale gas well. Shell pulls out of shale gas drilling in eastern Ukraine following clashes between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army.

50 academics write to The Guardian saying Lancashire’s shale gas can fill the UK’s energy gap. Other academics respond, saying burning just 10% of Lancashire’s estimated gas resource would exceed the UK’s carbon budgets up to 2050.

Peel Holdings is granted a possession order for land occupied by the Davyhulme Community Protection Camp in Trafford where IGas wants to extract coal bed methane. Anti-fracking campaigners in East Yorkshire build a wooden tower blocking the entrance to Rathlin Energy’s Crawberry Hill site. The campaigners also secure a Section 6 court order allowing them to occupy the land.

Rathlin denies it wants to frack in East Yorkshire but Cluff Natural Resources predicts huge coal reserves under the Firth of Forth could provide a new source of gas. Egdon Resources takes over Alkane’s exploration licences, doubling its acreage, and IGas says it plans to frack in the East Midlands in 2015.

Cuadrilla applies to frack another four wells at a site at Roseacre Wood in the Fylde area of Lancashire. 15 anti-fracking groups from the Fylde launch Frack Free Lancashire. Gordon Marsden, MP for nearby Blackpool South, says fracking regulations must be tough if the technique is to go ahead.

Research suggests some chemicals used in fracking can disrupt human reproductive and other hormone receptors. Another study finds that shale gas flowback fluids contain higher radioactivity than local groundwater but not above UK health limits. A US study finds newer and unconventional wells leak more often than older, traditional wells, while another says vast supplies of US gas are being burned off or flared in places where there is no pipeline because it can’t be shipped economically. A letter in The Lancet says more UK fracking would be irresponsible without stricter regulation and greater research on the health impacts.

July 2014

The Government announces the start of the 14th round to sell licences across half the country for oil and gas drilling, including fracking. 10 National Parks are included in the licence area, which covers large parts of north east England, central Scotland, south Wales and most of southern England. The area includes more than three-quarters of Conservative Party target seats and the constituencies of 24 MPs who attend cabinet meetings. Documents from DECC show ministers ignored the views of most responses to the consultation on the licence round. More details

The government restates planning guidance that drilling should be allowed in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty only in exceptional circumstances. The Green Party says issuing the guidance shows the government concedes fracking is risky. But Energy Minister, Matthew Hancock, says oil and gas has been exploited without controversy in these areas for decades. In a radio interview he fails to name a single village that supports fracking.

West Sussex County Council refuses an application by Celtique Energie to drill exploratory wells between Wisborough Green and Kirdford. Celtique Energie says its application is “compliant, comprehensive and of high quality” and accuses councillors of being politically-motivated and not following the spirit or letter of government policy.

Thousands of people oppose Cuadrilla’s plans for fracking at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood in Lancashire. The County Council and the Environment Agency extend the consultation periods for planning and permit applications. The North West Energy Task Force, which supports fracking, publishes a video by Cuadrilla and Arup on the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Statement that accompany the applications. The National Air Traffic Services formally objects to the application at Preston New Road.

Security guards pitch tents in fields off Preston New Road and at Roseacre Wood. A farmer is served with an enforcement notice to remove anti-fracking signs outside the site. 12 Fylde District councillors declare they – or organisations they are associated with – have received payments or donations from Cuadrilla or its contractors. Fylde Rugby Club accepts a £19,000 sponsorship deal with Cuadrilla. More than 50 Blackpool hoteliers join a campaign calling for the development of shale gas to revitalise the town. The Green Party Stop Fracking Now wins 2.06% of the vote in a Blackpool Council by election.

Friends of the Earth Europe publishes its guide to who’s who in the shale gas lobby in Brussels. David Cameron’s election adviser, Lynton Crosby, is shown to have links to the fracking industry. Cuadrilla’s chair, Lord Browne, is reported to have the power to hand-pick the board of non-executive directors and senior civil servants at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. In the government reshuffle Greg Barker and Michael Fallon are replaced by Amber Rudd and Matthew Hancock.

Two convoys deliver equipment to Rathlin Energy’s site at West Newton, monitored by more than 100 police officers. A judge orders campaigners to remove a wooden tower blocking the entrance to Rathlin Energy’s site at Crawberry Hill. Humberside Police defend patrols of camps outside both Rathlin’s sites. Anti-fracking campaigners abandon their camp at Daveyhulme, where IGas wants to drill for coal bed methane extraction, following a High Court ruling. The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust awards a two-year grant to Netpol to monitor policing at future anti-fracking protests.

Tamboran Resources wins a High Court injunction to stop campaigners holding a vigil at a quarry near Belcoo, where it plans drill an exploratory borehole. Egdon Resources begins drilling the Wressle-1 conventional exploration well in Lincolnshire. Ineos secures a £230m government loan guarantee to build an import terminal in Scotland for US shale gas. IGas plans to drill a well near Chester to test for coalbed methane reserves and another near Ellesmere Port

IGas and Peel Environmental predict 3,500 jobs could be created in the north west from 30 shale gas sites, each with ten wells, boosting the local economy by 10bn. Opponents urge people to treat the claim with scepticism and say the proposed shale gas bonanza would put future generations at risk.

Talk Fracking cancels a second London debate because pro-frackers refuse to take part. But Cuadrilla’s CEO, Francis Egan, is the guest in a one-hour Radio 4 phone-in. Industry representatives decline invitations to take part in the BBC’s live debate programme on fracking from Fernhurst in West Sussex.

The BGS says the risk of water supplies being contaminated by fracking is lower in the UK than the US. Almost half the main natural sources of water in the UK lie above shale that could be targeted by fracking companies. CPRE Sussex launches its Countryside Charter, which says fracking risks “irreversible damage unless there are cast iron guarantees that it can be made safe”.

On the first anniversary of the start of anti-fracking protests against Cuadrilla at Balcombe, villagers remain divided. No Dash for Gas announces it will hold its annual Reclaim The Power camp near Blackpool.

August 2014

Residents Action on Fylde Fracking says a record-breaking 14,000 objections to Cuadrilla’s drilling plans have been handed in to Lancashire County Council. Manchester High Court upholds a claim by Cuadrilla and some local farmers for possession of land at Preston New Road, near Blackpool which was occupied by anti-fracking campaigners. The court also issues a temporary injunction preventing future occupation of the land until October 8th, when opponents will contest the action.

The Reclaim the Power camp near Blackpool holds a day of action. Some local residents say the protests, which include a three-and-a-half-hour occupation of a Blackpool building, “went too far”; others say it was necessary to make people listen to the anti-fracking message.

A woman living 300 yards from one of Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking sites in Lancashire says the value of her five bedroom house has fallen by over 70%. Cuadrilla is reported to have trespassed on private land for geological surveys carried out in 2012 and has settled a legal action for trespass with at least one homeowner.

The Valuation Office Agency, which sets the values of properties for council tax purposes, is quoted as saying homes near fracking sites could be placed in lower council tax bands. The Government says there is no evidence that shale gas extraction would affect house prices.

Northern Ireland’s environment minister, Mark Durkan, rejects a planning application by Tamboran Resources to drill an exploratory gas well at a quarry in Belcoo, County Fermanagh. Tamboran says it will seek a judicial review. A petrol bomb is thrown from a passing car at the home of a security guard working at Belcoo. No one was injured.

The SNP-led Scottish Government objects to UK Government plans in the Infrastructure Bill to change the trespass laws and allow oil and gas companies to drill without landowners’ permission. The Country Land and Business Association also objects, accusing the government of disregarding property owners’ rights in the drive to carry out shale gas exploration and extraction. Labour tables amendments to the Bill which would tighten rules for fracking companies. Greenpeace says the consultation on changing the trespass laws is flawed and should be scrapped.

Ineos buys 51% of the drilling licence PEDL 133, which gives it rights to explore for shale gas in a 127 sq mile area around Grangemouth and the Firth of Forth. Third Energy, backed by Barclays, proposes to drill at Ebberston Moor in the North York Moors National Park after winning permission to dispose of radioactive waste drilling fluid. UK Oil and Gas pays £750,000 to increase its stake in the Horse Hill field near Horley in Surrey to 20%.

DECC’s latest public attitude survey shows a fall in support for fracking to under 25% of respondents. But a survey for the UK Onshore Operators Group finds 57% of respondents support producing gas from shale. DEFRA is criticised after releasing a heavily redacted report (63 redactions in 13 pages) on the impacts of fracking on rural areas in response to an FOI request.

Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association wins the right to challenge in court the decision by West Sussex County Council to grant planning permission to Cuadrilla to flow test and flare in the village. The judicial review will be heard in November. More than 3,000 people sign a petition calling for West Sussex to be made a frack-free zone. The Arundel and South Downs MP, Nick Herbert, says the oil and gas industry could not have wished for a worse advocate than Celtique Energie for its earliest fracking applications.

Dr David Smythe, a retired geology professor who argued against oil drilling in the Weald, is accused by former colleagues of falsely claiming he has chartered geologist status. Frack Free Fernhurst says this is a desperate attempt by the fracking industry to undermine Dr Smythe’s evidence. His accuser, Professor Paul Younger, is director of Five Quarter Energy and has an interest in unconventional fossil fuels.

Professor David MacKay, a former government chief scientific advisor, suggests a wind farm requires 700 times more land to produce the same amount of energy as a fracking site. The US Geological Survey says earthquakes caused by fracking are, in general, about 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes of the same magnitude. Pennsylvania releases details of 243 cases in which companies prospecting for oil and gas have been found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking water wells.

Research by the Colorado School of Public Health suggests potential health risks to babies born near oil and gas wells. Breast Cancer UK says it has “strong concerns about adverse health effects of increased exposure to harmful chemicals as a result of fracking”.

Six anti-fracking campaigners are arrested outside Rathlin Energy’s site at Crawberry Hill in East Yorkshire as police try to clear a protest camp.

September 2014

The Government goes ahead with changes to the trespass laws, despite opposition from 99% of respondents to its consultation. The Chancellor, George Osborne, tells the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham: “We must unlock the shale wealth beneath our feet.” Full speech

The South Downs National Park Authority refuses Celtique Energie’s application to drill an exploratory oil well at Fernhurst. The company says it is being deliberately prevented from drilling in south east England and considers an appeal.

Fylde Borough Council objects to both Cuadrilla’s planning application for exploratory drilling at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road. Public objections to Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at two sites in the Fylde reach 20,000. In separate applications, Lancashire County Council approves extensions of Cuadrilla’s planning permission for sites at Becconsall near Banks (three years) and Weeton near Kirkham (one year).

The Environment Agency orders Rathlin Energy to stop the smell from its West Newton drilling rig after complaints from people living nearby.

The Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, tells MPs fracking is safe with proper regulation, while Matthew Hancock dismisses concerns about the impact of fracking on health, water, climate change and local businesses.

Tim Yeo, chair of the energy and climate change select committee, tells a conference fringe meeting that local communities will need to be bribed to accept fracking. Ineos offers 4% of gross revenues of to landowners of shale sites and 2% to communities. IGas CEO, Andrew Austin, says payments could perpetuate suspicions that there is something “wrong” with shale gas.

Anti-fracking campaigners set up camp at Ellesmere Port, in protest at what they believe is a potential fracking site. An anti-fracking petition, signed by 3,000 people, is handed in at a meeting of Liverpool City Council. The Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South, Barbara Keeley, says she opposes fracking, despite her party’s support for the process.

More than half a million people take part in climate marches in more than 150 countries across the world. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund announces plans to cut its oil and coal investments. Six international energy companies, including BG Group, agree to work to reduce methane emissions through a new UN framework. Exxon Mobil acknowledges the environmental risks of fracking but defends the practice as being better for the environment than other forms of energy generation.

Neath Port Talbot Council rejects the advice of officers and refuses permission for an exploratory shale gas borehole in Foel fynyddau near Pontrhydyfen. Northern Ireland’s Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, terminates Tamboran’s licence to explore for shale gas in county Fermanagh. Cheshire West and Chester Council is reported to have not asked for environmental impact assessments before granting consent to IGas for coal bed methane drilling near homes, a nuclear facility and oil refinery.

Horse Hill Developments Ltd begins drilling near Horley in Surrey. Opposition steps up. Celtique Energie starts work at its exploratory oil site near Billingshurst, in West Sussex.

A Manchester University study suggested shale gas had comparable emissions and life-cycle environmental impacts as conventional gas. On four out of 11 impacts, shale gas is better than offshore wind and solar. Research suggests the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy from unconventional gas extraction in Scotland are likely to be equivalent to those for conventional gas extraction in Europe – if best practice is followed and building on peat is avoided. Another study finds contaminants from fracking fluid wastewater are too much for most treatment plants to handle.

Range Resources is fined $4.15 million – the biggest ever imposed on the shale gas industry – after flowback waste leaked from open pits at one of the company’s waste handling sites in western Pennsylvania. A study finds residents of south-west Pennsylvania with ground-fed water wells living near fracking sites are more likely to report skin and respiratory problems. But a group of geologists conclude that injected fracking water that remains underground “does not pose a serious risk to water supplies”.

Cuadrilla Resources is part of a consortium working to develop and test new methane measuring instruments for shale gas extraction. The company’s chair, Lord Browne, promises to work with the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce to ensure that businesses benefit from opportunities of shale gas.

Research suggests water shortages could hinder fracking for shale oil and gas in many parts of the world.

UK Onshore Oil and Gas, which represents the onshore drilling industry, launches Let’s Talk About Shale, its initiative to encourage people to ask questions about fracking. The cost of the communications office at the Department of Energy and Climate Change rises by nearly 70% in two years from 1.408 million (2011-12) to 2.38 million (2013-14). The Advertising Standards Authority rules that a pro-shale gas advert paid for by a US fracking company is misleading, exaggerated and unsubstantiated, after complaints by a Balcombe resident.

A survey for The Guardian finds 38% of those questioned are against fracking and 40% have no opinion. Another poll for the paper finds 66% oppose fracking in National Parks, compared with 22% who support it. 62% oppose government plans to change the trespass laws.

October 2014

Lancashire County Council planners seek more time for Cuadrilla’s two fracking applications in the Fylde. A health study concludes that Cuadrilla’s plans are already causing anxiety and stress.

Celtique Energie appeals against a refusal of planning permission to drill near Kirdford and Wisborough Green. IGas unveils plans for oil and gas production at Bletchingley, Surrey, and in the South Downs National Park. Ineos buys an 80% stake in PEDL 162, which covers 400 sq km north and west of Glasgow. Rathlin Energy suspends activities at West Newton for what it calls an “engineering evaluation”.

The Scottish Government calls in the appeal by Dart Energy against a refusal of planning permission to drill for coal bed methane at Letham Moss near Airth. The Planning Inspectorate of Wales overturns the decision by Wrexham Council to refuse permission to Dart Energy for a coal bed methane exploration well at Borras and campaigners set up an anti-fracking camp.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council extends Rathlin Energy’s planning permission for its exploratory drilling site at Crawberry Hill by 18 months. Shropshire councillors ignore officers’ advice and oppose plans by Dart Energy to drill an exploratory borehole near Ellesmere. The final decision is postponed to a future meeting. Trafford Council defers a decision on IGas plans for drilling at Davyhulme after Friends of the Earth says the environmental impact assessment is inadequate.

Private Eye reports that the Health and Safety Executive asked to see cement bond logs for Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall well after the company reported a build-up of annular pressure (caused by a seepage of gas or fluids coming up from the well). The HSE had previously said CBLs were not needed, so none were carried out.

Manchester High Court grants an injunction against anti-fracking protests to Cuadrilla and a group of landowners. But the judge rejects the company’s claim of £54,000 costs. A report on policing at the Barton Moss anti-fracking protests clears officers of brutality but says Greater Manchester Police must improve the way it handles demonstrations.

Pro-fracking commentator, Nick Grealy, announces he is bidding for three London drilling licences. Brent Friends of the Earth promises to fight the proposals. The Competition and Markets Authority clears the takeover of Dart Energy by IGas. The new company dominates UK the coal bed methane market.

Horse Hill Developments Ltd promises no fracking at its well near Horley in Surrey and predicts it could produce £2bn in oil and gas. Tamboran says it will take legal action to challenge the termination of its petroleum exploration and development licence in Northern Ireland. An oil exploration plant at Burton on the Wolds near Loughborough is dismantled after drilling fails to find anticipated deposits. The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg backs the use of fracking for shale gas in the East Midlands.

Anti-fracking demonstrations take place across the world on Global Frackdown Day. Bianca Jagger urges the UK government to issue a fracking moratorium until an independent, transparent and publicly-funded human rights impact assessment is carried out. Campaigners fear a government amendment to the Infrastructure Bill will allow underground disposal of fracking waste without landowners’ permission. Other amendments to restrict fracking are introduced.

DECC appoints Professor John Loughhead, a public supporter of fracking for shale, as its new Chief Scientific Advisor. The former chair of the Environment Agency, Lord Chris Smith is to head an industry-funded group set up to carry out “independent and transparent” research into shale gas.

The Move your Money campaign, backed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, urges customers of HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Santander to close their accounts unless the banks cut ties with coal, tar sands, fracking and other fossil fuel industries.

West Sussex County Council votes not to vote on a motion to declare the county a frack free zone. A study finds that18-24 year olds who are aware of fracking want the government to develop other energy sources. 44% back solar, 41% wind and 38% tidal power. Only 10% support shale gas from fracking.

The Governor of the Bank of England repeats his warning that fossil fuel companies cannot burn all their reserves if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change. The Director-General of the CBI says the Government’s failure to secure progress on fracking threatens job creation.

Research finds fracking can pollute the air with carcinogenic formaldehyde at levels twice as high as medical students experience when dissecting dead bodies.

The veteran US political consultant, Richard Berman, is secretly taped telling the oil and gas industry it must be prepared to discredit environmentalists and liberal celebrities if it wants to prevent opponents slowing down drilling.

November 2014

Ineos announces £640m investment in shale gas exploration. Reaction ranges from government support to opposition from green groups.

Denton in Texas votes to ban fracking. The Texas Oil and Gas Association seeks an immediate injunction to stop the ban from being enforced. Fracking is to be permitted in the US George Washington National Forest.

Powers over onshore oil and gas licensing and mineral access rights are devolved to Scotland. The 14th licensing round for onshore oil and gas rights attracts 95 bids. Bidders include Celtique Energie Ltd, Ineos and IGas. The government announces a fracking sovereign wealth fund for the north of England and a new fracking college in Blackpool. Friends of the Earth describe the fund as a desperate attempt to win over communities.

Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association argues at a judicial review that Cuadrilla’s planning permission for drilling in their village is unlawful and should be quashed. On the final day, the Government announces that the judge at the hearing is to be knighted. His judgement is deferred until December.

Consultation on Cuadrilla’s fracking plans in Lancashire is extended again. Cuadrilla applies to the Environment Agency for mining waste permits. Cuadrilla’s chair, Lord Browne, says energy and mining companies are ignoring the “existential threat” from climate change and must change the way they operate. He resigns from his job as Whitehall business advisor.

Third Energy announces plans to frack for gas at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, near Flamingo World. A report commissioned by campaigners warns that the company’s plans for conventional drilling at Ebberston Moor in the North York Moors National Park threatens the aquifer. Nine new anti-fracking groups form in Ryedale.

Rathlin Energy submits early plans for a third well in East Yorkshire. The rig leaves the company’s drilling site at West Newton. The Horse Hill well near Horley in Surrey demobilises, despite a lock-on, and the operator announces the discovery of hydrocarbons in the Kimmeridge clays. Documents leaked to campaigners reveal Coastal Oil and Gas has new drilling proposals for east Kent.

IGas spuds its well at Ellesmere Port – its third shale gas well in the UK. Campaigners stage a lock-on. The company says results from Barton Moss are encouraging. It also looks at a site at West Dean in West Sussex. Details emerge of the sale and repurchase agreement made by IGas’s CEO, Andrew Austin, with Equities First Holdings to fund a shares purchase.

Cluff Natural Resources announces plans to extract gas from Firth of Forth. Tamboran seeks damages from the Northern Ireland government after losing its drilling licence and being refused planning permission.

Police and bailiffs clear the protest camp at Borras, near Wrexham. Campaigners begin work on their case in Celtique Energie’s appeal against refusal of planning permission to drill between Kirdford and Wisborough Green in West Sussex. A background study for the annual report by the government’s chief scientific advisor suggests fracking could be the modern-day equivalent of innovations such as thalidomide, asbestos and tobacco.

A Facebook campaign launches to Bin the Infrastructure Bill. Countryside groups call for government protection and clarity over rural fracking. A government amendment is added to the Bill absolving landowners of liability for damage from fracking. A pro-fracking group claims fracking will boost UK fertiliser production.

Five campaigners are convicted at trial of obstructing the highway outside Rathlin Energy’s site at Crawberry Hill in East Yorkshire. Anti-fracking trials arising from the Barton Moss protest are postponed until 2015. A journalist covering anti-fracking protests describes how she is visited at home by counter-terrorism police.

Hundreds of publicly-funded boreholes are to be drilled across the UK to monitor for water pollution and earthquakes caused by fracking. Professor Paul Younger says fracking firms must be allowed to cause far more significant earth tremors if shale gas is to succeed. He later denies he should have declared a financial interest in an energy company.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that climate change threatens irreversible and dangerous impacts but options exist to limit its effect. The European Academies Science Advisory Council says shale gas is not a “silver bullet to address energy security of climate change”. The UK Energy Research Centre says significant shale gas production in the UK is unlikely to get underway until the early 2020s and is unlikely to reduce dependence on imports or reduce prices. In a separate report, the Centre says by the time any shale gas industry is up and running in the UK, global gas consumption must have peaked and begin rapidly tailing off to avoid dangerous levels of global warming

Opposition to fracking overtakes support for the first time in government public attitude study. Bianca Jagger delivers a report to the Prime Minister on the human rights implications of fracking and Canterbury Christ Church University hosts a debate on fracking. Anti-fracking campaigner, Gayzer Frackman, delivers a letter to Downing Street at the start of a walk to Brussels. The Greater London Assembly votes for a no-fracking zone in the capital, Trafford Council opposes fracking “until such time as it can be proved to be safe” and the Diocese of Oxford disinvests in fossil fuels.

Lib Dem MP, Norman Baker, calls an adjournment debate on fracking. Two Lancashire Tory MPs warn ministers to strengthen fracking regulations or risk losing their support. In a debate in the House of Lords on fracking, Lord Lawson calls for shale gas to be made a national priority. Lord Tugendhat complains about protests by “prosperous people in prosperous areas”.

One US study finds fracking chemicals are no more toxic than common household substances. Another says toxic kerosene is used legally in fracking fluid.

December 2014

New York State bans hydraulic fracturing following a recommendation from the Acting Department of Health commissioner. Quebec’s environmental agency concludes that exploiting the province’s shale gas deposits is not worth the risk.

The Government’s autumn statement announces a £5m fund for public information on shale regulations and £31m for research centres. It also gives details of a Sovereign Wealth fund for shale.

The Infrastructure Bill gets a second reading and goes into committee. Labour introduces amendments which it says will tighten controls. Plaid Cymru calls for the Welsh Government to have the same powers as Scotland over fracking. Sussex MPs Caroline Lucas and Norman Baker attempt to remove all the clauses on fracking and oil and gas drilling. The Fylde MP Mark Menzies (Cons) calls for greater regulation, while another Conservative backbencher, Anne McIntosh, challenges David Cameron over fracking safety and vows to vote against the government on the bill.

Mr Cameron insists the Government is not subsidising fracking, despite a tax regime designed to support the industry. He says he would welcome fracking in his Whitney constituency. The fashion designer Vivienne Westwood attempts to deliver asbestos to Downing Street in a campaign about alleged health risks of fracking.

Researchers call for monitoring of people living near fracking operations after finding fracking chemicals could pose risks to reproductive health. A study of 400 peer-reviewed research into fracking suggests most indicate potential risk or adverse health outcomes. Another review of 200+ research papers finds the environmental impact and toxicity of biocides using in fracking is largely unknown but nine of the 16 have been reported to have chronic toxic effects. A study finds US methane emissions from fracking are falling and that most comes from a small number of wells.

A UK medical charity condemns the conclusion of a Public Health England report that fracking is low risk and it objects to Cuadrilla’s Lancashire planning applications. Lancashire County Council announces it will decide on the applications on January 28th and 29th 2015. Cuadrilla and its partner, Centrica, sponsor the Young Engineers 2015 competition. A survey of 500 Lancashire residents finds 66% are worried or very concerned about the impact of fracking on houses prices.

An email reveals previously unreported damaged following increased pressure in the annulus of Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall well in Lancashire. Cuadrilla denies the email indicates a loss of wellbore integrity but an HSE spokesperson says increased pressure in the annulus may be interpreted as a well integrity issue.

A newspaper investigation finds the Environment Agency pension fund invests in companies with links to fracking. Another reports the widespread use of bail conditions to ban hundreds of innocent people from attending lawful demonstrations.

Canterbury Christ Church University reveals Kent Police asked for a list of attendees at a fracking debate held on campus in November. The university refused to comply. The response to an FOI request reveals that the College of Policing uses a fictional anti-fracking protest, based on events at Balcombe and Barton Moss, to train senior public order officers.

Hundreds take part in an anti-fracking demonstration outside the Ineos plant at Grangemouth, while campaigners from across the UK protest outside the IGas drilling site at Ellesmere Port.

IGas announces it has found shale gas at Ellesmere Port but its share price ends the year at 35.25, down from a high of 164.7 in January 2014. Companies behind the Horse Hill well in Surrey revise oil estimates up to 8.2m barrels. Drilling at Celtique Energie’s well near Billingshurst in West Sussex is due to start in spring 2015.

A Balcombe residents’ group loses its judicial review into the way West Sussex County Council’s planning committee gave permission to Cuadrilla for flow testing and flaring its exploratory oil well. A High Court judge in Hull grants a possession order to the owner of land used by a camp outside Rathlin’s West Newton drill site in E Yorkshire and awards initial costs of £10,000.

Shropshire Council again postpones consideration of Dart Energy’s application to drill at Duddleston Heath near Ellesmere. Calderdale Council votes to “take all possible steps” to protect Calderdale’s environment and people from problems arising from fracking. East Riding of Yorkshire Council threatens the eviction of campaigners camped outside Rathlin Energy’s drilling site at Crawberry Hill near Beverley.

A group of small UK service companies say the fracking industry risks domination by foreign companies that fly staff and equipment in and profits out. Figures reveal that 18 business in the UK oil and gas services sector became insolvent in 2014, compared with six in 2013.

Research finds the UK government’s commitment to shale reduces public confidence in independent and objective decision-making. Ken Cronin, of UK Onshore Oil and Gas says progress of the onshore drilling industry is “glacially slow”

200+ UK campaign groups sign a letter to David Cameron calling for a moratorium on fracking. 49,000 people sign a petition against fracking in central Scotland and 2,500 sign another against coal burning in the Firth of Forth. Anti-fracking campaigners step up their campaign in South Wales against Coastal Oil and Gas plans to drill at Llantrithyd. Frack Free Sussex launches a benefit album produced by more than 100 mainly local artists. Lancashire anti-fracking campaigner, Gayzer Frackman, addresses MEPs in Brussels at end of 14-day walk from London.

Lancashire’s Roseacre Action Group criticises the UKOOG’s Let’s Talk About Shale roadshow as a “blatant PR attempt”. Frack Free Ryedale complains to the Advertising Standards Authority that a brochure from Third Energy about its fracking site at Kirby Misperton is inaccurate and misleading.

Chevron pulls out of shale gas project in Ukraine.

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