Daily headlines

March 2014 fracking timeline


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. Chris Field, co-chair of the IPCC working group, said:  “The report concludes that people, societies, and ecosystems are vulnerable around the world, but with different vulnerability in different places. Climate change often interacts with other stresses to increase risk.”

The trial opens of nine people arrested at the Balcombe anti-fracking protest on the same day as Caroline Lucas MP. The case is expected to last six days.

Wrexham Borough Council planning committee rejected plans by GP Energy Ltd to test drill for coal bed methane on land near Commonwood Farm, Boras.

Nick Butler’s blog in the FT says the British Geological Survey of shale oil in the Weald is being delayed for political reasons. He says leaks suggest the potential for oil is very high but the “politics of shale oil will make rows over shale gas pale into insignificance”

The US journal Reviews on Environmental Health reports that current methods of measuring and analysing air emissions around unconventional natural gas developments are not good enough to accurately assess the risks to individuals. The findings are in the article Understanding exposure from natural gas drilling puts current air standards to the test. It suggests that current risks are derived from average population risks and not enough attention is paid to the processes of toxicity to the body.

The trial of Caroline Lucas MP, Ruth Potts, Ruth Jarman, Sheila Menon and Josef Dobraszczyk runs out of time and is adjourned until April 17th. Details

Consultation closes on the government’s strategic environmental assessment on shale gas.

The Police and Crime Commissioner of Sussex announces that the Home Office has agreed to contribute to the costs of policing last summer’s Balcombe protests. It will also fund in full policing of any future anti-fracking protests in Sussex.

The REPOWER co-operative in Balcombe announces it aims to raise £300,000 for six solar arrays on roofs in the village that would supply 7.5% of electricity demand.

Caroline Lucas MP sponsors an Early Day Motion at Westminster which includes a welcome for the Community Energy Strategy, which aims by 2015 to make it the norm for communities to be offered the opportunity of some level of ownership of new, commercially-developed onshore renewable projects.

The Dutch environmental group, Milieudefensie, called for the withdrawal of Cuadrilla’s shale gas drilling licences in the Netherlands because there are no legally-binding agreements with the government about who is responsible for paying for environmental damage. There is currently a moratorium on shale gas exploration in the Netherlands.

The Sun carries a three-page campaign against what it calls the “anti- shale gas brigade”, with criticism of Lord Cowdray, who is working to block drilling at Fernhurst in West Sussex.

The Guardian reports research by a group of academics based at Durham University that reveals a lack of publicly available data on the failure of oil and gas wells. The study, published in Marine and Petroleum Geology, looked at data for four million onshore wells drilled in the last 100 years. In Pennsylvania, one data set of 8,030 fracking wells in the Marcellus shale from 2005-13 found 6.3% had failures.

David Cameron, speaking at the Nuclear Security Summit, says fracking will be “good for our country” and blames opposition on “lack of understanding”.

The Lancashire Evening Post quotes Cuadrilla’s CEO Francis Egan as saying shale gas could bring tens of thousands of jobs to Lancashire.

Start of week-long trial of Caroline Lucas MP, Ruth Potts, Ruth Jarman, Sheila Menon and Josef Dobraszczyk. They group deny obstructing the highway and failing to comply with a notice imposed by police under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.

Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association submits its objection to Cuadrilla’s planning application to flow test its well at Balcombe. Report

Environmental campaigner, Nick Ward, is found guilty of obstructing the highway and criminal damage. Court report here.

The Guardian reports that Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, organised an urgent teleconference with Lord Browne, chairman of Cuadrilla, last June to discuss a disagreement over shale gas regulation. The Guardian says the meeting, organised at Lord Browne’s request, resulted in the Environment Agency chair Lord Smith:

  • Offering to halve the time the consultation time for a waste permit
  • Agreeing to intervene with West Sussex County Council to extend Cuadrilla’s planning permission
  • Identifying further risks to Cuadrilla’s plans.

Cuadrilla announces it is applying for an extension to current planning permission for the Becconsall site near Banks in Lancashire to pressure test the gas in shale rock. The company says the well will not be fracked.

The trial of Simon Welsh (see 18/3/14) is adjourned for a ruling until May 1st.

In his budget speech, George Osborne says: “We need to cut our energy costs. We are going to do this by investing in new sources of energy, new nuclear power, renewables, and a shale gas revolution.”

In his blog for the FT, columnist, Nick Butler, asks What shale gas revolution? He writes: “It is quite possible that no more wells at all will be drilled in the UK this year. This is in danger of becoming a revolution that never happens. What is surprising is the lack of urgency in government.”

International oil and gas newspaper, Upstream, reports opponents of fracking protested outside the Shale Gas Forum in London, where speakers include Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan and IGas’ Andrew Austin.

First trial of a Balcombe resident arising from last year’s protests against Cuadrilla’s oil exploration operation begins today. Simon Welsh denies a charge under the Public Order Act. We’ll be covering the trial, expected to last three days.

Analysis by InvestigatingBalcombeAndCuadrilla.com shows 900+ objections to Cuadrilla’s planning application to flow test its well at Balcombe. Main concerns are air and water pollution, noise, traffic and threat to wildlife. More details

The 2014 Public Attitudes to Science Survey finds 3/4 of people have heard or read something about fracking but only 17% said they had heard or read a great deal. According to the survey, 16% strongly support fracking, 35% tend to support, 31% neither support nor oppose, 6% tend to oppose, 2% strongly oppose and 10% don’t know.

The Court of Appeal gives the Barton Moss Protection Camp until March 26th to submit evidence of its appeal against eviction by Peel Holdings.

Public consultation closes on Cuadrilla’s panning application to flow test its oil exploration well at Balcombe. West Sussex County Council’s website records 939 comments, of which 925 were objections, 13 in support and 1 raising concerns.

Environmental and countryside groups call for no shale gas or oil exploration in protected areas, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Jamie Spiers found guilty of obstructing the highway at the Balcombe protest. He received a 12-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £300 costs.

First fundraising event of new organisation We Need to Talk About Fracking, expected to launch in April.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the government’s agreement with energy companies to cut £50 from household bills could see more than 50,000 homes missing out on planned insulation and 20,000 job losses in the insulation industry. The paper says local authority data, released to the Labour party under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that 49 schemes across 146 authorities have been scrapped or put on hold,

The Court of Appeal stops the eviction of the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp outside the IGas exploration site. An appeal hearing against the eviction is expected later this week.

Manchester Evening News reports a court in the city has granted commercial landowner Peel a possession order for land used by the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp. The camp members, who are campaigning against IGas’s hydrocarbon exploration operation, have until midday tomorrow to leave.

The Sunday Times reports that an alliance of countryside organisations, including the National Trust and RSPB, will call for frack-free zones where shale gas exploitation is banned because the wildlife is too fragile.

The Manchester Evening News reports up to 1,000 people attended anti-fracking rally in the city. The Salford Star puts the number at 1,500.

People are gathering outside a gas exploration site at Farndon in Cheshire, where Dart Energy is drilling for coal bed methane.

Balcombe Parish Council confirms it will object to Cuadrilla’s latest planning application to flow test its exploratory oil well.

The judge hearing the Barton Moss eviction order case says he will give his ruling on Monday.

The Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons warns of a “carbon bubble” risk to financial security. The chair, Joan Walley, says: “Financial stability could be threatened if shares in fossil fuel companies turn out to be over-valued because the bulk of their oil, coal and gas reserves cannot be burnt without further destabilising the climate.”

The renewable energy company, Ecotricity, accuses the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, of double standards by requiring greater local scrutiny of planning applications for wind farms than fracking rigs. Companies wanting to erect a single turbine of more than 15m tall must conduct a pre-consultation with local communities before submitting the planning application.

A survey by the Manchester Evening News finds three quarters of respondents from Greater Manchester oppose fracking.

Members of the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp go to court to challenge an eviction order by commercial landowner, Peel, from land near the IGas exploratory drilling site. Live report by Manchester Evening News

Pro Publica, the US investigative news organisation, reviews recent academic studies on the links between health problems and fracking.

Kansas creates a task force to investigate whether fracking has anything to do with the increase in small earthquakes on the state’s border with Oklahoma.

The Times reports that Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, has told senior Tories Lord Lawson and Peter Lilley MP to stop questioning the scientific evidence that man-made emissions are causing global warming and undermining efforts to cut emissions.

Public Affairs News reports that Cuadrilla is no longer using the PR company Bell Pottinger.

Professor Peter Styles acknowledges 3D seismic surveying could have avoided the Blackpool earthquakes.

The Independent reports that BP is hiving off its fracking operation in the US. The paper says the new business will operate separately from BP but will continue to be owned by the company and will not have a separate listing.

Shale UK conference opens in London

Cuadrilla Resources announces there could be 330 trillion cubic feet in its licence area around Blackpool – 50% more than originally thought.

Energy Voice reports that work has begun on opening up a major UK onshore oil and gas find near Gatwick airport – after Esso missed the field 50 years ago. The website says the Horse Hill area is thought to contain 87 million barrels of oil and a further 165 billion cubic feet of gas.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the Canadian company, Rathlin Energy, is seeking environmental permits to carry out tests to see whether shale rock is suitable for fracking at Crawberry Hill and West Newton near Hull.

The Financial Times reports that American Environmental Defense Fund is predicting that methane emissions from the US oil industry will rise 4.5 per cent over the next five years unless companies take steps to curb them.

The Times reports that the pro-fracking Conservative MP, Andrew Tyrie has written to the South Downs National Park Authority objecting to Celtique Energie’s planning application to explore for oil and gas at Fernhurst in his constituency.

The Salford Star reports that demonstrators opposed to IGas exploration at Barton Moss camped outside the headquarters of Greater Manchester Police. Two banner alongside the tents read “GMP are brutal, violent and corrupt” and “GMP IGas private army”.

The ENDS Report says the Environment Agency admits failing to follow its own procedures when investigating pollution incidents. According to an ENDS exclusive, an internal audit reveals inadequate responses to pollution reports, very poor record-keeping and failure to monitor performance. The audit also criticises the Agency for an “aversion to using investigative and enforcement powers due to poor recovery”.

Bloomberg reports that a judge in Colorado has approved the results of a vote in November 2013 which approved a five-year ban on hydraulic fracturing in Broomfield.

The Lancet says public health professionals should have a role in informing decisions about fracking in the UK and in monitoring the industry to enforce regulation. Reporting on a workshop on the health effects of fracking, the magazine says exposure and epidemiological studies are needed along the entire supply chain of the shale gas industry.

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