30th April 2014
On April 16th, we asked Cuadrilla to respond to an article on the CBI website, which used the company as a case study of community engagement and building community trust. We also asked Cuadrilla to respond to statements from the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association. Cuadrilla responded yesterday (April 29th). Here are the questions and the company’s responses:
Question: The CBI said the sections [of the web case study] about Cuadrilla were written by someone from the company. Could you let me know whether the author talked to people in local communities as part of the preparation for the article and, if so, how many and where?
Cuadrilla’s response The case study in question was independently written by the CBI. The CBI did have a telephone discussion with Cuadrilla about our community engagement in Balcombe; however Cuadrilla did not draft sections of the report as alleged. Information about Cuadrilla’s operations and community engagement is publicly available on our website and any questions about the content of the CBI report should be directed to the CBI.
Question: Could you also respond to the following comments from the Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association
FFBRA statement 1 “Cuadrilla’s engagement with our community has been lamentable – there was indeed no communication for the first 18 months until we invited them to a public meeting. When trying to raise issues with them we are directed to a public relations company, and it can take two weeks to receive what is usually an inadequate reply” [Evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, January 2014]
Cuadrilla’s response Cuadrilla would strongly reject any claims that our community engagement has been substandard or ‘lamentable’ as has been alleged by FFBRA.
At every stage before, during and after exploratory drilling operations in Balcombe, Cuadrilla has ensured that the local community have been fully informed of all developments. Since 1st May 2013, Cuadrilla has written to all Balcombe residents and local politicians on 8 separate occasions, totalling approximately 6,560 individual letters.
For reference, a brief chronology of the letters Cuadrilla has sent out since 1st May 2013 is below:
8th May 2013 – Letter announced that Cuadrilla is planning to drill, but not hydraulically fracture, in Balcombe this summer. The letter also publicised a drop in Information Session to be held on Thursday 23rd May 2013.
1st July 2013– Letter informed residents that Cuadrilla has submitted an application for a planning consent extension as it is to apply for Mining Waste Permit.
23rd July 2013 – Letter announces delivery of drill rig and its impending erection on site. Letter clarifies that the current operations will not involve hydraulic fracturing and will be regulated by a number of bodies, including the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.
**** 2nd August – Drilling commences ****
14th August 2013 – Letter provided update on progress since exploration drilling commenced in light of protests that had been taking place. Letter outlined that ‘No Dash for Gas’ protestors would be coming to the village from August 16th-21st. Letter also encloses a short information leaflet addressing concerns expressed about the impact of Cuadrilla’s work.
3rd September 2013 – Announcement that Cuadrilla would be submitting a new planning application to cover the flow testing of the horizontal oil exploration well.
**** Completion of exploratory drilling operations ****
24th September 2013 – Letter gave an update on activities in Balcombe, giving technical details on the drilling that had taken place and confirming the presence of hydrocarbons. Letter also confirmed that Cuadrilla would be applying to WSCC for permission to test flow rates from the well.
23rd January 2014 – Advised that Cuadrilla had now submitted a new planning application to West Sussex County Council to complete the flow testing of oil from the exploration well drilled at the Lower Stumble Site.
11th February 2014 – Letter gave an update on the new application and provided clarification of the term “naturally fractured”. The letter also clarified, for the avoidance of doubt and any differing interpretations, the word ‘intend’, and stated that Cuadrilla will not be carrying out hydraulic fracturing at the Lower Stumble site now or in the future
A designated Enquiries Team has also been available 5 days a week between 9am-5.30pm both via email and telephone before, during and after operations in Balcombe to answer any questions or concerns from local residents or members of the wider general public. To date, the Enquiries Team has responded to well over 100 individual enquiries, both in writing and directly on the phone, including 4 responses to your own personal enquires.
FFBRA statement 2 “There has been no discussion between Cuadrilla and the local community prior to the submission of the planning application. This is contrary to the guidance for on-shore oil and gas issued by DCLG. “ [Objection to Cuadrilla’s planning application to flow test its well at Balcombe, March 2014]
Cuadrilla’s response Cuadrilla is committed to providing the local community with information and explanation about its plans as well as an opportunity for local people to ask any questions that they might have. Cuadrilla held an Information Session in Balcombe on 23rd May 2013 to provide residents with an opportunity to meet the Cuadrilla team directly and ask questions about our operations. It is our practice as a company to openly engage in dialogue with the communities where we operate and to try to answer questions. Cuadrilla is also in frequent discussions with local residents and members of the wider general public via the designated community line which we run 5 days a week between 9.30am and 5.30pm, as well as via our enquiries email mailbox.
As part of the decision making process for the most recent flow testing planning application, a public consultation was run by WSCC to take in the views of the local residents and the wider general public. All of the responses received by the Council were taken into consideration and will help inform their decision.