The chief executive of Cuadrilla, Francis Egan, rejected claims from a senior MP that the fracking industry was self-regulated. And he warned that nothing would get done if regulators were looking over the industry’s shoulder.
The committee’s chair, Anne McIntosh, asked him: “You would want to carry the public with you. Wouldn’t it be better that there was less self-regulation than currently is the case?”
Mr Egan replied: “I don’t accept that there is self-regulation. I think perhaps we have a different view as to what regulation is. The Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, DECC and Lancashire County Council are all regulators. Does that mean that somebody is stood over someone’s shoulder all the time? No. Does it mean that they can have unannounced visits? Yes.”
Miss McIntosh, the MP for Thirsk and Malton, where Third Energy plans to frack, said the public was taking it on trust that Cuadrilla would follow the rules on the concentration and content of fracking fluid and on seismic activity caused by fracking.
“There will be tests”, she said, “and yes it will be regulated but you will have a large degree of self-regulation, which leaves a hostage to fortune”.
Mr Egan replied: “I could not disagree more”. He said the Department of Energy and Climate Change would monitor for seismic activity and the Environment Agency would do spot checks on fracking and flowback fluid.
But he added: “If you were to take any industry in the world and say the only way this industry can work is that for everything you do there is somebody stood over your shoulder checking that you’re doing it correctly we will never fly a plane, drive a car, drive a train, produce anything.”
“So if the public and the political expectation is that regulation means that every second thing you do has to be checked by a regulator then nothing will get done.”
Other points raised by the committee with Francis Egan
Confidence in the regulatory framework
“Yes, I have absolute confidence. Personally I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think it couldn’t be done safely and environmentally responsibly. I don’t have to do this. I have worked all over the world in oil and gas and I don’t do this unless I think it can be done safely and responsibly. If it isn’t then we would stop doing it.”
Public confidence in fracking
“Public confidence is influenced by lots of things, including the horror stories you have just mentioned and no we are not there yet entirely with public confidence. All the surveys generally show that there is a small percentage of people that are very much in favour and a small percentage who are very much against and the majority of people who are waiting to make up their minds. So there clearly is a job. But to address the public confidence, clearly you have to communicate but ultimately you have to do something. You have to drill some wells and demonstrate that it can be done safely. “
To drill or not to drill
“Ultimately, you do have to do something or not doing something. The county actually needs to decide. Do we want to do this or do we not want to do it. Because at the end of the day, we can talk about it until we run out of gas”
Who does the public trust?
“Our research shows that the public doesn’t particularly trust operators because we would say that wouldn’t we. It doesn’t particular trust the NGOs who are against it because ditto. I hate to tell you this that politicians are not particularly high on the trust list either. Actually the people who our research shows are trusted are independent academics, to the extent that you can find an independent academic.”
- The other witness giving evidence to the committee, was John Dewar, of Third Energy. He told MPs the Ryedale area of North Yorkshire could see 50 shale gas wells. Our report