Opponents of Rathlin Energy’s plans for another exploratory gas wellsite in the West Newton area of East Yorkshire have been lobbying decision-makers ahead of a crucial meeting tomorrow.
A group of local residents has objected to the recommendation by council officers to approve the proposal. They say a report by the Director of Planning at East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) is not accurate or balanced. They also say it does not give East Riding councillors enough information to make a decision on the application.
In another initiative, anti-fracking campaigners in East Yorkshire have sent a cease and desist letter to ERYC councillors, the local police and crime commissioner and the Chief Superintendent of Humberside Police. The letter asks the recipients to stop oil and gas operations in the area and police action in support of them within 48 hours.
Rathlin has applied for planning permission to drill and test up to two wells at Crook Lane, West Newton. This would be the company’s second exploratory wellsite in the Holderness area and its third in East Yorkshire. The planners’ report says the application should be approved because the site is temporary (24 months), impacts would be controlled by environmental permits and planning conditions and the development is supported by local and national planning policy.
But Jon and Val Mager, on behalf of a group of local residents, have raised five objections to the planning report. They say these objections should be considered at a meeting of ERYC’s planning committee tomorrow morning (4th June 2015), which will decide on the application.
Five objections to planners’ recommendation
Climate change In their submission, the residents argue that the report did not assess the impact of the development on climate change, as required by planning policy. They say a decision on the application should be deferred until research is available on the climate change impacts of gas exploration in the East Riding over the next 30-50 years.
The residents say Rathlin Energy has a long-term strategy to explore and produce gas in Holderness, north of Hull. The company holds a drilling licence until at least 2039 and leases with landowners lasting up to 50 years. Yet, the residents argue, a third of known oil and half of all known gas must remain unburned to prevent 2 degrees of warming and the predicted unliveable climate change that would result. Hull and the East Riding are the two local authorities most at risk from climate change-induced rising sea levels, river flooding and severe storms, the residents say.
Regulation The residents say Rathlin’s existing West Newton well experienced “multiple breaches” of environmental permits, health and safety regulations and planning conditions. These were raised by objectors in the consultation on the current application but not addressed in the planners’ report, the residents say. They also argue that current regulations are inadequate to prevent future problems. They believe a decision should be deferred until the committee has considered a report on the breaches and councillors can be sure that regulations are robust and enforceable.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) The residents argue that planners should have required an EIA to accompany the application. They say statements by Rathlin Energy suggest the area could have up to seven wells, which if successful could produce gas for 25-50 years. This would meet the criteria for an EIA, the residents say. They call for a deferral of the decision until an EIA has been produced and consulted on.
Economic case According to the residents, the report does not provide sufficient evidence to make the case that the temporary exploratory well would benefit the economy or improve energy security. It also does not consider whether the wellsite would be a risk to existing employment. They say the decision should be deferred until there is further information on the costs and benefits of gas exploration in the county.
Temporary The residents argue that the proposed well site is not a temporary development as the report claims. The application says the well would be suitable for long-term production, not just exploration. The report is not accurate or balanced, the residents say. “The current process adopted by East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s officers and elected members has not provided a balanced or sufficiently evidence-based report for a sound decision.”
Cease and desist
The cease and desist letter from anti-fracking campaigners in East Yorkshire says oil and gas operations are “at risk of causing serious environmental damage and damage to the health and livelihoods of the people of the East Riding of Yorkshire and Hull.”
“If harm is caused to the land, peoples or earth … individuals may be held accountable and personally liable.”
The authors of the letter will not reveal their names because, they say “we don’t want to make themselves more of a target than we already are”.
They say decision-makers who act in a way that threatens the environment risk legal action.
Their letter asks recipients to provide, among other things, evidence that:
- Hydrocarbon exploration does not damage the environment
- It has a social licence in the East Riding
- It has a real economic benefit
- It is being independently monitored
- Any damage over the past three years has been fully rectified
- There are more than sufficient safeguards to prevent mechanical failure or human error
- Local communities support unconventional gas mining and exploration