Councillors who will decide Cuadrilla’s fracking applications in Lancashire later this week have been sent a new report which says shale gas exploration is potentially a significant source of air, land and water pollution.
The report, by the CHEM Trust, makes four recommendations on regulating fracking and calls for an EU-wide moratorium until they are met.
Lancashire County Council’s development control committee meets for four days, starting tomorrow, to consider Cuadrilla’s plans to frack up to four wells at both Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road.
The council has also received a letter from Elected Officials to Protect New York (See New York Letter below).
The CHEM Trust report recommends:
- Disclosure of all chemicals in fracking
- Environmental Impact Assessments for all fracking sites, along with obligatory effective monitoring and a ban on re-injection of waste fluid
- Regulations to protect the environment and people after wells are abandoned, including financial bonds to pay for clean-up costs
- Effective monitoring and enforcement of regulation, with a requirement that regulators have resources to carry out their functions
CHEM Trust says fracking presents greater cumulative risks to public health and the environment than conventional drilling. The report says this is because fracking uses chemicals and large volumes of water, contains additional contaminants in the flowback and needs large numbers of wells and many transport movements.
The scale of commercial fracking shouldn’t be underestimated, the report said. It refers to plans by Ineos to frack over 1,000 fracking wells in the central belt of Scotland alone.
The CHEM Trust said it was particularly concerned about the use of hormone or endocrine disrupting chemicals. Researchers in the US, it said, had found these substances in fracking chemicals.
It said fracking could cause air pollution through flaring and treatment of gas and diesel fumes from pumps, vehicles and equipment.
Air, water and noise pollution concerned people living near fracking sites, the report said. It quoted studies in the US and Australia which it said showed a higher incidence of skin conditions and respiratory problems. It also raised concerns about staff on fracking sites.
Extracting water for fracking and the potential impacts from pollution also threaten wildlife, the report said. It said the River Wyre estuary, a site of special scientific interest in Morecambe Bay, was at risk if Cuadrilla got approval of its plans in Lancashire.
CHEM Trust said it was also concerned about cuts in regulatory authorities and lobbying for deregulation on, for example, controls on treatment and disposal of flowback fluid.
The industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, in response to the report, said: “It should … be noted that a sponsor of Chemtrust is Greenpeace and the report makes use of reports either directly written by Friends of the Earth or by well-known activists.”
Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, said: “The timing of this report is clearly designed to influence local councillors right at the end of an already exhaustive 15 month process, which has been professionally reviewed by a number of agencies and officials.
“I am concerned about the lack of independence of sponsors of this organisation as well as the fact that a number of recommendations are already best practise in the industry.”
“The industry has been working within areas of outstanding natural beauty, national parks, SSSIs and other similar areas for many years without impact to the environment, community or habitats of species – something this report fails to even mention.”
New York letter
Lancashire County Council has also received a letter from a group of more than 850 elected representatives from New York State, which has had a ban on fracking since December 2014. The group, Elected Officials to Protect New York, said a US study which concluded that fracking posed significant public health risks was also relevant to Lancashire.
The letter warned Lancashire councillors to beware of claims by the industry that strong regulations would ensure fracking was safe.
“There is no evidence to justify that claim by the industry. In fact quite the opposite is true. High-volume hydraulic fracturing is an inherently risky process, and in the United States, water contamination, air pollution, earthquakes, and negative health and community impacts continue to get worse despite those same claims of safety and better regulations”, the letter said.
“We are sure that the fracking industry will promise jobs and prosperity. We urge you to treat these claims with deep scepticism. The experience in the U.S. is that these claims are false and vastly overstated. Meanwhile, local communities are faced with significant costs including road and infrastructure damage, emergency response, heightened crime rates, and lingering contamination and pollution.”
Updated at 21.21 on 22/6/2015 to include response from UKOOG