A second public consultation opens today on whether Third Energy should receive environmental permits to carry out fracking at a well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire.
The Environment Agency (EA) has said it is “minded” to give consent for the operation at the KM8 well. It is now inviting people to comment on the draft permits before the final versions are issued. The consultation runs until Friday 15th January. Link to consultation documents
If approved, the permits would allow the company to operate a mining waste operation, discharge substances to groundwater and deal with naturally-occurring radioactive material.
Third Energy said:
“The Environment Agency has been extremely thorough and professional in their handling of our permit applications for the proposed hydraulic fracturing.”
“Naturally, we are very pleased that it is minded to approve them. The public, and especially the local community, can be reassured that the experts at the Environment Agency have come to this conclusion following a detailed assessment of our plans.”
“This is another important step towards having the necessary permissions in place to frack the KM8 well and evaluate the potential of the shale resource to produce gas commercially, to the benefit of both North Yorkshire and the nation.”
But Chris Redston, of Frack Free Ryedale, said:
“We are surprised that the Environment Agency are minded to approve the permits for KM8, given the huge number of objections they received.”
“In last week’s Autumn Statement, George Osborne cut DEFRA’s budget by an astonishing 23%. Given that the fracking industry’s case is entirely reliant on ‘gold standard regulations’ being enforced by the EA (which is part of DEFRA), it is impossible to believe that this department will be able to regulate the fracking industry effectively.”
“Also, we note that the EA is now headed by pro-fracking Chairman Sir Philip Dilley, who was previously chairman of ARUP, an engineering firm that wrote environmental reports on fracking for Cuadrilla. It’s unlikely that the public will have any confidence in the EA’s decision-making process when they are led by someone with such clear ties to the fracking industry. It is perhaps no coincidence that the EA approve every single fracking permit that comes their way, whatever the issues raised by others.”
The KM8 well was drilled in 2013 to 3,099m into the Bowland shale. No gas was extracted and it was suspended. Third Energy now wants to hydraulically fracture the well in five places.
Earlier this year, the EA carried out an eight-week consultation on the permit applications, ending in August.
In a statement it said:
“We have carried out a rigorous environmental assessment of the proposed activities that we would regulate, taking into account all of the comments we received in our first consultation.”
“Our mind remains open at this stage: although we believe we have covered all the relevant issues and reached a reasonable conclusion, our ultimate decision could yet be affected by any information that is relevant to the issues we have to consider. However, unless we receive information that leads us to alter the conditions in the draft permits, or to reject the applications altogether, we will grant the permits in their current form.”
The EA’s Yorkshire oil and gas manager, Ben Hocking, said in a press release:
“Our regulatory controls for onshore oil and gas are in place to protect people and the environment. We will not permit activities that pose an unacceptable risk.”
“This further stage of consultation gives the public and interested groups an opportunity to see our decision making process and have their say on the draft environmental permits.”
Reasons for decision
The EA said it had concluded there was no risk of a major accident from the proposed fracking operation. It said this was “based on the fact that the mining waste facility is to be located more than 2km underground and will not be accessible to people, and there is no source-pathway-receptor link.”
It also said it was satisfied that
- The operator had “sufficient financial resources” to ensure it complied with permit conditions
- Appropriate management systems and management structures would be in place
- Appropriate measures would ensure that environmental accidents were prevented
- If there were an accident, the consequences would be minimised
- Nuisance from smells were unlikely
The EA added:
“Noise and vibration from the regulated activities are not considered to be an issue due to the rural location of the site, the distance to the nearest receptor (over 200 metres) and the level of background noise.”
Draft permit number EPR/DB3002HE
Deals with mining waste operations and groundwater activity.
If approved, the permit includes a condition to prevent activities that cause odour, noise or vibration at levels likely to cause pollution. But the condition provides an exclusion cause “if the operator has used appropriate measures, including, but not limited to” those specified in odour, noise and vibration management plans.
The site operator is required to carry out monitoring of air, emissions and surface and groundwater. The operator must also notify the Environment Agency about any failure of equipment or techniques, and any accident or emissions which may cause significant pollution.
The permit specifies monitoring locations, the volume and duration of storage of waste on site, the depth of injection of fracturing fluid and the volume of fracking fluid used.
Draft permit number EPR/KB3098DE
If approved, would authorise the disposal of well stimulation fluids and water containing naturally occurring radioactive substances. This sets limits on the volume of solid and liquid radioactive waste that can be handled on site and the duration that it can be retained.