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Top 10 posts of 2015

BigBen2The most viewed posts on DrillOrDrop in 2015 all reported on MPs and their attitudes to fracking.

Our post on the result of December’s vote on fracking under National Parks attracted record views for the website.

Posts ranked number three and four also reported on fracking parliamentary votes and reaction to them. The second highest-viewed post covered one woman’s warning to MPs of the consequences of voting through the fracking clauses in the Infrastructure Act.

Further down the list are posts about Rathlin Energy and its operations in East Yorkshire, new licences for oil and gas exploration issued this year by the government and Cuadrilla’s planning applications to frack in Lancashire.

Here’s our top10 list of most-viewed posts on DrillOrDrop in 2015, starting with the best performer.

 

1. How MPs voted in ballot on fracking under National Parks

Posted on 17th December, this article reported on the vote on whether to allow oil and gas companies to drill under National Parks and other protected areas. It was the most visited post both in 2015 and since DrillOrDrop began. 298 MPs voted in favour, including one Labour MP. 261 voted against, including four Conservative MPs. 91 MPs did not vote. The post linked to a searchable spreadsheet of the full results to find out how individual MPs voted. Link to post

2.Mother of two puts UK MPs on legal notice for any harm from fracking

On 26th February, we reported how Jojo Mehta, an anti-fracking campaigner from a small village in Gloucestershire, sent legal letters to all 657 MPs during the passage of the Infrastructure Bill. The Notice Before Action letters warned that if MPs voted for pro-fracking measures they were potentially in breach of their code of conduct. The code requires that MPs have “a general duty of act in the interests of the nation as a whole and a special duty to their constituents. It adds:

“Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest.”

Link to post

3.Results of votes on Infrastructure Bill debate

This post from 26th January reported on three votes on new clauses to the Infrastructure Bill dealing with fracking. They included a call for a moratorium. All were defeated and none were included in the Infrastructure Act. Labour voted against the government on the first two votes which dealt with environmental regulations and devolution of mineral licensing to Scotland. But Labour abstained in the vote on a moratorium, which was defeated by 52 to 308. Link to post

We also reported that day on how two Conservative MPs, Mark Menzies (Fylde) and Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) voted against the government on the moratorium (Two Lancs Tories joined MPs voting for a fracking moratorium). The post include the full list of MPs who voted for the moratorium. Link to post

4. Labour calls for moratorium after fracking vote

This post, from 16th December, reported reaction to the vote in favour of allowing fracking under National Parks and other protected areas. The Shadow Energy Secretary, Lisa Nandy, called for a moratorium “until we can be sure it is safe and won’t present intolerable risks to our environment”. The post also include comments by other MPs, industry representatives, national environmental organisations, and anti-fracking campaigners in Lancashire and North Yorkshire. Link to post

5. Gas company seeks to bankrupt anti-fracking campaigner

On 23rd December we reported how lawyers representing Rathlin Energy sought a bankruptcy order against the leading anti-fracking campaigner and broadcaster, Ian Crane. The company went to the Royal Courts of Justice in London to recover thousands of pounds, which it said was owed from the costs of an earlier legal case. That involved a successful attempt by Rathlin to remove a structure, called Crawberry Castle, which blocked the entrance to the company’s Crawberry Hill gas exploration site near Beverley in East Yorkshire. Mr Crane, a former oil executive, was a named defendant in that case. The bankruptcy hearing was adjourned until 20th January 2016. Link to post

6. Who’s got an oil and gas licence in your area?

On 17th December, the Oil and Gas Authority confirmed the exploration licences issued in the 14th onshore licensing round. The post included regional maps with lists of the licence blocks, the successful operator and which hydrocarbon the company expected to find (shale, coal bed methane, conventional gas and oil or abandoned mine vent methane). The licences were first announced in August (see below) but details of only 27 blocks were confirmed then. The remaining 132 blocks were part of a consultation and the details released on 17th December. Link to post

7. Breaking: Map of new oil and gas licences

This map, posted on 18th August, was the first indication of where companies could be expected to drill for gas and oil onshore over the coming years. The map showed confirmed and provisional licences awarded under the 14th onshore licensing round. The light green squares were offered to named companies. The dark green squares were subject to a public consultation and not awarded until December (see above). Link to post

8. What went wrong at West Newton?

This DrillOrDrop investigation, posted on 5th February, uncovered a series of problems at Rathlin Energy’s West Newton A exploratory gas site in 2014. The site had made national headlines when neighbours complained about a foul smell. Using documents and correspondence released under Freedom of Information requests, we discovered that the company had experienced problems with equipment, record keeping and management systems. It was being investigated for its working practices by the Health and Safety Executive. And it felt besieged by what it called false allegations. A follow-up article discovered that the Environment Agency recorded 14 breaches of permit conditions between July and October 2014. Link to post. Link to follow-up article

9. Cuadrilla fracking decision: what objectors said about the Preston New Road plans

This was the only article to make the top 10 covering the meetings of Lancashire County Council’s planning committee that decided Cuadrilla’s applications to frack at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. Planners had recommended the committee approve the application for fracking at Preston New Road. This article, from 23rd June, reported on the evidence given to the committee from people opposing the plans. We also reported on evidence given in favour. On 29th June, the committee rejected the application and plans for a seismic monitoring scheme. It had earlier refused permission for fracking at Roseacre Wood but approved a monitoring scheme there. Cuadrilla appealed against the refusals and the conditions attached to the approval. A public inquiry is due to start on 9th February 2016. Link to post

10. The disappearing Telegraph fracking article revealed

This post from 16th June was about a Daily Telegraph article on new rules from the Environment Agency which, it said, would stop local people being consulted before test drilling. The article contrasted this approach with plans to give local people the right to veto onshore wind farms. The article was quoted in a press release from the Department of Energy and Climate Change which said it misreported the regulation of a potential shale gas article. But before the press release was issued, the Telegraph removed the article from its website. A sharp-eyed DrillOrDrop reader spotted the article in the print version and we posted it for people who may have missed it. Link to post

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