Final arguments as Cuadrilla fracking inquiry draws to a close


The public inquiry into Cuadrilla’s plans to frack near Blackpool reached its final stages last week with the closing arguments from  half the groups involved.

Friends of the Earth, a parish council and a residents’ group summed up their final case against the schemes at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. The local chamber of commerce put its arguments in favour.

On Wednesday, (16th March) the inquiry will hear closing statements from another residents’ group, Lancashire County Council and Cuadrilla.

The five-week inquiry has heard evidence from more than 20 expert witnesses and more than 15 hours of public statements. The applications to frack up to four wells at each site were refused by Lancashire County Council in June last year.

Noise case “hopelessly misconceived”

Cuadrilla had argued throughout the inquiry that its predicted noise levels of 42 decibels at night and 55 during the day met government guidance and that only three properties would be affected by the Preston New Road site.

Ashley Bowes

But Ashley Bowes, barrister for Preston New Road Action Group, said Cuadrilla’s noise levels were too high and based on a premise that was “hopelessly misconceived”.

He said the company had not taken into account the character of the noise. Nor had it adjusted for low frequency noise, which was more intrusive. The elderly population in the area would be more vulnerable to night time noise and this should also have been considered.

Dr Bowes also said Cuadrilla’s survey of background noise over-estimated current levels. The survey was “defective” because it was too short and did not put sound monitoring equipment downwind of the noise source or monitor at nearby properties. It also didn’t take account of frozen or waterlogged ground, which would increase noise levels by three decibels.

Waste risks “unacceptable”

Cuadrilla accepted that the volume of liquid waste, known as flow back, would have “a very substantial and significant” impact on water treatment capacity. But it argued that under planning law this should to be dealt with by the Environment Agency, not the inquiry

Estelle Dehon

Estelle Dehon, barrister for Friends of the Earth, said planning policy required that the inquiry had to be satisfied that disposal of waste water would be adequately addressed and the impacts of waste were acceptable. She said:

“Cuadrilla’s case requires the turning of a very blind eye to the repeated use of the word ‘satisfied’ in planning policy.”

She said the Environment Agency had not taken responsibility for available capacity of waste treatment and had “washed its hands of that matter”.

Ms Dehon added that Friends of the Earth found “the risks arising from the limited available and accessible treatment capacity to be unacceptable”.

Carbon emissions equivalent to 18 months of car use in Fylde

Ms Dehon also said Government policy required planning to “secure radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” and support low carbon energy.

Shale gas could not be defined as a “low carbon” fuel, she said. It could not be justified in electricity generation because to achieve a low carbon economy, the UK needed to move to a zero carbon electricity generation system.

Cuadrilla had estimated that the operation of the Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road sites would generate up to 124,397 tonnes of greenhouse gases. Ms Dehon said this was probably an underestimate but even this figure was the equivalent of more than 18 months of total car travel in Fylde.

Both sites would flare off gas during flow testing, making this phase “particularly carbon intensive”, she said.

The schemes did not comply with local or national planning policy on tackling climate change, she argued.

Impacts on public health

Planning policy requires mineral developments to ensure there are no unacceptable adverse impacts on human health.

Ms Dehon said the inquiry had heard “ample” evidence that exploration for shale gas at the sites would have unacceptable adverse health impacts and that these impacts were being happening now.

David McCoyHealth impacts could be caused, or made worse, she said, by emotional and psychological factors. She quoted Friends of the Earth’s health witness, Dr David McCoy, who said:

“There is a lack of trust in the oil and gas industry generally and Cuadrilla in particular.”

He also pointed to feelings of anger and helplessness cause by perceptions that shale gas production would be forced onto local communities by national government policy.

Roseacre lorry route “a mistake”

lorry route

Black line marks Cuadrilla’s preferred lorry route to and from Roseacre Wood. Dashed line marks alternative section during peak lorry movements. Source:Google Maps

In his summing up, Peter Collins, a member of Newton-with-Clifton Parish Council, criticised Cuadrilla’s proposed lorry route to and from the Roseacre Wood site as “a mistake”

At 18.1km, it was the longest of all those considered and did not meet the test of being direct, he said.

Cllr Collins said roads around Roseacre Wood had been developed for the horse and cart. They were already “at a tipping point” from their use by modern traffic. He said the alternatives routes from Roseacre Wood to the M55 were not suitable either.

“A transport assessment cannot come up with a suitable route if there is not a suitable route in the first place.”

“We owe it to future generations”

The North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, which supports Cuadrilla’s schemes, told the inquiry:

“It is our responsibility to ensure that the economic benefits [of shale gas] will come to local businesses. We owe it to future generations not to let this opportunities pass by”.

Babs Murphy

Its chief executive, Babs Murphy, said the chamber did not disregard local communities but added.

“Someone somewhere will be inconvenienced”

Ms Murphy said the supply chain in Lancashire was ready to serve the shale gas industry and there were already skills and infrastructure in place.

“Lancashire is very well placed to be a centre of excellence for shale gas”, she said but she warned the industry would go to another part of the UK if exploration was not allowed in the county.

“The window of opportunity is not infinite.”

“We should get out there to prove that the region could be a centre of excellence in Europe. We must be ready to kick start an important new industry.”

Appropriate conditions and other regulations would mitigate any effects, she said. “Shale gas should not be treated as a special case”.

She said the potential for gas production in the Bowland shale under Lancashire was a material consideration that the inspector should take into account.

“If we could get a fraction of the shale gas, the prize would be tremendous”.

  • The inquiry continues on Wednesday 16th March 2016 with closing statements from Roseacre Awareness Group, Lancashire County Council and Cuadrilla

This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s  Rig Watch project.  Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here

7 replies »

  1. Interesting to see that the Medact Report author, (so often cited by opposition) now does not mention all of the cancer/toxic materials/ breathing difficulties that were cited.

    In other words, the Medact report is nonsense. Thats what Public Health England concluded, and I suppose is the obvious result of getting known antifrack activists to help write it. See pages 307 to 313 of link below. We are left with ‘stress’ and ‘worry’ and the like for the local population. That is of course self generating, and whipped up by FF Lancs, RAFF, REAF and the like!

    Much of the false information comes from the kind of stirring up that Fiends of the Earth do, through their limited company. They are being taken to task for deceiving the public, with claims of ‘toxic’ materials usage when this is forbidden in UK law. See statement 4 on ‘hazardous chemicals’ below. (Only non hazardous chemicals permitted)

  2. It is accepted that, at the best possible estimates, shale gas will supply the UK, for possibly 15 years. And yet, we have Babs Murphy of The North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, stating “It is our responsibility to ensure that the economic benefits [of shale gas] will come to local businesses. We owe it to future generations not to let this opportunities pass by”! So they think, for a short-term ‘gain’, future generations should be ‘inconvenienced’ and suffer the environmental consequences?
    The Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) has produced a new report on ‘fracking’ waste water. Stating that the management and disposal of wastewater remains one of the biggest hurdles facing the ‘fracking’ industry. It does mention the possible need of a in some cases a radioactive substances permit will be required, if ‘fracking waste water is re-injected. Has the issue of radioactive waste water been down-played? Because it is classed as NORM, normally occurring radioactive material? We know United Utilities discharged radioactive ‘fracking’ waste water into the Manchester Ship Canal and the EA allowed them to.
    And are people aware of the recent Federal Jury judgement:

    • I was just about to completely agree with you, but then I remembered to turn my brain on.

      1) Your seem to have failed to consider that instead of scaling to fulfill the entire UK demand instead it just helps displace some imports and so lasts for a much longer time period.

      2) Hurdle doesn’t mean brick wall. There is this strange concept whereby capacity is expanded to meet demand.

      3) Yep, I am sure ‘people’ are aware of Dimock. It was thoroughly enjoyable. After years and years of anti fracking protesters saying it was proof that fracking caused groundwater pollution and health issues what we find, as per normal, is that on day one the lawyer states it is not about fracking. The lawyer states that they have no evidence that fracking has caused groundwater contamination. The judge throws out the individual claims about groundwater contamination, health, and about loss of property value. The families win on ‘nuisance’.
      As ever with these cases we must wait until the whole legal process is played out. I very much doubt many people don’t expect an appeal – especially since they have asked for the verdict to be waived due to lack of evidence. At the very least anti frackers need to stop siting Dimock as evidence of anything more than they proved in the court case, even though I am partial to respecting the improvements in US regulation since early on in the industry when events like Dimock occurred. It seems like a big issue with the Dimock case is just that there was no baseline study, something that will never happen in the UK. It is a shame they didn’t have that as it would have helped them, or stopped any uncertainty. Apart from that I really wish that the anti fracking side would get more information before jumping on the bandwagon. So many of these cases where we get grandmothers etc with no understanding of the subject apart from a few youtube clips (and lets face it, who really expects google to work on any other subject either – it isn’t like you can be considered qualified in anything in a job interview if you walk in and say you looked it up online. They’d laugh you out of the room. Geology and engineering are not magic subjects where people can suddenly be magically more accurate with a bit of time on youtube). So we get memebers of the public learning a few buzz words and getting all excited thinking they now understand it and of course many mistakes get made. That has been proven true for fracking itself where the evidence quite clearly shows that it is not causing an issue and most activists that are willing to discuss things online now accept that it isn’t the actual fracking and instead have moved on to calling it ‘well integrity’. But of course they understanding of that is very shallow as well because it isn’t based on any formal education or experience, and so with that the odds of them being wrong increase markedly. That is exactly what we see when we are told about well integrity issues and they mix up, i.e. when they talk about Parker County or Pavillion and you go and look at the data and you find that what they are labelling as well integrity is actually just very poor well design. Fortunately much of it has been tightened up in the US, but I think many people in the UK still have the issue of thinking of the US as one country whereas in reality they need to think more on the state level. Different states have very different regulations to each other and even more so in the past.

      • Both the UK Environmental Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency has been shown to be ‘not fit for purpose’. And here in the UK, it is down to self-regulation and we have all been affected by the ‘self-regulation’ of the banks, have we not? As someone who worked on waste incineration, I can assure you, it does not work in the Health, Safety and Environmental field either. If we take the events that have occurred in the USA, Australia and other countries, we know ‘fracking’ causes environmental harm. That aside, we need to have negative carbon emissions to avert catastrophic climate change and the opposite is happening.

  3. The issue of radioactive waste has been euphemistically called merely hazardous, rather than highly hazardous, by this government who prefer to leave a toxic legacy instead of dealing with high pollutants responsibly.
    They already fail to address serial landfill and high hazardous disposal sites adequately, ( take a look at the death of child Zane whose parents are now having to take the government to court over a failed high hazardous landfill site leaked toxins into their home, leaving them with a dead child and the father in a wheelchair for life))with many ageing sites already leaking and polluting the environment.
    With the worst regulatory framework on the planet in place, we can expect more to come once the EA turn a blind eye, due to ”no money” when not only radioactive waste, but high hazard pollutants known to be found at lower stratas, get added to the frack fluid and then re hydrofracked causing cross contamination, which violates minerals and waste policy.

    We know Kirby Misperton exploratory drillers were allowed by the EA to re inject the frackwater after use and leave it in the ground, which is an absolute violation of trust and due diligence by a tax funded organisation which is charged with looking after the environment.

    With such a cavalier disregard for people, democracy and the environment, one wonders why we bother paying taxes or even voting.

    As for Babs Murphy, I guess she is childless and not yet married perhaps adopted with no family? Sad times when a woman takes over formerly male roles and behaves like a bloke with little concern for others beyond financial issues and asking who has the biggest private parts on the planet

    ”Appropriate conditions and other regulations would mitigate any effects, she said. “Shale gas should not be treated as a special case”.

    FYI Babs, the whole issue for anti frack campaigners is that IT IS being treated as a special case, why are you preferring to ignore that?

  4. Posted on behalf of Paul Tresto

    “My knowledge and experience of radioactivity is low however I recall a field in the Northern North Sea I worked on in the early 1980s which was secondary recovery of oil using ESPs. Some of the completions filled up with a hard scale inside the tubing which I think was Barium Sulphate, this was radioactive to some degree and required a specific disposal method when the pipes were cleaned out. It was a product of water flood. Knowing very little about radioactivity and with regards to radioactivity of produced water / stimulation clean up water I searched the internet and found three links close together which raise some questions:

    Click to access Laura-Hunter-Smith.pdf

    The Greenpeace link includes the following “Radium 226 was the highest naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) found in the flow back water from the Bowland shale measuring between 14 and 90 Becquerel per litre – according to an analysis by the Environment Agency (EA) in December 2011. Even at its lowest levels, this exceeds the EA’s limit allowed for waste water disposal without a permit, which is any amount higher than 10 Bq/g.”
    Laura Hunter Smith’s paper notes the following – “Levels of naturally occurring radioactive material, specifically 226 Ra, 40 K and 137 Cs, were established in six bottled natural mineral waters commonly found in British supermarkets; Buxton, Highland Spring, Abbey Well, Iceni, Aqua Pura, and Brecon Carreg. The water samples were sourced from varying regions of the United Kingdom and for the differing geological composition of the aquifers. The activity concentration of 226 Ra, 40 K and 137 Cs, was determined by means of gamma ray spectroscopy using a hyper pure germanium (HPGe) detector. The activity concentration of 226 Ra in the samples ranged from 372 ±23mBq/L in Aqua Pura, to 4039±52mBq/L for Buxton……….The results of level of 226 Ra were compared with World Health Organization guidelines on radiological activity. Two samples, Buxton and Brecon Carreg, exceeded the guidance levels of 500Bq/L. The measured values of 226 Ra compared well with literature values from bottled natural mineral water samples from around the world.”
    Question 1 – If it is correct to assume that the subject mineral waters contain significantly higher levels of Radium 226 than the waste frack fluid from the Cuadrilla well, what is the problem with dilution disposal?
    Question 2 – The EA permit limit is 10 Bq/g. These are different units. Does this mean that the EA permit limit expressed in volume terms is 10,000 Bq per litre (water mass is roughly 1kg / litre)? As Cuadrilla needed a permit I must be missing something in the conversion?
    Comparing like for like units Cuadrilla’s high estimate of Ra 226 90 Bq/l is still only 6% of Buxton mineral water. Or is the Greenpeace number incorrect?”

    • You highlight another issue with bottled water, other than the waste issue, waste of energy and price. It is far safer to drink tap water, despite all the hype from bottled water companies to the contrary. Perrier Water had to recall millions of their product, when high levels of radium were detected, years ago.

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