Opponents of fracking rang bells and alarm clocks at mid-day today in a symbolic protest to mark the fifth anniversary of the earthquake linked to fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall shale gas well in Lancashire.
At gatherings including Nottingham, Beverley, Bridlington and London’s Whitehall, campaigners said they wanted people to wake up to what they said were the risks of fracking.
There are currently shale gas applications going through the planning system in three regions of the UK. An inspector is considering Cuadrilla’s proposals for two sites within a few miles of Preese Hall. North Yorkshire County Council is expected to decide later this month on Third Energy’s plans to frack at Kirby Misperton. And councillors are likely to rule in the summer on IGas’s shale gas application at Misson in north Nottinghamshire.
More proposals are expected from companies that won new licence areas in the 14th round last year.
Campaigners said today that events at Preese Hall had alerted people in Lancashire to fracking.
The April 1st earthquake in 2011 measured 2.3 on the Richter scale and, though small, attracted more than 20 reports of shaking.
Another earthquake, a few weeks later on 27th May, was also linked to the Preese Hall. Within days, the industry had suspended fracking and interest in the process in the UK began to grow.
Claire Stevenson, an opponent of Cuadrilla’s current plans to frack in Lancashire, told today’s Blackpool Gazette that it was “in a way lucky” that the April 1st earthquake happened:
“It raised many serious questions for a number of people on the Fylde Coast to fracking, the process, effects on both environment, climate and human health, and more importantly, the company behind it.”
Dawn Ansell, who lives near the Preese Hall well, told the paper:
“We had no idea about fracking before this. We did not really know what was going on at Preese Hall, fracking had never been mentioned. We made sure we knew about it after that.”
Gayzer Frackman (above), an opponent of fracking from Lytham, said he had not heard about fracking before the earthquakes either. He said he noticed cracks in his house walls after the earthquakes and began to do his own research. Today, he was outside Downing Street calling for a ban on the technique.
Is the UK waking up to fracking?
Last summer, Tony Carruthers, then Cuadrilla’s commercial director, told a parliamentary group:
“Four or five years ago you could turn up with a drilling rig or even a fracturing rig and just drill a well on the planning officer’s discretion.”
Now, many would argue quite rightly, fracking plans require environmental statements, traffic and noise plans, air quality assessments, and public consultations. Planning officers make a recommendation but the decisions are by elected planning committees, at least initially.
Tony Carruthers said the only thing that had changed was public perception of fracking. He blamed what he described as a “very small but very very influential group of people” for scaremongering.
But research by DrillOrDrop shows that the earthquakes coincided with more attention being paid to fracking in the UK.
We used Google Trends to track internet searches on the term ‘fracking’. Before 2011, there was very little interest. But from then on the numbers grew.
The chart represents search interest relative to the highest point on the chart. It doesn’t show absolute search volumes.
What wakes the UK up to fracking?
This trend is supported by Government public opinion surveys, which show that people who are aware of shale gas has risen from 42% in 2012 to 77% in 2015.
In 2011, the use of the search term ‘fracking’ appears to reflect growing interest following the earthquakes and the peaks coincided with key events.
After the earthquakes, Google Trends shows a series of peaks in the use of the search term ‘fracking’ that frequently coincide with key events, publications and political statements on fracking.
Key “fracking” events that coincided with search term peaks
1st March 2011
Cuadrilla gives evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee
1st April 2011
1st earthquake, measuring 2.3, linked to Preese Hall
23rd May 2011
Energy and Climate Change Committee report on shale gas published. Tim Yeo says “There has been a lot of hot air recently about the dangers of shale gas drilling”.
27th May 2011
2nd earthquake linked to fracking at Preese Hall
31st May 2011
Fracking suspended at Preese Hall
8th June 2011
Two Lancashire MPs call for a safety inquiry into the earthquake
21st September 2011
Cuadrilla announces shale gas find in Bowland basin
2nd November 2011
Initial report on Preese Hall earthquakes makes a connection to fracking
16th April 2012
Technical report published and Government announces seismic traffic light system
28th June 2012
Publication of Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering report on fracking
13th December 2012
Ministerial statement on resumption of fracking
Mid June 2013
Website launch of Gasland 2
BBC Horizon programme on fracking
27th June 2013
BGS report on Bowland Shale basin
Late July 2013
Start of Balcombe protests
30th July 2013
Lord Howell says fracking could be carried out in desolate areas in the north east
12th August 2013
David Cameron says Britain should get behind fracking
19th August 2013
Protest action at Cuadrilla office and outside Balcombe site including arrest of Caroline Lucas MP
Early October 2013
Community screenings of Gasland 2 in the UK
Barton Moss protests start and continue through January 2014
13th January 2014
UKOOG announcement of community benefit scheme
4th February 2014
Cuadrilla announces new fracking sites at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road
Mid February 2014
George Osborne says shale gas is green energy
Barton Moss protesters face eviction
In the US Chevron gives pizza coupons as apology for exploding fracking well
24th February 2014
Natalie Hynde found guilty over Balcombe anti-fracking protest
26th March 2014
David Cameron says fracking must start by the end of the year – the day after a report concludes well failure “is an issue”
20th May 2014
Cuadrilla announces it will submit fracking plans by end of the month
21st January 2015
Lancashire County Council planners recommend refusal of Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road applications.
26th January 2015
MPs vote against a moratorium on fracking in a debate on the Infrastructure Bill
28th January 2015
Decision on Cuadrilla’s Lancashire fracking plans deferred
The Scottish Government announces a moratorium on fracking
15th June 2015
Planners recommend refusal of Cuadrilla’s Roseacre Wood but approval of Preston New Road
25th June 2015
Refusal of Cuadrilla’s Roseacre Wood plans
29th June-4th July 2015
Refusal of Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road plans
12th August 2015
Government announcement on “fast-track” for fracking applications
18th August 2015
Companies offered licences in first tranche of 14th round
16th September 2015
Written ministerial statement by Amber Rudd on shale gas
17th December 2015
Companies offered licences in 2nd tranche of 14th Round
9th February 2014
Start of Cuadrilla public inquiry