Regulation

Council calls for mandatory fracking clean-up fund

KM sign

The shale gas industry should be required to establish a fund for the clean-up of any contamination from fracking, councillors in North Yorkshire have said.

A report from a county council committee said the fund should be established early and it should be mandatory. (Link to report – see item 8 on the agenda)

The report, which will be voted on later this month, stepped back from requiring individual companies to pay a bond when they applied for planning permission to explore for shale gas. But it said:

“There is a strong case to suggest that the government should require the industry to develop mutual funds for bonds, early on in the development of the industry, to deal with the occurrence of environmental contamination.”

The report raised concerns about the impact of a shale gas industry on the area and its tourism industry. It concluded:

“A proliferation of well sites in a concentrated area could impact negatively upon tourism – one of North Yorkshire’s key industries.”

“Accommodating (and planning for) a large scale shale gas industry has particular challenges and could give rise to substantial impacts that need addressing.”

North Yorkshire is in the front-line of the debate over shale gas. Third Energy has applied for planning permission to frack at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale and most of the area has been licensed for shale gas exploration.

The report is partly a response to a petition to the council’s Ryedale area committee in June last year. This called on the county council to “publicly oppose fracking and all other forms of unconventional fossil fuel extraction in North Yorkshire”.

If approved the report will inform the council’s response to the petition. It will also help to shape the Minerals and Waste Joint Plan (MWJP) being developed for North Yorkshire, the North York Moors National Park and the City of York.

Other recommendations

The report said the MWJP should go further than the current draft in deciding where fracking can take place in the county and how it will be managed. The councillors recommended the MWJP should:

  • Set detailed criteria for where shale gas operations should be allowed, taking into account towns and villages, the landscape, noise, traffic, light pollution and the impact on the economy.
  • State how waste from an onshore oil and gas industry would be managed
  • Set criteria to assess and minimise the impact of light and noise pollution from shale gas sites
  • Set criteria to assess any “cumulative impacts arising from a proliferation of well sites”.

The report also called for:

  • Baseline study of health in and beyond North Yorkshire to identify impacts from a shale gas industry
  • Training for the emergency services and GPs to respond to spills or explosions.
  • Baseline monitoring of emissions to air at all proposed shale gas sites – not just the first few as proposed by the British Geological Survey
  • Development of a comprehensive picture of risks to groundwater, taking account of different geologies
  • Greater protection of groundwater than provided by the ban in the Infrastructure Act on fracking at depths of less than 1,000m

The report also said the public inquiry into Cuadrilla’s fracking appeals in Lancashire had raised doubts about gaps in the regulation of shale gas. The MWJP should “into account any relevant issues where they are known in time to inform the content of the plan”.

Location of shale gas sites

The report considered requiring buffer zones between fracking sites and the county’s National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It said this would give greater protection to the environment and heritage. But it also concluded buffer zones would be inflexible and hard to justify in planning terms. Large buffer zones would leave relatively small remaining areas suitable for development, it said.

The report supported the idea of minimum separation distances between well pads. But it said they should be used flexibly. It said stand-off distances of more than 1km “would be likely to prevent development in all but a few localised place” and could steer development to areas off the main road network.

  • The report will be considered by North Yorkshire’s health scrutiny committee meeting on 22nd April before going to the council’s executive on 24th May.

Link to report – see item 8 on the agenda

6 replies »

  1. What about the impact on house prices?

    The draft DEFRA Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts Paper states that “house prices in close proximity to the drilling operations are likely to fall. There could be a 7% reduction in property values within one mile of an extraction site.
    Who will compensate local residents if they suffer a loss on their properties, or are unable to sell. Many people have the majority of their savings in their property which could be diminished considerably depending on where they live. They would have less capital to move to another area, should they wish to.

    • There are many types of development which impact on house prices and no compensation is provided. Housing developments on greenfield sites, wind farms, new roads and infrastructure……. Nothing would happen if compensation were provided for every development which reduced house prices. There are no complaints when house prices increase eg due to improved commuting infrastructure. Will house prices drop at Gatwick or Heathrow if the extra runway is added – and if so, will everyone get compensation? I doubt it.

  2. If buffer zones of more than 1km could steer development away from the main road network and leave limited land for fracking etc – that sounds to me like the UK isn’t the right place for this industry – we do not have the land mass that countries such as Australia, the US or Canada have. Our population density is far higher as well. All the cumulative impacts of this industry will be far greater in the UK and I think the Scrutiny Committee has done a good job to raise many important issues. But it was Mr Hollinrake MP that called for a mandatory mile buffer zone and many agree with this for obvious reasons. If a 1km buffer zone will cause problems – then the scale of the industry must be strictly limited or it should be acknowledged that this industry cannot work economically in the UK. People and the environment should always come before fracking.

    Peer reviewed studies of different buffer zones distances have shown that many are inadequate for a number of reasons including air pollution, fire and explosions. Evacuation distances and emergency response times need to be considered. This will be an extremely contentious issue and I don’t think many will accept a fracking site close to their settlement or fracking trucks travelling through the centre of it. Traffic is a huge issue, whether or not they pipe the water in – the figures quoted by Cuadrilla in the Lancashire Inquiry are into the many thousands.

  3. Interesting, valid and thought provoking comments on the house value issue – the link below is the position with Gatwick.

    North Yorkshire is a beautiful area and there is no doubt that if fracking takes off and operates at a significant scale (back to Prof Aplin’s 33,000 wells scenario) it will have a huge impact and the noise and disruption involved will be for decades – this is not a small scale industry and it would not be a short term project.

    Seems they will have planning blight and compensation packages available to homeowners affected by development of Gatwick Airport.

    There are many unknowns about fracking in the UK at the moment but what if house values do fall or people are unable to sell their home then surely residents should be compensated in the same way as elsewhere – rather than, in my opinion, the ill thought through community benefit scheme? If it is proven that house values fall it will potentially affect many people and it is unfair that people, through no fault of their own, should find themselves in such an awful position. If the gas produced is for the wider public benefit surely matters should be dealt with on a level playing field?

    https://www.gatwickairport.com/globalassets/publicationfiles/business_and_community/all_public_publications/aircraft_noise/26367_gatwick_home_owner_support_scheme_v3.pdf

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