Fracking at Kirby Misperton: Flamingo Land changes its mind and Third Energy’s response

As councillors prepare to decide on Third Energy’s plan to frack in North Yorkshire, it has emerged that one of the county’s biggest visitor attractions is now opposing the scheme.

Flamingo Land, in the village of Kirby Misperton, is under 1km from Third Energy’s proposed shale gas site.

Last year, it told North Yorkshire County Council it felt the anti-fracking campaign lacked “tangible evidence and/or case studies” to back up its arguments. DrillOrDrop report

But in a recent change of heart, the theme park and zoo said it had concerns about the health of its animal collection, local residents, visitors and guests.

Third Energy has responded saying Flamingo Lane’s views were based on a misconception and incorrect information. It said it would do nothing that would cause any harm to the “much-loved business.”

Flamingo Land’s concerns are about the re-use of water. In a letter to North Yorkshire County Council, it said:

“The treatment of water was a fundamental issue to Flamingo Land and we have reconsidered our position on the issue of fracking due to the difference between what we were assured of and what is now being applied for.”

It submitted six studies of health impacts and asked for more time to research the issue before a decision was made.

Third Energy responded:

The Kirby Misperton site has produced gas a short distance from Flamingo Land for over twenty years without any impact and we have been pleased to see our neighbour thrive.

We have included Flamingo Land’s letter in full below, along with links to the studies it submitted to North Yorkshire County Council. You can also read Third Energy’s full response below them.

The council is due to make a decision on the planning application on 20 May 2016. A recommendation by planning officers will be posted on the council’s website by the end of the day on 12 May 2016.

Third Energy’s proposed fracking site at Kirby Misperton (bottom left) and Flamingo Land (top right). Source: Google Maps

Flamingo Land’s letter

I am writing on behalf of Flamingo Land Ltd furthermore to our recently expressed concerns regarding the future developments of fracking sites within Ryedale.

Although we remain in favour of job and wealth creation in our area, we have further concerns that the micro-plan for fracking in our Ryedale is much significant than the application being considered.

We are aware that 159 onshore blocks have been granted in the 14th round of PEDLs in December 2015. This includes an additional 18 licences granted within Ryedale and that if Third Energy, Ineos and Cuadrilla has similar business models to the US, then Ryedale could end up being home to over 1500-2000 wells.

Our specific location in Yorkshire is very special from a tourism perspective. Our local area has many attractions which complement each other in a unique way, nestling in the picturesque local environment, which is the envy of the UK tourism industry.

Our fear is that the current application is merely the start of a process which will lead to at least 40 local drilling sites within Ryedale district, then tourism within our area will be negatively affected permanently.

We have also noticed that a licence has been approved to allow Third Energy to re-use water after the fracturing process. This was entirely ‘not’ how Third Energy’s [name redacted by North Yorkshire County Council] explained this process to us as part of a pre-application consultation meeting.

We were informed that the used water would be piped to containers, removed and treated, but now, this does not seem to be the case. Additionally, we now have concern for our beloved, an in many cases, critically endangered, animal collection’s welfare. The treatment of water was a fundamental issue to Flamingo Land and we have reconsidered our position on the issue of fracking due to the difference between what we were assured of and what is now being applied for.

The above matter has been raised by our Animal Ethics Committee and we are urgently attempting to source information, studies and evidence of livestock issues which may impact on our collection.

Over and above our animal collection we now have health concerns for local residents, visiting public and our Resort guests. During the summer season, overnight visitor numbers exceed those of towns the size of Malton.

We do hope that we may be given an appropriate amount of time and support to continue our investigations before a decision is made. Please also find enclosed scientific evidence which we have so managed to obtain through our Director of Conservation Science and Senior Lecturer, Environment Department, University of York [name redacted]

 Studies accompanying the letter

Long-term impacts of unconventional drilling operations on human and animal health, Michelle Bamberger and Robert E. Oswald, Journal of Environmental Science and Health, 2015
The authors studied the health impacts on people and animals living near, or exposed to hydraulic fracturing operations over more than two years. The concluded that health impacts fell where people or animals moved away from intensively drilled areas or remained in areas where drilling activity decreased.Link to study 1

Impacts of gas drilling on human and animal health, Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald, New Solutions, 2012
The authors concluded that some aspects of the drilling process in the US may lead to health problems in livestock.Link to study 2

Human health risk assessment of air emissions from development of unconventional natural gas resources, Lisa McKenzie, Roxana Witter, Lee Newman, John Adgate, Science of the Total Environment, 2012
The study concluded that residents living a mile or less from natural gas developments were at greater risk from health effects from the developments than residents living further away. The greatest potential for health effects was, they said, sub-chronic exposure to air pollutants during well completion. Link to study 3

Environmental health impacts of unconventional natural gas development: A review of the current strength of evidence, Angela Werner, Sue Vink, Kerrianne Watt and Paul Jagals, Science of the Total Environment, 2014
The study reviewed research on health impacts of unconventional natural gas development published from 1995-2014. The authors criticised the studies for lacking methodological rigour and inferring, rather than giving evidence, of health impacts. However, they said there was no evidence to rule out health impacts and questions on the effect of developments remained unanswered. Link to study 4

The risk of hydraulic fracturing on public health in the UK and the UK’s fracking legislation. Elisabeth Reap, Environmental Sciences Europe, 2015
The author used US results to approximate the impact of inhaling hydrocarbons from emissions to air over the 30-year-lifetime of a well. She found 7.2 extra cancer cases would be expected in the UK if 14 sites, identified as potential fracking sites, went on to extract gas. She concluded the UK government appeared not to be applying the precautionary principle to legislation. Link to study 5

Reported health conditions in animals residing near natural gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania, I Slizovskiy, L Conti, S Trufan, J Reif, V Lamers, M Stowe, J Dziura, P Rabinowitz, Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A, Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering, 2016
The authors report on a community environmental health survey in an area of active natural gas drilling of 2,452 companion and backyard animals in 157 randomly-selected households in Washington County. There were no significant associations between reported health conditions and household proximity to natural gas wells. But when dogs were analysed separately the authors found an elevated risk of any reported health conditions, particularly skin problems, from households less than 1km from the nearest gas well. Link to study 6

Third Energy’s statement in response to Flaming Land Resort letter                   

Third Energy has seen the letter from Flamingo Land Resort to North Yorkshire County Council.  The concerns raised in the latest letter relating to the current application seem to be based on a misconception as to what “re-use” of water means in the context of this operation and incorrect information relating to the safe transport, treatment and disposal of the flow back water after the fracking.  The Environment Agency (EA), after extensive consultation, issued permits for these operations earlier this month.

First, the water will only be “re-used” on site for fracs.  Third Energy has always stated that it may re-use the flow back water from one frac to the next to reduce the overall quantity of water required.  After the fracs are completed the flow water will be collected and taken away for treatment.

Secondly, strict regulation covers the handling of this water. When it comes to the surface, this water will flow into a fully contained system and be stored above ground in double skinned, steel tanks prior to removal from site. The water will be taken from the site in specialist road tankers by an EA approved transport company and the treatment facility.  The water is treated to a high standard at the EA approved facility so that it can be released back into the water cycle. Neither the flow back water contained at site nor the treated water pose a threat to either the visitor or the animal population at Flamingo Land.

Rasik Valand, chief executive of Third Energy, added:

“Third Energy has operated alongside local industry for over two decades, drilling wells, producing gas and electricity for the community, safely, securely and in an environmentally sensitive way.  The Kirby Misperton site has produced gas a short distance from Flamingo Land for over twenty years without any impact and we have been pleased to see our neighbour thrive. Flamingo Land can be reassured that Third Energy would do nothing that would cause any harm to that much-loved business.”

“As far as concerns about the number of wells in the local area, the industry and numerous experts, including a recent joint report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and the Institute of Materials Miners and Mining, have pointed out that the geology, regulation and mineral rights rules are different in the UK and so the US business model would not apply to the UK. The Institute of Directors predicted that around 100 well pads would be model for the whole of the UK industry. This would all be subject to the very early exploration wells and fracs being consistently successful, and once there is evidence that the geology and gas presence is proven across the region.”

Updated 6 May 2016 to correct number of studies from five to six and to include details of 6th study.

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