A member on Cheshire West and Chester Council is calling for a local referendum on plans by INEOS to frack for shale gas in her area.
Lynn Riley, a Conservative councillor for Frodsham, also said if fracking were approved INEOS must put aside “serious money” in case anything went wrong.
Speaking after a meeting organised by INEOS for local authorities, Cllr Riley said local trust in the company was low.
“Right now the community does not want them.”
But she said:
“If they are so confident that they have done everything they can to convince the community then they should be prepared to go before a local referendum.”
“They need to be open and honest. They need to work hard if they want to gain our trust and understanding. They need to go considerably further than the regulatory framework requires of them.
“That means going to the schools, holding public meetings, talking to people who want to know more and putting significant money on the table in terms of indemnity against any future problems.
“If this is a one-off I will be out opposing them.”
Cllr Riley said many people hadn’t had an opportunity – or taken it up – to find out about fracking.
“We want this opportunity for people so when that referendum is held they can make an informed choice. I think that is a reasonable expectation for both sides.”
She said INEOS had to put in “some very significant effort”. Otherwise, she said, “we will be dragging them kicking and screaming to our events or naming and shaming them if they don’t turn up.”
We are being honest with INEOS, she said.
“If you want us not to fight you through the planning process and drag this out for years through appeals you have to behave in a way that proves you are sincere.”
She described the meeting at Frodsham as a PR exercise.
“They were very sensitive to the words used and the tone of the information they were giving. This is either a start or a three-hour cul-de-sac. What comes next is the most important thing.”
Cllr Riley said there were local worries about what would happen if fracking caused an accident.
“This is not likely to be my problem. It will be a problem for my children and my grandchildren and I don’t want it on my watch that INEOS have left us with some very unpleasant legacy that no-one has the funds to rectify.”
She said some “very dangerous” industries had been imposed on Frodsham and local people had not been asked whether they wanted them.
“Over recent years, we have been ‘blessed’ by an INEOS incinerator in Runcorn one mile away, a Peel 126 acre resource recovery with two incinerators four miles away and a wind farm that no-one wanted. All of them complied with the regulatory framework.”
“We are determined that, for fracking and any unconventional oil and gas, developers understand the need to work with us to build trust and understanding. And if they get their way they should put something on the table that compensates for the impact.”
She said the town had seen benefits of work in the chemical industry and she wanted it to prosper. But she added: “Not at any price.”
“We want to influence behaviour of big industry. You have to convince us. I don’t mind how much that costs.
“You [INEOS] have a duty of care to look out for my interests. We don’t give a toss about the bottom line. But we do give a toss about each other.
“We believe it’s on Ineos to build that understanding, to make sure people are informed, and that’s the only way you can build some degree of trust but that trust has to be backed by serious money.”
A spokesperson for INEOS said this evening:
“The Local Authority Development planning process is in place and we will continue to follow that. At the same time we will discuss our plans with the communities and hope to bring them along with us. The industry is already discussing with Government ways of providing for decommissioning liabilities.”
The spokesperson added:
“We will hold exhibitions in areas where activity is anticipated and the number and timing of events depends on the activity.
“For seismic acquisition that will consist of exhibitions explaining what we will be doing, why we need to do it and what we do with the information, where it will be, what is involved, what residents can expect to see and how long it should take.
“Ahead of submission of planning applications for wells we will speak to parish councillors and local residents to explain what we are planning to do, what the purpose of the wells are, what is involved, how long it will take and at the same time ask for their feedback and local knowledge so that we can take it into account in our submission.
“As the applications proceed we will remain in contact with the local communities to update them and answer any subsequent questions.
“Another aspect is that whether or not a planning application is contemplated if a parish council or other group in our licence areas would like us to come and speak to them we are happy to do so.
“We started a conversation with the communities through their elected representatives last week and we expect that conversation to expand within the communities and continue over the months and years to come.”
What INEOS told local councillors?
The Fordsham meeting was one of several held last week by INEOS in its licence areas in Cheshire, the East Midlands and North Yorkshire. A presentation organised for councillors from the York area was merged with a session for the Malton area because of low numbers from York.
We’ve put together some of the key points made by the company, based on reports from people who attended and statements by INEOS. Click to see information panels from the events INEOS information panels Malton meeting and the presentation slides.
Wells and sites
- The minimum distance of fracked wells from houses would be 400m
- In a 10km x 10km licence block, INEOS estimates 10 well pads and 10-14 wells per site, each with a horizontal well approximately 2km long. However, a diagram on the company’s website (now removed) showed 30 wells site for the same size block.
- Well pads would be approximately 3 acres
- Fracking for shale gas was a relatively small part of the INEOS group’s activities
- Participants reported that INEOS said it did not envisage fracking using volumes under the definition in the Infrastructure Act in the North York Moors National Park. But they said the company told the Malton meeting small stimulations could show the extent of gas reserves and might be useful if the company drilled under the National Park.
- Drilling would take approximately three months for the first well on a site but this could be reduced to 20-25 days for subsequent wells.
- Fracking would take 1.5 days per well.
- 2-4 million gallons of water would be needed to frack each well
- Wells were expected to have a life of 15-20 years
- INEOS accepted an ongoing obligation to return the site to its original condition and remedy any issues.
- Seismic testing was not planned in the North York Moors National Parks and vibration trucks only would be used in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Waste and impacts
- Waste from fracking wells would be treated before being discharged into the sea.
- Estimated volumes of flowback were 50-70%.
- Participants reported INEOS said it was having conversations with a number of water companies about treatment of flowback.
- The company told DrillOrDrop there is a well established industry in the UK for treating and disposing of waste from the North Sea oil and gas wells
- INEOS would make good any wear and tear on local roads
- The company did not accept that the value of homes would fall as a result of fracking, participants reported.
- Participants said the company could not say how many lorry movements would be generated by a shale gas site. But they reported the company said it was working on having no lorry movements because water would be extracted from onsite boreholes or from rivers.
- Wellsites would be screened and wellheads would be painted green to reduce landscape impacts
Social licence and community involvement
- At one session, a councillor reported the company said it would not walk away if it was not supported by the community. The company said it did not say explicitly that it would not pursue operations in these circumstances.