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Guest Post: No social license to frack in Ryedale – the charade of democracy

Third Energy meeting day 1

Guest Post by Heather Stroud

In this guest post, Heather Stroud, who lives in Ryedale and opposes fracking in the district, reflects on this week’s decision to approve Third Energy’s shale gas plans for Kirby Misperton

While all attention is focused on how ‘alive our democratic process’ is, with regard to the EU vote, the charade of democracy was played out in full colours with trumpets, tea and cake, at North Yorkshire County Council in Northallerton. The almost festive gathering in the county gardens, of around a thousand people, were there to protest the controversial planning application by Third Energy to ‘frack’ at the village of Kirby Misperton’s, KM8 site.

The arguments against Third Energy’s application to frack in Ryedale are local, national and international. On the local level, residents face large scale industrialization of the countryside. The economy of Ryedale is largely based on tourism, farming and quality food products. The rural highways are not designed to carry the volume of heavy traffic required for full production of hydraulic shale gas extraction from well sites. For this business to be economic it requires around a thousand wells with thousands of heavy vehicle movements 24 hrs a day. The British Medical Association have warned of health risks to residents and, in particular raised concerns for unborn babies and children. Where fracking has taken place there have been reports of illness and death to animals, both domestic and livestock. There are risks of contamination to land, air and water. Our drinking water supplies come from an underground network of lakes that are interlinked. Like the butterfly wings what impacts on one, ultimately impacts on all of us.

This application sets a precedent to open the gates for fracking in over 64% of the U.K. Already Caudrilla, are setting dates to restart fracking in Lancashire after it was halted five years ago when fracking triggered two minor earthquakes. Applications cover most of Yorkshire, Lancashire and beyond – hence the festive atmosphere of protest when Lancastrians joined with Yorkshire in a heartfelt  demonstration of ‘uniting the red and white roses’. However it was not just from Lancashire that supporters came. People came from around the UK and America, while others offered support from all parts of the globe. Protesters represented people of all ages, skills, professions and wealth in a classless gathering of solidarity. There were professors, doctors, mothers, residents, a former diplomat  on climate change, a baroness, and a knight of the realm.

All the village councils had made statements to not allow fracking. Ryedale district council had already rejected this application. We all believed that, with the weight of democracy clearly on our side we could protect our environment from this toxic, last ditch effort by the gathering energy giants to bleed the earth of fossil fuels. Ryedale was suddenly seen as the front line. ‘Friends of the Earth’ spoke on the effects of methane emissions on global warming. Frackfree Ryedale and individual residents presented well researched warnings on the damage fracking would do to our rural environment. ‘Greenpeace’, ‘War on Want’, ’38 degrees’, ‘The Sum of Us’ and many other human and environmental groups all gathered evidence and pledged to stop this risky unconventional drilling.

With 4,375 letters of objection, including one from Flamingo Land and only 36 in support, the scales were heavily weighted against this application going through. Having campaigned against bombing and military occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, I’m as cynical about our nihilistic governmental leadership as one can get… yet when I left on Friday evening (the first of two days of hearings) I believed we could win this step in blocking the corporate giants’  trying to occupy and industrialize our land. It didn’t seem possible that councillors (who are charged to represent their constituents and not central government or energy companies) could let this application go through. Yet, by Monday gloom returned. By ignoring the volumes of evidence, the mass of written objections, the spoken objections and the garden full of impassioned protesters, seven councillors did just that. With smiles for Third Energy’s John Dewer, they approved the application and opened the gates to fracking applications all over the UK.

This is a battle that goes beyond stopping fracking and protecting people and our environment. It raises questions about the death of democracy itself. Neither Yorkshire, Lancashire or anywhere else for that matter, are prepared to become sacrifice zones for Westminster.

A smile that summed this charade up:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=3VnZBO4vAw8

  • Heather Stroud has been involved in human rights issues for many years. She has written two novels, The Ghost Locust and Abraham’s Children, inspired by Vietnamese refugees and human rights issues in Palestine.
    A mother and grandmother, she lives in Ryedale and joined the campaign against fracking in the district. She said: “The positive side of all these campaigns is how it brings concerned individuals together in working towards a more humane and environmentally healthy world for, not only ourselves, but for future generations.”

36 replies »

  1. Will you be having a guest post from Third Energy as well?

    Ian

    Sent with Good (www.good.com)

    • Hello Ian. Thanks for getting in touch. A guest post from Third Energy would be very interesting. Could you use your contacts to encourage the company to contribute a piece?

  2. Frack Free Notts held a public meeting in Mansfield this afternoon with Penny Cole coming down as guest speaker from Scotland to talk about campaigning there. What happened in North Yorks and Rydale was very much on everyone’s mind. Like Heather Stroud the meeting was concerned about the health of democracy in this country and the corporate take over. I think from what people were saying there is now a growing realisation that powerful corporate players are able to mostly get what they want while ordinary people who are trying to protect where they live, their health and the environment are cut out, whatever the evidence. The corporate elite that we are facing is well resourced; well connected; well informed (as regards things that matter to their own agendas though not about the things that matter to us). They are well represented in the political lobby, in the courts, in negotiations; in the mass media which manufactures consent for their agendas. Their plans are well hidden in tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions and, when they need to be, they are well protected by security companies, mercenaries and friends in high places, including in the security and armed forces (who have worked closely with the oil companies for almost a century).

    Business executives in the financial institutions, the energy sector and the mass media are obviously crucial to the running of modern society. They have always had close and direct connections into government, including often enough, into the security forces and the military. As is obvious, all these advantages makes it possible for the corporate elite to stitch up their own agendas and to co-opt whatever government gets elected. What is called “democracy” is a hollow charade.

    In these circumstances when we try to use the democratic processes to protect ourselves we find that that the rules have not been written for us but against us. The question is now what we do about this as a movement. Penny spoke about the community charter written up by people in Falkirk and organising as communities to clarify what there is a social licence for – and where there is no social licence acting as communities to keep the frackers out.

    • Sound very much like Communist movement and ideology where everyone opinion and ideal matter more or always correct than the other regardless whether it is legal rational based on science as long as they are louder and anti government and capitalism.

  3. To TW

    Your reply made not the slightest attempt to address what I had actually written. What you did instead used to be described as “red baiting”. It claimed that my argument was similar to communism and then used all the failings of communism to attack what I had said. Even were I a communist, which I am not, your intellectually lazy answer would not be a reply that addressed what I said. As it happens I am not a communist – I believe in commoning that is not the same thing. For several centuries in this and many other countries landscapes were “managed “ by communities of people in what were called the commons. The ruling elite decided that they had their own use for the land managed by commons and enclosed the land and destroying the commons, claiming that their uses were “improvement”. Yet the commons did work. They worked for centuries and enclosure was elite theft enforced by their control of the state.

    A very similar process is happening now – where the elite have decided that their use for land has priority and everyone else must get out of the way. The similarities to enclosure are very striking. Thus what I wrote was not a plea for communism but a plea for communities to take back responsibility to the collective health of what we share – commons like the atmosphere, local and global, the water systems, the land. I am an advocate of commoning not communism. We will have to work out what that means in practice but what it will mean for sure is much stronger local community control of the use of land, water and energy locally, stronger local land use and planning systems – and keeping out all users, like frackers whose use for the land is toxic. This has very little similarity to communism which was supposed to be a system of centralised economic planning. Kindly reply to arguments made rather than trying to smear people. http://wealthofthecommons.org/

  4. With respect to Heather Stroud & her supporters, while local opinion may be considered, it is obvious that every small community cannot be given a veto over National Policy. If they were we would have no railways, no motorways, no airports, indeed precious little public infrastructure at all. In some communities we might still have the benefits of hanging & flogging –& the stocks for agitators!
    Your idea of democracy seems to be that those communities who can drum up the most letter writers & protesters, fired up by such blatant propaganda as “Gasland” films, have the right to overrule the interest of the nation in a viable economy, energy security & indeed real progress on reducing carbon emissions.
    Sounds more like the Chinese Cultural Revolution than democracy.
    I congratulate North Yorkshire County Council on standing up to the mob. If left in peace by protesters Rydale will remain just as desirable as Wytch Farm in Dorset.

    • I agree Jago that small consensus should never ever be given rule over a majority consent. Given Osborne and Cameron rule with the smallest of electoral rule and Osborne has eye on his father in laws desolate NE fracking fortune, it is appalling that your wonderful exposure of how minority rule has come to pass….

      Sorry…. where is the majority support for fracking….eh?

    • Brilliant dibb dibb dibb Dobs…..cultural revolution on its way, where is your next meeting…………..come on don’t be shy…we all wanna be there for your cultural revo…….give us a clue…………will you be showing a film about how wondeful fracking is as well as inviting Into say how delightful the pollution can be once Monsanto clone Atlantic salmon……

    • If this is a reply in support of Rod Jago and mar g then I don’t agree. Some decisions are better taken at local level because it is there that negative consequences are felt and local people have the detailed knowledge about how they are likely to be affected. Where the negative consequences are potentially serious effects on local peoples health then in my view health should trump economics in any case. There is in any case for re-localising economies in the light of the damage done by fossil fuels and rising fossil fuel extraction costs. (A less transport intensive economy would need to use less energy). The need to re-localise economies is an argument for putting more governance and democracy powers back to the local level.

      I have made a more detailed statement of this argument elsewhere in this sequence of comments

  5. To Rod Jago and Michael Dobbie my response is that the case against shale gas is local, national and international. The argument that there is an national interest that overrides a local one does not hold water if local people will be made sick in the supposed national interest as is far too likely to occur. At the international level too the effects of climate change mean that harms exceed benefits. It does not make sense as an energy security strategy at the national level either, for reasons of elementary economics.

    The health dangers of fracking are now well established in many peer reviewed studies. You claim that the opposition to fracking is based on misleading propaganda (the Gaslands films) whereas in fact it is based on peer reviewed science. 9 professors of medicine and 9 other senior medical personnel argued in a letter to the British Medical Journal that the case against fracking is overwhelming and it should be banned. These medics are not the sort of naive people who are misled by propoganda.http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g2728/rr

    What kind of “security” is it that is likely to make people ill if the experience of the USA and Australia is anything to go by? That’s not security it is insecurity. A strategy in which the costs exceeds the benefit is not in the national interest because of a host of “externalities” – costs carried not by the companies but by the public and public authorities. It will cost more in damaged roads, the extra costs of coping with contaminated water, the costs of treating sick children, time off work, the damage to farming, the destruction of local tourism. Some of those costs will be energy costs too – to mend damaged roads costs money and energy. To import food because farm land is contaminated costs money and energy. If local water is contaminated the work-arounds will involve an expenditure of money and of energy. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154164

    Yes, I know that you want to believe that British world class regulation will solve these problems but the evidence so far, in Lancashire and Yorkshire is a catalogue of technical problems and regulatory violations – exactly what happened in other countries.

    Even in a very narrow economic terms – whether the internal private costs of the industry are covered by the gas price – this does not make sense. To develop a national energy security strategy based on a loss making industry is laughable. There are very few places in the world where fracking has actually made any money – not in the USA, not in Argentina, not in Poland, not in Denmark. There is a saying “In a gold rush sell shovels” and the equipment companies like Halliburton and Schlumberger made money it is true. However, the exploration and prduction companies have mostly made losses, have built up massive debts and are now going bust across the USA. The capital was initially there because interest rates have been so low because of quantitative easing and there has been a “hunt for yield” . This has fed what has been a speculative bubble in which the fracking companies themselves typically tap the “sweet spots” where there has been a high flow rate right at the beginning. The production companies then hype the good news about these initial flow rates before they move onto fracking lower yield locations – selling their companies and inferior drilling locations to suckers who discover too late that they have been taken in. This is “national energy security strategy” for suckers. Develop a high cost industry, flood the market so that prices come down too low to pay for these high costs in a highly indebted market environment and you get a big financial bust, not energy security. Government support is economically illiterate. We are supposed to believe that the Tory Government know what they are doing on these matters. I don’t think so. http://www.credoeconomics.com/shale-euphoria-the-boom-and-bust-of-sub-prime-oil-and-natural-gas/

    On the international level it also makes no sense in terms of climate change. Leading climate scientists are quite clear. For example Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Institute is quite clear in various papers that carbon emissions have to be reduced so rapidly to meet climate targets that there is no space for a “bridge” to a low carbon future. http://kevinanderson.info/blog/why-a-uk-shale-gas-industry-is-incompatible-with-the-2c-framing-of-dangerous-climate-change/

    That’s before you take into account the growing literature about fugitive emissions – in other words the greenhouse effect of the methane that has leaked. The industry has tried to deny the evidence from top down studies based on aircraft flying over gas fields and from readings from satellite. Their ” bottom up” inventory evidence based on measuring leaks in equipment does not stack up. The work often cited by the industry is a study from the University of Texas. But this is based on a small self selecting sample so you would expect that only the companies that were confident that leakage was low would participate. Further to that it has now been acknowledged that the measurement of fugitive emissions was based on faulty equipment and the leakage rates are much higher. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ese3.35/epdf http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10962247.2015.1025925

    The comment of Rod Jago uses florid language to claim that local opinion cannot be trusted as opposed to the strategic wisdom of national politicians but in fact it is local people who have the strategic view.

      • Brian & mar g; Were there to be a referendum on fracking in the U.S do you really believe the American people would vote;
        a)To double their domestic power costs;
        b)To lose the many jobs that have been “reshored” based on competitive energy;
        c)To become ,once again, subject to Middle Eastern/Russian oil blackmail;
        d)To revert now prosperous areas back to bucolic backwaters?
        No doubt the “Green” movement ,backed by opec etc would campaign vigorously for just that but I doubt they would get many votes. Do you?

        AS to fracking companies not being profitable, at least it’s their own money they are losing. Those who bleat for wind & solar subsidies are just taking public money which some of us think could be better spent on our public services.
        Under discussion is one well. My experience when a well was drilled a mile from my village was that few would have even noticed it had it not been for mobs of protesters.( some local nimbys, majority eco- warriors from all over).

        If the well ever goes into production we may have a silent nodding donkey & a couple of tankers a week .Not much to put up with as a contribution to our economy.

        Finally it is your opinion that “local people have the strategic view.” Be careful what you wish for. Rule by mob is fun only when it is your mob.

        I repeat; A good society depends on compromise. Many things are desirable; absolutely clean energy, but not at the cost of driving our industries overseas or our welfare services into further penury, reduction of risk , but not at the expense of blocking all progress , protection of our pretty villages but not just to allow selfish nimbys to draw their energy from “lesser areas”, the right to peaceful protest, but not to substitute mob rule for our democracy.

        • It is never just one well Rod because one well would never have any prospect of being, or even appearing to be, economic. A single conventional well can tap oil or gas over a wide area because the strata is porous and the oil or gas can flow towards it. To tap an equivalent amount of oil or gas in an unconventional field requires perhaps one hundred times the wells because the area has to be riddled through with horizontal boreholes and then fractured outwards from those holes across a wide area to create an engineered porosity through the entire strata. There is thus a big scale difference in the operational intensity and well number and that is what makes the extraction so costly – in money terms and in environmental and public health terms. If the risk of well failure is 5% for a single well and there really was only one well then it might be worth taking the risk. But there has to be at least a hundred and with a 5% risk you’re going to get about 5 failing wells.

          Nor is it true that what they would be losing would be mainly their own money. The US industry is losing borrowed money and will lose more borrowed money that has been lent to them in bucketloads to feed the enormous capital requirements of the industry.

          The article that I provide a link to, on “Shale Euphoria” (which I wrote a couple of months ago) explains why the industry does not cut back on production even though they keep losing money. That’s partly because managers are rewarded by production targets not profitability and need to keep pumping and selling in order to get some cash flow to service their huge debts. As I say – the industry are in a Catch 22. At a high oil and gas price the gas exploration and production companies might cover their costs but high energy prices crash the economy because consumers and non energy companies cannot afford the high energy prices AND to be able to service their debts. On the other hand if the oil and gas price is low, as now, then it is the fracking companies that cannot service their debts and go bust. That is what is happening now. There is a bankruptcy wave. It makes no sense to develop an economics strategy or a strategy for industrial renovation on an industry that is going bust.

          You might ask, of course, why, if I believe that this industry is going bust, I am bothering to oppose it. John Maynard Keynes once said how “The market can remain irrational for longer than you can remain solvent”. An entire industry can remain irrational too. It takes time for things to change and catch up with how the world has changed – there are lots of people who have lent money and lots who have staked their reputations in backing shale. They are in denial. Also there are lots of people who trained in geology, petroleum engineering and so on who have made this their professional careers. They cannot easily say to themselves – “oh, with climate change, with oil and gas depletion I made a big mistake in my career choice all those years ago and now I’m going to have to take a huge pay cut and retrain”. They want to continue doing what they have done and seeing the world in the same way. So they can remain irrational long enough to do a lot of damage – especially when backed by politicians who fear to do a U turn.

          • As I understand it the approval is for one well. If viable there might be an application for another well to be considered on its merits.It would be about three miles away, & provided properly sited, it, & subsequent wells should be no problem.
            Of course when I say the drillers are losing their own money It is understood to include their shareholders,banks etc. The point is it is NOT taxpayers money such as our weak-kneed Government dishes out to appease Green wind & solar follies.
            Yes ,markets can be irrational but so can environmental eco-warriors. Just consider the “green” reaction to GM crops, now proved to be both safe & beneficial. The mob shouted “Frankenstein food” just as in former times they shouted “witchcraft “
            But I am starting to repeat myself & propose to give it a rest for a while. So thanks for responding. Perhaps I will get up a sponsored ride for impoverished oil men. Let me know if you find any. cheers.

            • Firstly if the banks lose money on fracking at a big enough level they too will get bailed out by the taxpayers if past experience is anything to go by. Do you really think that if Third Energy and companies like it were to bring Barclays into financial difficulties that there would not be a rescue? Secondly the idea that frackers are not being supported by taxpayers is simply not true as this article clearly shows:

              “How the UK Taxpayer could spend millions funding the hunt for fracked gas” by Damian Kahya

              “Millions of pounds which would otherwise be paid in tax could be spent on the hunt for shale gas – according to an investigation by Energydesk.

              “The little reported tax break benefits firms which already produce oil and gas in the UK and invest in fracking – and could even include money spent on community benefits.”

              http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2016/05/25/oil-tax-how-the-uk-taxpayer-could-spend-millions-funding-the-hunt-for-fracked-gas/

  6. I find Heather Stroud’s post to be misleading and incomplete. Is it not true in democracy that each person (of voting age) is entitled to a vote? Why does Heather feel that the 4k+ people who wrote in to object to Third Energy’s project have more rights than the remaining 596k people of Yorkshire? Why should this very vocal, but very small minority have a right to determine the area’s policy? The Councilors of Yorkshire were elected to their positions in a democratic process, correct? The Tories, who dominate the Council, were elected on a platform that specifically endorsed the extraction of shale gas. Does Heather Stroud feel that it would somehow be democratic for these elected Councillors to abandon their platform and their constituents because 4k people wrote letters that contravene the objectives of that platform? Is that really Heather’s idea of democracy?

    Why is it that when Lancashire’s Council voted against Cuadrilla’s plans the anti-frackers applauded the success of local democracy, but when the N Yorkshire Council votes overwhelmingly in support of a fracking project that this is undemocratic?

    Let’s face it, Heather’s letter isn’t about democracy. It’s about sour grapes. Her side lost and as a result she has had a bit of a tantrum and is lashing out in a number of directions in protest, without making a lot of sense.

    Heather, if you can find fault in my logic, please respond. Thank you

    • The people who should take a decisions where a group decision is necessary are those who are most affected by it and who are in the best position to know the consequences and who can decide on the basis of that knowledge.

      In the case of contested decisions, where there are potential winners and losers this is much more complex – and even more so when the gains and losses are non comparable. Some people making money (they hope – though as I have argued they are not likely to in this case) and some people having their health put at risk and seeing their quality of life decline dramatically.

      That is why there are different levels of government – but with different levels of government there is always a tendency for the rich and influential people to be much more able to cultivate friends in high places and overrule the interests of a greater number at the local level. Then they can impose their agenda on a locality. This happened in the land enclosure process of hundreds of years when communities were expropriated in favour of people with friends in government who claimed that they had a superior use for land that would “improve it”.

      However, of course, the use of land inevitably involves all sorts of people and interests so that, despite the enclosures, some social control had to be re-introduced in the land planning system that can take decisions to allow or not given the implications of land use – on transport, biodiversity, visual amenity, health and so on. In this case what is at stake here was also that the land planning system had been rigged at central government level leaving local authorities very little scope for local influence. It is another exercise of central over local power. And who was it that wrote these new rules for planning, for the environment agency and so on? We know that people like Lord Browne, formerly the CEO of BP and a major player in Goldman Sachs too, parachuted his people into various positions to write the new regulations that smoothed the way for the frackers.

      This trend of centres imposing their will on peripheries has now been going on for several centuries and it is always claimed that the agenda of those at the centre is more important and that they have the better perspective and the greater right to take the decisions. In our own era this is questionable for a variety of reasons. One of these is that the scale of their decisions are so big that the consequences are very far reaching in ecological and economic terms so, unless local people can have a say, their interests will be swamped and risks will not get nearly enough proper attention. Further to that latest trends to thinking about our needs for a ecological economy recognise that it is inherently something that must be locally designed. We are going to have to make our homes and neighbourhoods more energy efficient for example and that requires a local level strategy. To protect and tap the potential of local river flow is also a local and regional task. To develop public transport systems to save energy is local.

      As regards central power it has also long been recognised that there is a limit to this accumulations of power at the expense of localities – a higher power is itself supposed to be subject to law – and can only go so far in imposing its will. When the health and well being of local people would be at stake, as is clear now from much evidence about fracking, then to pursue fracking over and against the democratically expressed interests of those local people whose health is at stake, and that of their children, is a violation of their rights and democracy itself.

      Thus for reasons of where decision making is most appropriate, as well as for reasons of strategic thinking as we move into a post fossil fuel era, as well as for reasons of rights, there are good reasons for believing that the lower level is where democracy should apply.

  7. Brian, Your post makes very little sense. You ramble on about centralized vs. distributed decisionmaking/democracy. Yet, in the case of Yorkshire this was an example of a very local decision being made in a democratic fashion. The outcome was not to your liking or to Heather Stroud’s, so now you both make up excuses to explain how it was not really democracy. That doesn’t sit particularly well with me. You are not endorsing “local democracy,” rather you are endorsing “selective democracy” when decisions happen to coincide with your views.

    You aver that “When the health and well being of local people would be at stake, as is clear now from much evidence about fracking, then to pursue fracking over and against the democratically expressed interests of those local people whose health is at stake, and that of their children, is a violation of their rights and democracy itself” you reveal a failing in logical thought and critical thinking. It is not all clear that anyone’s health is at stake when KM8 starts fracking operations. In fact, I believe that the facts support the notion that the threat to human health is very low. That is, after all, the primary reason why the Council decided to vote in favor of the operation. It is also a big part of why the Conservative government is pursuing onshore gas.

    The safety of fracking operations has been established over decades and over millions of wells. Independent, non-biased experts at the US EPA, The Royal Academy, The Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the University of Cincinatti, and the NY State Dept. of Health, have studied fracking in large data sets that extend over very long periods of time and have concluded that fracking can be undertaken safely.

    No one violated anyone’s democratic rights in North Yorkshire. You have clearly been offended, and it has probably clouded your judgment, but the democratic process served the people of Yorkshire.

    • We clearly have radically different views of what constitutes democracy. I believed that decisions on land use changes should be taken by those most likely to be affected by it– or their local peers. In this regard the parish and district councils would have been the most appropriate places to take this decision. They were opposed to the decision that was taken at County level.

      But that was not the only sense in which, to my mind, this decision was undemocratic. We should also see the framework conditions in which the County Council Planning authority took its decision.

      Firstly it was under planning guidance that required it to prioritise economic development and hydrocarbon development. That was a restriction of the scope of its democratic decision making powers.

      Secondly it was under planning guidance to restrict its considerations only to the specific request before it. Yet, as John Ashton explains in a recent article in the Guardian. “Fracking at scale has a large footprint. It would threaten the fabric of our communities and countryside, woven over centuries. Maybe that is why industry and government have been at pains to ensure that the planning process considers each application in isolation from all the others. Each step in the journey can be discussed but the destination is off limits.” This was also a way in which the real issues are prevented from being discussed and is an exercise in rigging the democratic process.

      Thirdly, the deepest issues of all are issues of public health counterposed to economic development – yet planning authorities cannot really discuss public health and the risks involved either. Planning Authorities are required to take it for granted that the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive can respond to risks adequately through regulation. So the Planning Authority cannot take the central issues into consideration either – these are removed to another agency. Yet we already know from experience that the EA has not been able to prevent multiple breaches of regulations and technical problems in exploratory wells. For example Rathlin Energy exploratory well North of Hull breached 14 permit conditions between early July and mid October 2014 of the same year. Or Cuadrilla in Lancashire did not tell the EA about the earthquakes for a long time after they occurred and dumped radioactive water in the Manchester ship canal. What happened? Cuadrilla and Rathlin are still operating. The same happened all over the USA and Australia – first we get the talk about best practice and gold standard regulations but then the reality is a catalogue of failure, mistakes and failures – in other words the real world where Murphy’s law applies. Multiplied across a gas field this would add up to ill health and misery for local residents. Meanwhile the regulators would reprimand and sometimes fine but basically fail to stop the disaster happening.

      The fact of the matter is that the planners have to rely on the EA and HSE and they are not up to it. The EA rely on a so called initial “permitting process” which is deeply flawed. In processing permit application the EA is prepared to accept risk assessments based on the purchased subjective opinion of consultants rather than on available numerical evidence from comparable situations revealed in peer reviewed studies. The permits are based on the say-so of consultants saying that it is all likely to be safe and hunky dory. It’s all rather reminiscent of the ratings agencies for the financial sector for the financial crash of 2008. In relation to issuing Environmental Permits it is patently obvious that consultancy companies doing these phoney risk assessments that go with the permit applications have an interest in more business of this kind and therefore has no interest in raising difficult issues.

      An editorial in the British Medical Journal not long ago made the point that there is no evidence that regulations can fix some of the problems associated with unconventional gas development – like cement failure on well bore holes.

      So, in summary. (1) Decision not taken at the level of those effected. (2) Decision taken at a higher level and (a)required to give priority to economic development and hydrocarbon development (2) prevented from considering the scale and cumulative impact at a whole gasfield level which is the central problem (3) prevented from looking at the main problems like health and environment and forced to assume that these will be dealt with adequately when this is patently not true.

      As I said before this way of setting up the process was designed by officials parachuted into the relevant central government departments from the oil and gas sector itself. I don’t see that as democracy – that is a clear corporate abuse of democracy. It is called “regulatory capture” in the academic literature. The corporations write the rules.

      A propos health, environment and fracking. You cite the New York State Department of Health and appear to be unaware that New York State has actually banned fracking after a recommendation of its Department of Health.

      Having been looking into these issues now for 2 and a half years I have concluded that people can hold such radically different views of the impact on fracking largely because they are framing what “fracking” means in radically different ways. Advocates of fracking take the word in a narrow sense of creating an engineered porosity in an otherwise non porous geological strata with oil and or gas locked up in it. Since this is so far underground they see few problems occurring. Unless fracking is into faults this view is probably largely correct in this very narrow sense. But anti frackers understand “fracking” as all the processes involved in the development of unconventional gas fields – that have to go along with the creation of the engineered porosity – including a huge difference in scale of operation, number of wells, amount and variety of surface activities. All of these together have been studied now by about 700 peer reviwed academic article since 2009. If you take out of these commentaries based on other articles and papers about methodology, there are papers with hard evidence about potential dangers and dangers that have been revealed in practice.

      This is a link to a paper called “Toward an Understanding of the Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development: A Categorical Assessment of the Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature, 2009-2015”. Argue back against this:

      http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154164

      • Brian, there are many peer reviewed articles that weigh against fracking, which are written and reviewed by anti-frackers. Most if not all of these articles have been debunked by factual evidence. There are also peer reviewed articles which support fracking and the safety of fracking technology.

        So, while the average reader can easily be misled by these peer reviewed and often biased journal articles, we need to look to independent sources that run good scientific processes and hold no bias for more accurate information.

        Again, you can reference the EPA study, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission study, the NY State Dept of Health study, the Public Health England study, the Royal Academy of Sciences study, or the University of Cincinatti study to name a few.

        BTW, though NY has banned fracking, Cuomo had his State Dept. of Health do a health impact study. That study found, “significant adverse impacts on human health are not expected from routine HVHF operations.” Of course you never heard about this because Cuomo buried it, didn’t allow it to become public — it didn’t fit the story he was trying to tell:

        If public health was the large issue that you claim then surely there would be abundant evidence to support the fact. Yet there are not massive insurance claims. There are not thousands of massive lawsuits. The hospitals here are not building out capacity to handle all of the sick patients from gas extraction. And those who should be most affected, the men and women who spend all of their waking hours in direct contact working on gas rigs, well, they’re healthy. In fact, the oil and gas industry ranks as a very safe industry in the US and boasts relatively few illnesses.

        As for industrialization of the landscape, this is simply hype. Well pads are few and far between because operators have reached such lengths with lateral drilling technologies. You can be within 50 yards of a well pad and not even know its there depending on the vegetation. But even in an open field they are not bad once the drilling has finished. We have a beautiful county and that hasn’t been changed by fracking.

        How do you explain all of these facts? Is it a massive conspiracy? Where are all the dead bodies being hidden? Why would residents of PA support fracking more than the rest of the country if fracking was so bad? If the weight of factual evidence was as negative as you propose then there is simply no way that residents of my county or my state would support the industry as we do.

        You have fallen victim to hype and propaganda. I admit that the propaganda is very good, and it sometimes comes wrapped in an impressive veneer of mainstream respectability, but it is nonetheless misleading and not supported by fact. I don’t claim to tell you that fracking or nat gas extraction is 100 percent safe all the time. Like any industrial operation, there are accidents and bad operators, and sometimes regulations have been poor. But overall, the good has vastly outweighed the bad. This is why the US is leading the world in cutting air pollution, in finding new sources of energy, in creating growth and wealth and a better life for people, in energy security and independence, and in not being beholden to vicious regimes that control energy resources. Maybe one day your country will achieve the same, but only if the current energy strategy is pursued with vigor.

      • BTW, Brian, I think that land use changes are adjudicated in a manner that was dictated by democratic system and is best for the country. If these decisions were always taken down to the most decentralized level, it would be very difficult to get many things done. We would certainly not have highways, airports, high voltage electric power lines, power generation stations, pipelines, sanitation facilities, etc.

        There is a reason why the operative democracy in the UK was set up as it is now. It works, and it has worked for a long time. Certainly understandable that locals gripe at some of the negative consequences – but the greater good is an important concept.

        • Bill I will reply to both of your responses together.

          You clearly did not look at the link that I gave. Your own link was dated 01/02/2013 – very early in 2013. New York state banned fracking in December 2014 nearly two years later. Here’s part of the report from the New York Times

          “In a presentation at the cabinet meeting, the acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, said the examination had found “significant public health risks” associated with fracking.

          Holding up copies of scientific studies to animate his arguments, Dr. Zucker listed concerns about water contamination and air pollution, and said there was insufficient scientific evidence to affirm the safety of fracking.

          Dr. Zucker said his review boiled down to a simple question: Would he want his family to live in a community where fracking was taking place?

          His answer was no.

          “We cannot afford to make a mistake,” he said. “The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not even fully known.”

          End of quote

          What you provided must be based on material mostly up to the end of 2012. From the beginning of 2013 to the end of 2015 80% of all the papers published between 2009 and 2015 have appeared.

          Interesting that you also cite the Royal Society Royal Academy of Engineering piece that appeared in June 2012. The Public Health England report was again almost entirely based on evidence before 2013. Like many pro- frackers your arguments and your evidence are out of date.

          The academics who have produced the anti fracking arguments since then may be opposed to fracking because that is what the evidence that they have uncovered suggests is the appropriate stance – not the other way round. Thus when 9 professors of medicine and 9 other senior medical personnel wrote a letter to the British Medical Journal saying that the evidence against fracking was overwhelming and that it should be banned I can see why that would give you cognitive dissonance but these people are scientists are used to looking at evidence too. Their opposition to fracking is because of the evidence.

          The paper that I provided a link for is based on an attempt to review ALL – I repeat ALL – peer reviewed papers on public health, environment and fracking between 2009 and the end of 2015. All of the studies with findings favourable to the industry that you refer to will also have been included. And yes, you are right, there were ones where the findings were that the dangers were non existent or marginal. For water the figures are 18 out of 58 relevant studies have findings that indicated minimal potential, no association, or rare incidence of water contamination. For air quality 6 of 40 studies contained findings that provide no indication of significantly elevated air pollutant emissions and/or atmospheric concentrations. For public health 5 of 31 studies contained findings that indicate no significant public health hazards, elevated risks, or adverse health outcomes.

          On the other hand you will notice that whether for public health, for water or for air quality the rest of the studies,THE MAJORITY of the studies indicated evidence of potential or actual harm.

          As for your comments about democracy. It is pure assertion. You make no attempt whatsoever to address the issues that I raised. None. You give me your opinion that the current regime delivers the greater good but it is only your unevidenced and unargued opinion. And if your opinion can play so fast and loose with the evidence all the research evidence then in my view it is not opinion that is worth very much.

        • Bill, this is a supplement and amendment to my earlier reply because as I walked to the pub tonight I thought – no, Bill does have an argument. I am wrong in that. You wrote that, if we had decision making at the more local level

          “We would certainly not have highways, airports, high voltage electric power lines, power generation stations, pipelines, sanitation facilities, etc.”

          But this is NOT an argument that we have democracy – this is an argument that we have to take the decision making power away from local people, we have to prevent “too much democracy” at the lower local level. It is an argument that if the people affected have a say there would not be enough “highways, airports, power generation stations, pipelines and sanitation facilities”. So we cannot allow them to take these decisions, the democracy at this level must be curbed.

          So you do have an argument but it is not a democratic argument – it is an argument for taking decisions over people’s heads. Indeed do I need to point out that what “highways, airports, high voltage electric power lines, power generation stations and pipelines” have in common is that they are all the technological “hub inter-dependencies” of a fossil fuel society? And this is the very kind of society that we have to transition away from.

    • BILL,
      I take note that you have specifically highlighted the US Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) study as evidence to support your pro-fracking stance.

      As I have previously said on this forum, the EPA’s study falls far short in its research in to the potential risks and dangers of fracking, as this following report states.

      Google search……. EPA’s Findings In Fracking Water Pollution Disputed By Its Own Scientists, 19 November 2015.

      As additional evidence, I would like to draw your attention to a VERY IMPORTANT article which certainly raises some very serious questions………..
      Google search and read the following……….
      EPA’s Abandoned Wyoming Fracking Study One Retreat Of Many – ProPublica

      As you will note, the above reports highlight the EPA’s catalogue of failures, the financial restrictions that have been placed upon on it and the fierce pressure the agency is put under from the Fracking industrys powerfull allies on Capitol Hill.

      It would appear that the EPA is nothing more than a Lion without teeth, with a quote, “Kick Me sign on it.”

      • Jackthelad, I find your comments to be without merit. If you actually read beyond the headlines you would have found that the SAB from the EPA DID NOT DISPUTE the EPA findings. They did ask that the report be revised to include more statistics.

        See here; http://marcellusdrilling.com/2016/02/epa-science-advisory-board-affirms-fracking-study/

        You are the kind of radical who is not going to be happy with anything that anyone produces if it doesn’t make fracking sound dangerous. So, it is not surprising to me that you would attempt to denigrate the EPA. Yet the EPA study is the most comprehensive of its kind. It took five years and included data from a thousand sources and tens of thousands of wells. Have you done work that would disprove that offered by the EPA? If so, please supply it. If not, perhaps you should be wearing the “Kick Me” sign.

        Best of luck.

        • BILL

          So, I’m a radical for caring about the health of my family and community ?

          Maybe the long list of professors, doctors, scientists, and engineers that work for some of the world’s leading organisations are all radicals for not supporting fracking. Well are they Bill ?

          I have always supplied evidence to support anything I have said on this forum.
          Why do I increasingly find, that when I challenge the pro-frackers with indisputable evidence on what they say, a number of them go deadly silent or resort to personal attacks and outlandish remarks ?

          The last time I posted the above comment, you did not respond. This time you are now trying to dispute my evidence with nothing.

          All the evidence to support what I say regarding the United States Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) is there for all to read.

          ALL I ASK IS THAT EVERYONE GOOGLE AND READ THE ABOVE REPORTS concerning the EPA and then make your own minds up. If you are as shocked with the reports as I am, make sure you pass on the information to as many friends and family as possible.

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