A mother from a shale gas area in Pennsylvania has urged UK politicians to learn from American mistakes and use robust planning to protect communities from fracking.
Amy Nassif, from the suburb of Mars, near Pittsburgh, warned a parliamentary meeting yesterday there should be a gap of at least a mile between a wellsite and places where children live, play or learn.
She was giving evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on shale gas planning and regulation, chaired by the MP Kevin Hollinrake. His Thirsk and Malton constituency includes Kirby Misperton, the village where Third Energy has permission to frack a shale gas well.
Mrs Nassif (pictured centre with Jo and Steve White from Ryedale) told the meeting that Rex Energy got permission to drill six shale gas wells at a site half a mile from schools attended by 3,200 children, including her daughters. Despite appealing to the company, there was nothing a local group of parents could do to stop it, she said.
“Following the research carried out by the Mars Parents Group we believe that if plans to develop shale gas continue to move forward in the UK, it is imperative to plan for a minimum one mile setback from schools and children.
“This planning did not occur in Pennsylvania, and the post drilling research is accumulating. The damaging effects of hydraulic fracturing are now being discovered. Our children, living and attending school near gas wells and related infrastructure, are at constant risk for adverse health effects and exposure to incidents and accidents.
“We hope to see the robust planning that Mr. Hollinrake speaks of protect children in the UK where ours in Pennsylvania has failed.”
Mr Hollinrake called in an interview with DrillOrDrop for a buffer zone of at least a mile between fracking sites and the nearest homes. But the well to be fracked at Kirby Misperton is half a mile away from houses on the village’s main street, under 200m from the nearest property and less than 1km from the Flamingo Land tourist resort.
Asked by the MP if concerns about shale gas operations were growing or diminishing, Mrs Nassif said:
“Unfortunately in Pennsylvania they are getting greater.
“The research is accumulating on the negative side. There is no research that I’m aware of, and we continue to search for it and we ask the industry for it, that shows the opposite.”
Last month, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, representing doctors and medical practices, urged the state to establish an independent health registry and start studying the public health impacts of fracking. It also called for a moratorium on shale gas operations.
Asked if she supported a moratorium on fracking, Mrs Nassif said:
“Yes absolutely I do”.
She said this was because she had a medical background but she said, more importantly:
“I am mum, I have two children and so I have to think about their future.”
The APPG’s deputy chair, Mark Menzies, MP for Fylde, where Cuadrilla has permission to frack at Preston New Road, asked what advice she would give the UK on fracking and air quality.
“Baseline [air quality] monitoring needs to be 24/7.
“They [the drilling company in Mars] would come and do what we call a grab sample. They would sample the air once a week. That’s not a true picture of what the conditions are especially because it changes throughout the development”.
She said there was no independent oversight of monitoring. The company was not required by law to release the data and was not willing to do so.
Lord Hamilton put it to Mrs Nassif that disruption from wellsites was a short-term problem only. He said after the initial phases of construction and drilling oil and gas sites would not be noticed.
Mrs Nassif replied:
“We were told the same thing that ‘We [The company] will come in and drill these wells and we will leave a Christmas tree’”.
“Conventional and unconventional gas wells are very different things.
“To say that you will be left with a Christmas tree is not true. What you are left with is a 10-15ft tall and 20ft diameter condensate tanks.”
There would also be compressor stations, pipelines and other infrastructure, she said.
“What you are deciding to do in the UK is putting a heavy industrial process in a residential, agricultural, rural community and you have to be cognisant of that. It is a heavy industrial process. It is not a construction site.”
- Mr Hollinrake and the peer, the Liberal Democrat, Baroness Featherstone, were the only politicians who attended the whole meeting.