Politics

US anti-fracking campaigner calls for 1-mile buffer between wellsites and children

 

production-plant

Pennsylvania  shale gas processing plant

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.

amy-nassif

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.

She replied:

“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’”.

She added:

“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.

25 replies »

  1. John Baldwin of CNG Services will be able to provide greater insight into this, but as I understand it, because our gas distribution network is so close to where shale gas will be extracted, we’re not going to have the same requirement for compressor stations that they’ve had in the US.

    As for condensate tanks, provided they are horizontal, they will still be easily screened by trees and shrubs. Perhaps they don’t routinely screen sites in the US?

    Mrs Nassif is right about air quality monitoring and, as I understand it, we’ll see continuous emissions monitoring used here in the UK – in common with other regulated facilities that operate under environmental permit – for the reasons she states.

    So, again, there will be lessons we can learn but you can’t simply transfer the experience of the US and say it’ll be the same here in the UK where there are significant differences in culture and regulation.

    • ‘John Baldwin of CNG Services will be able to provide greater insight into this.’

      Here he is in 2012 at the shale gas summit. Looks like an expensive problem that the industry, unsurprisingly, seems to have forgotten to mention.

      Maybe Hollinrake and his friends should attend our meetings and we can explain to him why his efforts to support shale are futile.

      10. The low calorific value of shale gas is a major issue, says gas guru

      The average calorific value (CV) of the UK national gas grid is 39.5 megajoules per cubic metre; shale gas is quite low at around 37. To get round this, shale gas suppliers may have to inject propane, which costs 140p per therm, into gas transmission pipelines to make up for the shortfall.

      “This is a major issue,” said John Baldwin, managing director of CNG Services Limited. “You probably will have to add propane in LTS (Local Transmission Systems).”

      For injection into the National Transmission System (NTS), there would need to be “thousands of calorific value measurement devices all over the UK”, said Baldwin, in order to ensure accurate billing, as the lower CV of shale gas would mean end-users pay for gas priced at a higher CV than received.

      Surprised you have never posted about this before environmentor. You seem to know so much about other stuff.

      I don’t suppose it is because it is an expensive negative by any chance.

  2. Environmentor,
    What do you say to goings on at Horse Hill in Surrey earlier this year? (the ukog site nr Horley)
    It seemed gas was cold vented when the oil first flowed there…. …it lead to a very noxious smell in the area for a while, with locals registering feelings of nausea and experiencing nose-bleeds (4 cases that I know about, none of whom were prone to such things)…
    Zero air monitoring in place, and the EA took over 24 hrs to get there when it was reported…

    But we have got all this covered by regulation and monitoring, right?

    • Interesting and pertinent point.

      I’d need to look at their permit to understand the specifics of what monitoring was mandated and how it was to be conducted.

      However, I doubt that cold vented methane caused the problems you refer to: for a start, its odourless and it’s also non-toxic. If those reports of health impacts are genuine, then it suggests to me that something else must be to blame?

      Did the EA investigate at the time? What did they find? Was any enforcement action taken?

      Over the last 20 years, I’ve helped to permit or worked with numerous sites that operate under permit conditions – including many where the hazards presented and associated risks are far greater than shale gas extraction – and have found our regulations to be adequate and properly enforced.

      • 30 years working onshore / offshore including cold venting wells flowing at 120mmscfd gas and no nose bleeds / nausea / or any other health issues? And none I can recall with anyone else working there or living nearby in the onshore cases.

        If there is H2S there may be an issue. However it only becomes dangerous when you stop smelling it, and generally only in confined spaces.

        If there were issues with H2S then the safety systems should shut down the venting.

      • I read their EA permit doc at the time.

        From what I could see (needless to say it’s not my field of expertise), the document stated that gas was unlikely to be present and come up the bore with the oil, and if any gas did come up, UKOG (or their operaters) were to close the bore down immediately and pause whilst decisions were made as to the best way to deal with it…
        I was not there at the time, but reports I heard likened the smell to ‘rotten eggs’. (I saw that being verified by a Police Liason Officer who was being asked what she could smell by someone who was there to protest about the operation) .

        Apparently it was reported immediately to the EA by at least 4 different people.

        Over 24 hours later, two EA employees attended the scene. Apparently they were so young as to have been fresh out of Uni and seemed quite daunted and uncomfortable about their role in the situation when speaking to one of the local residents who had reported the pungent smell. They said they had just conducted air tests at the back of the site, and had found no issues in their results…. ….as if anyone would’ve expected them to so long after the event…
        They certainly left no one reassured that they had any kind of a handle on the situation..

        And all in all that rather strongly sugests that no air monitering was in place at this site, doesn’t it?

        As well as highlighting the fact that it is one thinig to have conditions and mandates written down in a document and filed away in an office somewhere, and what goes on in real life when people have profit margins etc. in mind it is usuakly quite another thing.

        I worked in a technical field in my younger days so I’m well aware that there is always ‘how the manual says we should do a particular job’ , and then rthere is ‘how we actually do that particular job’, and often the two are a chasm apart (it was in the telecoms industry, so no ones life was at the mercy of my work thankfully lol)

        Environmentor I am sure you are well aware of the goings on of Caudrilla at Preese Hall in 2011, where they deformed their well and failed to even notify anyone for how long???
        …. and of the debacle of the West Newton Well, including the issue of the smells experienced by residents there.

        For me there is already an overwhelming body of evidence that the EA is not even nearly up to the job of over-seeing an onshore unconventional o&g industry….
        ….and quite probably I’d suspect that is by design rather than by accident.

      • I read their EA permit doc at the time.

        From what I could see (needless to say it’s not my field of expertise), the document stated that gas was unlikely to be present and come up the bore with the oil, and if any gas did come up, UKOG (or their operaters) were to close the bore down immediately and pause whilst decisions were made as to the best way to deal with it…
        I was not there at the time, but reports I heard likened the smell to ‘rotten eggs’. (I saw that being verified by a Police Liason Officer who was being asked what she could smell by someone who was there to protest about the operation) .

        Apparently it was reported immediately to the EA by at least 4 different people.

        Over 24 hours later, two EA employees attended the scene. Apparently they were so young as to have been fresh out of Uni and seemed quite daunted and uncomfortable about their role in the situation when speaking to one of the local residents who had reported the pungent smell. They said they had just conducted air tests at the back of the site, and had found no issues in their results…. ….as if anyone would’ve expected them to so long after the event…
        They certainly left no one reassured that they had any kind of a handle on the situation..

        And all in all that rather strongly sugests that no air monitering was in place at this site, doesn’t it?

        As well as highlighting the fact that it is one thinig to have conditions and mandates written down in a document and filed away in an office somewhere, and what goes on in real life when people have profit margins etc. in mind it is usuakly quite another thing.

        I worked in a technical field in my younger days so I’m well aware that there is always ‘how the manual says we should do a particular job’ , and then rthere is ‘how we actually do that particular job’, and often the two are a chasm apart (it was in the telecoms industry, so no ones life was at the mercy of my work thankfully lol)

        Environmentor I am sure you are well aware of the goings on of Caudrilla at Preese Hall in 2011, where they deformed their well and failed to even notify anyone for how long???
        …. and of the debacle of the West Newton Well, including the issue of the smells experienced by residents there.

        For me there is already an overwhelming body of evidence that the EA is not even nearly up to the job of over-seeing an onshore unconventional o&g industry….
        ….and quite probably I’d suspect that is by design rather than by accident.

  3. Also, with the growing evidence of negative health impacts that is starting to arise in the States, (as referenced by this lady), if a fracking pad was to land in your area, would you be happy enough for your kids to live within 250 or 500 metres?
    ….or would you be happier with a buffer of a Mike as is being suggested as sensible by this lady?or even 2?
    (a buffer zone of 2km was set in parts of Queensland wasn’t it?)

    • It’s all about risk and mitigation.

      One of my past clients was a chemical manufacturer that, amongst other things, produces phosgene on site – a WWI chemical weapon.

      Their production facility is less than 500m from the nearest residential homes, and under a mile away from the nearby village centre which includes a primary school.

      And yet it operates quite safely without harm to local people because the company understands the hazards and risks involved, takes appropriate steps to reduce, contain and mitigate them, uses recognised good practice, and is adequately regulated.

      Performed badly, ANY industrial process can cause harm. But done right – and, let’s face it, the shale gas industry has a lot of people like you scrutinising it and will want to avoid anything that undermines public confidence – they can be accommodated in most locations.

      As the crow flies, I live about 3 miles from a nuclear fuel production plant, that’s surrounded by farms, but I’m not concerned about living in such close proximity to a high hazard site because I believe the risks to be low.

      Rather than setting arbitrary set-back distances (which we don’t have for any other industrial facility, it’s always been decided on a case-by-case basis) why don’t we gather data from Cuadrilla’s site in Lancashire and Third Energy’s site in North Yorkshire, and then make some determinations based on actual UK scientific data?

      • ‘It’s all about risk and mitigation’

        Actually it is about common sense.

        Placing a large scale development dealing with toxic and explosive material a few hundred metres from where people live carries obvious risk to health and the environment.

        shale gas cannot meet our base fuel needs. It would have no impact whatsoever on our current fossil fuel requirements.

        It is not needed and clearly not wanted.

        The applied inevitability that this industry will develop is now just a dream for a dwindling minority.

  4. What poppycock John. There are tanks of expolosive material all over the UK including potentially explosive petrol tanks in cars and I run my car on LPG, that is very explosive. As for basic needs, you are probably already benefiting from Shale gas production in America and that country which once imported 25% (that is one quarter) of all of the world’s oil production is now nearing self sufficiency. That has put such a hole the accounts of OPEC that they are scrabbling away other and undercutting each other to try and keepo market share. If you run a car you are already £30 or more better off per month. If you use domestic gas and electricity you are probably making a further 5% profit on past bills. You will be making money too because the drop in the price of oil has caused inflation, to be at a historic low in the United Kingdom and for the first time, in many years, average pay increased above the rate of annual inflation. As for the gas itself , it is methane it is not particularly poisonous , it is escaping all the time in marsh land in the UK and throughout the world , it is locally called Marsh Gas, or Wilothewisp. If you sat in a fairly airtight room and opened a large bottle of methane , you would probably die because the gas at pressure would drive the air and its oxygen content out of the room and you would suffocate. There is unlikely to be any leaks from modern Shale gas recovery, but a puff here and there will do nobody any harm at all. You would inhale more if you lived near marshland or a bog

    • Victor – I have read your comments but I don’t think you are looking at the big picture of how the Industry would have to operate

      ‘a puff here and there’

      http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/08/16/nasa-study-nails-fracking-source-massive-methane-hot-spot

      ‘is now nearing self sufficiency’

      http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=727&t=6

      To understand why OPEC is not struggling but US shale is

      As 1 UK shale gas site would cost £330,000,000 (yes 330 million) to establish, the amount of industrialisation and volumes to recover those costs makes this a lot more than just a few eyesores and a few tanks of explosive material here and there.

      At a glance and compared to conventional onshore drilling things seem reasonable.

      This is not what is going on here

      .

      • Thanks John … That’s a very clear explanation (video) of why fracking investment is now so well understood that nobody is getting excited about it any more – except of course these guys that turn up on this site who still seem excited (clearly not understanding the reality). As they are in denial about any human and environmental risk arguments it is probably only a financial argument that could sway them … but how to get them to take their blinkers off and look at the evidence that we keep putting under their noses.

        Opec has promised an ongoing price war with western suppliers so O&G prices are going to be low for a long time. Meanwhile Trump and the republicans are going to deregulate O&G, throw out the Environment Protection Agency, and probably create another O&G glut, with Canada’s help where needed. Shale gas is a nonsense in this transition period – utterly stupid even before you add on the environmental (greenhouse gas and pollution) risks.

  5. Local tannery here produces far more toxic fumes than shale ever will and the radius is far greater too.
    Looking fwd to this industry kicking off.

    • ‘Looking fwd to this industry kicking off’

      You obviously have not been around for the last 6 years. The industry has already begun. Not much to show except high directors wages and a string of technical failings. Here are just a few of the many highlighted problems from the Preese Hall well.

      The complexity and difficulties working in the Bowland Basin are highlighted many times by the British Geological Survey in the official review of the report, prepared solely to advice The Department of Energy and Climate Change, on the events which took place during 6 small fracking operations at the Preese Hall well in 2011.

      There are numerous references suggesting dangers associated with any future operations

      ‘we are not convinced by the projected low probability of other earthquakes during future treatments’

      ‘The analyses failed to identify a causative fault, and knowledge of faulting in the Basin is poor. In the present state of knowledge it is entirely possible that there are critically stressed faults elsewhere in the Basin’

      ‘The reason for such high leak off is correctly indicated as probably due to extensive natural fractures’

      ‘Although some large scale structures have been mapped earthquakes in the magnitude range of 2 to 3 M require only relatively small rupture areas,and so can occur on small faults’

      There are many more similar references

      These references to the fault system become even more concerning when reading that Cuadrilla ask for the future seismic threshold to be set at 2.6M (1.7M plus 0.9M post injection magnitude increase). An astonishing request after the repercussions of triggering a 2.3M.
      This request is not accepted by the BGS but the careful wording of ‘for the next few events’ and ‘can be adjusted over time’ puts great doubt on how long the imposed 0.5M would be adhered to.

      No mitigation measures or recommendations could ever guarantee the stability of the geology of the Bowland Basin on which so much depends and common sense would suggest that if the first attempt fails then the hundreds that would follow would not pass without incident.

      It is no surprise that this has been highlighted by professionals.

      Seeing as they will have put every effort into the first well to prove viability and safety, not really a good start.

  6. The Mars Action Group seems to completely ignore three points. I asked Kevin Hollinrake not to ignore them and, from a politicians perspective not to ignore a fourth

    1. In neighbouring Westmoreland County, the Beaver Run Reservoir has 37 wells, some located almost at water’s edge, something no one, including me, would propose the for the UK. http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/6540290-74/reservoir-iup-beaver

    2. At Elk Lake School in Montrose (next to Dimock), there are two shale wells on school property since 2009. No issues there either.http://www.reimaginegas.com/?p=2407

    3. The Proctor and Gamble factory in Wyoming County has also had shale wells on site since 2009. They’re planning to drill more. They make Pampers disposable diapers, and the gas and water is an integral part of the manufacturing process. I would guess that a huge corporation like P+G would have been an easy target for lawyers if shale chemical upset babies’ bottoms. So far, no one has tried http://www.reimaginegas.com/?p=2482

    4. The Mars Action Group ran for election to the Mars School Board. Mrs Nassif and her ally were not elected and got less than 10% of the vote

    http://www.thecranberryeagle.com/article/20151103/CRAN05/151109980/-1/CRAN

    A question is thus: Why are those people coming to the UK and who is paying them too. Commiserations to Mrs Nassif who I’m sure supported the anti fracking US Green Party candidate, who put Trump in the White House

    Jill Stein voters: You helped elect a man who pledges that he will, in his first hundred days, cancel contributions to United Nations programs to fight climate change. If your vote for Ms. Stein did not end up advancing your green agenda, it did allow you to feel morally superior to all the compromising schmoes who voted for Hillary Clinton. And your feelings about your vote are more important than the consequences of your vote. So — thank you!

    • I presume you are a personal friend of Mrs Nassif – seeing how you know how she voted?

      This is particularly interesting given US citizens can have the equivalent of postal votes if they are going to be out of the country at election time. So you must know Mrs Nassif really well to be sure she didn’t vote early!

      I also presume you are a public health/paediatrician/oncologist qualified to comment on how children may be impacted by having frack pads at or close to their school? Can you also look into the future and be sure that none of these children will suffer any latent health impacts – given that children are acknowledged as being far more sensitive receptors than adults.

      I have a few more comments and questions:

      1) What exactly does a school board election have to do with Mrs Nassif’s visit to the UK?
      2) I understand that Mrs Nassif travelled with her family and paid for the trip herself.
      3) She was personally invited by Kevin Hollinrake MP.
      4) Finding cases where fracking HASN’T polluted water sources is akin to the smoker saying he knows someone in their nineties who has smoked all their lives so smoking “obviously” isn’t harmful. The Mars Parent Group list the research which makes them concerned about fracking on their website http://www.marsparentgroup.com/research.html
      6) Listening to Mrs Nassif speak – it is clear that the Mars Parent Group includes people who have signed leases with oil and gas companies, but who just don’t think it should take place near where children go to school. If you feel you need to personally attack anyone who takes even this very reasonable stance, then I think most people will pity you.

      One thing we seem to have in common with the US are the nasty personal attacks by the pro-fracking lobby on anyone who dares to put their head above the parapet and raise their concerns about fracking.

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