Regulation

Residents demand stricter monitoring of Cuadrilla’s fracking site

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Residents living near Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Lancashire have called for tougher action from the authorities.

At a meeting yesterday there were complaints that regulation of the Preston New Road site near Blackpool was fragmented and there was no overall control.

Residents who have been calling for radon monitoring said drilling should be delayed for six months so that baseline data could be collected.

There were allegations that planning conditions had been breached and calls for round-the-clock monitoring. One group of opponents said it would it was now watching the site 24-hours a day.

The meeting at Wrea Green brought together eight staff from the Environment Agency, along with officers from Lancashire County Council, Public Health England, Health and Safety Executive, Oil and Gas Authority and Fylde Borough Council.

Radon monitoring

Public Health England (PHE) gave details of its recent proposals to monitor for the radioactive gas, radon, in the air and homes around Preston New Road. (See DrillOrDrop report)

The organisation told residents it was now working on the arrangements and that letters should be sent to householders in about two weeks. PHE representatives said baseline data should be collected before drilling started and, ideally, over a period of six months.

But people living near Preston New Road said they were not reassured by the news.

They said the protocols used in North Yorkshire, which included six months of monitoring, must be applied to Lancashire. But this now looks unlikely. Cuadrilla has said it plans to start drilling in the second quarter of the year (April-June) and PHE confirmed it had no powers to delay operations because radon monitoring was not required under shale gas regulations.

PHE told residents that there was a low risk of exposure to radon from shale gas operations. But the residents argued there was no safe level of exposure to radon.

One resident said:

“I do not think that the powers-that-be have an interest in looking after this community.

“They cannot drill until they have the baseline data. Drilling needs to be postponed for six months.

“There is no mechanism for Cuadrilla to postpone drilling so it will not be a proper baseline. It is outrageous.”

Baseline radon data has already been collected in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, where Third Energy has permission to frack its well at Kirby Misperton. The research is part of a project co-ordinated by the British Geological Survey and is independent of monitoring required by the Environment Agency. The baseline data will be compared with results when fracking or production is underway.

Until recently there had been no plans to monitor radon at Preston New Road under a similar research project in Lancashire, which has been running since February 2015.

One person said: “[Radon monitoring] should have been started earlier” and a third person asked: “Who excluded Lancashire?”.

Preston New Road Action Group has also called for baseline monitoring for benzene, which has been detected in high concentrations in air around some fracking sites in the US.

Claire Stephenson from the group said:

“The government claims that ‘robust, gold-standard’ monitoring and regulation will be in place for fracking. There is still nothing to show for these claims, other than empty, meaningless rhetoric.”

The PHE said it may collect baseline data on benzene but it said the Environment Agency was responsible for regulation of the substance.

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The Meet The Regulators event at Wrea Green

Alleged traffic breaches

Staff from Lancashire County Council acknowledged they had received complaints about lorries entering and leaving the Preston New Road site.

Some people said lorries had gone through the gates before the 7.30am start-time set in the traffic management plan.

Andy Mullaney, Lancashire’s head of planning, said:

“We have received a lot of complaints and allegations. But we have not received any evidence, any photographs or video”.

Bob Dennett, of Frack Free Lancashire, complained that the council would not accept the evidence of breaches collected by protesters at Preston New Road.

Mr Mullaney replied:

“If somebody provided evidence, we may use it to begin an investigation. It would be useful in starting the process. But to make a successful prosecution, we cannot rely on third party evidence. We don’t know whether the evidence is authentic or not.”

He added that Cuadrilla had to report breaches of the planning conditions and the council received information from the police.

But Mr Dennett said:

“This site needs to be monitored 24/7. Once again we are doing the regulators’ job for them and we are having to do the monitoring. This is totally unacceptable.

“We are gathering the evidence to get a stop order. We will be monitoring the site 24/7 and recording breaches.”

Mr Mullaney said a stop order was one of the most severe options open to the council. To pursue it, officers needed to demonstrate an immediate threat to public health or the environment. He said:

“We have to behave proportionately and reasonably. Where there is harm we will act but the first question is ‘is it a technical breach or has there been harm?’”

Mr Mullaney also countered accusations that the council did not have the resources to monitor Preston New Road. He said he was spending a third of his time on work connected to the site and another planning officer was spending two-thirds.

“We will do whatever it takes. Our monitoring is on a risk-based and proportionate basis. We can bring in more capacity.  The allegation that we are strapped for cash or resources is not true.”

Mr Mullaney added that a council highways officer was “monitoring the situation” onsite approximately every couple of days, depending on what issues arose.

“Fragmented regulation” and “conflict of interest”

A resident of Carr Bridge Park, 1km from Preston New Road, said he was disappointed by the regulation so far:

“I don’t think we have made much progress over the years. The whole system is too fragmented. There is no overarching control.”

Tina Rothery, of the Lancashire Nanas anti-fracking group, said:

“The regulators are not working in a holistic way. They are working in separate departments.

“We have been going to meetings with regulations for years and nothing is any different today than it was in 2011. The amount of research has grown hugely since 2013 but they don’t seem to have absorbed it.”

Mike Hill, a chartered engineer and critic of the shale gas industry, suggested to the Oil and Gas Authority that its new responsibilities for regulation and selling revenue-raising exploration licences risked a conflict of interest. He said the OGA representative replied: “It’s been forced on us – it’s not ideal”.

Mr Hill responded: “Not ideal – it’s an absolute disgrace”.

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The meeting

The Environment Agency described the event, attended by 150-200 people, as positive and said many visitors had welcomed the opportunity to discuss the roles of the different regulators.

Mark Ellis-Jones, Onshore Oil & Gas Programme Project Executive, Environment Agency, said the event aimed not to change people’s minds about fracking but to explain what the rules were. He said:

“What can be required of Cuadrilla has to be proportionate and appropriate”.

One person said:

“I’m encouraged that people are coming. If all else fails it should bring across the strength of feeling in the local community”.

Another said he felt more confident having talked to an officer about the system to monitor seismicity induced by fracking.

But there was criticism of the drop-in format and the ability of representatives to answer questions.

One person said the room was too small. Another that it was too loud to hear answers easily.

Bob Dennett described the event as a “box-ticking exercise so that they can say they engaged with the communities”.

Tina Rothery said:

“The public have come with their questions that the people here are not capable of answering.”

Updated at 17.51 on 2/2/2017 to remove a section of this report following a conversation with the Environment Agency, during which the organisation stated that visitors were not required to sign in to the event . 


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

21 replies »

  1. well, i think when we asked Cuadrilla to have a free and frank meeting with the local residents to enable them to air their views, we did not expect a vetting process by anonymous heavies who’s priorities are such that catching a train is more important than than telling the truth or identifying who they are?

    It seems Cuadrilla are making themselves known for emulating the three “wise monkeys”, Mizaru representing representing “See No Evil”, and Kikazaru, representing “Hear No Evil” and Iwazaru, representing “Speak No Evil”, however they seem to have forgotten Shizaru, the fourth monkey, who represents “Do No Evil”. A frequent omission with the O & G industry, particularly where fracking is concerned.

    Perhaps the only gold standards that should be awarded to Cuadrilla in this meeting are, one for being blind to the truth, another for being deaf to the truth, another for not speaking the truth and a fourth one for doing no truth.

    Perhaps there should be a fifth, “No Fracking Truth”.

    • Phil C – As I understand it this meeting was not Cuadrilla’s meeting; the above article does not mention Cuadrilla even being there. Clearly you were not there; nor was I, but at least I understand the purpose of the meeting. “We asked Cuadrilla”????

      The usual suspects turned up and were not happy. But then they will never be happy. I for one do not want my Council and the Police to waste any more resources on what is basically a small site construction operation that these people would not give a second glance to if it wasn’t preparation for a shale gas operation.

      • Why are the organisers so secretive? They did not reveal their names, and yet they demanded the residents to log their names on entry, why was that? How would anyone know who was there or who was not there? It could have been the three (or more) wise monkeys for all the good it did. Anonymity is avoidance of responsibility in a public meeting, and yet the residents were not afforded the same privilege, why was that?

        [Note from moderator:] The Environment Agency have stated that people were not required to sign in when visiting the exhibition and the report has been edited to reflect that [/moderator]

        Who prey are the “usual suspects ” referred to? Do you have the entrance register? If so please share your assessment of the attendees and identify which are these imaginary ” usual suspects”? If you want to speculate, the i can do the same! The organisers would not reveal their true identities, The anonymity of the official attendees allows one to assume the presence of anyone and that could not be contradicted, since there is no evidence one way or the other. For the purposes of a public meeting the effort was therefore a waste of time energy and money.
        Yours truly, an unusual suspect.

  2. Why is the reporting so negative? People have a chance to meet the people who do the regulating and thats it. There have been calls for a unifying authority, and that is happening, the OGA.
    Radon is going to be monitored, even tho its not likely to be a risk, so whats the issue? Loads of people live in high radon area, (and the Fylde is NOT one, unlike Cornwall) and they could be at risk so why dont people complain about that.

    This is so much blathering by people who not want to accept anything, and who are not qualified to pass the judgements that they are making. Its all a bit pathetic really.

    • If Fracking was safe why would the government need to lie to us and why would Cuadrilla need to pay millions to PR companies ( including the one who told us for decades that smoking didn’t cause cancer) to convince people that Fracking was safe. The EA has been neutered by this government . They are a joke , the shamed Philip Dilley who had to resign early in 2016 because [edited by moderator] where he was after the floods, worked for Arup and wrote applications for Cuadrilla to frack . These applications were then approved by the EA which was headed by PHILIP DILLEY. if it was fiction no one would believe it . [Edited by moderator]

      [Comment edited by moderator to correct name of EA Chairman from Peter Dilley to Philip Dilley]

  3. How can you say radon is going to be monitored Ken when (unless Cuadrilla agree to down tools for 6 months) there will be no baseline? How useful can monitoring be if there is nothing to measure it against. If you choose to live in a high radon area you can complain to yourself or your parents perhaps. If a company decides to embark locally on a process that my have radon-related consequences you have a right to expect at least baseline monitoring so that should they create a problem there can be a legal route to recompense. It’s not hard is it?

    It is simply not good enough for people like you to keep pumping out the same old Pollyannish “material” about how wonderful fracking will be and accusing concerned locals of being pathetic. You might have more credibility here if you actually lived within 100 miles of the site* concerned, but we all know you don’t.

    Out of interest Ken what’s your rationale explaining away the fact that the regulators refused to identify themselves? I can’t wait to hear it ….

    *at least you do have the guts to admit who you are so well done for that.

    • Baseline is zero – helps your cause. Any radon detected after Cuadrilla start you can blame on Cuadrilla. But won’t stand up in Court.

      One question: this application went to planning then appeal and was granted. Did the groups fighting the Appeal not ask for a Radon monitoring condition? If not, why not? The planning application and then the Appeal were the forums to request radon monitoring and ask for this to be included as a planning condition? I would have expected this to be granted and added to the planning conditions without any major problem.

      Or has the radon issue just suddenly appeared in the last couple of weeks as another way to attack Cuadrilla? Did the antis forget to bring it up at the Appeal?

      As I said earlier, I agree that it makes sense to monitor it, but if there is no condition to do it, then it is on those that want it done to undertake it. And who will pay for 6 months of delaying Cuadrilla?

    • Fracking has happened for over 50 years in the US and we’ve fracked 1.5 million wells. I have yet to hear of a single case of radon poisoning due to fracking operations nor have high radon exposures been associated with fracking. So one would have to characterize this risk as minimal. Fracking has happened over 200 times in the UK, and I have yet to hear of a massive rash of radon poisoning from the activity in the country.

  4. Appalling lack of monitoring by Lancashire County Council, failure to inform local residents of day to day changes to Traffic Management Plans which could be done very simply at a low cost, It appears that Police are also in the dark about changes to TMP also.

  5. Interesting to see these comments.

    The solar farm being built close to my property will be completed in another two weeks. Already a month of noise from (before) dawn to dusk, continuous lorry movements, damage to road surfaces and drainage.

    Absolutely ZERO traffic management plan, or liaison with local householders.

    Funny how there are different expectations for “alternatives”!

    (Hope the farm does better than the land owner next door. He invested in 13 solar panels for his stable roof, directly pointing south. On a superb sunny winters day recently, his “return” was 33p!)

    • Curious isn’t it? Mind you if you ask Paul, he would say its the local residents fault for not demanding more stringent conditions at the planning stage. Perhaps you could enquire of the council what were the planning conditions and if there are enforceable conditions, who is responsible for monitoring and why are they not being enforced and where are the police and the highways officer to monitor the damage and noise nuisance?

  6. [Edited by moderator] Breaches of planning conditions, dangerous situations have all been caught on film and published on Facebook!
    Lots of police filming has also been carried out. Hopefully this will be available to help uncover the truth, no matter who it embarrasses!

  7. Cuadrilla are not part of the Community, just like the landowners who sold out to them!
    Therefore they were invited!
    P.s. my wife and I went in the afternoon and jolly busy it was too!

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