New study finds community suffered “collective trauma” over Lancs fracking decisions – plus round-up of other research


Photo: Frack Free Dee

Plans to frack for shale gas in Lancashire resulted in individual harm and a “considerable toll” on the local community, even before drilling began, according to a new study.

It concluded that people experienced feelings of powerlessness, depression, guilt and anger during the process to decide Cuadrilla’s applications for two sites in the Fylde district.

Researchers Damien Short and Anna Szolucha, of London and Bergen Universities, said:

“It was apparent from the research that a form of ‘collective trauma’ was experienced by the affected communities.”

They defined this as “a blow to the basic tissues of social life” and damage to community bonds.

From analysis of interviews and conversations, the researchers said people described:

“A sense of powerlessness and feelings of depression, a sense of loss, fear, betrayal, guilt, anger, and an emotional rollercoaster ride of highs and lows as the planning process ebbed and flowed through various stages and the appeal process.”

The researchers concluded:

“Significant individual harm and a palpable community collective trauma were experienced from the planning process itself, the various stages of objections and bureaucratic hoops through which concerned citizens have to jump; the feelings of powerlessness in the face of corporate lobbying; the perception that whatever happened locally ‘Westminster’ would likely intervene via the ultimate authority to approve fracking applications vested in the Secretary of State for Communities.”

They said people became disillusioned with the political process and felt they were being treated as “collateral damage”. During the planning process, some councillors also started to feel manipulated and to notice the power imbalances between the gas company and the local government, the researchers said.

LCC meeting June 2015 (2)

Wall outside Lancashire County Council building during decision meeting in June 2015. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The decision by Lancashire County Council to refuse applications for both Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood was welcomed by the anti-fracking movement. But the researchers said

“The process up to that point was deeply concerning on a number of levels, which do not bode well for local citizens who wish to resist future fracking applications”.

They alleged the report by the planning officer, which recommended approval of the Preston New Road application, was flawed and biased.

“Amongst the objectors to the application, there were serious concerns about possible industry influence or political pressure.

“From the interview data it is clear that the PO’s [planning officer’s] report caused considerable stress and worry to those most likely to suffer a direct impact if the applications were to go ahead”.

Cuadrilla appealed against the refusals and was granted planning permission for Preston New Road by the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid in October last year. Two community challenges to this decision were heard in the High Court in Manchester in March this year. The ruling is expected shortly.

Despite this, Cuadrilla began work at the Preston New Road site in January. Since then, there have been daily protests and police presence at the site.

pnr arrests 170404 Ros Wills 1

Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, 4 April 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

The researchers said:

“This situation will have significant and long-lasting impacts on the local community, contributing to the collective trauma already experienced by the residents living in the vicinity of potential fracking sites in Lancashire.”

They called for more studies on the social impacts of shale gas exploration applications, as well as for production sites.

Fracking Lancashire: The planning process, social harm and collective trauma
Damien Short and Anna Szolucha, Geoforum (peer-reviewed journal), 17 March 2017

Other recent research

Environmental justice

Local control: authority, resistance, and knowledge production in fracking
Valencia, C and Carrillo Martinet, M, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Water (peer-reviewed journal), March-April 2017, online 29 December 2016
The authors reviewed research on problems of authority, resistance, and knowledge production related to fracking.

Risks and contamination

Modeling potential occupational inhalation exposures and associated risks of toxic organics from chemical storage tanks used in hydraulic fracturing using AERMOD
H Chen and KE Carter, Environmental Pollution (peer-reviewed journal), May 2017
The authors investigated the possible occupational inhalation exposures and potential risks related to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from chemical storage tanks and flowback pits used in US hydraulic fracturing. Results show that chemicals used in 12.4% of the wells posed a potential acute non-cancer risks for exposure and 0.11% of the wells may provide chronic non-cancer risks for exposure. Chemicals used in 7.5% of the wells were associated with potential acute cancer risks for exposure. Those chemicals used in 5.8% of the wells may be linked to chronic cancer risks for exposure.

Cytotoxicity and molecular effects of biocidal disinfectants (quaternary ammonia, glutaraldehyde, poly(hexamethylene biguanide) hydrochloride PHMB) and their mixtures in vitro and in zebrafish eleuthero-embryos
Verena Christen, Susanne Faltermann, Nadja Rebecca Brun, Petra Y Kunz, Karl Fenta, Science of The Total Environment, (peer-reviewed journal), May 2017
This study looked at the impact of five biocide disinfectants on the liver cells of fish. The authors assessed the cytotoxicity of the substances individually and as a mixture. A mixture containing all five compounds mixed at their no observed effect concentrations showed strong cytotoxicity, suggesting a synergistic interaction.

Mobility and persistence of methane in groundwater in a controlled-release field experiment
Aaron G. Cahill, Colby M. Steelman, Olenka Forde, Olukayode Kuloyo, S. Emil Ruff, Bernhard Mayer, K. Ulrich Mayer, Marc Strous, M. Cathryn Ryan, John A. Cherry & Beth L. Parker, Nature Geoscience, (peer-reviewed journal), online 27 March 2017
The authors carried out a 72-day methane gas injection experiment into a shallow flat-lying sand aquifer. The found that equal amounts of methane vented to the atmosphere as remained in the groundwater. The lateral migration of gas in the aquifer was beyond that expected by groundwater mechanisms alone. The authors concluded that even small-volume releases of methane gas can cause extensive and persistent free phase and solute plumes emanating from leaks that are detectable only by contaminant hydrogeology monitoring at high resolution.

Chemical and toxicological characterizations of hydraulic fracturing flowback and produced water
He Y, Flynn SL, Folkerts EJ, Zhang Y, Ruan D, Alessi DS, Martin JW and Goss GG, Water Resources, (peer-reviewed journal) online 14 February 2017
This study examined solids, salts and organic signatures in hydraulic fracturing flowback and produced water. The authors concluded that toxicological profiling of produced and flowback water presented great challenges for assessing the potential risk and impacts of spills.

Energy independence

“We Can’t Be Dependent on Anybody”: The rhetoric of “Energy Independence” and the legitimation of fracking in Pennsylvania
Carlo E Sica and Matthew Huber, The Extractive Industries and Society, (peer-reviewed journal), online 24 February 2017
This paper examine the argument that hydraulic fracturing has reduced US dependence on oil imports. The authors argue that discourse about energy independence sees the world as a struggle between territorial states but this obscures how international commerce and investment relies on interdependence, cooperation and co-production. In fact, they argue, fracking was made possible by a global network of oil and gas firms, shale gas from the US has been exported and profits have flowed into global cooperative investors.

Reporting of the fracking industry

“Who Is at “Fault?'” The Media and the Stories of Induced Seismicity
Jonathan M Fisk, Charles Davis and Benjamin Cole, Politics and Policy, (peer-reviewed journal) 20 February 2017
The authors analysed newspaper coverage of seismic events in Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas linked to injection of fracking wastewater. They concluded that the level of media attention about induced seismicity was linked to issues such as past experience of oil and gas development, the economic clout of the industry, timing and location of quakes and whether the injected waste was from wells in the state or from outside.

Citizen science

Citizen Science and Democracy: Participatory Water Monitoring in the Marcellus Shale Fracking Boom
Abby Kinchy, Science as Culture, (peer-reviewed journal), Volume 26, 2017
The author examines the impact of citizen science environmental monitoring projects in fracking areas in the north east US. She concludes that most of the efforts emphasize the collection of “baseline” data, which they view as essential to future efforts to hold polluters accountable. However, these projects tend to channel public concern about fracking toward future scientific controversies, instead of political action now to prevent pollution. Project organizers try to convince volunteers that their work has meaning and that they are being empowered, but future-oriented data collection is often at odds with volunteers’ current-day motivations.

Click here for DrillOrDrop’s compilation of research, guidance and reports on fracking and the onshore oil and gas industry

28 replies »

  1. “It concluded that people experienced feelings of powerlessness, depression, guilt and anger during the process to decide Cuadrilla’s applications for two sites in the Fylde district.”

    Damien Short and Anna Szolucha – what a shock – they have been churning this rubbish out for several years now, usually targeting unconventionals but for some reason not any other planning applications, often the same stuff with a different cover. I wonder who pays them for this. Typical – start with what you want the report to conclude and work backwords.

    • Paul, I invite you to come and meet the local people who objected to this industrial process 500m from their homes, and say this to their faces.

  2. Exactly the same for any area where an unwanted housing estate, or similar, is imposed. Happens all over the country on a regular basis and yet local communities have had to accept it for many years because no one would, or could, moderate the growth in the UK population. Same with granite extraction on the Lizard, proposed for building of the Swansea lagoon. The locals are against it, Cornwall are probably against it, but that is not the whole consideration, and it may still happen.

    If you want a persecution argument, try researching communities who have had sites placed in their midst to house travellers.

    • Dear oh dear, such personal attacks? Perhaps you would care to critique the evidence in their paper rather than attack the authors?
      What about the other papers reported here, are you going to critique those too? what is your opinion of their characters? Let me guess, if the papers criticise the o&g industry they are charlatans and rogues, and if they support the o&g industry then the evidence is admirable and the authors are the best!
      70% of people in UK said don’t want fracking in their neighbourhood, are they therefore all charlatans and rogues? Do you have evidence that they are all churning out rubbish? Are they all therefore being paid and deliberately targeting the o&g industry?

      • Phil C – why bother to read their paper – the great thing about Mr. Google is you can check their names with the word “fracking” and see the results. Hence my comment.

        • Why bother with evidence at all? Just attack someone’s character, well there you have it, no facts just biased opinion.
          Btw, I looked at those “drawings” if someone submitted those weak sketches and schematics to me I would send them back and ask for the real ones, not the joke versions.
          That was four hours of my life I wont get back, it has rarely been my misfortune to see such vague nonsense. No spec or references, hardly an annotation or dimension, no detailed engineering drawings at all. No details of the interceptor/ separator, no overflow route, no indication of base slab or anti flotation measures, no pipework shown. The ditch and bund overhung, no collection, sump monitoring details. Nothing but thrown together schematics, an absolute waste of time and space.
          If this is the typical standard of submitted drawings I would revoke permission for every site right now and tell them to submit engineering drawings to a recognised standard or go away.

    • Just what I’d expect of a pro-fracker. To compare potentially 1000s of fracking pads in the countryside producing toxic waste, light pollution, noise, 1000s of HGV movements and the risk of irreversible water pollution, in other words huge industrialisation of previously unspoilt areas to a travellers site … [edited by moderator]

      • Good to get the deabte up and running again – it’s been very quiet on Drill or Drop – school holidays perhaps? Last time I looked the planning application was for one site in the Fylde?

        • Oh come on Paul – are you pretending you aren’t aware of Mr Egan’s ambition for 100 + super well pads in just his licence are alone, turning it into “the largest gas field in Western Europe”? Where have you been?

  3. As a resident of a nearby village (Wrea Green) with two recent unwanted housing estate developments and another pending on the very road I live on; I totally agree with the findings of the report. I’m hardly ‘green’, having worked on Eurofighter, Hinkley B software, the specification of nearby Springfield nuclear robotic fuel movement etc,etc. However, the reckless, speculative, indeterministic nature of these fracking process applications when applied to a complex geology & hydrology of those found in the densely populated Fylde leads to a cultivation of all of those negative symptoms when campaigning against the applications. I approached the industry with a fully ‘open mind’, but with a degree in geological geophysics and an ensuing migration into a career as a software/systems engineer on safety related products I was quickly alerted to the potential catastrophic pitfalls – housing developments though not wanted are a minor irritation compared to the prospect of fracking.

    • What an odd comment Richard Parker. ‘With a degree in geological geophysics’ perhaps you could explain why you have such problems with a process that has been done millions of times with no issues? Surely you are aware of the ability to monitor fracture growth and the massive database of research that backs this up? Surely you are aware that depth is a great protector, as fractures have never got ebven close to aquifers? Surely you are aware that the Fylde doesnt even have a useable aquifer. Its already too polluted. Please give more evidence as to why you have misgivings…

      • Hey Johnson, residents of the Fylde have been using the aquifier for centuries! Boddingtons bitter uses water from the Fylde aquifier below PNR!
        Were it polluted thousands of Lancashire residents would be very ill!
        I guess you would be o.k. though, living out of the Fylde!
        Jog on dipstick!

      • Kirkham cotton mills used the aquifer, an historical dairy at Inskip. The fresh water recreation lakes at nearby Wakepark are fed from 3 pure water springs likely fed up through faulting from the sherwood aquifer. Also several fresh water springs not documented have been considered to be developed as trout fisheries. (Moss side) Complex faulting permits the flow of fracture fluid & gas – tends to make fracking inefficient anyway. Seem to remember they vertically fracked an unknown fault last time at Preeshall. Basically the whole of the Fylde is plausibly the resurgence of the water falling on the Bowland fells not extracted elsewhere through this complex faulting. Nothing concrete of course, all postulation – but thats geology, especially disguised & encompassed with all the superficial deposits & associated hydrology. Lets carry on and drill and hope though, see if we can get a few tremors again and some more with re-injection as well. Nothing in the regs to stop the last frack being high volume, low pressure – ie. disposal. Might as well use an old well and stuff it in the Sherwood anyway – much cheaper than taking away waste and treating it. Then we can make sure the aquifer is not useable – just have to hope we don’t pollute up through the Woodsford fault and Nottinghams water supply. Try telling Ohio residents about there no issues with fracking…

  4. Pauline-try and stick to facts, rather than wild fabrication. I’m not sure who you think such comment convinces, but it certainly will not convince the wider public. [Edited by moderator]

    • Francis Egan himself has boasted that he intends to make the Fylde ‘The biggest gas field in Western Europe” and that’s just the Fylde. There are a multitude of other PEDL areas also. What part of the scenario I’ve indicated do you consider to be wild fabrication?

      • Excellent posts Pauline , and the wider public who have researched agree with you . [Edited by moderator].

  5. I believe that the demands on water supplies and policing involved in industrial scale Fracking will prove to be the issues that will stop Fracking on the Fylde Coast and elsewhere!
    Plus of course removing and treating the massive amounts of toxic byproducts of this discredited process!

  6. I live in Balcombe. I can personally relate to the findings of the authors. The demonstrations took place over 3 years ago. Fortunately we’ve heard little from Cuadrilla until recently; they have submitted an application to vary their environmental permit. It’s content is deeply worrying. We are preparing our responses but fear that, yet again, anything we write will simply be ignored in favour of the industry. We do feel powerless but we know that we cannot give up or give in. Local democracy is taking a pounding from this government. We sadly live in a so called Tory safe seat. Our district and county councils are all Tory and seem to follow central government’s wishes at the expense of their local communities. We see them having the interests of the Tory party first and their residents last. I would dearly love to see proper democracy in place. But there is little hope where the incumbent government won an election with less than 1 in 4 of the electorate voting for them. Hardly a mandate from the people for the damage they’re causing to our society. I believe party politics has no place in local government. I call upon the electorate to cease blindly voting for anyone or any political party. I call upon the industry to cease their expansion plans for onshore oil and gas. I call upon government at all levels to aggressively push for more renewal energy whilst aggressively attacking energy reduction. I call upon this government to stop disincentivising investments in renewable energy, whilst incentivising the fossil fuel industry. Balcombe has shamed you with its own renewable energy projects.

  7. Pauline-wild fabrication? Yes. “1000s of fracking pads”? Why? DYOR. A large gas field does not need 1000s of fracking pads. You are either unaware of modern technology or trying to create a narrative to suit your purpose-or both. (And please do not bother to Giggle USA “experience”-that has been exhausted now and really has little relevance.)

    Equally, it is repeatedly posted on this site that the economics of extracting gas by fracking will not add up in the UK. If your side of the argument want to continue with this point, how do we end up with “1000s of fracking pads”? This is a 100% contradiction. Talk about cake and eat it! Trying to scare the public with “industrial scale fracking” but also claiming there will be no financial benefit. Yes, I have seen the “explanation”. All the financial advantage will go to Cuadrilla. Just remember they have to sell the gas. That will not happen if there is not a benefit to the buyer. (There are numerous existing oil wells on land in the UK that have existed for decades. There could have been many more but the costs of extraction made it uneconomic to extract, so the oil is still there. If oil prices change, then they may be revisited, or more likely, as new technology enables extraction more efficiently and economically they may come back into the frame for that reason.)

  8. Or you could just as easily produce an article that stated ” Fracking in USA. The activity that kept the US economy growing and avoided a world economic crash. The only positive legacy for Obama.”

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