Obey the rules to win back public trust – fracking industry told

170630 Marriotts Gaz Mack3

Photo: Gaz Mack

The fracking industry must comply with the rules if it is to regain public confidence, the Environment Agency said yesterday.

As the industry prepares to begin operations, Mark Ellis Jones, the EA’s onshore oil and gas programme executive, told a meeting in London:

“For the industry, compliance with our environmental permits is probably the most single thing they need to do.

“To demonstrate to the local community and to us as the regulator that the operations they are proposing are safe for people and the environment.

“This is going to be key to regaining the trust and their social licence in the communities in which they operate.”

The warning came as Third Energy submitted its hydraulic fracture plan for its well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire and the drilling rig is expected imminently at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.

The government’s latest public attitudes survey found 19% of people supported fracking and 30% opposed. A recent poll by Friends of the Earth suggested that two-thirds of people in Lancashire opposed fracking within five miles of their home and 54% thought fracking was unsafe.

Mr Ellis-Jones said the oil and gas sector was regarded as high-performing, with no records of the most serious pollution incidents. Fracking companies had been issued with what he described as “robust” permits.

But he said the EA would “redouble” its efforts as sites became operational to show it was working with other regulators, such as the Health and Safety Executive, Oil and Gas Authority and local councils.

He said the EA had visited the Preston New Road site five times during the construction of the well bad.

Mike Stephenson, Director of Science and Technology at the British Geological Survey, told the meeting there should be a “very conspicuous presence” from regulators to assure people that fracking could be done safely. He said:

“Very high levels of environmental assurance will be needed and very conspicuous regulation and monitoring.”

The BGS has been collecting data since 2015 in shale gas areas in Lancashire and North Yorkshire to establish baselines for air and water quality and seismicity.

“Confidence undermined”

Mr Ellis-Jones described the EA as a “confident regulator” and the regulatory system for fracking “as fit for purpose”.

But Kathryn McWhirter, a journalist who lives near Cuadrilla’s site at Balcombe in West Sussex, criticised faith in the regulators as “complacent”. She said:

“We don’t have confidence in the regulators. We have good reason for not trusting the regulators.”

Opponents of Cuadrilla’s operations in Lancashire have been collecting information on what they allege are breaches of the company’s permissions. There was also dismay earlier this year among people living around the site that data was not being collected on radon gas (DrillOrDrop report).

Baroness McIntosh, who represented Kirby Misperton as MP for Thirsk and Malton until 2015, called for a single regulator, as proposed in the Conservative manifesto and recommended by the Shale Gas Task Force.

“There is no single regulator in charge and I believe that is a weakness in the system. I think we do need to have greater openness and transparency to give trust in the process.”

Ken Cronin, chief executive of the industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said:

“While the industry understands the regulatory process, the general public and local communities find it bewildering. And the lack of a primary contact has undermined confidence”.

Stephen Sanderson, Executive Chairman of UK Oil and Gas Investments Ltd, one of the companies behind the so-called Gatwick Gusher oil discovery, described the current four regulators as uncoordinated and said a single regulator was the global model.

“This has a big impact on trying to get not only exploration wells but test wells [drilled] and get them on to production”.

Government backing

Lord Truscott, a former energy minister, called for clarity from the government on its plans for shale gas.

“If shale gas is to develop successfully in the UK it will require strong political support from the government. I think they need to be clear one way or another on that.”

UKOG’s Stephen Sanderson said:

“I can find the oil and we can produce it but if there isn’t backing that it is of national significance then it’s going to be a very big hill to climb.”

John Blaymires, chief operating officer of IGas, which is preparing to drill two shale gas wells in Nottinghamshire, called for faster decision-making for sites. He said his company’s plans had taken 12 and 18 months to be approved.

“That is not ultimately a sustainable way if the country decides that shale gas can provide benefits in terms of security of supply, jobs, growth etc and be done safely and environmentally-responsibly.”

Production warning

There was also a warning that shale in the UK may not produce gas in the way it does in the US. Professor Stephenson, of the BGS, said:

“British shales are unlikely to be productive all the way through.

“What we’ve found through recent studies in the last two years is [the gas is] quite confined to layers within the shale

“We need to be able to find these productive layers and that involves a lot of science and engineering”.

Reporting from this meeting of the Westminster Energy Environment and Transport Forum was made possible by individual donations by DrillOrDrop readers.  You can donate to the site by clicking here

73 replies »

  1. Please stop using the word “denier” PhilipP. You know what it is linked to in history and you use it deliberately to cause offence. I think we can manage without.

    • thanks for reading my comments Martin. I’m not sure about the offence you refer to but would you prefer ‘anti’ or ‘skeptic’ (as in AGW skeptic or global warming skeptic)?

      • Hi Philip, take no notice unless they do the same and stop using the same old epithets and insults, this is neuro linguistic programming “re-framing” its pure whitewash, They are trying to associate deniers with a certain historic genocide in Europe, i am sure you know the events, They dont like climate change deniers and this is just an excuse to fog the issue with claims of misuse of terminology. Fortunately i was trained on this many years ago and i can spot it a mile off.

        [Edited by moderator] The answer to that is:

        “Please stop using the word “mob” “extremists” “enemies of industry” “terrorists” and so many others martin, You know those are linked to in history and you use it deliberately to cause offence. I think we can manage without them.”

          • As I do for EOE, Enemies of the Earth, but unlike you, I consider it only as a repost.
            It should not be necessary for either of us.

        • Agreed PhilC … their name-calling tricks are the worst. The ‘anti’ label neatly brands ‘us’ (although I don’t belong to any group) into some some sort of anti industry mob…. [edited by moderator].

          In fact I’m not even anti O&G so long as it is making great efforts to reduce it’s carbon footprint. What I am very anti about is the deceit, the abuse of power and the compulsive lies that go with the industry in its roll-out of HVHF (high volume hydraulic fracturing) as it is attempting to hit these shores about now. I have seen enough evidence of the distress to humans and the environment that it can cause to sicken me to the pit of my stomach. And when I see brazen lies being spread by those aggressive hawks now lobbying hard, trying to bend the UK’s legal and regulatory powers to their corporate and private ends I feel ashamed that I belong to the same species.

          • I thoroughly agree Philip P, I have never considered myself “anti” anything, rather I am pro life, pro freedom, pro democracy, and pro intelligently produced energy generation. (PIPEG?)
            I always remember what Mother Teresa said when asked to join an anti war march, she said ” no thankyou, but if you organise a march in support of peace, I will be happy to join”
            That has always struck me as positive, so I am not anti, not against anything, but I will support a pro life movement. That is why I turned the anti epithet back around them to anti anti instead of pro frackers, because it turned the same negative back to the source and doubled it?
            Words are powerful and go deeper than we know.

  2. PhilipP-[edited by moderator] If you have not visited the memorial in Israel it might further your knowledge, and make you appreciate how offensive such terminology is[Edited by moderator] I have visited that site, and some in Germany, and my father had experience of camps being liberated in Germany, so yes, I do find it offensive and especially so from people who insist on their rights to protest.
    Apart from the offence it is also inaccurate in the context of nearly all the posts I have seen on DOD. Most people posting in support of fracking are simply stating that they do not agree with your approach to stop it, and the impact this might produce in terms of climate change. Very few, if any, are stating that climate change is not occurring-it would be the first time in the worlds history if this was so.

    If you want to use an accurate term (heaven forbid) try “persons who believe the use of fracking technology should be tested in the UK (or substitute elsewhere) to establish whether it may provide energy security in the short term and a bridge to other forms of replaceable energy generation in the longer term”.

    [Comment edited by moderator. Climate change denier is a term in common use, but perhaps contributors could try and avoid it, due to any offence it may cause.]

    • Ah, I see you link the term to ‘holocaust denial’? I can assure you that nothing could be further from my mind in the use of that word Martin. It is a very general but accurate term in my books, descriptive even. How about a deal. If you stop insulting me when I offer a carefully considered link to back up or reinforce a point then I can consider dropping the term. To suggest the ‘Giggle’ word or to trivialize any link as a google link, when it is just a URL , or, as if someone called google makes it all up, is such a cheap gimmick. I have done a lot of research in my life and if someone else offers a well framed observation or results of some good research, that can easily be made accessible to others, then I won’t hesitate to point people in that direction, and I hope others would do similar.

      The brush off that climate change is always occurring is a simple deniers starting point, but you know as well as any that the general reference to ‘climate change’ is as a noun – i.e. the ‘issue’ of climate change. I have migrated from debates in that arena specifically because methane has picked up the baton from CO2 and has become a very big issue indeed.

    • Paul, There are plenty of synonyms, but essentially this is NLP reframing, and is a deliberate attempt to control and own phrases and their useage.
      The word itself and without the event context, is used in all sorts of literature and news, the suggestion represents a dangerous precedent, and is used as a form of censorship, and that is a dangerous step to take.
      What about a quote from elsewhere with the same phrase? Is that to be censored as well? The word itself is harmless, it just means refuse to accept, that is a common grammatical statement. Its relationship with certain events is purely circumstantial and coincidental and does not refer to that event in and of itself. I could state similarly used words by the anti anti’s that have the same if not worse connotations, but I see no effort from them to refrain from their use at all?
      These are dangerous waters, next we will be seeing cries of fake news seeking censorship that way soon if this is proceeded with.
      When I see a similar restraint of all the anti anti epithets, labels and derogatory words, I will use whatever words I see fit that do not offend, unless of course they are used against me that is. I will watch with interest.

  3. How interesting, at long last, the BGS has stated what many have been saying for some considerable time, i.e. the UK cannot replicate what has occurred in the US. Yet the Conservative party made this claim in their manifesto.
    The EA is wrong and out of touch, because if the Conservatives deliver on their manifesto plans to allow drilling wells without the need for planning consent, I don’t think the industry will ever gain the support of the public, in fact I think it will be disliked even more than it is now. And with Ineos threatening to use legal powers to enter land to drill and frack, when the landowner has refused consent, I suspect there will be complete outrage.

  4. I have not insulted you PhilipP. I have pointed out that your carefully considered links, are exactly that-carefully considered to show a partial interpretation of a bigger picture eg. fracking failing in USA because Penns. is not as active as it was, whilst overall rigs have been rocketing in other areas, and then trying to argue this had not been the cause for the recent decline in the oil price, when multiple specialist agencies around the world confirm that it is. Just in an attempt to discredit that fracking could have any possibility of being economically attractive.
    I know it is the standard approach eg KatT “Ineos threatening to use legal powers to enter land to drill and frack”. My understanding was they said they would consider these powers to conduct seismic testing to identify a complete picture of the geology in an area if they had significant gaps between land that landowners had agreed for the testing to go ahead. That is something all together different.
    Equally, I don’t think anyone has suggested fracking in the UK will replicate what has occurred in the US. I have seen numerous posts stating that it will not, from supporters of UK fracking.

    [Edited by moderator]

    • This is all very convoluted and tiring Martin. I can remember showing a Penn state graph for some other reason then getting a surprise when everyone thought I was arguing that fracking was declining everywhere in the US . It showed a declining rig count (for PA) but that just happened to be incidental to what I was talking about (if I remember correctly). I made no claims that it stood for the whole country . Over-reactions I’d say. Please be careful to follow/debate what is actually said.

      You have dismissed global warming as a serious factor in this whole business. I disagree. I will keep arguing for awareness of it’s importance and this is all part of the battle we’re engaged in I’m afraid. It’s important for the country and the world and I’m not about to shift from that position any time soon. [Edited by moderator]

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