The public consultation on plans by INEOS Shale to explore for gas in Rotherham borough ends this week.
The company is seeking permission for a vertical exploration well at Common Road, Harthill, in the greenbelt between Sheffield and Worksop.
The application website currently lists comments from nearly 200 people. The deadline is Friday 21 July 2017.
The closing date on INEOS’s other application, a similar scheme at Bramleymoor Lane, Marsh Lane, in Derbyshire, has been set for 10 August 2017.
Neither application includes hydraulic fracturing. But INEOS has said it may seek permission for fracking at either site in future and opponents say this should be taken into account.
Common Road, Harthill
INEOS is seeking permission for five years to drill a 2,800m well at Harthill to take core samples and carry out a pressure test.
The site is within an area of high landscape value and a local wildlife site.
Opponents of the scheme have raised concerns about traffic volumes, unsuitable access roads, noise and vibration, light pollution, impacts on the landscape, the use of high quality agricultural land and threats to groundwater and wildlife.
Food and Water Watch Europe, a Brussels-based campaign group, has also argued that Rotherham Council must take into account fracking when it decides on the exploration well.
Rotherham Council said in a screening opinion published in May that the Harthill scheme would be “a discrete proposal” and should not be regarded as an integral part of a more substantial project”.
But Food and Water Europe’s fracking policy advisor, Andy Gheorghiu said:
“Hydraulic fracturing is a crucial part of the exploration phase contemplated here. Without the so-called `stimulation drilling` a company cannot ascertain if there are enough economically viable gas volumes in the underground. Once they make that positive determination, full scale fracking will inevitably ensue.”
He said if the results of drilling and tests at Harthill were promising the company would eventually apply to frack the well.
“We strongly disagree with the view that this exploratory vertical well development should not be regarded as an integral part of a more substantial project since it is most certainly not a discrete proposal that could proceed independently.”
Mr Gheorghiu said the council must take account of impacts of the proposal on biodiversity, people, environment, heritage and landscape. Councillors should consider any secondary, cumulative, short-long term and permanent or temporary effects, he said.
The Harthill site is in Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) 304. This is on the northern edge of a group of licences operated by INEOS Shale, which stretch from the edge of Nottingham to Sheffield, taking in much of Sherwood Forest.
Mr Gheorghiu said permission for Harthill would “eventually lead, bit by bit, to the inevitable industrialisation of your region”.
“Any kind of permission given for the development of the site at Harthill will eventually have an effect on the development within this cluster of PEDLs itself and – as the process of shale development in the overall targeted area takes hold – would also have a negative and irreversible effect on the worldwide known, national treasure Sherwood Forest.
“The Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council should not prioritize the single economic interest of a private company over the other existing, competing public interests in the targeted area.”
Food and Water Watch Europe’s partner organisation in the US has campaigned successfully for bans on fracking in New York State and Maryland.
- This afternoon, the Environment Agency granted a standard rules environmental permit to INEOS for the Harthill borehole. A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said:
“Our regulatory controls for onshore oil and gas are in place to protect people and the environment. Standard Rules permits are common across industry and maintain high levels of environmental protection. They do not allow companies to carry out fracking – this activity requires a bespoke permit application which would be subject to a site-specific environmental risk assessment and extensive public consultation.
“As with all decisions on whether to issue environmental permits, we will assess a company’s “proposals to ensure they meet strict requirements. If an activity poses an unacceptable risk to the environment, the activity will not be permitted.”
Links for Common Road, Harthill
Bramleymoor Lane, Marsh Lane
The public consultation on the INEOS application for Bramleymoor Lane in north east Derbyshire has another three weeks to run, until 10 August 2017.
The company is seeking permission for five years for a 2,400m vertical coring well in the Green Belt, about 300m from the nearest homes in the village of Marsh Lane.
The campaign group, Transition Town Chesterfield, said today nearly 80,000 people had signed a petition to stop fracking in Derbyshire.
“The first step to stop fracking in Derbyshire is to object to this application [for Bramleymoor Lane] – so the time for action is now!
“A show of public support against fracking is very important.”
Transition Town Chesterfield said INEOS had failed to make the case for the need for the Bramleymoor Lane project and the application did not comply with key local planning policies or the UK’s targets to reach greenhouse gas emissions.
The group called on councillors to consider the wider potential cumulative impacts of fracking.
“Although this application is for an exploratory well only this is inextricably linked to future plans for hydraulic fracking of shale gas. This is clearly acknowledged by everyone involved. Therefore this application cannot be considered in isolation but as part of a staged process towards eventual fracking.
“To consider this development as a stand-alone development would be analogous to considering the development of an airport runway in isolation from the aviation traffic it was built to support, or considering the development of the foundations for a house separately from the house construction.”
Links for Bramleymoor Lane, Marsh Lane