Guest Post by Alan Wright: Why the Wildlife Trusts oppose fracking

Little egret at Lunt Lancs WT

Little Egret on Lunt Meadows nature reserve, near where Aurora Resources wants to drill and frack for shale gas. Photo: Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

The English Wildlife Trusts announced earlier this year that they opposed fracking. The Trusts said this was because they believed that shale gas extraction undermined UK efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change. In this guest post, Alan Wright, of  the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, describes how evidence on the environmental impact of fracking contributed to the decision.

Alan Wright

Alan Wright. Photo: Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

Since hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas was first considered on the Fylde region inland from Blackpool, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust has contacted fracking companies asking them questions about the process.

We have opposed every planning application by Cuadrilla for fracking in our region to date and given our views when Lancashire County Council came out against the process.

Over this period, we have gathered knowledge of what is involved and why there are fears that fracking will not be good for our region’s wildlife.

If a plan by Aurora Resources to frack near Great Altcar in West Lancashire leads to major development, it would be likely to have an impact on internationally-important overwintering flocks of geese and swans, and populations of water vole. We will do all we can to protect these species and our nearby Lunt Meadows nature reserve.

Our knowledge in Lancashire has been fed into reviews at a national level, which have been ongoing since the production of the Fit to Frack report in 2014. As a result, the Wildlife Trusts announced:

“The English Wildlife Trusts believe the extraction of shale gas undermines UK efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change. New evidence from the Climate Change Committee indicates that methane sourced by fracking will be in addition to existing emissions rather than substituting for them. In addition, shale gas extraction often results in fugitive methane emissions, i.e. methane that is leaked directly into the air.

“The extraction of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing presents a number of additional environmental risks to wildlife and society. Impacts on the environment are not well understood but they could be potentially significant and existing environmental regulation seems to be inadequate to manage these risks.”

180401 NW Wildlife Trusts magazine4.jpg

Lapwing, the magazine of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside

The Wildlife Trusts are particularly concerned about the impacts on habitats, species and ecosystems because of:

  • Reduction in water quality (surface and ground water contamination) and quantity (water stress and availability);
  • Cumulative impacts of disturbance, damage, loss and fragmentation at the landscape level.

Commercial extraction of shale gas involves establishing many drill sites and pads dotted across the landscape. This large area, and the associated construction infrastructure, is likely to have a significant impact on landscape fragmentation and direct impacts on many sites that are rich in wildlife.

The Wildlife Trusts made a series of recommendations to minimise the potential risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. These include ensuring all proposals for shale gas extraction go through the full planning process. All proposals should be subject to stringent tests for air and water quality, disclosure of chemicals used and the risks of potentially contaminated waste water being discharged into the sea. Future tests will be sought for long-term carbon emissions from sites and how abandoned wells are maintained.

The Wildlife Trusts believe planning consent should be refused for shale gas extraction in protected sites or where operations would pose a significant direct or in-combination impact to wildlife, habitats or ecosystems or where the potential risk of environmental damage is high, regardless of mitigation.

With climate change presenting a significant and serious long-term threat to biodiversity and societies worldwide, The Wildlife Trusts believe that there should be a reduction in dependency on fossil fuels and Government funding should be prioritised on the development and implementation of renewable technologies.

The Trusts have also stressed the importance of restoring ecosystems, such as peatlands, something the Lancashire Wildlife Trust continues to address on our mosses at Astley, Cadishead, Little Woolden, Highfield, Winmarleigh and Heysham.

This Guest Post is adapted from an article first published in Lapwing, the magazine of the The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, on 1 April 2018.

The Wildlife Trusts position statement on fracking 2018 (pdf)



33 replies »

  1. Well done the Wildlife Trusts for coming out on the side of the environment, of wildlife and common sense. They were signatories to the recent letter to the Prime Minister, which also included numerous other environmental groups, including the CPRE. No self-respecting wildlife organisation can possibly support fracking, and the broad coalition of opponents is getting broader every week.
    Here’s the letter if you haven’t seen it:

    • I would love to know what Alan Wright and all of the Trusts propose to do for energy needs across the UK. There are many potential answers but some of the most discussed are as follows;
      A) Do nothing and continue to rely on a larger and larger proportion of imported gas – often fracked in far off places. This would ostensibly serve to simply move environmental impacts offshore, and also increase the severity of those impacts as there are significant environmental costs to moving gas thousands of kilometers.
      B) To the extent possible, replace energy from gas with wind and solar generation. The downsides to this strategy are serious. First of all, the land use impacts are approximately 2,800x more significant (than shale gas) due to the weak energy density of these renewable strategies. Second, wind turbines often destroy significant portions of bird populations. Third, these renewable sources of power provide power in a random and intermittent fashion. Fourth, to correct for the random intermittency of these sources requires redundant backup sources which make the solution very expensive – this will raise human mortality rates. Fifth, if batteries are to be used to backup these sources there will be significant destruction to the environment in a massive scale mining rush to bring more resources such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese to the market. Some of these elements don’t exist in large enough known reserves to meet the UK’s needs let alone the needs of the world. So, this must also be overcome.
      C) Frack gas domestically. Use some of the tax revenue from the industry to help subsidize a measured build-out of renewable resources. Understand that fracked gas is allowing the world to reduce the amount of carbon, particulates, sox, nox, and mercury from the air which helps all wildlife.

      All forms of energy production impose costs on the human and non-human environments. The UK and the rest of the world need to make decisions which contemplate all of those costs.

      • B) due to the weak energy density of these renewable strategies. Second, wind turbines often destroy significant portions of bird populations. Third, these renewable sources of power provide power in a random and intermittent fashion.

        C) a measured build-out of renewable resources.

        Try and stay consistent with your options. You are either pro cheap clean renewable s or anti cheap clean renewable s.

        I think we should apply the common sense option and maximise the massive UK renewable potential and use the tax revenue from those industries to insulate our homes and pay for energy saving projects.

  2. It is for the benefit of all that we protect our environment and native wildlife from harm. We place stringent laws in place to make sure that happens.

    The international sites on the Sefton Coast are part of the Natura 2000 network which gives the highest level of protection to nature under UK law.

    There are vast areas designated as Biolgical Heritage sites and SSSi sites.

    The shale gas industry readily admits it can only operate with continual drilling which must involve new sites and related infrastructure.

    These cumulative operations would impact on our protected environment.

    A Habitat Regulation Assessment should be mandatory for all shale gas applications to consider the ‘in combination with’ and ‘other plans and projects’ associated with the proposals.

    Once you assess the scale of the industry you can prove the negative effect on the environment and harm to nature.

  3. So you oppose something because it “may” do something. Better not help the raptors breeding programmes, because they “may”-actually they will-go off and kill other birds.

    Why not just go all out and get rid of all the UK domestic moggies? Much more effective, but not such an easy target.

    Meanwhile, plenty of UK on-shore oil and gas sites that are positively brimming with wild life, as they are secured from disturbance. Oil rigs out to sea are nice havens for birds caught in storms-wonder what happened beforehand? Yes, they drowned.

    Funny old world.

    • Clearly you grasped the importance of this Martin and brought out the usual rubbish from the bottom draw…..

      ‘Oil rigs out to sea are nice havens for birds caught in storms-wonder what happened beforehand? Yes, they drowned.’- that’s the funniest statement you have ever posted MC; you should try a gig in the comedy club….not….taxi!

      • Sea birds float martin, which is more than can be said for your misrepresented little rant? Not a cat lover i see? Do you know the most viscious animal on the planet martin?


        Big Cat?


        Here is a clue, look at your reflection in the screen?


        Only man kills for profit and greed, all other animals are either herbivores or predators or omnivors, the ratio is almost constant, surprisingly few predators, roughly about 4% predator to prey ratio.

        Unless ecological instability, change in food source, disease, weather and climate change destabilises the balance. Even Dinosaurs appeared to conform to that ratio, at least as far as we can tell, but then of course, man comes along? And its because we break all the rules, we are all predators, we even prey on eachother. Forget moggies, look in a mirror if you want to see the real culprit.

        I wonder what sea birds experience when flying through gas flares? Landing in oil slicks? Hitting steel oil rigs at speed at night in force 10 storms? Somewhat briefly and painfully what ever it is?

        As for wildlife havens in on-shore oil and gas sites? Yes, we have seen them, they swarm over the structures and wear hi vis yellow coats and plastic hats and steal tea urns off little old ladies and poison their own dogs to blame the protectors for it?

        There was a definition of sentience i read somewhere: No creature can call itself sentient or even sane, if it fouls its own nest?

        David Attenborough’s next film series should perhaps be “Brown Planet 666” no doubt? Or perhaps “Plastic Planet”? “High Vis Poisoned Fracked Security Planet”? Followed of course, by the sequel, but no one will be left alive to see it, “Red Planet 2”?

        i think the two legged yellow jackets that foul their own, and worse, also our nest, are one form of wildlife that this still blue planet will not miss?

  4. America has reduced its CO2 emissions through shale development.

    Germany emits massive amounts of CO2 through its massive use of coal because of its drive for intermittent Wind turbines

    Wind turbines kill lots of birds and bats and are an incredible blot on the landscape with heavy subsidies keeping tens of thousands in fuel poverty

    Shale development in the U.K will kill off the coal industry in the U.K, fantastic news

    New methane capture methods will negate emission of said gas, the U.K is also working on exciting new carbon capture programs to keep the CO2 produced by gas under the North Sea

    By pushing ahead with U.K shale we will not require LNG tankers from all over the World, a heavily carbon intensive process. We will also not be dependent on other Countries for our energy needs. Billions into the U.K Treasury to spend on infrastructure, NHS etc

    Heavily subsidised renewables industry will not produce the energy requirements of the U.K and will continue to place a massive financial burden on the most vulnerable of society

    Renewables plus gas is the solution

    • Ahh Kisheny, I wondered if you would post, did you manage to look at the Standard Oil/Exxon refueling U-boat treasonably during the last WW eventually?

      Just asking?

      Methane Gas from farms and cattle and hydrogen from salt water you mean?

      No pollution, no destroyed communities, no police state needed to protect it, more farming, everyone happy.

      Except for the exploiters of course?

      They have had their day, we will be cleaning up their toxic residue for centuries yet to come.

      • Shale gas to produce fertilizer…

        Lots of fields for farming or do you want solar farms and wind turbines producing a fraction of our energy needs covering our countryside and paying a heavy price to the green exploiters???

        • Ha! Ha! No wanna play eh?

          Ignoring the treason of the last war, and the failures and lies of this industry and its government sanctioned invasion in this age is just another symptom of the fracking disease.

          See no truth, hear no truth, say no truth.

          No change there then?

          • Unfortunately Kisheny has only one record which we have all heard and destroyed; nothing to see here except toxic gas going up in a puff of smoke!

            • “Smoke veils the air like souls in drifting suspension, declining the war’s insistence everyone move on.”
              ― Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark & Termite

            • Maybe it’s a program Sherwulfe? An AI bot perhaps?
              Limited response range apparently? Industry standard blinkers software too?
              Windows 9 perhaps? Better than the usual BBC (Bitter Ba$tard Corporation) earlier model though?
              It makes you wonder about the other posters?
              And I thought this fracking debacle couldn’t get any more bizarre?
              It’s been fun today hasn’t it?

            • What ever you guys sit round smoking and looking up poems please remember that the adults are getting on with providing the U.Ks energy needs…
              Try joining the real world through your purple haze…

            • Dear oh dear, what a poor deluded obfuscated world that comes from?

              Reverted back to the old BBC model again it seems?

              Sad and typically avoiding any question that doesn’t fit your industry standard issue illusions? Could do better.

              Answer the question about Exxon treason history and apply that to your “real world” that blinkers out anything but the broken record response?

              For your information, I don’t smoke, i never have, and I don’t drink alcohol or take any stimulants not provided intrinsically by my sense of humour and the humanity of my family.

              What I am subject to however, just like we all are, is the toxins and poisons your industry pours out whenever it wants to make a buck, I use that word advisedly, though there are closer synonyms..

              Also for your information I work part time in a care home for children with ASD, ADHD and learning disabilities.

              They are direct and carefully hidden indicators of just how deep are our self inflicted toxic poisonous wounds have penetrated into our very metabolism with disastrous consequences for those who have developed sensitivity to exposure to such toxins.

              Such children are particularly sensitive and damaged by the toxins in our environment, be they chemical, electromagnetic, emotional, environmental or just plain allergic to other toxic humans and our technology. Many such conditions originate from before birth in the womb.

              Welcome to the consequences of your poisonous, treasonous industry.

              What your industry provides, at great cost to the planet and our collective health, as an expensive “service” is killing us.

              Such generosity we can do without.

              Wake up kisheny and smell the roses, and perhaps take a red pill or two rather than the standard issue BBC variety.

    • Kisheny, emissions are now increasing in the US, they increased last year by over 3% despite closing coal power plants.

  5. Why do you bite or hate the hand that feeds you. Where would you be without oil and gas for plastics, heat and fuel etc

    If you want to live in the stone age, go and live in a field off grid.

    It is everyones industry, you are part of that industry from the moment you put your plastic tooth brush in your mouth to adjusting the thermostat as you go to bed…

    Great work with the children, I have a lot of respect for you, without trying to be too intrusive how do you survive working part time?

    • The consumer is starting to turn on the fossil fuel and plastics industry. Energy needs are falling, people are aware of energy efficiency, plastic free isles are appearing in supermarkets, less single use plastics, more customers are signing up to green energy companies and political pressure is being applied. Hence the plastic tax. Intensive farming is now being seen as unsustainable and a return to more traditional methods is now recognised as essential. Entrepreneurs see future success in plastic alternatives and carbon zero technology. Not a future based on finite fossil fuels that cause climate change and air pollution. Increased demand creates investment and not only is this change unstoppable but it will happen far quicker than those supporters of fossil fuels realise or would like.

    • I try not to bite any hands kisheny, but it does rather depend upon whether that hand is offered in friendship or anger or exploitation.

      If too much store is put in one energy source then it leaves us vulnerable to sudden change of circumstances and ecology.

      So what we should have been doing fourty years ago and even more so now, is the diversify in every possibility of alternative energy sources.

      Those alternatives should have been well established and flowing alongside fossil fuels by now, monopolies are suicidal. Simple survival strategy.

      What mono dependency has done is to allow complacency, profit motivated greed and wasteful profligacy and has deliberately sidelined all other avenues that should be up and running right now.

      It is simply not intelligent.

      Now we know the ecological and health dangers of relying on fossil fuels we must move on and quickly, but the alternatives have been consistently and criminally marginalised.

      That is what i object to.

      I am not as died in the wool as you might think, but faced with the pressures that we now have do deal with, further prevarication is simply not an option any more.

      I work part time because I retired from consulting engineering 10 years ago when the civil engineering industry collapsed in UK. Also because I was all ready interested in ASD and have a relative with a child suffering from ASD and felt it was what I wanted to do. It was the best thing I could have done.
      I took it up as a total change of life, and so it has proved to be. I qualified four years ago. Since then following a family loss, I still work odd nights and days when staffing is unavailable.
      I don’t do it for the money, believe me. But it keeps me active and very much on the ball, and I need to do it as much as it needs me to.

      I tend to be a realist, but seeing the depths to which we can and do fall in all our human endeavors and those are only balanced by the heights we can reach if we work together in peace and harmony to do so.

    • I do live in a field? It has a house and a garden on it, but it’s still a field? All houses are built on land that were once fields? Houses are just artificial caves aren’t they?

      Hot and cold running bills and the only sabre tooth tigers wear business suits and carve up their meat in board rooms. Not much difference really?

      Do you want to live in the Shale Age?

      Not much difference from the stone age, just a different name.

      Hey Ug! Put another shale stone on the fire! My saunas getting cold!

  6. It’s amazing how ignorant fossil fool advocates are of the ecological, biological and climate sciences. The reasons for mass extinctions and huge reduction in populations of wild species over the last 70 years, particularly the last 20, is because of wild habitat destruction and fragmentation due to ill-thought industrialisation, intensive agriculture and climate change. Humanity has survived perfectly well without plastics and artificial fertilisers over the centuries. It is possible to evolve beyond the brief, but destructive age of fossil fuels and plastic pollution and there are already alternatives. Agro-ecology is the only sustainable alternative. Using millions of years of natural evolution and working with free natural ecosystems, not against them, to produce our food is essential. Intensively farmed, large monocultures and artificial fertilisers destroy biodiversity, the complex organic structure of the soils and the soil microorganisms that helps food crops grow, the natural insect crop pollinators and predators that keep pests in check. We don’t want the very expensive disaster that befell parts of China, where their natural pollinators were destroyed so humans had to hand pollinate many of their crops that was previously done for free by nature’s pollinators: https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/5193-Decline-of-bees-forces-China-s-apple-farmers-to-pollinate-by-hand.

    Our natural organic systems work on recycling nutrients, not constant linear extraction and depletion of resources, putting nothing back except unusable and toxic waste. Fragmentation of the British countryside with hundreds of fracking rigs to get enough gas and the heavy industry associated with it, will result in ever decreasing pools of genetic diversity of wild species who need large landscape scale connectivity to survive. This is what leads to eventual extinction in these areas. If we start destroying the life support systems that keep our ecosystems functioning, then we obviously destroy ourselves.

    We don’t need fracking, nor want it. Unlike fracking rigs, fields of solar panels encourage biodiversity by allowing nature to return undisturbed: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/07/solar-farms-to-create-natural-habitats-for-threatened-british-species
    Yes, wind turbines kill some birds, but a tiny fraction of those killed by domestic cats, and the RSPB campaigns to put them in areas where there aren’t migratory bird routes. This article puts the actual numbers in perspective: https://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/north-america-wind-turbines-kill-around-300000-birds-annually-house-cats-around-3000000000.html

    Renewables aren’t subsidised, nor given nearly as generous tax breaks, as the fossil fuel industry. In fact solar is close to zero subsidy thanks to the erosion of the Feed-In-Tariff by this government. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/24/growth-climate-change-fossil-fuel-subsidies-treasury-uk-oil-gas-renewable-energy

    Onshore wind is now the cheapest form of energy production: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/onshore-wind-solar-cheaper-energy.

    In combination with renewable technology (the future), we need to tackle fuel poverty by making our homes more energy efficient including supporting renewable energy production and battery storage so we can produce our own renewable energy and not be slaves to fossil fueled energy companies making enormous profits at our expense. The UK has some of the oldest and least energy efficient housing stock in Europe.

    Extreme human-driven global climate change is happening far quicker than natural ecosystems have time to adapt. Us humans need to rapidly evolve and look to the future and not the old dinosaurs in the ancient, backward fossil fuel past.

  7. It’s amazing how ignorant!

    Oh dear-let’s all try and denigrate those who oppose us, and claim we have greater intelligence! It really is a feeble attempt to avoid a real debate, but it does show the paucity of genuine protestors now represented on this site. No wonder the two thirds are not convinced by the antis. Just keep telling them they are ignorant and more of the two thirds will become pro frackers.

    If you have greater intelligence why post a tirade which is full of twaddle? “The UK has some of the oldest and least energy efficient housing stock in Europe”-that’s a classic-so has every other country in Europe! Not the wisest thing to do claiming others are ignorant and then demonstrating it is so widespread.

    • What is a “genuine protester” and on what basis do you assess this? Are all those that oppose fracking a protestor? I’d be interested to know!
      Whilst no one likes to be called ignorant, those that oppose fracking are regularly denigrated on this site. Yet you don’t seem to concern yourself about that Martin.
      Much of what DPNP wrote was actually correct. You know things are bad when a Conservative government has publicly stated we may have only around 60 harvests left if we carry on as we are. The government has been taken to court and found guilty of not taking sufficient action to reduce air pollution, pollution caused from the use of fossil fuels, that prematurely kills many thousands each year. Court action is now in the process of being taken against the government for failure to take sufficient measures to tackle climate change. And Exxon Mobil are facing the courts in the US to explain why they did nothing when their own scientists alerted them to the harm fossil fuels were causing to the climate decades ago. Climate change is real and it is happening, fact. So perhaps those that support the continued extraction of new fossil fuels, such as fracked gas, if not ignorant are either choosing to deny the science or bury their heads in the sand? I’m not sure which. Change is uncomfortable the stus quo is easier? There is already an over supply of fossil fuels available in the world so why extract more? If we are to tackle global climate change, individual countries continuing selfishly to extract even more new reserves just means more will be burnt. And those that look to the US and state how marvellous fracking is and how they have reduced their CO2 – have a closer look, look at methane levels, environmental impacts and look at how they continue to mine and export coal. Dirty coal that is being burned elsewhere but still adds to global CO2. The US is a very mixed picture. All of us need to play our part to tackle climate change, as agreed in Paris. Far more policy support and investment from our own government should be made in renewables and carbon zero energy. Not sit on the back of the previous good work, we are in danger of slipping backwards if they don’t.

    • You don’t like facts it seems do you MC? Interesting how you always repeat the same nonsense on here. Just because you continue to repeat [edited by moderator] that 2/3 of the pop are “pro-frackers” doesn’t make it true.

      However, at least I back up my statements with factual references, unlike you.

      Here’s some more evidence for UK’s energy efficient housing cf to rest of EU: https://www.cleanenergynews.co.uk/news/efficiency/uk-reaches-new-low-in-eu-energy-efficiency-rankings-6432

  8. Well. DPNP thanks for proving my point. Where have I said 2/3 of the pop are “pro-frackers”?

    Two thirds surveyed recently were either pro-frackers or not convinced either way. Around one third-and falling- were anti. Insulting the pros will be like water off a ducks back, but the undecided may not be willing to accept such criticism without modifying their position. So, not the population and not 2/3 pro-frackers. DYOR would be my recommendation, rather than spend your time (wrongly) accusing others of not doing theirs.

    Looks like nonsense is pretty wide spread as well as ignorance. Language is not always used accurately, but I do so, largely due to my previous occupation. So, if you want to take what I post, then modify it, be careful. It will only expose your position, not mine.

    • Very good MC, 2/3 of the pop SURVEYED are not “pro-frackers”, well thanks for finally admitting there are more anti-frackers than pro-frackers from the survey. You’ve exposed your disingenuous posts in the past on DOD, implying those surveyed are mostly pro rather than anti, which is of course unfounded nonsense.

      Btw, claiming someone is ignorant of certain sciences doesn’t mean someone is less intelligent, they just display ignorance of the subject. “…and claim we have greater intelligence” is not what I said but you. Maybe you should take your own advice about modifying what people actually say!? And claiming facts are twaddle without producing evidence to the contrary is something else you would be wise to do.

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