Government rejects national setback distances for fracking sites

180204 KM Eddie Thornton

Fracking Week in Parliament.

The government has said it has no plans to establish a minimum distance between homes and shale gas sites across the country.

A 500m gap has been adopted in North Yorkshire and approved by a planning inspector, although the shale gas industry has promised to fight it in the courts. (DrillOrDrop report)

Lord Henley 2

Lord Henley

The Energy Minister, Lord Henley, replying to a question by the Green Party peer, Baroness Jones, said this week:

“There are no plans to establish national set back regulations for shale gas development.”

He said:

“National Planning Policy is clear that when planning permission is granted for shale gas, the cumulative impact of shale sites must be considered. Local Authorities therefore have the power to assess and restrict the cumulative effects of shale sites, including any adverse impacts on the natural or historical environment.

“Public Health England also work with the regulators to ensure potential health impacts of operations are properly risk assessed as part of the planning and permitting process.”

baroness-jonesBaroness Jones also asked the Government:

“What assessment they have made of medical studies indicating that health risks are modified by the geographical distance of residences from active shale gas extraction.”

Lord Henley replied:

“Public Health England assessed the risk to human health of extracting shale gas in their June 2014 report. They evaluated available evidence on issues including air quality, radon gas, naturally occurring radioactive materials, water contamination and waste water. Public Health England’s review concluded that “… the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with shale gas extraction will be low if operations are properly run and regulated”.

“Public Health England continue to review evidence on the potential public health impacts of emissions associated with shale gas extraction and have not currently identified any significant evidence that would make it change its views stated in its Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposures to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of the Shale Gas Extraction Process (2014).”

Campaigners delivered a 4,000+-signature petition to Public Health England in August 2017 calling on the organisation to update its 2014 report. The petition now stands at more than 6,000.

DrillOrDrop will report on the continuing review by Public Health England in a separate post.

Cost of environmental damage from fracking

Claire Perry

The Government was also asked this week about what would happen if a fracking company caused environmental damage but then went bust.

The Energy Minister, Claire Perry ( left), told her Labour opposite number, Alan Whitehead:

“Each shale gas licensee (and there may be more than one for each licence) is responsible for their well(s).

“The Government has been clear that it considers that the financial resilience of a company wishing to hydraulically fracture is a relevant consideration in the consents process. As set out in the Written Ministerial Statement of 25 January 2018, on Energy Policy, HCWS428, as a matter of policy we will look at the financial resilience of all companies wishing to carry out hydraulic fracturing operations alongside their application for Hydraulic Fracturing Consent to ensure companies have the financial capacity to meet their regulatory obligations, including protecting the environment.

“If environmental damage does occur, remediation of the damage will be dealt with under the main regimes for dealing with contamination, the Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2009 and Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.”

A similar question asked last week by the Green Party’s co-leader, Caroline Lucas, got a similar reply. But Ms Perry then added:

“BEIS (Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) officials are also working with the industry’s trade body UK Onshore Oil and Gas to ensure that liabilities for shale wells are addressed in the rare circumstance where all of the companies on a licence became insolvent, and where no rescue mechanism for those companies could be found.”

Number of fracking wells

Alan WhiteheadThe long-running debate continued this week over how many fracking wells the country could expect to see.

Dr Whitehead (right) asked about the timetable for publication of an up-to-date estimates of the number of fracking wells.

An estimate in an unpublished report suggested there might be 155 by 2025. But earlier this year ministers said this figure was out of date.

Ms Perry replied:

“The Government will continue to monitor progress of the shale gas industry and will revise its estimates as appropriate as the industry develops.”

Extending exploration opportunities in Chester

Chris MathesonThe Labour MP, Chris Matheson (left), asked a series of questions about changes to the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence around his City of Chester constituency.

We’ve reported separately on this question here

Links to transcripts

Question by Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb on setback distances and health assessment for shale gas extraction

Question by Alan Whitehead on costs of environmental damage from fracking wells

Question by Alan Whitehead on estimates of fracking wells

Question by Caroline Lucas on costs of environmental damage from fracking wells







33 replies »

  1. Now there is a surprise? That just goes to show how out of touch this government are? No change there?

    • Although the governance can reject a national setback, [if not they will have a big splat of egg on their faces and lose donations for their little party] each planning area are able to add [ and likely will] these to their local plans. This guidance will then be used as each application is presented. No change really, except it reinforces who they represent.

  2. No mention, though, of the fact that the EU required governments to look at implementing setbacks

    The EU recommendation of minimum principles was guidance rather than law, stated to be guidance only at that time because of the urgency of the situation. Member states were encouraged to implement the recommendations within six months. There was supposed to be a review within 18 months of governments’ implementation of the recommended actions in order to decide whether EU legislation was needed. This does not seem to have happened. The fact that these were weak recommendations rather than law was due to UK government pressure.

    Cause to get angry, I thought a couple of years ago. But all pretty irrelevant now as we shall be tearing up EU environmental law as well as recommendation over the next couple of years (thanks Brexiteers!).

    “6. REVIEW

    Member States having chosen to explore or exploit hydrocarbons using high-volume hydraulic fracturing are invited to give effect to the minimum principles set out in this Recommendation by 28 July 2014 and to annually inform the Commission about the measures they put in place in response to this Recommendation, and for the first time, by December 2014.
    The Commission will closely monitor the Recommendation’s application by comparing the situation in Member States in a publicly available scoreboard.
    The Commission will review the Recommendation’s effectiveness 18 months after its publication.
    The review will include an assessment of the Recommendation’s application, will consider the progress of the best available techniques information exchange and the application of the relevant BAT reference documents, as well as any need for updating the Recommendation’s provisions. The Commission will decide whether it is necessary to put forward legislative proposals with legally-binding provisions on the exploration and production of hydrocarbons using high-volume hydraulic fracturing.”




  3. Holinrake MP will be starting as he was for a min distance which would remove Misperton which he is for. Of course he is an Estate Agent so needs a set back due to business, but is also towing the party line. Will he get of the fence?

  4. There is really no safe buffer zone when it comes to fracking because earthquakes can travel many miles as can poisoned water!
    Very sad that United Utilities are spending millions of pounds cleaning up Blackpool beaches but are facilitating the fracking industry to poison them all over again! This could be why they were given just a slap on the wrist over the Cryptosporidium contamination affair!?!

    • Great point, Peter Roberts. Of course that means that no where on earth is safe, because earthquakes of much greater magnitude happen naturally almost everywhere on the globe! What you are missing, my good chappie, is a little perspective! ;o)

    • Well folks its Sunday again? The sun is shining on this Sun day morning quite appropriately, so i’m off for a long walk with some friends and maybe lunch at some hostelry or other?
      I thought about a song for today, and Blondie sprang to my mind, also there was a Philip Glass rendition of the Blondie song “Heart of Glass” which was portrayed on the series “The Handmaids Tale”, so i thought that mix, with its possible dystopian future connotations for democracy if this descent into attempted corporate totalitarianism is allowed to continue unopposed?

      so, here are the lyrics by Blondie and as arranged by Philip Glass for the tv series “The Handmaids Tale” which i think illustrates one possible future, unless of course, we do something about it?

      Warning: strong images on the video, not for children.

      Original: Blondie – Heart of Glass Lyrics

      which could be changed to “Heart Of Gas”

      ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDNMq0F_Ib0 )

      Once I had a love and it was a gas
      Soon turned out had a heart of glass
      Seemed like the real thing only to find
      Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind

      Once I had a love and it was divine
      Soon found out I was losing my mind
      It seemed like the real thing but I was so blind
      Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind

      In between ‘what I find is pleasing’ and ‘I’m feeling fine’
      Love is so confusing
      There’s no peace of mind if I fear I’m losing you
      It’s just no good, you teasing like you do

      Once I had a love and it was a gas
      Soon turned out had a heart of glass
      Seemed like the real thing only to find
      Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind

      Lost inside adorable illusion
      And I cannot hide
      I’m the one you’re using
      Please don’t push me aside
      We coulda made it cruising, yeah

      Yeah, riding high on love’s true bluish light
      Ooo ooo ooo whoa
      Ooo ooo ooo whoa
      Ooo ooo ooo whoa
      Ooo ooo ooo whoa

      Once I had a love and it was a gas
      Soon turned out to be a pain in the ass
      Seemed like the real thing only to find
      Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind

      Ooo ooo ooo whoa
      Ooo ooo ooo whoa
      Ooo ooo ooo whoa
      Ooo ooo ooo whoa

      “That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.”

      Well sorry for the serious video subject matter, but sometimes its necessary to say these things.

      Anyway have a great Sunday with family and friends.

  5. The problem is that Lord Henley’s answer was totally deficient. PHE have never assessed the cumulative effects of a developed fracking industry. Indeed their much-paraded 2014 report made it clear that more research would be needed to extend beyond their pronouncement on “exploration”. The risks of living near fracking sites have to be assessed on an individual basis, and of course recent evidence from the US suggests significant risk may be attached to living within a kilometer of a wellsite. His reference to cumulative effect, linking that to PHE judgement, is therefore complete nonsense. And when has PHE worked with regulators to risk assess planning/permit applications? They certainly didn’t at Preston New Road. Plus, of course, their 2014 report was seriously limited in scope.

    Same old story, same old BS. How do these people get away with such lies? Are MPs and their lordships so dumb? Or does this signal a deeper defect of our government system. The truth does not matter any more. Political posturing is everything. Personally it sickens me to hear this rubbish spouted by people who are either ignorant or wilfully deceptive.

    • Yes. I believe the wilfully deceptive rely on a high degree of ignorance and gullibility in tame, lame or easily currupted politicians.

  6. I bet numpty Henley and every other MP doesn’t live anywhere near any potential fracking sites.

  7. Perhaps Kali, MPs have to look at Nimby’s concerns, but act in the national interest? A novel concept today, but it used to be the accepted norm.
    Wonder if they will follow the same policy if/when significant revenues start to be produced for their constituencies? Could it be there will suddenly be a few “biblical” conversions? Heaven forbid that politics could be used so cynically.

    I should just follow PhilipP, who doesn’t suffer from “a high degree of ignorance and gullibility”, yet can not sort out Barclays Bank from Barclay Brothers. Perhaps, if you do, you might at least then discover it is unwise to try nonsense that would fail the pub credibility test. Pot and kettle, come to mind.

    • Correction Martin … I sorted out that Barclays error almost immediately – months ago. Still you cling on to that little gotcha as if in the present tense, Nice demonstration of both confusion and desperation.

      • It’s just hooks and barbs Philip, look at their posts, they are desperate for a reaction, any reaction.

        Don’t play that game, it can’t bare reason and logic, so its divert and insinuate and provoke into anything personal, anything to drag anyone down to their level..

        If you feed the beast it just gets fatter.

        Starve it of attention, it will collapse under the sheer weight of it’s own ego attention seeking.

  8. Oh, I see. Someone who makes such a basic error because they failed to do adequate research suddenly can claim others are gullible and ignorant.

    We all make mistakes PhilipP, but it takes some skin then to claim the high ground. Yours was a mistake because you didn’t know the subject but were over enthusiastic to try and attach corporate governance issues to ownership of TE. In your haste, you assumed the wrong owners! Ironically, if you had bothered, you could have achieved your objective, but with factual accuracy. Quite an education for those who are in the two thirds. Even Giggle needs some work input to churn out facts.

    Not me that’s confused. I do bother to check my facts so I avoid being gullible and ignorant, and would certainly not accuse anyone else of being so, as I respect people who have different opinions, or if I can’t do that I ignore them.

    • Try checking your tenses too Martin before committing the same trivial pursuit. An honest mistake openly admitted and immediately corrected has nothing to do with knowing deception… like what you are practicing when you deliberately confuse past and present tenses. Give it a rest – that was not worth getting over-excited about.

  9. It’s always worth knowing the motivation of those you are having a discussion with, PhilipP. Takes a little longer with the Internet than with direct conversation, (no body language clues) but when the guard drops those who are not gullible should note what is revealed, and remember it. Much better than making spurious, uninformed, comments about intelligence, climate change denial, investor, or employee of one of the exploration companies.
    Call me old fashioned, but I try to identify the reality rather than fictionalise. Not so “exciting” but that is not my motivation.

    • Sorry i nodded off. All we’re left with is your imputed story about my motivation Martin…. no direct knowledge at all. Reminds me of witnessing a (past) neighbour’s pug dog trying to chase its own tail.

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