Legal

Court challenge to Cuadrilla’s fracking site permit

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Friends of the Earth is going to the High Court this morning to challenge a key consent which allows Cuadrilla to drill and frack for shale gas near Blackpool.

The organisation is seeking a judicial review of the environmental permit, issued by the Environment Agency (EA) for the Preston New Road site.

Friends of the Earth will argue that the EA failed in its legal duty to promote the use of “best available techniques” in the treatment of the flowback fluid.

Flowback is what comes back up the well after high pressure pumping of fracking fluid.  It is a major form of waste from fracking that can either be reused or taken off site for treatment at a specialist waste facility. Cuadrilla’s permit application estimated that 22,000m3 of flowback would be generated from fracking at Preston New Road, assuming that 40% of the fluid returned.

The company’s waste management plan, a key document in the permit application, said flow back would be reused wherever possible. At the end of the fracking process. The flowback would be accumulated on site as a waste and removed off site for treatment and disposal.

Friends of the Earth will argue that the EA should have considered the use of electrocoagulation. This is a technique, which, the organisation says, has the potential to clean the flowback, allow it to be reused and reduce demand for fresh water. Friends of the Earth will argue that the EA refused to consider it.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth said:

“All along, the government stated that gold standard regulation would make fracking ok, but we believe our case, and the reality of what’s happening at Preston New Road, shows the opposite.

“They should be putting in place the best possible regulation to ensure that people, and the environment are protected.

“How can the government be considering rolling fracking out across the country, when it can’t be properly regulated at even one site? Isn’t it time the government gives up on fracking and backs renewables instead.”

Today’s case, before Mr Justice Supperstone, is a “rolled-up” hearing. This means the judge will deal with both the permission for the judicial review to go ahead and the substantive arguments. It is due to begin at 10.30am at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in central London. The ruling is expected in a few weeks.

24 replies »

  1. Ah the myth of renewables still lurking around I see. Why don’t FoE head over to Serbia to try and stop the Chinese building supersized new coal plants and give us peace. No one with a brain takes this lot seriously, if they really want to help the planet then they wouldn’t be concentrating on such trivial cases in the UK.

    • So what you are saying GTBK is don’t bother a out renewables. Just keep drilling a d track the hell out of the land and industrialise the entire UK green belt. Your usual pompous rhetoric [edited by moderator] Maybe you should go to Serbia or even China. You can’t ever offer an alternative to your argument. You just spout off prejudice to anyone who gives a damn about our green and pleasant land and all those folk who understand climate change and our responsibility to look after the planet for future generations.

    • The use of the best technologies to minimise water use and maximise on environmental protection must not only be considered but must be used.

      A ‘gold standard’ is something ‘of superior quality’

      Cost is not relevant. Cuadrilla have no excuse if they are not using the best available technology. If they need advice on how to process the flow back I am sure there are experts in the field willing to explain it to them.

      I presume the EA know what electro coagulation is so why have they not insisted on it?

      • John

        My question would be

        If this process is the best thing since sliced bread, then it will no doubt be already installed at the various waste treatment plants that dot the country?

        Soooo why has the EA not insisted that all treatment plants use or move to this ‘gold standard’ technology?

        Use by Cuadrilla would then be through the existing plants.

        https://www.wateronline.com/doc/a-shocking-approach-to-wastewater-treatment-0001

        However, should fracking crack off on the other side of the Pennines then I am sure that INEOS would think about using this technology if fracking were to go ahead, and it is as easy to use as the article above indicates.

        • hewes62 – John P doesn’t answer questions. There are many outstanding. He just regurgitates the anti fracker hymn sheet…

          • Paul Tresco

            True enough. I should have said …..A question I am asking myself is …… etc etc.

            Just as I ask myself … which water company in the US, supplying customers from varied sources such as rivers, boreholes and reservoirs have supplied contaminated drinking water to their customers, or have identified their water as contaminated and therefore have considered the supply not to be potable ….. as a result of fracking for gas or oil?

  2. Judith Green, why do you think that taking a company to court who is hell bent on trying to destroy the environment with it’s chemicals for such little gain… if any! Is wasting money? Don’t you think that the amount if money that gas been poorer into the industry so far is money well spent? And the amount of public money that has been used for policing is money well spent?

    • Cander – fracking is very safe, they are using very few chemicals and those that are being used are totally safe and will not get anywhere near drinking water etc. Exploration always costs money – sometimes one succeeds and other times it t doesn’t – that’s the business. The policing costs are ridiculous – if the courts gave proper sentences to the protesters then they should come down quickly.

      • Judith – your first sentence is manifestly untrue on a number of counts. “Fracking is very safe” you say. Just to cite one recorded instance of harm, admittedly from the USA where you no doubt believe regulations are weaker than here: In April 2014, as reported in the Daily Mail (sic) a US family won $3m in compensation for fracking-related illness and livestock deformities. This was a trail-blazing verdict in view of the notorious difficulty in demonstrating a cause-effect link in these cases. A little research will reveal many other recourses to legal processes to try and achieve some sort of compensation for harm suffered.
        “They are using very few chemicals”, you add. This seems to be the case in the UK, so far, but UK regulations will not prevent appeal to Investor- State Dispute Mechanism settlement, a feature of most Free Trade Agreements to which the UK is likely to be subject post Brexit, which will allow corporations to sue states should their domestic regulations be deemed by corporations to compromise profits. This has resulted in the US and therefore could result in the UK in secret commercially sensitive ingredients being added to frack fluids. Whether or not this scenario proves prescient in the case of the UK, it remains true that the known chemicals will react in unknown ways with unknown chemicals below ground.
        Whether they will or will not “get anywhere near drinking water etc.” is not something I would be quite so certain about, given the propensity of mini seismic events to open up pathways to existing geological faults known and unknown.
        You are right in asserting that exploration always costs money. Surely however the question is whether we want our money to be spent in exploring for a new fossil fuel which,if fully exploited, will contribute to climate change and the destruction of the planet, or, whether it could be better spent in developing tidal, wind and solar energy,and other forms of renewable energy, as well as battery storage.
        The protesters you implicitly condemn are putting their own bodies, their own futures and careers on the line for the sake of a future for us all.
        It’s not quite so simple as you suggest,Judith.

        • Excellent response iaith1720.

          Judith clearly hasn’t been keeping up with the issues around protest and sentencing has she? (Although she clearly believes jurisprudence to be yet another area where she knows better than anyone else, including The Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett).

        • iaith1720
          Maybe you should read a little more about the Parrs case against Alba Petroleum – the judgement you refer to was reversed.

          In terms of fracking fluids, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that toxic chemicals will start being using in fracking fluids in the UK. High chemical use tends to be associated with gel fracks. These are used in higher permeability plays where maintaining good fracture width is important. In lower permeability rocks such as those being targeted by Cuadrilla, it is important to create complex fractures and the best way of getting proppant into these is slickwater that doesn’t contain significant concentrations of chemicals and certainly no chemicals that are toxic.

          In terms of microseismic and faulting, surely you’re away that microseismic data shows that even when injected directly into faults, reactivation only occurs a few hundred m’s above the target. The EA ensure that there will be no fracking where there is even the remotest chance of fluids migrating into drinking water aquifers.

          Developing shale gas and pushing forward with renewables aren’t mutually exclusive. Do you really think investors are simply weighing up whether to put money into shale or renewables? Of course they’re not. It’s like saying don’t invest in coffee because that’s taking money away from renewables.

          We simply cannot burn all of the gas that we have already found. We need to cut our dependence on fossil fuels far before that stage is reached. The only argument is really whether we produce our own or send the money directly overseas to purchase gas. I’m clearly in favour of the former.

          The protester who I condemn are putting their bodies, futures and careers on the line because they’re misguided. Their actions will not have impact on any ones futures other than their own.

  3. It is more simple than you suggest though.

    UK gas replacing imported gas is an environmental gain and an economic one. Producing more of our own gas will not dictate we all have to turn up our thermostats. It simply means we import less and therefore other world supplies are maintained for more years into the future. As energy demand globally is expected to grow by 25% between 2017 and 2040 there will be plenty of markets for that gas we would have imported. If you believe that sort of energy requirement will be met by alternatives, sorry but no chance.

    • Expectations can be wrong though, Martin. Perhaps I’m more optimistic than you in believing that the non-corporate world at least is coming to its senses and that there is sufficient life in democracy for us to be able to resist this push to continue with fossil fuels, imported or home-grown.I refuse to take as the last word on the subject your statement that there is no chance that an increased energy requirement can be met by alternatives, assuming there is a will to do so. Humanity is proving remarkably innovative, capable of averting imminent disaster, but only when this imminence is recognised and accepted. ‘More of the same’ is to reject the facts of climate change and constitutes a profoundly pessimistic view of humanity, that anything we do will be motivated by greed or short term gain.
      An aside to Jackie, if I may. As the only experiences of on-shore fracking we have to learn from are American or Australian, and as Americans and Australians appear in any case to be doing ‘our’ fracking for us, it’s hardly surprising that “America has got a mention”.

      • The experiences of onshore HVHF to learn from are the activities completed in the USA and Oman. In Australia the experience is from CSG, something that constantly confuses the antis.

  4. iaith – can you please explain the statement: “whether we want our money spent in exploring for a new fossil fuel”? This only makes sense if you (or any other) have chosen to be an investor in an O&G exploration company and want to change their business.
    Current UK exploration, both onshore or offshore, is being prosecuted by listed or private companies, and therefore the commercial risk and funding is provided by shareholders or private equity. No public money is spent, except indirectly in the running of the Oil and Gas Authority, processing/approving/challenging planning applications and policing exploration sites (which, is a consequence of protestor activity within and outside the law).

    • So The Dandy Highwayman is now very AdamAnt to obey the law and protect the public purse is he?

      Whatever happened to “Stand and Deliver, your money or your life?”

      Oh yes, of course, that is reserved for the public of course? Why bother standing on the highway and demanding money with menaces, when it can be done behind locked doors in a banksters boardroom?

      How times have changed? The erstwhile Dandy Highwayman now wears a business suit and fleeces the gullible public through the back door with the applause and support of the government, the corporations and the police, as if that is perfectly normal, not some travesty of insane logic?

      A Dandy Highwayman sitting on a horse on the highway robbing the public blindfolded and brandishing pair of cocked pistols then being chased by the government police for his efforts.

      Has now been exchanged for a Brandy Slywayman sitting on a golden bull in the boardroom, robbing the public blind and brandishing a pair of stocked fiscals then being praised by the government and the police for his efforts?

      But of course the result is much the same, only now the police arrest the public for objecting and standing up to protest, but not the Brandy Slywayman who walks away with everyones money?

      Welcome to the united Kingdom Insane Asylum folks! Claire in the community anyone?

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