Regulation

Live news updates: Day 3 of IGas Ellesmere Port inquiry

Ellesmere Port Google Earth

Montage of IGas site at Ellesmere Port by Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton. Source: Google Earth

This post has live news updates from Day 3 of the inquiry into IGas plans to test for gas flows at its well at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.

Today the hearing is expected to hear from the first witnesses for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, which opposes the scheme.

The session will begin with continuing cross-examination of the planning witness for Cheshire West and Chester Council, which refused permission for the scheme in January 2018. The council said the scheme failed to mitigate the effects on climate change.

The inquiry in Chester is now expected to last at least eight days. It will also hear from representatives of IGas and local people, including three of the area’s MPs.

Reporting at this inquiry has been made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers

Preview of the inquirynews updates from Day 1 and Day 2 and link to inquiry page on DrillOrDrop


Key points

Key points will be added throughout the day.

  • The Ellesmere Port flow test was an opportunity for IGas to “break the mould” on carbon emissions – Cheshire planning witness
  • Inquiry could continue for a week in late February
  • IGas says the council’s planning witness accepts that the Ellesmere Port well was drilled “responsibly”
  • IGas’s barrister describes the application as non-fracking shale gas exploration – the company has previously said the rock formation is the Pentre Chert, not shale
  • IGas says the inquiry should not consider mitigation of emissions from the Ellesmere Port well test
  • IGas barrister says the refusal of planning permission for Ellesmere Port amounts to  “unreasonable behaviour”
  • Ellesmere Port inquiry reveals tension between government policies on shale gas extraction and limiting climate change – council planning witness
  • Greenhouse gas emissions mitigation is a matter for the inquiry – council planning witness
  • Environment Agency assessment looked only at environmental impacts on homes 700m from the IGas Ellesmere Port site but there are new homes 320m away, inquiry told
  • The IGas assessment does not consider vulnerability of population to air quality impacts – health expert for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton
  • IGas conclusions on air quality are “highly hypothetical and speculative”health expert for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton
  • Workers near Ellesmere Port well site are “potentially very vulnerable” – health expert for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton

4.55pm: Inquiry closes for the night

The inquiry resumes at 9.30am on Friday 18 January 2019.

4.50pm: Timing

The inspector says the inquiry will not be completed by the scheduled final day.

It will now sit on Thursday 24 January 2019 but not on Friday 25 January 2019.  It will reconvene in the week starting 26 February 2019.

4.35pm: Questions from the inspector

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Brian Cook (left) and Professor Andrew Watterson, 17 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Brian Cook, the inquiry inspector, says he has to assume that the other regulators know what they are doing.

Should I be correct to understand that the Environment Agency’s decision is not to be relied upon, Mr Cook asks.

Professor Watterson says he is not saying but that there is much more information available. He says:

“We need to be much more serious about the adverse effects of poor air quality”

Mr Cook asks Professor Watterson: how do I accommodate what you have told me? You are asking me to apply a much more precautionary approach based on what we now know. Professor Watterson says:

“We lack data and the evidence that has come in over the past five years indicates problems at low levels for particular groups.”

How do you ask me to apply a precautionary approach – I have to allow or dismissed the appeal, Mr Cook asks? Professor Watterson says:

“From a public health point of view, there are gaps in the data. I think that Defra have indicated they want to drive down air pollution and it there in professional guidance. Inadequate data, evidence of harm, it would be consistent with Defra policy to be cautious.”

Ms Dehon asks what notice did the Environment Agency take of vulnerable groups. Professor Watterson says they have not been taken account of. These are major issues, he says.

4.10pm: Re-examination of Professor Andrew Watterson

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Estelle Dehon, for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, (left) reviews Professor Watterson’s evidence on air quality.

The professor says he has carried out his assessment on the basis of an 18-week test planned by IGas.

Chemical list

Professor Watterson had complained about the lack of a  complete list of substances used or produced by the site. IGas says it has provided a list.

Ms Dehon asks where on the IGas data sheet does it disclose information about inhibitors. Professor Watterson says he could not find technical data from the manufacturer or further information.

He says he expected the air quality assessment to give details of concerns but this was not provided.

He is concerned because some substances can have a health effect at very low levels.

Professor says:

It raises the question about one-eyed environmental impact assessments. You don’t look at some issues and then you can say there is not a risk.

Public health life cycle assessment

Professor Watterson says he expected to see a life cycle assessment for the testing phase. Estelle Dehon asks what this would provide

Professor Watterson says it would give details of what operations had been underway on the site, the chemicals to be used, what substances would be produced, what would be the likely exposures and effects.

This is what the Defra experts say is necessary for shale gas generally, he says.

Workers potentially “very vulnerable”

Ms Dehon says there are homes within 320m and business across the road from the IGas Ellesmere Port site. She asks Professor Watterson about the risk for the workers nearby. He says

“They are a group that is potentially very vulnerable.

“I visited the site and I was amazed to see the many work places and the many houses already there and likely in the future.”

3.36pm: Continued cross-examination of Professor Andrew Watterson

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Members of the public hearing the evidence, 17 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas, continues his cross-examination of Professor Andrew Watterson, the air quality expert witness for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton.

Mr Cannock says just one chemical will be used in acidising the well. Professor Watterson says he wants to identify accurately the exposure from substances to be used by the site.

Professor Watterson is asked what activities would produce or use other substances. Professor Watterson says a proper public health life cycle analysis would have this information.

You are talking about production, Mr Cannock says.

No I am not, Professor Watterson says. A life cycle analysis of the test should be straightforward for IGas, he adds. He says:

“You cannot keep separating off exposure. You need to look at the cumulative impacts.”

Mr Cannock and Professor Watterson disagree on whether there is a complete list of substances used and produced by the test site.

New housing

Mr Cannock asks about the location of housing 250m from the site. Professor Watterson says there is land 250m from the site that is earmarked for house building.

Risk

Mr Cannock says local air quality assessments conclude there is likely to be a minimal risk to vulnerable populations to benzene likely to be produced from the site.

Professor Watterson repeats he is looking for a complete list of substances.

Benzene

Mr Cannock says short-term Air Quality Assessment Levels are designed to address acute impacts. Benzene has been screened out, Mr Cannock says, because it is so low.

Are you asserting at those levels that benzene constitutes a significant health risk that should mean the application is refused, Mr Cannock asks.

“I am not disputing the figures. I am requestiing a full list”, Professor Watterson says.

Particulates

Mr Cannock turns to particulate emissions.  Professor Watterson says policy should be to drive down particulate levels. Policy says there should not be a safe level, he adds.

Professor Watterson says he is quoting government guidance when he says increasing the particulate load will lead to a significant health impact.

Mr Cannock says the council does not monitor for PM2.5 particulates. Professor Watterson says there is an issue of don’t look and you don’t find problems. Government policy is about driving things down.

Professor Watterson says:

“We are talking about levels that breach the World Health Organisation targets. This is the level that the government wants to aim for.”

Professor Watterson says the Defra air quality guidance is that there is no safe threshold for PM2.5.

Traffic

Mr Connack says the expected traffic generation is below the screening threshold, it is for a short-term, with no residential receptors (homes) on the route.

Professor Watterson says that does not explain what the exposures are. Mr Connack says the numbers are below the sccreening thresholds so they have been screened out. Professor Watterson says there could be air quality declines.

3.22pm: Break

The inquiry resumes at 3.40pm with more cross-examination of Professor Andrew Watterson.

2.22pm: Cross-examination of Professor Andrew Watterson

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Professor Andrew Watterson, 17 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas, cross-examines the air quality witness for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, Professor Watterson.

Mr Cannock asks whether Professor Watterson is saying that production will add to climate change effects, air quality impacts and affect public health. Professor Watterson agrees. He says he is not commenting on whether planning permission should be granted.

Mr Cannock puts it to Professor Watterson that he has not provided authority for the proposition that the government does not support gas schemes that had an adverse impact on public health.

Health impacts or significant health impacts

Have you looked at this proposal on the basis of any health impacts or that there needs to be significant health impacts for it to be refused, Mr Cannock says.

Professor Watterson says he believes the government would not support a scheme with significant health impacts.

Mr Cannock says Cheshire West and Chester Council took account of air quality impacts.

Chemicals list

IGas provided details of the chemicals to be used in the well test, Mr Cannock says.

The Environment Agency was satisfied with the complete list, Mr Cannock adds. Professor Watterson asks where is the complete list.

Mr Cannock says he is adamant  that there is a single chemical to be used in the acid wash. Professor Watterson says he would have seen a comprehensive list for all chemicals for all activities on the site to do an air quality risk assessment. We think we have the information, Mr Cannock says.

Professor Watterson says he is concerned about all the gases that could be released during flaring and their significance.

Mr Cannock says the Environment Agency used benzene as a proxy for other substances. Professor Watterson says some highly toxic substances with greater exposure risks than benzene could be released. We don’t have the complete list, he says.

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”

Using benzene as a proxy does not allow me to make a proper assessment, Professor Watterson says.

Mr Cannock says these are issues controlled by other regulators. He says the Environment Agency was satisfied there would be no unacceptable impact on health.

Environment Agency assessment

Mr Cannock, for IGas, responds to Professor Watterson’s criticism that the Environment Agency permit considered only homes 700m from the site – but not new ones 320m away.

Mr Cannock says the council’s air quality officer asked for information to take account of the new housing. This was accepted by the council’s officers. This was addressed in the officer’s report on the planning application and not pursued by councillors.

Gas extraction process

Professor Watterson had said there was an area for debate on what process would be used.

Mr Cannock asks what is the area for debate. Professor Watterson says an Environment Agency statement that matrix acidisation will not be used at Ellesmere Port does not resolve his concerns.

Mr Cannock says there cannot be any changes to the chemical list. Professor Watterson says additional chemicals were identified in an FOI request and he is not reassured.

Professor Watterson a complete list of all substances would allow a life cycle public health assessment to be carried out.

Health impacts

Mr Cannock says Professor Watterson’s conclusions on health impacts of unconventional oil and gas are based on a US evidence base, even though the regulations were different. Professor Watterson says the UK government’s Defra air quality group recommended referring to US evidence.


1.33pm: Evidence from Professor Andrew Watterson on air quality

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Professor Andrew Watterson. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Estelle Dehon, for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, introduces Professor Watterson, from the Faculty of Health Science at Stirling University. He is the first witness for the campaign group and will be talking about air quality.

Air quality risks

Professor Watterson begins his evidence (link to summary) with how unconventional gas extraction can affect air quality:

“Sources of poor air quality activities and impacts associated with Unconventional Gas Extraction (UGE) include vehicle movements, muds, cuttings, fluids used for acidisation or ‘fracking’, generators and pumps, flowback and produced water, gas venting, gas flaring, hydrocarbon production, condensate tanks, well workovers and maintenance and pipelines. there is a lack of clarity of the operation of what IGas willbe using in the test. He says the Environment Agency document that matrix acidisation will not be used in the Ellesmere Port well test doesn’t change his evidence.”

He says the conclusions of a government-commissioned report on air quality concluded:

“the current lack of knowledge regarding on-shore shale gas extraction activities and its environmental impacts in the UK context”

Doubts over IGas test proposals

He adds:

“There appears to be some debate about the type of extraction to be used by IGas. The company is clear that acidisation will be used to extract shale gas. Others are less clear that this does not involve ‘fracking’ in some form and will not do so in the future.”

He says IGas has not produced exact details of all the chemicals and materials to be used in the tests, how they would be used and there has been no public health life cycle analysis.

Professor Watterson says it would be relatively easy to produce a public health assessment for a short-term activity on an oil and gas site. The focus would be on acute and high level exposures, he says. He says he would expect to see the exposure, risk and possible receptors. He could not see these, he said.

Air quality risks in Ellesmere Port

Dr Watterson says the the rate of respiratory disease at Ellesmere Port is 70% higher than England’s as a whole.

For all Cheshire West and Chester, the rate of hospital admissions for children is significantly higher than England as a whole.

He says:

“Additional industrial developments, even for a very short period of time, can add unnecessarily in however large or small a way to the air pollution burden of the area for no benefit to public health.

“They can impact especially on local communities where health profiles are poor. This is because for example ‘’subjects with chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma are especially vulnerable to the detrimental effects of air pollutants”.

Dr Watterson says the Environment Agency assessment of risks to residents looked only at homes 700m away from the site. But new homes have been built nearer to it, he says:

“The Ellesmere Port populations likely to be affected by the IGas project have changed over time as has their proximity to the site.

“Environment Agency documents appear to cover only residences at 700m. Since those documents were produced, a new housing estate has been built apparently 320m away from the site, of which the EA was unaware. Discrepancies about population location and related risk assessments in the documents are a serious cause for concern.”

Professor Watterson says much has been written in the past 15 years about the importance of looking at multiple deprivation and cumulative environmental impact when assessing air quality effects.

This should have been picked up by IGas, he says. You don’t see any reference in the statement of case to vulnerability.

Environment Agency permit

Professor Watterson said the Environment Agency require further  monitoring, noting omissions and errors within previous IGas documentation, indicating the previous risk assessments lacked necessary information. These also include omissions about residential use flagged by the Environmental Protection Team from Cheshire West and Chester linked to questions about receptor siting.

He adds:

“The Environment Agency assessment of the IGas permit application for well testing activities on the site was not a public health impact assessment nor did it consider a wider environmental health impact assessment of the proposal.

It did include suggestions for additional information needed prior to any decision being taken on the proposal but considered the proposal low risk from an air quality perspective.”

IGas conclusions “highly hypothetical and speculative”

Professor Watterson says IGas conclusions on air quality could be viewed as “highly hypothetical and speculative”:

“there is a serious and major question concerning the assessments:
the lack of a full and up to date assessment of air quality impact of diesel vehicles when the development will necessitate a high number of vehicle movements.”

“No reference to diesel impacts”

Professor Watterson says the IGas statement of case does not specifically refer to air quality impacts from diesel due to site operations.

“The [IGas] consultants’ reports examine potential vehicle and plant emissions but also do not refer specifically to diesel exhaust emissions. In addition, there appears to be no reference anywhere in the IGas statement of case to the diesel generating station. Yet all these activities will be contributors to poorer air quality with possibly adverse public health effects from the test site.”

Diesel is a carcinogen and does present risks and some people would think this is worthy of mention, Professor Watterson says. There is also no reference to particulates.

“It is almost like, ‘don’t mention the war’. You would expect these issues to be addressed.”

“I am at a loss things like diesel, carcinogens, vulnerable populations are missing from the air quality assessment. These are things that should be considered and they are not considered.”

Clean air strategy

Professor Watterson says the government strategy considers the cost of health care from poor air quality and the desire to drive up quality.

These are issues for industry to address very seriously, he says.

“IGas does not demonstrate sustainable development”

Professor Watterson says:

The government’s policy in favour of shale gas development does not support developments that will have a negative public health impact.

The balancing act between some forms of economic development and maintaining or improving public health has shifted significantly since 2010. This is based on good scientific evidence in favour of public health and reducing global climate change impacts through poor air quality and greenhouse gases that impact on every locality.

From a public health and
air quality impact perspective, the IGas proposal does not appear to demonstrate sustainable development but rather the opposite.

“Not all hazards initially identified”

Professor Watterson says:

Not all the project hazards were initially identified or have been fully now. The effects of these hazards combined, and with other hazards in the area, has not been fully factored in to risk assessments of human health linked to multiple pathways to the population around the site.

The size and vulnerability of that population has not been fully considered. The capacity to assess the risks of negative air quality impacts to human
health is limited and incomplete. The human receptor siting and measuring have been problematic. The evidence base for establishing the risk level is incomplete. The proposal does not reflect the latest peer-reviewed independent research.


1.28pm: New documents

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The inquiry inspector, Brian Cook, (facing) and the council barrister, Robert Griffiths, 17 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

IGas submits a document on matrix acidisation in response to concerns by Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton. Giles Cannock, for the company, says the document confirms that the permit for the Ellesmere Port well does not include permission for hydraulic fracturing. The Environment Agency does not consider what is planned for the well as matrix acidisation. Mr Cannock invites the campaign group to reconsider its position on this issue.

Cheshire West and Chester Council submits a document on the government’s announcement on a government shale gas environmental regulator.

Estelle Dehon, for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, says she will make submissions on the matrix acidisation document. She submits a document on which Professor Andrew Waterson will give evidence.


12.29pm: Lunch break

The inquiry resumes at 1.30pm with the case for Frack Free Ellesmere and Upton.


11.36am: Re-examination of council planning witness.

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Robert Griffiths QC (left), starts his rroe-examination of Conor Vallelly, the planning witness for Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Mr Vallelly repeats that based on the evidence he has seen he believes emissions mitigation is necessary.

He says the information is complicated and technical and given the sensitivity of the issue it would helpful to provide the information for the public. That would be beneficial to the appeal scheme and the industry generally, Mr Vallelly says.

Mr Vallelly adds that the quantification of emissions, produced by another council witness, Dr Paul Balcombe, was a very helpful exercise.

Flaring plans

Mr Griffiths asks Mr Vallelly how council members looked at the issue of emissions mitigation.

Mr Griffiths suggests that IGas is using a shrouded ground flare for the short-term drill stem test which is not best available technology. Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas, says these are issues that are the responsibility for the Environment Agency.

Brian Cook, the inquiry inspector, says the shrouded ground flares are best suited to short-term tests. Mr Griffiths says best available technology is not applicable to shrouded ground flares:

“The EA says enclosed flares provide the best performance for incinerating waste gases, Mr Griffiths says. The EA will consider other systems, including shrouded flares, he adds. But the operator must demonstrate that an enclosed flare is not suitable and there will not be a worse environmental impact.”

conor vallelly small

Mr Vallelly (right) says his general impression from the EA guidelines is that the technology is “kind of the best we can do, it is not perfect but it will have to do”. Mr Vallelly says there is some doubt about best available technology.

How is the inspector to make a decision on that, Mr Griffiths asks.

Mr Vallelly says the EA has reached a decision. The point for me would be is whether we stick what we have, which could be improved, or do we move forward.

“In simple terms, is it sufficient to go to the default standard oilfield practice or go to better techniques to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have an opportunity to change things.

“It sounded to me that gas capture for the initial drill stem test but for the extended well test there could be an opportunity to capture some of the gas and this would be consistent with policy and the direction of travel for climate change science.”

Giles Cannock, for IGas, says the EA considers flaring for extended well tests to be best available technology.

Tension between government shale gas and climate policies

Mr Griffiths refers to the government’s  2018 written ministerial statements on shale gas.

He asks Mr Vallelly about scientific understanding of methane emissions from shale gas exploration. Mr Vallelly says this is limited.

Mr Vallelly is asked about government proposals to continue to recover shale gas appeals for two years from 2018-2020. He says this recognises that the issues raised are not straight forward. He says the inquiry has to weigh policy against scientific evidence.

Mr Vallelly says

“It has highlighted the tension that does exist between policy and science: between the legitimate support of the UK government of hydrocarbon extraction and the science. We have a clear drive and commitment as a government to radically reduce greenhouse emissions and there is a clear tension with that policy and the one to extract hydrocarbon resources.”

“The point of emissions mitigation, as best possible, is a matter for this inquiry”


11.29am: Question by inspector

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Inquiry inspector, Brian Cook (right), asks Mr Vallelly about areas in Ellesmere Port which are now new housing development. Mr Cook says he is unclear about why the Environment Agency did not refer to this and whether the council had done anything about its concerns of the impact on the areas. Mr Vallelly is unable to help.


11.17am: More cross-examination of council planning witness

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Giles Cannock, barrister for IGas, (circled above) continues his cross-examination of the council’s planning witness, Conor Vallelly.

Information on emissions mitigation

The council’s case is that information from IGas on emissions mitigation was not adequate.

Mr Cannock says information was already available on IGas emissions mitigation. Members could ask for information, Mr Cannock suggests.

That would be a possibility, Mr Vallelly says.

Members did not ask for information, Mr Cannock says. I’m not aware of this, Mr Vallelly replies.

IGas was not aware of what information was wanted, Mr Cannock says.

“Members refused planing permissio on an issue that was the responsibility of the permit, that they have never asked to see, that was publicly available, that the council had not asked to see.”

I’m not going to disagree with that summary, Mr Vallelly replies.

Mr Cannock says:

“That is not a respectable reasonable. That constitutes unreasonable conduct in the terms of the MPPG [Minerals Planning Poliicy Guidance]”

Mr Vallelly says

“I can see how you reached that conclusion.”

Conditions

Mr Cannock puts it to Mr Vallelly that it is unreasonable to refuse planning permission if the issue could be dealt with by condition.

Mr Vallelly replies:

“If mitigation had been a matter that had been discussed in detail during the determination of the application then the applicant would have been expected to respond.”


11.01am: Break

The hearing resumes at 11.15am


9.33am: IGas continues to cross-examine council planning witness

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Conor Vallelly giving evidence to the IGas inquiry, 16 January 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The barrister for IGas, Giles Cannock, continues his cross-examination of Cheshire West and Chester’s planning witness, Conor Vallelly.

IGas could have taken the lead

Mr Vallelly agrees he accepts that not all measures available to mitigate carbon emissions from the Ellesmere Port flow test would be feasible. But Mr Vallelly says this was with the proviso that he is not an oil and gas expert.

Mr Vallelly says:

“There is a real opportunity for IGas to break the mould and a take a lead on this issue because it is not going to go away.”

In view of the opposition to the application, Mr Vallelly says:

“If the facts were set out clearly that would set the application apart.”

Monitoring

Mr Vallelly concedes that he does not address the issue of monitoring. He says this is an issue for the environmental permit.

Mr Cannock says monitoring is not mitigation. Mr Vallelly says monitoring would be a very helpful outcome of the scheme.

Mr Cannock puts it to Mr Vallelley that he believes the proposal complies with the development plan and should granted planning permission subject to the mitigation techniques. Mr Valley accepts that permission should be granted if the mitigation measures were acceptable

Mr Vallelly says:

“It’s a big if”

Mr Cannock says

“I don’t think it is”

This is inconsistent with Dr Broderick’s view that there should be no oil and gas development for climate change reasons, Mr Cannock says. Mr Vallelly replies:

“I make no apologies that witnesses to this inquiry approach the issue in different ways

“Which case is correct, Mr Cannock asks. Which reflects the reason for refusal?

Mr Vallelly says:

“I think my evidence is pretty clear.”

“Does it reflect the reason for refusal?”, Mr Cannock asks

“I think I answered that yesterday”, says Mr Vallelly

Depth questions of the well

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Original diagram that accompanied the planning application for drilling. Source: IGas planning application for drilling the Ellesmere Port well

Mr Cannock raises the issue of the depth of the well at Ellesmere Port.

The original application made in 2010 said the well would explore for coalbed methane. But when the well  was drilled to a depth of 1,000m+ deeper.

Mr Cannock says IGas emailed the council before drilling in 2014 to say the well would be drilled into the Bowland shale, at a greater depth than the coalbed methane.

Mr Vallelly asks what this has to do with his proof of evidence.

Mr Cannock says there was total transparency between IGas and the council. Mr Vallelly agrees.

Mr Cannock says the issue was raised in the committee report for the flow testing application in January 2018.

Mr Vallelly says he didn’t address this issue. Mr Cannock says it has been raised by third parties. He puts it to Mr Vallelly that the depth of the well was not a reason for refusal for flow testing. Mr Vallelly agrees.

Mr Cannock puts it to Mr Vallelly that the well was drilled “responsibly”.

Mr Vallelly accepts the proposition. Mr Cannock says:

“There is a headline for Twitter: MPA agrees well was drilled responsibly.”

Mr Vallelly says others disagree.

Policy updates

Mr Cannock asks whether planning permission should be refused because local policy needs updating on emissions and climate change.

Mr Vallelly says this case is a pivotal one and it needs careful consideration.

Mr Cannock asks Mr Vallelly the question again. Mr Vallelly says there is a real opportunity for the industry to lead the way on the issue of emissions.

Mr Cannock asks whether less weight should be given to existing policy because it needs updating. Mr Vallelly says no.

Mr Vallelly concedes the council has no policy on methane emissions. He accepts that monitoring is an issue for the environmental permit but he says he thinks it is also an issue for the inquiry. Mr Vallelly accepts that an updated local plan does not include new policy on methane emissions.

“It does not feature”, Mr Vallelly says.

Mr Cannock says the council’s case is irrational if it is not proposing new policy in its development plan on methane emissions.

Mr Vallelly says the issue was capable of being dealt with by IGas.

Mr Cannock says there is no need to update policy or tighter regulations. Mr Vallelly says

“In the real world of planning applications, across industry, not just oil and gas, we know applicants will do the minimum. That is why policy is important to make the need clear.”

Mr Cannock says regulations form a view on whether mitigation is appropriate. Mr Vallelly says he takes no issue with the environmental permits.

Cheshire’s development plan

Mr Cannock says the council’s development plan supports the proposal because it seeks to develop alternative hydrocarbon resources. Mr Vallelly says this is subject to unacceptable impacts.

Mr Cannock says the policy seeks to manage adverse impacts. It does not seek to eliminate them, he says. Mr Vallelly says this has not been his position.

Mr Vallelly says other than the sustainability policy I do not raise any other conflict with the development plan.

Mr Cannock says the sustainability policy cannot be used to refuse planning permission. Mr Vallelly disagrees.

Council supplementary planning document

Mr Cannock says the SPD says gas should be used where possible and flaring should be avoided.

National policy

Mr Vallelly accepts that he does not argue that the National Planning Policy Framework is out -of-date. He says the NPPF policy on oil and gas is consistent with current government energy policy.

Mr Cannock puts it to Mr Vallelly that the Ellesmere Port application is for non-fracking shale gas exploration. The government considers this should amount to permitted development, avoid the need for a planning application.

Permit regime

Mr Cannock says Mr Vallelly cannot rationally argue that permission should be refused if mitigation techniques for the emissions are for the environmental permit.

Mr Vallelly says climate change and emissions are a matter for the planning authority. He accepts that he has not referred to the environmental permit regime.

Mr Cannock asks why Mr Vallelly not considered this issue. Mr Vallelley:

“In my professional judgement I see no issues that require me to give evidence to the inquiry.”

He says he accepts IGas has complied with what is required of it on the permit. But he adds that he is not an oil or gas expert.

Democratic role

Mr Cannock asks whether the inspector has a democratic role. Mr Vallelly says we understand the role of a planning inspector.

Is the inspector’s role different from the planning committee, Mr Cannock asks. The inspector has an independent role. They both reach decisions, Mr Vallelly says.

The planning committee was 100% wrong to see their decision as a democratic role, Mr Cannock suggests.

I disagree, Mr Vallelly says.

Mr Cannock asks what is a democratic role. Mr Vallelly says councillors should fulfil their duty according to the code of conduct, to look at all the facts, listen to representations. They are elected to office, to decide whether they agree with the recommendation before them, he says.

Who is responsible for what?

Mr Cannock says the responsibilities of mineral planning authorities is set out in national policy. Mr Vallelly agrees.

Mr Cannock says the council’s supplementary planning document makes it clear who is responsibility for what. Waste gas disposal is an issue for the Environment Agency, he says.

You do not refer to the permit and proposed monitoring or the conclusion by the Environment Agency that flaring was the best available technology, Mr Cannock asks. No, says Mr Vallelly.

Mr Cannock puts it to Mr Vallelly that the planning authority and the inquiry should not consider emissions mitigation at Ellesmere Port. Mr Vallelly disagrees.

“The issue of greenhouse gas emissions is a matter for the inquiry.”

Are you saying the inquiry should duplicate the work of the Ellesmere Port, Mr Cannock says. Mr Vallelly says the Environment Agency considers flaring is best available technology.

9.32am: Additional submission

The inspector, Brian Cook, says he has received a late submission from Radiation Free Lakeland about the proximity of the site to a nuclear facility.


9.31am: More dates

Giles Cannock says the advocates are available in the week starting 26 February 2019 should the inquiry overruns.


9.30am: Inquiry opens

Inquiry chairman, Brian Cook, opens the third day of the inquiry.


Reporting at this inquiry has been made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers

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