Drilling monitors take fight against eviction to council meeting

190218 West Newton Pippa Hockey5

West Newton Monitoring and Information Station, 2019. Photo: Pippa Hockey

Residents and campaigners who have been monitoring an oil and gas site in East Yorkshire for more than a month are making a direct appeal to the county council to drop its threat of eviction.

The group has had a 24-hour-a-day presence outside Rathlin Energy’s West Newton A site, near New Ellerby, north of Hull since preparations began for drilling in early January.

Members said their purpose has been to record incidents and breaches of permissions because official regulators lacked the resources to do this.

But East Riding of Yorkshire Council has told the group to remove its equipment and structures from the grass verge outside the site or face eviction. The council said last month it did not want to “obstruct or deny democratic rights to protest” but it was concerned about the safety of campaigners and road users.

Since then, well-known environmental activists have supported the case for the monitoring station.

The group said it had also received the backing of the local community and the Environment Agency. It said dozens of letters had been sent to the council opposing the eviction threat.

190218 West Newton Pippa Hockey

Members of West Newton Monitoring and Information Station, 18 February 2019. Photo: Pippa Hockey

New Ellerby resident, Harry Clark, who has campaigned against operations at West Newton for five years, has tabled a formal question for the full meeting of the council on Wednesday afternoon (20 February 2019). He is expected to ask:

‘In view of the very strong support of very many of the residents of the communities surrounding the well site at West Newton, demonstrated by the receipt of a large number of letters of support and of the admitted lack of resources preventing the Environment Agency – who welcome the monitoring station – and the Health and Safety Executive from providing acceptable levels of site monitoring, would the Leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council please withdraw the eviction order served on the Monitoring and Information Station, located adjacent to the well site at West Newton?”

Mr Clark was among local residents and campaigners who uncovered at least 14 breaches of environmental permits at the West Newton well site during flow tests in 2014.

Pippa Hockey, from the West Newton Monitoring Station, said:

“The Council have said they’re concerned for our safety. That is up to us. We don’t believe there are any issues, visibility is not impeded by our presence and if vehicles going on to site adhere to safe driving neither them nor us are at any risk.

“The council hasn’t even been to conduct a full health and safety risk assessment, whereas our own experts have said they don’t think there is any problem. We believe being here to monitor is more important and this has been proven to us by the huge support we’ve received from the local community.”

“Protect the right to stay”

Jonathan Bartley, co Leader of the Green Party, wrote to the council. He said:

“We recognise the importance of this monitoring camp and it should have your full support, as it does ours. Last time they were drilling there were many breaches of the environmental permit that were only reported because of the camp.

“Please listen to the protectors outside West Newton A well site and protect their right to stay, as they seek to protect the future for us all.”

190218 West Newton Pippa Hockey4

Member of the West Newton Monitoring and Information Station, February 2019. Photo: Pippa Hockey

“Monitoring stations hold industry to account”

Josh Fox, the Oscar nominated director of the film, Gasland, said:

“When it comes to fracking, ordinary citizens have always been just as effective than the government when it comes to monitoring and stopping pollution and toxic exposure, if not more so. It is more important than ever to have monitoring stations like the one at West Newton to hold oil and gas companies to account.

“In times of government-imposed ‘austerity’ it is clear that the government is not monitoring effectively. It is therefore up to the local community in East Yorkshire to watch Rathlin closely. They are able to achieve this with the twenty four hour presence at the monitoring station.

“The citizens should be trusted, not the industry. Local communities must step up in order to protect themselves.”

“Public service”

Joe Corré, of the campaign group, Talk Fracking, said:

“We recognise the vital importance of the monitoring camp at West Newton.

“With the current dismal state of regulation, policing and enforcement, this camp is performing a public service.

“There have been many instances already where the only reason regulators have been informed of the numerous breaches is because of the monitoring provided by the camp. This industry is so dangerous. It is completely irresponsible not to allow community monitoring.”

Simon Bowens, Friends of the Earth’s Yorkshire campaigner, said:

“In 2014, monitoring activities at West Newton were instrumental in identifying and addressing the environmental problems caused by Rathlin’s drilling. It’s vital that this monitoring continues as the company drills its second well to shine the light on any further pollution incidents at this site.”

  • The meeting of East Riding of Yorkshire Council starts at 2pm on Wednesday 20 February at County Hall, Cross Street, Beverley HU17 9BA. A Call to the Hall demonstration is planned outside the council at 1pm (details)

DrillOrDrop West Newton-A site page

46 replies »

    • Rathlin Energy:
      “to have consistently breached multiple regulations as revealed only by voluntary independent monitoring, and no one else, but are scared of being further monitored, why?”

      “East Riding of Yorkshire Council, to have the responsibility to represent their constituents and to protect the public, but to fail to fulfil their duty of care to support free independent monitoring of the regulatory incompetent and the persistent attempts at avoidance of accountability of Rathlin Energy, why?”

  1. Here at PNR the monitoring station gas really exposed the fracking operator and it’s facilitators to public examination.
    Arguably their biggest coup was the announcement of over 60 breaches of planning conditions when TWO in curfew convoys slammed the main components of the fracking equipment into site in the early hours, facilitated by Lancashire Constabulary!
    They have been invaluable and the data gathered is awesome.

    • Pray tell, what was the outcome of these 60 breaches? Surely something so serious must have had serious consequences?

      • What is it about the public accountability of responsibility and monitoring of 60 breaches of regulations that Rathlin Energy do not understand?

        Perhaps Rathlin Energy will lobby government and dredge up a 48 pack of bought and paid for “experts” to suggest that the threshold limit of 0.5 regulations can be “adjusted” up to 60 or more because the operators cannot be bothered to comply to the regulations that they themselves agreed to be subject to? Sounds familiar.

        The more pertinent question, is what are Rathlin Energy trying to hide from voluntary public monitoring and scrutiny?

        Clearly there is something that Rathlin Energy intend to do, that they know the EA and the OGA are too understaffed and too underfunded or not “minded” to monitor or even bother about?

        And also it appears that Riding of Yorkshire Council are equally unwilling to allow what Rathlin Energy is up to, to be monitored by the public on the councils and local residents behalf.

        A council it might well be said, who incidentally should be monitoring the operations closely themselves and not victimising their own constituents and local residents.

        The question arises, why is that?

        Perhaps Riding Council know something that they are worried that the public monitoring will reveal and would hence embarrass them and Rathlin Energy?

        What might that be?

    • Yep-caught you napping, Peter. The media were quite amused by it. Those wishing to use the roads in the morning were pretty pleased about it.

      But, that is the real purpose of this “monitoring”, isn’t it? To keep the easily excited in a state of excitement. The fact they sit around surrounded by products derived from fossil fuel is a mere inconvenience and no one will notice.

      Oh yes they do.

      • Martin,
        To be honest I wasn’t napping, just sleeping like 99% of the population. Blissfully unaware of the corruption that flows throughout our Democracy and had conspired to do my Community and my family harm!
        I know much better now!

      • You’ve made this comment before, Martin. No one was caught napping. The women on overnight watch were fully aware of how Cuadrilla broke the Traffic Regulation Plan specified by the planning inspector as one of the planning conditions. More than 30 HGVs were brought onto the site, out of specified hours and from the wrong direction. Those watching were incapable of doing anything other than observe since they were surrounded by dozens of police. They were though able to bear witness to this blatant breach. Who would have done so if they weren’t present?
        One thing is certain though. There were plenty of men, women and children who had their napping well and truly disturbed as this convoy rumbled through their towns and villages, using completely the wrong route.

    • Two wagons delivering in the early hours so as to stop the road being blocked for hours the next day by protesters…

  2. Lancashire County Council, now Tory controlled, took no meaningful action.

    Curfew rules now don’t apply to fracking convoys whenever Cuadrilla say they don’t.

    Roseacre seems like a win for the Community. Don’t be too sure, it’s likely to be called in like Pnr and Warton housing developments and overruled in the ‘national interest’!

    • The fact is that the only people who complained about the rig being delivered at night were those who wanted to protest and disrupt its delivery. The actions of Cuadrilla were the safest ones to take and saved a load of money on police costs, prosecutions etc. Cuadrilla deserve a pat on the back for this breach instead of being criticised.

      • Tbh Judith, anyone who believes that planning conditions are there for a purpose should have been appalled at the undemocratic behaviour of both Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Constabulary! Not to mention the main player here Cuadrilla who seem to get virtually everything they request!

        • Anyone who believes the law is there for a purpose should be appalled that more prosecutions are being made against protesters getting in the way of a lawful business. But that’s protesters for you – one rule for them and one for everyone else

        • That’s why many of the general public thought Cuadrilla were clever and the antis dozy, Peter. (Well, I suppose they would have come from the 60%-then a little higher-who are not against fracking.)

          Especially when those antis had been declaring for some time how they would prevent what happened, from happening!

          Mind you, there is “form”. Same declarations around how the “blood” money from Cuadrilla would be rejected. That seemed to have followed the same pattern.

          Reality is a slow tortoise, but often catches those excited hares.

    • Peter. The Roseacre refusal was a government decision by James Brokenshire. Therefore the government won’t call in the decision. As I understand it, Cuadrilla have six weeks to appeal but it’s difficult imagine on what grounds they could do so. No one is complacent though. I don’t trust Cuadrilla or the government for that matter, at all.

  3. Anyone who knows, has visited the site or has watched the activist’s videos of equipment being transported on and off the site, understand the safety aspects behind the reason why ERYCC have issued an eviction notice.

    So far the activists have had all of their claims and accusations dismissed by the relevant authorities during the recent work activities on the site. Along with wasting Humberside Fire and Rescue Services’ valuable time and resources.

    The site is currently inactive and empty following the completion of installation of the conductor casing apart from ongoing security.

    Why do the activists currently feel the need to film the site security from the top of a ladder, propped up against the perimeter hedge and fencing in the middle of the night, and what value is this type of monitoring?

    • Then there is no reason to evict is there? A circular argument isnt it. What is more interesting, as i said before, what have the council and Rathlin got to hide?

      Next time you hear an explosion at a fossil fuel operation, you can ignore it can you? If the operator had gone to the public monitors and council and fire services and explained then there would have been nothing to alert Humberside Fire and Rescue Services at all would there? That could have been prevented by a simple conversation, but perhaps the intention to create a false alarm was the intention all along. Looking at the resultant illogical and frankly rabid comments from the anti antis, that appears to be the intention.

      But that would have required a degree of adult responsibility behaviour and open and honest communication wouldn’t it, not exactly strong points in these arrogant operators to date.

      A good neighbour keeps everyone informed and helps when required without expectations of remuneration, whereas a secretive and reclusive neighbour, particularly one with dangerous fossil fuel practices, would rather see the whole neighbourhood burn down that actually act like a responsible human being and keep people informed.

      Perspective is interesting isnt it?

  4. There was no explosion, just a banding failure on the connection piece of a low pressure hose.

    The site has emergency procedures just like every other industrial site in the UK.
    The site personnel would have called assistance if it had of been required and informed local residents.

    The relevant authorities were informed by Rathlin, with the HSE stating that the event was not recordable.

    No doubt the incident will be discussed at the next Community Liaison Group meeting which includes local residents who spoke out against the planning application, the minutes of which are made public. Perhaps it may be included in the next hand delivered news letter that local residents regularly receive.

    There are no public monitors at West Newton, just a couple of unqualified, easily excitable, anti fossil fuel activists living off grid.
    Discussion and conversation with these people is pointless, they do not believe and will not agree with anything that is said.
    The posting of the video which included their discussion with the Incident Commander from Humberside Fire and Rescue who attended the scene clearly demonstrated that point.

    • And what did that “banding failure” and smashed screen sound like?

      It sounded like an explosion, and that was how it was reported to the Humberside Fire and Rescue Services.

      That call out could have saved lives, but of course being wise after the event is not a consideration in a potential emergency is it.


      Again you avoid the failure of communication issue from Rathlin who could have prevented such a misunderstanding and halted the fire services call out. They must have the number of the Riding Council and Humberside Fire and Rescue Services, and the police and the relevant emergency call out liaison officer, they could have cancelled the call out and everyone would be happy.

      Perhaps that should become part of another issue, that of publicly available emergency procedures that enable the eemergency services to be made aware of any accident on site, but of course the industry do not want that either do they, that again could have prevented this particular reported “explosion” issue from ever arising. Again Rathlin want it all ways but straight, secretive and potentially catastrophically uncommunicative.

      Next time they might not be so lucky.

      And what of those workers who were running around covered in toxic mud? What was done for them? Were those the only injuries? Were the ambulance and paramedic services called out for them? And if not, why not? Failure of their duty of care to their own employees is hardly a good advert for Rathlin Energy is it.

      “There are no public monitors at West Newton, just a couple of unqualified, easily excitable, anti fossil fuel activists living off grid.
      Discussion and conversation with these people is pointless, they do not believe and will not agree with anything that is said.”

      Really? Do you have any proof of that, or is that is just your biased opinion. Of course,we all know the answer to that dont we, its just unsubstantiated prejudicial bluster, which is all this overexcited storm in a tea cup has always been about.

      • The incident was minor in nature, why would Rathlin assume that someone had called the emergency services, communications is a two way event, why did the activists not inform anyone that they had called for assistance at the site or ask if it was actually required?

        Workers covered in toxic mud, where would the toxicity come from exactly? The answer is nowhere except in the minds of those easily excited.

        As for emergency procedures and pre-plans, the guidance and requirements are clearly stated in the COMAH regulations, unless of course you would like people to believe that onshore oil and gas exploration is so much more dangerous than any other industrial operation carried out in the UK, that it needs to be treated and regulated differently.

        • Dear me, here we go again, round and round we go, all this diversion into the explosion incident is showing is that the monitors are indeed a necessary requirement for Rathlin, as clearly shown here, the only attitude is to avoid the issues that monitoring could actually save lives on site and monitor breaches of regulations and prevent or notify pollution.

          How was anyone supposed to judge the monitor site issue when no council workers have visited the site to assess any “health and safety issues” at all.

          When there is zero communication from Rathlin, neither to residents, nor monitors, nor the police and emergency services, where is their emergency plan and also a plan to prevent an emergency being called for a very loud accident that would prevent the emergency services from being called if it was not necessary. Simple logic and would have displayed Rathlin’s responsibility towards everyone, but it seems they are reluctant to do so.

          What chemical were in the mud? Probably Bentonite or equivalent with slip chemicals and proprietary chemical constituents that are not revealed:


          Again, why were the workers not checked by ambulance and paramedics for other injuries, eye irritations, skin lesions and reddening, rashes, exposure to toxic chemical pollutants, breathing difficulties and so on. Standard health and safety procedure surely, unless of course such details were not to be declared or made public and the emergency services might reveal it?

          It must be pointed out that the quick witted actions of the monitors could have saved lives, and the total lack of communication from Rathlin could have endangered lives. It must be stressed that an incident of this type could have led to short term and long term health effects. However we see no concern whatsoever here and all we see is bitterness and bile that anyone dared to act responsibly, clearly something that Rathlin is incapable of or unwilling to do, so independent monitors are a necessity as riding council clearly have no impetus to do so themselves..

          “A loud bang was heard from the site, reported by residents over a kilometre away. The drilling fluid hose broke loose and swung down, smashing into the drilling cabin, breaking the window, and spraying the area with muddy drilling fluid. Workers were heard coughing and spluttering.”

          A loud bang heard over a kilometre away could well have been an explosion.

          “As for emergency procedures and pre-plans, the guidance and requirements are clearly stated in the COMAH regulations, unless of course you would like people to believe that onshore oil and gas exploration is so much more dangerous than any other industrial operation carried out in the UK, that it needs to be treated and regulated differently.”

          UK is densly populated, such regulations as COMAH may be sufficient for “major” accidents in an industrial complex, however in a relatively densly populated rural location that does not address the issues of local contamination, accident, explosion or pollution.

          “The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015 (COMAH) are the enforcing regulations within the United Kingdom of the Seveso II Directive devised in Brussels following the Seveso disaster. They are applicable to any establishment storing or otherwise handling large quantities of industrial chemicals of a hazardous nature. Types of establishments include chemical warehousing, chemical production facilities and some distributors.
          The principal aim of the regulations is to reduce the risks of potential major accidents, such as the Flixborough disaster, that are associated with the handling of hazardous substances. The regulations operate on two levels depending on the establishment’s status which is divided into two categories,’Lower Tier’ and ‘Upper Tier’, determined by inventory.
          Lower tier establishments are required to document a Major Accident Prevention Policy which should be signed off by the managing director. A top tier COMAH establishment is required to produce a full safety report which demonstrates that all necessary measures have been taken to minimise risks posed by the site with regard to the environment and local populations. The penalty for unauthorised storage can be severe and companies unsure of whether the COMAH regulations apply should seek advice from trade associations and local health and safety inspectors.
          The Competent Authorities and enforcing agencies in the UK are the Health and Safety Executive and either the Environment Agency in England, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in Wales or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland.”

          “Lower tier establishments are required to document a Major Accident Prevention Policy”

          That does not appear to have been complied with a publicly available emergency plan available to all the local residents and emergency services.

          QED, that clearly demonstrates that local monitoring is a necessary requirement to protect the public and to declare and notify breaches of the regulations, because no one else seems to want to do it. Self regulation wont do it.

          • PhilC – QED? You are talking nonsense again. Council workers visit oil and gas site for Health and Safety issues? Why? It is the jurisdiction of the HSE. Quick witted actions of the “monitors” could have saved lives? Surely by now you know how an oil and gas site operates, policies and procedures in place to deal with any eventuality including an emergency plan and an on site first aider. It may surprise you that they also use telephones on site and have a list of emergency contacts which will include the Fire Brigade. The staff on site will have assessed the incident, seen no injuries to personnel, cleaned up / conducted repairs if necessary and gone back to work. Why would they be using fracking chemicals to drill in a conductor? Aside from the fact that this is a conventional well. COMAH regulations do not aply to this operation and site. Local monitoring? These people are unqualified swampies who should get of their backsides and do something useful. It’s a shame the Chief Fore Officer couldn’t tell them what he really wanted to say – we are far too soft these days. Too many be nice to joe public PR courses…
            [Edited by moderator]

            • Dear me Paul, what a display?

              Clearly the anti antis are franticly desperate to hang on to their oft repeated ad nauseam ad infinitum broken memes to attempt to discredit anyone who wants to monitor the operations of a proven flawed and failed operator regularly breaching like Rathlin.

              And why is that i wonder, something planned that both Rathlin and Riding Council want to hide perhaps.

              It was your colleague who brought up the COMAH subject and that is quite clear on Lowe tier sites.

              “Lower tier establishments are required to document a Major Accident Prevention Policy”

              And prey tell, if Rathlin do not have to comply with COMAH and your colleague is quite wrong, then what regulations do apply?

              None at all? That would explain why Rathlin failed to comply to even minimal health and safety standards regarding their own staff and the public as a whole wouldn’t it.

              And if no health and safety regulations apply, then all the bitter bile and personal attacks you guys pour out at every opportunity will not change the fact that public monitoring of the site is a very necessary public service and should be welcomed and encouraged by Riding Council and not victimised and evicted because they may spot something clearlyvno one wants to be seen.


              This was fun.

              Always a pleasure.

              Have a nice day.

        • John Harrison. I have no idea what emergency procedures have been put in place for the site you refer to which you claim will be covered by the COMAH regulations. Lancashire County Council have been questioned repeatedly about emergency procedures for PNR and have been assured that the site does not qualify as a COMAH site. Much to public concern, it is therefore covered by generic regulations for a medium risk only and local people have been issued with no advice on what action to take in an emergency.

          • Pauline Jones if the site risk has been assessed as medium level by health and safety professionals, what’s the problem?

  5. Why on earth would anyone call out the emergency services to attend a situation without checking with those involved with the situation whether there is an emergency?

    Well, we know the answer to that! First, a fantasy has to be created, then the fantasy is excited into “reality”.

    Meanwhile, if people see a situation where the emergency services may be required they check with those people first, otherwise the emergency services would be continuously wasting their time, and unavailable for serious issues where they are required. Should we expect all three emergency services to be summoned to a minor collision of shopping trolleys in Tesco? Maybe there is a “chance” that a bleach bottle could have been damaged? No need to check and find both trolleys were empty!

    But, all grist to the injunction mill. The way the evidence is being generated that will soon be a tick box exercise.

  6. It’s all a matter of trust! Some people just don’t seem to understand the word! If we do not trust because of underhand actions and intended and unintended (incompetent) breaches, we do not listen when we are told the industry is safe! It’s called shooting yourself in the foot!

    • Yes, it is called shooting yourself in the foot.

      More injunctions, and easier to obtain is the result. “Monitors” of a situation clearly recorded as unable and unqualified to monitor a situation. So, what is the reason for them to be allowed to remain?

      Self defe(e)ting.

  7. Tbh Judith, anyone who believes that planning conditions are there for a purpose should have been appalled at the undemocratic behaviour of both Lancashire County Council and Lancashire Constabulary! Not to mention the main player here Cuadrilla who seem to get virtually everything they request!

    • Peter – I thought Lancashire County Council were super heroes for refusing the PNR application despite the Planning Officer recommending approval? How things change……

      Were there any accidents / anyone inconvenienced when the rig was brought on site in the early hours? Other than the loss of the opportunity for the swampies to obstruct / delay the process I mean….

      A great decision by the Police / Council and Cuadrilla / Rig Contractor. Trebles all round!

      • Paul Tresto. When permission for PNR was refused, LCC was Labour controlled and a decision was made by councillors who had consideration for the community they served. The present LCC is Tory controlled and has consideration only for it’s Tory friends in government and their industry cronies.

    • Ahh yes, and we know who’s egos don’t we old friend.

      Those mirrors causing you problems again, reflections are a Wytch aren’t they?

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