Research

New poll findings: Government ignores public on fracking and should not relax tremor rules

pnr 181225 Ros Wills4

Coiled tubing tower at Preston New Road, 25 December 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

Less than a quarter of people support relaxing the rules on fracking-induced earth tremors, according to results of a new survey published today.

Polling for the countryside charity, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), revealed that 24% thought the rules should change in favour of the shale gas industry. More than twice as many (54%), supported the rules as they are.

Under the current regulations, known as the traffic light system, companies must pause fracking for 18 hours if their operations cause seismic events measuring 0.5ML or above on the local magnitude scale.

Cuadrilla’s fracks at Preston New Road near Blackpool last year caused 57 tremors, including eight at or above the 0.5ML threshold.

181214 bubble chart refracktion

Seismic events at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site up to 14 December 2018. Source: Refracktion

Since then, the shale gas industry has been lobbying for the 0.5ML threshold to be increased, to as high as 4.5ML.

According to the CPRE survey, over half (54%) of all respondents said they believed the government should prioritise the concerns of the general public when making decisions on whether or not to weaken regulations.

Just one person in 25 (4%) believed that the views of the fracking industry should take precedence.

Government data shows support for fracking is at a joint record low, opposition at a near record high and there has been a marked increase in concern about fracking-induced earth tremors.

Despite this, just 13% of respondents to the CPRE survey felt that the government was listening to the public on the issue of fracking. More than half (51%) believed they were being ignored.

181023 pnr Eddie Thornton

Fence art at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool, 23 October 2018. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Fracking at Cuadrilla’s site paused at least five times from October-December 2018 after operations induced tremors at or above the 0.5ML threshold. The company had said the loss of a single day’s operations would cost it £94,000.

Cuadrilla and Ineos, the country’s biggest shale gas licence holder, have since argued for the 0.5ML limit to be raised to make the industry commercially-viable. A group of academics and industry representatives called earlier this month for the traffic light system to be reviewed.

The government and the Oil and Gas Authority, which regulates the traffic light system, have both said publicly they have no plans for a review.

But there have been suggestions that the industry has appealed directly to the prime minister. Sky News reported yesterday that Theresa May and the business secretary, Greg Clark, met Sir Jim Ratcliffe of Ineos last week for discussions, which were said to have included government policy on fracking.

Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive at CPRE, said:

“The public has made it abundantly clear that they do not want earthquake regulations to be weakened. But given that they don’t believe that the government is listening to their concerns over fracking – at a time when we are facing the unprecedented threat of climate change – it is imperative that action is taken to restore public faith.

“If the government rolls over on this latest bout of industry lobbying and relaxes these standards to make way for more fracking – which exist to protect the public, our countryside and environment – it will only ramp up public opposition to new heights.”

CPRE has campaigned against government proposals to speed up shale gas schemes by considering non-fracking sites as permitted development. This would allow them to bypass the normal planning system and avoid the need to apply for planning permission.

Mr Fyans said:

“At a time when government proposals threaten to impose fast-tracked fracking over communities’ heads, it is crucial that it reassures the public that it is taking their concerns seriously.”

He called on the government to issue a definitive statement confirming that it would not weaken the regulations.

Survey details

YouGov conducted the survey online on behalf of CPRE on 18-19 February 2019. The total sample size was 1,600 adults. The figures have been weighted to be representative of all adults (aged 18+) living in England.

21 replies »

  1. When 52% say Leave, it’s a win for Leave.
    Now, on the fracking traffic light system for earth tremors, when 54% say don’t change the rules, it’s a win for don’t change the rules.
    So don’t change the rules.

    • David

      There was a vote re leaving the EU.
      There has not been a vote re the traffic lights.
      Just as there has been no vote on VAT %, or income tax, say.

      I look forwards to votes on the last two points.

        • David
          A referendum on the traffic light system sounds fine, although if the vote was to change the rules opposition would continue as if no vote had taken place, of course. If the vote was no change then opposition would continue as if no vote had taken place.
          Great things these referendums. Just keep having them until you get the answer you want.

  2. What Refracktion said innit 🙂 Lets not forget Industry set the limits in the first place or at least agreed with them . I wouldn’t get off a speeding ticket by saying 70mph is too slow for me to drive my car. Up yours Frackers

  3. And now the want to add thirty more chemicals to frack fluid. Not long before they replicate everything in the US. The fools gold standard regulations!

        • Paul

          Interestingly City AM could not work out that all the SNS fields are gas fields, and that WYF does not seem to be in the deal.

          As Nick Davies notes in his book. ‘Flat Earth News’ journalists are under lots of pressure to get out copy, so facts are often overlooked or twisted to fit the story ( ie that we subsidise our fossil fuel industry by charging less for domestic heating than in your car is one in play ). Not out of spite or with evil intent of course, but to sell copy or the advertising linked to it I guess.

  4. Whose government was that again? Surely it cannot be ours. Our government only wants to do what is best for us – oh sorry themselves. I must withdraw from this mind changing drug, double blind research trial.

  5. The government takes the safety of the public and protection of the environment very seriously. The government believes that current regulation and planning policy is robust for oil and gas development. However we continue to monitor the effectiveness of our regulations.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/about-shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking/developing-shale-oil-and-gas-in-the-uk

    Under review I’d say…

    https://news.sky.com/story/may-met-ineos-chair-for-off-roader-talks-as-tax-row-loomed-11642826

  6. “New public polling published today (21 February) by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) reveals that less than a quarter of people (24%) would support weakening limits on earthquakes caused by fracking. More than twice as many people (54%) support the rules as they stand.” I was actually surprised that 24% supported relaxing the rules, I thought it would be lower than that. So how do we interpret these results. It could be that the majority of people do not have the technical expertise to give an informed opinion. Which, is probably closest to the truth. NGOs often commission surveys to get publicity & press headlines & therefore donations. This seems to follow that pattern.

    • Nick – there are probably about 50 people in the UK who are sufficiently qualified to have an opinion worth listening to on the level of the traffic light system – the survey is a total waste of time. It has about as much value as asking people’s views on solutions to Riemann’s hypothesis. Let’s leave this to people who do it for their day job not people with a GCSE from the University of Google.

      • Can I just say – as a science teacher – scientists invented the atomic bomb, scientists put lead in petrol, scientists created CFC’s etc etc. Not all innovations are the right thing to do.

    • Dr Nick

      Those 54% only polled as they did as they were brainwashed by the propaganda. In 2 years time they may want to change their minds and have a new ‘peoples Vote’?

      Ie, polling issues which in the main have no bearing on your day to day existence are meaningless.

      I look forwards to a poll which asks …. do you support a reduction in your income tax?

      Or, do you support a reduction on your benefits?

      At leat when voting you do have a trade off …vote for this bunch as the other bunch are worse.

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