Lancashire Tories use council procedure to block debate on fracking earthquake rules

190523 gv LCC

Meeting of Lancashire County Council, 23 May 2019. Photo: Lancashire County Council webcast

To shouts of “disgraceful” and “ridiculous”, Lancashire County Council voted to adjourn a debate on the regulation of earth tremors caused by fracking.

This afternoon’s full meeting of the council had been due to consider a motion welcoming government plans not to review the threshold for seismic activity at which fracking must stop.

190523 Cllr Geoff Driver LCC

Cllr Geoff Driver, 23 May 2019. Photo: Lancashire County Council webcast

But before the motion, introduced by Gina Dowding, could be discussed, an alternative vote was taken to stop the debate.

Conservative council leader, Geoff Driver, used a standing order (44/1) to introduce a procedural motion. He argued:

“The item has not been sufficiently discussed and it cannot be reasonably so discussed on this occasion.”

The meeting had previously heard concerns that current or potential members of the development control committee, which decides applications for shale gas sites, could be compromised if they voted either for or against the motion.

190523 Cllr gina Dowding LCC

Cllr Gina Dowding, 23 May 2019. Photo: Lancashire County Council webcast

Cllr Dowding (Green) deleted a small section of the motion.

She said she had been advised that the revised wording would address the concerns and it would be acceptable.

But the incoming vice chair, Suzie Charles, who chaired this section of the meeting, said:

“I don’t think that it can be discussed because all 84 members [of the council] could be held to have pre-determined if any of us wanted to sit on development control.”

Members called for more advice from the council’s monitoring officer.


But Cllr Charles said:

“I have decided that we are going to a vote for the adjournment so we will go ahead with that vote right now.”

One person shouted:

“Never mind the people as long as the Conservatives are alright.”

The vote was 42 in favour of the adjournment, 33 against and 1 abstention.

The regulations on seismicity, known as the traffic light system, require operators to pause work if fracking induces activity at a magnitude of 0.5 or more.

Shale gas companies, Cuadrilla and Ineos, have called for a raising of the threshold after fracking at Preston New Road near Blackpool last year was paused five times by seismic activity.

But so far, the government has said it has no plans to review or change the threshold.

Cllr Dowding had argued in her motion that the county council should write to the energy minister and the prime minister welcoming this decision.

She said earth tremors “greatly exacerbate the health and environmental risks associated with shale gas exploration, testing and extraction”. She also said seismic activity threatened the integrity of a shale gas well and increased the risk of gas leakage into the subsurface.

She said Cuadrilla had accepted the 0.5ML threshold until now.

“The industry is saying we know enough to have a review of the regulations but all the industry has managed to do since the regulations were introduced is to partially frack one well.”

She said Cuadrilla had called for a threshold 31 times higher than the current level. The proposed level was described in 2012 as “undesirably high”, she said. Responding to the Conservative procedural motion, she said:

“It’s pretty shocking the lengths the Conservatives are going to in order to avoid taking a position on protecting residents’ health against the fracking industry.”

35 replies »

  1. Neither do we have ways of verifying whether 7-0 is a narrow margin, unless we speak to a Watford supporter, who might validate that. Someone always has a different perspective on a subject.

    Sorry Paul, good try but DOD is full of references without links and people are left to decide themselves, using common sense, or their own experience. I will not supply links to identify individuals without being able to obtain their permission. I’m not sure who does that but I suspect some do. Not me, unless they are in the public domain and have already voluntarily put the information “out there”. Used to be a P45 offence before I left the arena of marketing. Lets just leave it that I am quaintly old fashioned in this respect.

  2. No, the answer is I will stick with my view of integrity and others can make their own decisions Paul.

    Your answer appears to be a little selective. I am not sure that is an answer. Is this a new policy for DoD that moderation is now including so much more, applied to some and not others? You may check back, not far back, and find a few antis posting “everyone”, “we all” without any links and no questions.

    I will confirm my post was factually correct. Other than that, people can judge for themselves.

  3. I have a problem with the ex Shale Gas Commissioner spreading false pro-fracking propaganda in places of power!
    If that’s not a criminal act it should be!

  4. Think it is called free speech, Peter.

    Often the problem when those who were shackled by their employment are released. There will shortly be new minds deciding what they consider false. Could be interesting.

  5. After struggling to swim through the customary shoal of red herrings on here, I wonder if it’s acceptable to return to the actual subject of the article, which leaves me somewhat perplexed and confused. Do please correct me if I’m wrong (and heaven forbid, there is no shortage of anonymous experts on here with anonymous expertise and qualifications), but how can LCC councillors be accused of predetermination for an issue that will not be an issue for them, even if all 84 cllrs sat on the planning committee.
    Firstly, the TLS is regulation, produced by the govt and regulators in consultation with the industry. Unless or until it is changed or rescinded, it must be applied. Is it not within the remit of the OGA to enforce this piece of regulation? What has it got to do with the Mineral Planning Authority – in this case LCC? If seismicity proved to be a serious danger, then it would surely be up to the OGA to refuse to permit a new application or stop existing activity, not the MPA.
    Debating, then indicating approval of this regulation to govt, is akin to an LPA debating building regulations and deciding they are a jolly good idea and should continue to be enforced. Would that mean anyone involved in such a debate had predetermined an application where building regs were to be enforced (i.e. every application for new buildings)? Of course not. It would just mean that they were better informed to take into account the pros and cons of any application and come to a sensible balanced judgement.
    On the assumption that this motion was submitted in advance of the meeting, it seems strange that the monitoring officer did not allude to this before the motion was stopped from being debated.

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