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 »

    • Absolutely – the conservative members refusal to have an informed debate and their arbitrary decision to refuse debate is fascism in action and not democracy!

      • “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.”

        How is that “arbitrary” and “not democracy.” ?? It seems a well reasoned point in order to PROTECT the proper working of democracy

  1. There’s the anti-fracking perspective….and then there are the facts…these two are most often mutually exclusive of one another……from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Energy and Environmental Security Program, “A. Modern wells are designed to withstand seismic deformations. They are constructed from flexible steel casing designed to deform but not rupture from distortions much larger than those caused by the passage of seismic waves from earthquakes except very close to the earthquake source. Several oil and gas fields throughout Southern California and the San Joaquin basin have experienced major nearby earthquakes with relatively few problems. For example, only 14 of 1,725 active wells within the oilfields close to the 1983 magnitude 6.8 Coalinga earthquake suffered collapsed or parted well casings. ”

    • The margin is somewhat irrelevant as the debate was shut off. “Healthy” democracy starts with accurate information and open thorough discussion.

    • Do be careful. Tories prefer to avoid using the words frack, fracking or indeed mentioning any detail about the unconventional process. Don’t want to frighten the general public with the earthquake threats. Always use the sanitised expression – “shale gas”.

      • Interesting, the cons want a green light, but then introduce a red light of their own? How ironic?

        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.”

        “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.”

        Does anyone understand the “logic” of that statement? How can any of the 84 members of the council be held to have pre determined if anyone else wanted to sit on development control without having had the opportunity to discuss it in the first place? That was the purpose of the motion to discuss it wasn’t it?

        A circular argument isn’t it? Except now perhaps that is perfectly obvious who is the “us” who feels “compromised” following this introduction of a procedural motion by the Conservative council leader, Geoff Driver?

  2. Ahh, wrong sort of local democracy! (Always is when you lose.)

    Strange though after local elections you would have thought that the whole fabric of the council would have been adjusted to reflect the views of the local population! Hmm-obviously the views are not quite in line with what a minority desire. But, hey ho, whenever has that not been the case?

    • I think that Gina Dowding, like most persons convicted of standing up for the environment and the vulnerable, will be proud of her badge of honour especially when attending meetings of the European Parliament!
      Paul Tresco what have you to be proud of today except possibly a pathetic attempt at character assassination?

      • Peter K Roberts – the issue is the subject of the article. Gina Dowding is compromised. She should not have any vote on any planning committee which is voting on energy in any form be it wind turbines, shale gas or cows farting.

        I know her quite well and she will be the first to admit she is totally biased and should not vote on any energy issues. I also know Suzie Charles quite well, a woman and Councillor of great integrity.

        I assume you know them both?

        You will be somewhat shocked but I am proud of everything I do every day – are you not? Do you do anything useful?

        Who is Paul Tresco by the way?

      • Drill or Drop and the BBC supplied the evidence – not sure how that comes back on me and character assassination? Cut and paste is all it is, any character assassination is self inflicted…..

      • Vulnerable Peter?

        18% of Blackpool’s households are classified as being in fuel poverty, the highest rate in England and considerably above the national average of 10.9%.

        • In that case Kisheny surely the poor folk of the Fylde shouldn’t be fuel poor what with all those oil and gas rigs working offshore as they have done for many years?

          As Egan was quoted as saying, cheap gas from his fracking wells will be fueling their heating and cooking some time soon!

          All nonsense if course because as we all know the fossil fuel extracted goes to the highest bidder and the government receives it’s tax to spend on it’s pet projects.

    • Rosa Parks arrested for not giving up her bus seat to a white man, even though she was in the blacks only seats.

      Mahatma (Mohandas) Gandhi arrested many times, in 1930, Mahatma Gandhi rounded up a group of supporters to march 240 miles from his ashram to the Arabian Sea to collect salt, the British occupying authorities had refused permission for native Indians to collect or sell salt.

      Emmeline Pankhurst – jailed 11 times for protesting for womens rights to vote

      Sylvia Pankhurst – also imprisoned and force-fed

      Leonora Cohen – personal bodyguard to Emmeline Pankhurst also arrested and force fed.

      And many many many other women arrested for protesting about womens rights to vote and tortured and force fed.

      Joan Baez arrested with many others for protests against the Vietnam war.

      Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. He could have remained in prison for the rest of his life. Instead he changed his ways and helped his country peacefully end apartheid.

      1200 people arrested in London for the peaceful Extinction Rebellion protests.

      How many other people have also been arrested throughout history for peaceful protest against overbearing injustice and the flawed laws that protects the perpetrators of injustice?

      So perhaps Gina Dowding is not “compromised” at all, it is those who seek to impose a poisonous practice on others and by doing so are accelerating the present climate change degradation and and moving us deeper into the sixth major extinction in history?

      It is they who are very deeply “compromised” and apparently cannot even bear to have an important and very relevant subject discussed?

  3. What is the point of writing to the Prime Minister or the Energy Minister at the current time? Maybe just address it as “to whom it may concern”??? (I will be sorry to see CP go, but as the farmers say, ” hitch your wagon too close to the cart horse and you get covered in his ****.”)

    Once you start to examine what is being argued you would get more coherence out of a sack of ferrets. The Greens really do have a problem with reality. Let me remind them of the reality-they lost 500k votes at the last General Election. Even the last local ones they did much worse than Independents! And by Monday they will have been stuffed by a “party” that has only been formed for around 6 weeks! Even when the bar is at an all time low they still trip over it.

  4. I think the LCC councillors may not understand the legalities of pre determination. An elected member can have a known stand, opinion on any matter, indeed it is normal to campaign on such issues and be elected on that basis ie opposed to fracking, pro Brexit etc etc. The issue is that prior to taking a decision/voting and so forth a member has considered and taken into account all the relevant information presented before taking the decision/vote.

    • KatT – you are really having a laugh. Have you ever been a Councillor or been to a Planning Committee Meeting? Most of them don’t even read the agenda and pre-pack supplied by the Planning Officers – and are often whipped in line with political party affiliations. Pre-determination is the norm and Gina Dowding will tell you so.

      • Cuadrilla desperately needed Roseacre. The Government could have given it…. but they chose not to.

        Cuadrilla desperately need a much higher seismic threshold. The Government could have given it…. but they chose not to.

        Join the dots. It’s not hard. Few more hypes to come to squeeze the last few pennies out of desperate mug punters then it’s all over.

      • No Paul I’m not having a laugh just giving the correct legal position with regard to pre determination. Gina Dowding cannot be accused of pre determination. Any councillor can openly oppose fracking and be a member of a planning committee or other decision making body. And the same goes for other issues. Many incorrectly apply this piece of legislation, fear it unnecessarily or possibly use it as an excuse. It is completely logical that the law should operate in this way or how could we ever in a democracy elect a councillor/MP if we didn’t know what they stood for. Your point about all councillors failing to read information prior to meetings is nothing more than your opinion.

  5. Exactly Paul! Reality may be missing for some but it is even known for Councillors to attend final planning decision meetings for multi BILLION £ projects having been in receipt of huge amounts of data over several years and then ask what a lorry movement is, and then subsequently, admit she made her decision following asking her husband at breakfast that morning which way she should vote!

    And the antis still want large complicated projects decided via local democracy. You can understand why, but it will not happen. Perhaps the shouting from the gallery is fun for some but it rather exposes the way a few think they can control the discussion. Not local democracy but an attempt at mob rule.

  6. I would not share such details Paul, which is why there was no link. Why would I identify an individual to be hounded? Somewhat surprised that should be suggested. (I suspect there will still be a public record of that situation but I have no intention of leading someone to it.)

    However, there will be plenty who will recognise the way such decisions are often made, and a few who will have knowledge of that particular situation, and I have reminded them of that. Fortunately, Appeals are available when such systems are abused, or the company involved can make it clear beforehand what costs they would require if they had to go to Appeal, including costs of delay.

    • I know you are concerned about “Fake News”, Martin. Posting unsubstantiated anecdotes may contribute to the problem.

      I also wonder if the individual concerned might have a different perspective on the story you recount. We don’t know because there is no way of verifying the information you have provided.

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