Research

Guest post: Taking power

Preston New Road Action Group pnrag

Opponents of Cuadrilla fracking site at Preston New Road near Blackpool. Photo: Preston New Road Action Group

An investigation among people living near Cuadrilla’s Lancashire shale gas site has revealed that most believed fracking was bad for health, wildlife and the wider environment.

Many people felt stressed by the development and had lost trust in the democratic process. Some even contemplated leaving the area.

In this guest post, Paul Temme, the author of the research, explains why he investigated local attitudes to fracking at Preston New Road (PNR) and what he discovered.


In 2016, despite Lancashire County Council’s rejection of fracking, central government overruled the decision and gave the controversial industry the go-ahead.

I had started to consider conducting research into the impacts of fracking after witnessing a BBC interview with a local Fylde resident who expressed distress and anger. Sajid Javid may have ruled in fracking’s favour but it seemed not everyone was happy.

Months later, in July 2017, I stepped off the Preston to Blackpool bus and, clutching notebook and camera, crossed Preston New Road and passed through the gates of Maple Farm hub. Final preparations were underway for a “Rolling Resistance” action to the proposed fracking at the neighbouring Cuadrilla site.

Over the next two days, I cooked, ate and washed up with people wholly engaged in the anti-fracking movement. The hub seemed to buzz with an agitated energy. A cycling peloton glided in from Manchester and a coach disgorged Bristolians demonstrating their solidarity with the protesters, who were made up of pre-teens, grandmas, researchers, teachers, councillors, farmers and musicians. A freewheeling diversity bound by an undeniable singleness of purpose.

I couldn’t shake off the BBC interview though. I wanted know what locals thought about fracking, and if possible, capture that collective voice. What were the views for those living on the front line – sometimes the fence line – of this nascent industry? What were the feelings of those separated by a few green fields or a small stretch of Fylde countryside? What were the thoughts of those who saw the drilling equipment arriving a short distance from their doorstep?

Other questions began to form in my mind too. Were (as the pro-frackers claimed) the Mancunian cyclists and Bristolian busloads and anyone else outside the Fylde area merely ‘Rent- a-Mob’? Professional agitators, wheeled in whenever disruption was required? What was the truth between the claims and counterclaims relating to the voice of local communities?

Research for a Masters degree in 2017-18 presented an opportunity to find out. In addition to several semi-structured interviews, I devised a self-complete survey questionnaire containing 34 questions and hand-posted nearly 300 of them through the letterboxes of a representative cross-section of residences in nine small villages and hamlets around the PNR site: Wrea Green, Great Plumpton, Weeton, Moss Side, Westby, Little Plumpton, Peel, Higher Ballam and the Carr Bridge Estate.

I received 134 responses (a response rate of just under 45%). They painted a stark picture of the communities’ view on fracking.

pnr 181225 Ros Wills4

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

Key findings

Profile of respondents

52% male; 48% female

91% homeowners

84% lived in Fylde for 15+ years

43% aligned themselves with the Conservative Party

78% considered themselves to be knowledgeable about fracking

Attitudes to fracking

The questionnaire asked respondents whether they agreed with the basic statement I am in favour of fracking.

62% of respondents disagreed with this statement, with 45% strongly disagreeing. Only 16% agreed.

Respondents were also asked how they felt following the decision to grant permission to frack at Preston New Road.

74% stated they were unhappy with the decision with 54% stating they were extremely unhappy

With these two questions alone the collective voice of the local communities was made clear.

Engagement with fracking

To help answer the question I had about whether the anti–fracking protests were staffed by the so-called rent-a-mob, the questionnaire asked residents about their level of engagement with fracking.

Whilst the majority declared they did not engage, 33% declared they were involved in anti-fracking activities. Only 3% engaged with pro-fracking activities.

Views on fracking

The questionnaire sought respondents’ views on a variety of perceived environmental and health impacts. In most categories, the majority saw fracking as damaging.

Environmental

  • 64% believed there would be environmental contamination
  • 67% believed noise levels would increase
  • 83% believed traffic would increase
  • 54% believed biodiversity would be threatened
  • 37% believed earthquakes would result (45% were undecided)

Health

  • 55% believed fracking posed a risk to public health. 18% disagreed.

Benefits of fracking

The questionnaire also sought opinions from local residents surrounding the main arguments in favour of fracking: energy independence, energy pricing, employment and overall economic benefit.

The results in each of these categories showed that most respondents did not accept or believe these arguments.

  • 49% of respondents did not believe the UK would achieve energy independence. Whilst only 20% stated it would.
  • 61% of respondents did not believe energy prices would reduce. Just 10% thought it would.
  • 55% did not believe the industry would provide Fylde with employment opportunities. 23% said it would.

Respondents were pessimistic about the overall economic benefits the industry offered.

  • 57% believed it would not be beneficial. 17% said it would be.

Fracking Impacts

Community Stress

One of the clearest messages of the survey was that the outcome of the decision to frack had led to stress in the communities.

84% of respondents stated that this was the case, with 43% strongly agreeing. 11% disagreed.

73% of respondents disagreed with the statement that Fylde communities were prepared for fracking. 7% believed they were.

Startlingly, nearly a third of respondents (32%) stated they would consider leaving Fylde as a result of fracking. A further 23% were undecided on the issue.

Erosion of trust

The questionnaire asked a series of questions aimed at eliciting views on trust in the democratic process, central government and the regulation of fracking.

The responses in each of these cases were also clear and showed an alarming corrosion of faith in the democratic process and a strong scepticism in regulation.

  • When asked if residents believed that the decision to permit fracking at PNR was a democratic one, 77% of respondents disagreed, with 61% strongly disagreeing.
  • 74% of respondents stated that the decision had not led to an increase in trust in the central government.
  • With political trust eroding in a Conservative ‘safe seat’, the questionnaire showed that, on the fracking issue, 13.5% of Conservative-aligned respondents would vote against the current Conservative government, with a further 36.5% considering doing so. Fracking can be described as a vote loser for Conservatives.
  • The questionnaire also revealed erosion of trust in fracking regulations. 50% of respondents did not believe that the regulations were fit for purpose. Just 12% believed they were.

Renewables

One of the charges often levied at communities protesting locally based energy or large development projects is that of NIMBY-ism. The questionnaire participants were asked if they would support renewable energy e.g. solar, wind, tidal.

Overwhelming, respondents were in favour (87%), with only 3% of respondents disagreeing.

Conclusions

The survey made clear that communities around the PNR fracking site were knowledgeable about fracking, were actively engaged with protesting it and the majority rejected it.

Most believed it would be detrimental to the environment, health and biodiversity and rejected the pro-fracking arguments put forward by the industry. The fracking process had resulted in an undermining of trust in the democratic process and had not improved central government’s standing. In fact, responses indicated that fracking would cause Conservative voters to vote against the Conservative government.

To underscore the fact that residents did not appear to have a blanket NIMBY-ism to energy projects they overwhelmingly support renewable energy.

Residents also clearly testified to stress visited on communities from the fracking process as well as registering their unhappiness with the decision, to the extent that a significant proportion of residents may take the drastic decision to leave or would consider leaving Fylde to avoid its impacts.

27/5/19  Statistics on male/female participation corrected to Male 52%/Female 48%


DrillOrDrop always welcomes guest posts. Please get in touch if you have an idea for an article.

28 replies »

  1. As recently retired educational psychologist and university lecturer in health and social care for over 25 years, this appears to be a carefully constructed and well balanced analysis of local experiences of fracking, effectively informed by wide-ranging measures.

    Conducted at a volatile time prior to any fracking occurring, it seems unlikely that concerns amongst locals have decreased now that ‘outsiders’ no longer appear active. Left with ongoing uncertainty about future plans, this report provides strong evidence for central government to review formal findings. There would seem to be a strong case to take clear measures to resolve residents’ concerns before further environmental and social damages are caused.

    • The current situation is that locals are unaware of the reality of fracking and the benefits of fracking. Bit of a chicken and egg situation. Currently they are looking upon it as an inconvenience and no information as to what the benefits locally and nationally may be. That’s not due to Cuadrilla being slack, but due to the fact that until tests are completed they would be speculating and that would not be allowed within financial regulations.

      Meanwhile, INEOS provides a £25.3m donation to complete the £300m fundraising for the national defence rehabilitation centre for soldiers wounded in the service of Queen and Country. So, profits from business can be a big benefit to communities. A private company can provide that in addition to the tax they supply Government to allocate as they see fit. Cuadrilla are somewhat different with share holders to consider but will more than likely need to show a proportion of profit returned to communities in addition to any taxation. Until that occurs such analyses are only investigating incomplete data sets and whilst that may be exciting for some antis agenda, they are limited against that platform.

      (A, not so recently retired, marketing professional, including market research and customer analyses.)

      • “locals are unaware of the reality of fracking” and ” look upon it as an inconvenience”.
        How have you reached that conclusion?

        • Err-people are unaware of the reality of fracking in the Fylde as, in reality, no commercial fracking has yet been achieved.

          Err-looking upon it as an inconvenience as some locals are receiving inconvenience payments. Or, would you like to add the road blockages and detours to define it further? Some may even find it inconvenient to explain to their kids why ladies undies are fixed to a fence and some chap that delayed them at the fuel station whilst filling up his diesel tank is taking ‘photos of that! (Or maybe caused a delay at the surgery after Simon Stevens advice to doctors to tell patients to ditch diesel. Only so much you can do in 10 minutes.)

          Can I have my Masters now?

      • Sorry Martin but you just don’t get it!

        Only one third of people who responded thought earthquakes might result from Cuadrilla attempting to again frack the Fylde, the other residents were much too convinced by the Cuadrilla public relations machine that no such thing would happen.
        How wrong they were! Over 50 earthquakes resulting from the first attempts to test frack the first well basically closed the site down for Christmas and no further attempts at test fracking have occurred since December, ,2018.
        Community payments from Cuadrilla to the nearest 100 or so residents once the first well drilling was completed doesn’t seem to have done the trick either.
        All bribes eminating from the Oil and Gas Industry are just a pittance compared to the damage they are causing right now to our Environment. That is why the Tories have been humiliated in the EU elections in favour of the Greens, Labour and the Lib Dems, each of which have pledged to stop fracking in the UK ASAP.
        As for Cuadrilla not being allowed to speculate about potential financial benefits from their fracking operations, they’ve done nothing but since they came to town a decade ago and their propaganda machine has repeated these empty promises ever since!
        It seems that surprisingly large amounts of contaminated gas was released untreated by Cuadrilla over the Fylde last Autumn, without any announcements by Cuadrilla themselves or any of the Gold Standard Monitors until six months later!
        I don’t blame the locals for wishing they could relocate!

        • Oh, but I do get it as many others do Peter, which is what worries yourself.

          I get it that individuals who would not accept blood money, did accept the payments. From that I would suspect larger and more regular payments would also be accepted.

          I get it that fracking is supposed to cause underground fractures that will be picked up by sensitive monitoring equipment.

          I get it that the EU elections were about BREXIT, not much else. None of the parties you mention have any ability to stop fracking until the next General Election, and probably after it as well. Then it could be Nigel, under advice from Donald! LOL.

          I get it that investment decisions are on ice within a load of sectors at the moment. Interesting comments regarding fracking from some of the candidates for PM.

          I get it that speculation about potential butters no parsnips for many. They want to see the reality. I’m positive the Blackpool FC supporters at least recognise that at the start of every season.

          I get it that the majority of people who received a request to participate in this exercise decided not to. That doesn’t look like a strong support for the views that were expressed by a minority.

          But, not to worry. As I have suggested before, and is playing out currently, the fracking tests intended will progress at a snails pace until there is greater clarity regarding how the new Government team will want to go forward. Easy one for INEOS as they have plenty of other things to take up their time, bit more difficult for Cuadrilla. That is speculation, but we will see.

          • Clearly the local people are not concerned about any potential revenue from fracking, they oppose fracking because they are concerned about the environment, biodiversity and health.
            The people living nearest to PNR were given a sum of money by Cuadrilla FOR the inconvenience. To say that local people consider the site to BE just an inconvenience is just an assumption and I suspect, a huge understatement. This is an industry which was forced upon the residents of the Fylde coast against their will.
            Regarding your obsession with the bras on the fence, you were reminded by Pauline only recently that this was done to draw attention to the very serious issue of the increased risk of breast cancer around fracking sites. I’m sure responsible parents wouldn’t have a problem explaining that to their children.

            • “Some” local people to PNR oppose fracking etc. etc. Fifi. Do the arithmetic.

              Why add the “just”? If you think it such an understatement and an assumption, why make it? Your previous sentence was correct, then you added your own assumption.

              They may have a bigger problem explaining it to their children that a 3 litre diesel was fired up to get the picture taken, Fifi! Children can ask the most interesting questions, especially if they have read about the dangers of emissions from diesel cars particularly reference themselves, and/or they have listened to Mum and Dad moaning about being told off by their GP-ref. Simon Stevens advice.

              Mind you, those children benefiting from Cuadrilla sponsoring science within local education may have already been made aware of the late Professor Sir David McKay-the late government chief scientific adviser, who kindly left us with this piece of advice:

              “Humanity really does need to pay attention to arithmetic and the laws of physics.”

              Now wouldn’t that be great!

              But many find doing both difficult. Mr. Musk seems to have problems with the first part, but then, so did Isaac Newton!

              • Yes children can ask the most interesting questions such as why is this country even considering fracking when we have a climate change emergency.

                • Ahh, but the brighter ones see how much gas UK is currently importing and how much more the UK will be over the coming years. They may even agree with Greta that UK does, as a result, operate some pretty creative carbon accounting.

                  Then they can do the arithmetic and calculate local is more environmentally beneficial than importation. It may also help to benefit their education if those local taxes are then spent on more arithmetic and physics teaching so they are not out of work later on due to other children having that advantage eg. the Norwegians. They may also look at how electric vehicles are struggling in UK and why, and how California has found a better solution with hydrogen which deals with the why and then do a bit of physics to determine the possible source of such hydrogen.

                  Meanwhile, a coal mine the size of the UK is authorised in Australia to supply huge amounts of coal, mainly to China. Zero carbon in UK would be likely to have a global impact of about 0.005 degrees lower by 2040. Perhaps some of the children who have been at school, and running, could do the arithmetic for a coal mine the size of the UK?

    • They certainly appear to give Masters degrees away these days…… a bit like trying to figure out if bears actually deficate in the woods. Yes they do – here, have a degree… Carefully constructed? Wow.

      “78% considered themselves to be knowledgeable about fracking”

      A bit like me saying I am knowledgable about calculating moon landing trajectories.

      • What effort was made to find out why more than 55% did NOT respond? And was it because they were not that excited by the subject and considered it therefor not worth their time bothering? Now, that would have made the whole exercise look a bit different.

        Then the study could have started off with “the MINORITY who responded mostly believed fracking was bad for health, wildlife and the wider environment”.

        Not so exciting but that should not be the purpose of such “studies”.

        A little true tale, no links:

        A Supermarket decided it wanted to build a new store on the edge of a small town. Initially, excited locals-mainly shop owners-complained bitterly. Locals were pretty mixed between liking, disliking and couldn’t care less. Then the Supermarket announced as part of the development they would fund and build a new doctors surgery as part of the development to replace the current one that was limited in size and filled the small towns car parks with patients rather than shoppers.

        Hey ho-most of the shop keepers withdraw their objections and most of the local population become energised to support the plan. Exactly the same had previously happened a year or so before in the neighbouring small town. This time not a Supermarket but a housing development.

        Rewards do tend to make a difference to peoples opinions. Most people make up their minds once they can take that into account. Maybe not a minority, but that has always been the case.

        • There are several articles on the Internet suggesting a response rate of 40% for surveys is good. This article suggests a 50% response rate to a mail survey is around average, so the survey’s “just under 45%” rate sounds pretty typical.

          I don’t know what you would have considered an acceptable response rate, Martin?

          Regarding whether people considered themselves knowledgeable about fracking – the government WAVE survey asks people to assess how much they know on the subject (” a lot”, “a little” etc), so this doesn’t seem an unusual or unreasonable question.

          • I would suggest if an issue is so vital for an area that residents are wanting to move out, the response rate would reflect that. If the issue is not that important to many than I would expect the percentage to be around what this one shows.

            However, the point I was making is that when a majority do not respond yet the issue is then portrayed as so vital for those in the area, this should have been examined before a minority view is represented. Many feeling stressed might just have then shown up as many, and slightly more, didn’t, and that is why they didn’t bother to reply.

            Ignoring sectors within the overall population can only produce an unbalanced result, and that means reflecting those not excited one way or another can be as important as those who are. The silent majority usually have a reason for being silent.

            In terms of asking people about knowledge about a subject that is very risky in a mail survey, and I would only do that sort of question in an interview. It is much easier for exaggerated claims of knowledge if there is no way for that to be checked, or concern that it might be.

    • I am also a retired professional, your status makes absolutely no difference to the credibility of your opinions on these matters.

      Regarding enquiries, can we have an enquiry into the literally billions of pounds spent on subsidies and contracts for difference to renewable energy producers, which is pushing up gas and electricity prices that the poor and elderly can ill afford. Can we have an enquiry into how we are going to keep the country warm on a windless night in February if we just rely on wind and solar power.

      By the way please note the plans by Drax power to create a carbon negative power station by the combination of gas & wood burning with carbon capture and storage.

  2. Thank you Paul Temme some fascinating figures there, i found this quite interesting, apologies for the copy and paste:

    Profile of respondents

    52% male; 48% female
    91% homeowners
    84% lived in Fylde for 15+ years
    43% aligned themselves with the Conservative Party
    78% considered themselves to be knowledgeable about fracking

    Attitudes to fracking

    The questionnaire asked respondents whether they agreed with the basic statement I am in favour of fracking.
    62% of respondents disagreed with this statement, with 45% strongly disagreeing. Only 16% agreed.
    Respondents were also asked how they felt following the decision to grant permission to frack at Preston New Road.
    74% stated they were unhappy with the decision with 54% stating they were extremely unhappy
    With these two questions alone the collective voice of the local communities was made clear.

    Perhaps these figures suggest at something that has been indicated here on Drill or Drop more than once, that exposure to operations leads to a growing suspicion of being exploited and hence to growing need to explore the subject and become more aware of the issues.

    The fact that 43% aligned themselves with the conservative party and yet 62% disagreed with the basic statement “I am in favour of fracking”. That is quite at odds with, and contrary to many of the claims we see reported on Drill or Drop by the anti antis.

    It would appear from your figures Paul Temme that close proximity with onshore fossil fuel operations does not create confidence or trust.

    • Perhaps it is the children who should also be interviewed for their opinion on local onshore fossil fuel operations at Preston New Road (PNR)?

      After all it is also their future that is at stake there too.

      These are just a few of the reports on the Friday 24th school strike for climate that the media seem to be avoiding commenting on.

      Youth Strike 4 Climate Change, Parliament Square

      Young People Strike Against Climate Change Worldwide

    • No rest for AJ lucas. Share prices consistently trending down. Riverstone holdings having a very bad year to date.

      Maybe they should not have got involved with a start up company which gets constantly pummeled by well organised communities and has a very empty portfolio of previous successful shale gas developments.

      If our Government were still ‘all out for shale’ they would have passed Roseacre and already agreed the much higher seismic threshold that Cuadrilla stated they needed after their poor results from Preese Hall.

      • “Our Government”!!!

        You have to question whether some have any idea what is happening -OR NOT-in the world at the moment.

        John-the UK Government is doing nothing at the moment other than Brexit. There are no decisions being taken about just about every subject.

        In very simple terms, whilst no decisions are being made regarding anything, including who will be there to make them, industry will sit on their hands until there is a break to the log jam, and the long grass is combed for items to be actioned.

        But, you never know, there may be someone off grid who very occasionally switches on their radio just to contact the Flying Doctor and picks up your message without any idea what is happening in the UK currently-or not.

  3. I say, but silver used for renewable energy like sunpanels…a problem in a nutshell:

    The local people living around the Escobal Mine have been against the silver project ever since the beginning. The Guatemalan Supreme Court stepped in and revoked Tahoe’s Escobal Mining license until a consultation of the indigenous communities had been taken. To me, it is a serious gamble for Pan American to take on this problem.

    While the Escobal Mine is the second-largest primary silver mine in the world, the evidence I have read suggests that the local people do not want the mine to reopen. I have read some Western articles suggesting that the local people are protesting so that they can be compensated by a percentage of the mine’s earnings. However, the articles coming from the local papers in Guatemala state the exact opposite. The local people want nothing to do with the mine, and would like it to remain closed so they can be assured that the area around them will not be polluted and to also protect their valuable water supply for farming.

    source; https://seekingalpha.com/article/4223149-majority-silver-miners-sustaining-costs-significantly-higher-market-price

  4. It would be really interesting for Paul Temme to repeat the survey now that fracking has actually occured, the swarm of earthquakes struck, the actions of the Gold Standard Monitors scrutinised, the cold venting of gaseous fracking emissions spread over the Fylde, the site closed down and Climate Destruction become highly visible at the top of people’s concerns!
    Please?

    • Yes the same argument will soon apply to rare earth mineral extraction. These minerals are used in wind turbines, batteries and many energy efficient technologies. At present they are 70% produced by China but their export may be curtailed as part of the current US/China trade dispute. Let’s hope the dispute is settled but there may be a need in the future to mine and refine these minerals, perhaps in environmentally sensitive areas in the West, in order to continue renewable technology production, which could create an interesting dilemma.

      That dilemma of course already exists in the under-publicised use of child labour to produce cobalt (widely used in battery production) in the DRC.

  5. “78% considered themselves to be knowledgeable about fracking”. I have no doubt they answered truthfully in terms of self assessment, but therein lies the problem with all these kinds of surveys- and not just about fracking, what actually is their level of knowledge?. For instance in with the BEIS public attitudes survey on renewables the highest public support is for solar, yet the annual average load factor for power generation of solar PV in the UK is appalling. It has remained stubbornly for many years at @10%. Tide & wave power is highly favoured by the public at about the same level as their support for offshore wind, yet wave & tidal power systems too are really difficult to achieve (I have been involved in tidal power), especially wave power, & they are not even mentioned UK annual energy statistics (because their contribution is so small). Least public support amongst renewables is bioenergy, yet biomass provides the highest load factor of all the renewables at @70%. So what the public think/feel/favour/dream of does not necessarily match with what is the real situation. So as a policymaker do restrict yourself to “the public have spoken” & base policy on that? Or do you base policy on what works? Or has the potential to work subject to gaining testable levels of knowledge (such as supporting research, exploration, early R&D & demonstration projects)?

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