Conservative councillors in Lancashire have been accused of using a “wrecking amendment” for a second time to block support for their government’s policy on the rules on seismic activity induced by fracking.
A motion before the county council this afternoon welcomed government statements that there were no plans to relax the limits in the traffic light system regulations.
This was a revised version of a motion at the council’s previous meeting, which had been adjourned by the ruling Conservative group before it could be debated.
Fracking by Cuadrilla in Lancashire last year was forced to stop prematurely at least four times because seismic activity exceeded the traffic light system threshold of 0.5 on the local magnitude (ML) scale.
The company has urged the government to lift the limit. It has referred to levels of up to 4.5ML allowed in some other countries. Fracking is due to resume at the Preston New Road site at the end of August.
Today’s motion, by Green Party councillor, Gina Dowding (below left), asked the council to write to the prime minister welcoming the government’s resolve not to change the thresholds.
But a Conservative councillor, Michael Green (below right), proposed an amendment which removed all reference to the traffic light system.
Under council rules, this was voted on and approved by eight votes, blocking Cllr Dowding’s motion.
The vote was 42 in favour of the Conservative amendment, 34 against and one abstention.
After the meeting, Cllr Dowding said:
“Yet again, the local Tories are playing games with words: they have undermined an opportunity to strengthen the safety and protection for local people and their calls for the fracking industry to be properly regulated when it comes to seismic limits.
“This is the second time I have tried at the full council meeting to get councillors to actively demonstrate their support for local democracy and the concerns communities have around fracking.
“This industry is lobbying the government to change the seismic limits to the detriment of the communities in which they operate. This underhand behaviour must be resisted.”
Introducing her revised motion, Cllr Dowding had told the meeting:
“This is about prioritising the health and well-being of the citizens of Lancashire.”
She said the 0.5ML limit had been agreed by the shale gas industry. The threshold had been considered to be safest limit to protect health and environmental standards. She said:
“It is really important that we do not allow those limits to be altered.
“Every time fracking has happened it has caused seismic activity and we don’t know what effect underground.
“We want to say thank you government.
“Do not bow to pressure. Let’s keep the regulations as they are.”
Cllr Paul Hayhurst (pictured below right), who represents the Fylde where Cuadrilla’s site is based, said the industry had likened a 1.5ML earthquake caused by fracking to a melon falling on the floor. But one of his constituents described it as a car hitting a building at speed.
He said the British Geological Survey recorded the impact from a section of plane falling to ground after the Lockerbie disaster at 1.6ML.
“Before anything further goes ahead we should get an independent survey of what is going on under our feet.
“It is absolutely crucial that we keep these regulations to protect the environment and the way of life in my division.”
Introducing the amendment, Cllr Green said the Conservative administration would “always prioritise the health and wellbeing of the residents of Lancashire”.
But Liberal Democrat, David Whipp (pictured above left), described it as a “wrecking amendment” and undemocratic. He said:
“It negates the proposal and it should be ruled out of order.
“It is absolutely critical that the measures that are there now remain.”
Labour’s John Fillis said:
“It is clear that Conservatives stand for fracking and the fracking industry supports the Conservatives.”
Cllr David Howarth (Lib Dem) asked the Conservatives:
“Why do you have to bring this amendment unless it is just to trash the original motion?”
Another Liberal Democrat, John Potter (pictured above centre), said:
“Time and time again a motion brought to this chamber by any of the opposition groups is trampled on and completely reversed.
“This cannot be allowed to continue. We are destroying confidence in this chamber.”
Conservative Cllr Andrew Gardiner said the previous Labour administration had also changed motions by opposition councillors. “Grow up, get in the real world”, he said.
He asked officers to record the comments of speakers in the debate. There were “a couple”, he said, that suggested councillors had pre-determined fracking.
- DrillOrDrop invited Cuadrilla to comment on the council meeting. This post will be updated with any response