Regulation

Ryedale council votes to extend fracking moratorium indefinitely

190906 RDC moratorium on fracking Ryedale Conservatives

Opponents of fracking outside Ryedale District Council, 5 September 2019. Photo: Ryedale Conservatives

Councillors have voted for an indefinite moratorium on fracking in the North Yorkshire district where Third Energy has permission for the process.

The ruling Conservative group on Ryedale District Council announced last week that it would propose a motion for a five-year moratorium on fracking. This would have continued a previous moratorium, passed in 2015.

But at a meeting of the council last night (5 September 2019), councillors approved an amended version for an indefinite moratorium.

The vote was 18 in favour, 0 against and 8 abstentions.

The revised motion said the council wanted to:

“put on record thanks to the Councillors who have fought against fracking in the courts and at the Public Examination into the North Yorkshire Minerals Plan, and to everybody who had contributed to the anti-fracking cause, including members of the public who engaged in lawful direct action.”

Members also asked the council leader, Keane Duncan, to write to the government setting out Ryedale’s position.

Cllr Duncan had described the motion as a “historic message” to the government and signalled “a significant break” with national policy.

Local anti-fracking campaigners welcomed the vote today.

Steve White, of Frack Free Ryedale, said:

“Ryedale District Council’s motion for a moratorium reflects a growing realisation across the political spectrum that a new intensive gas industry, feeding our addiction to climate-threatening fossil fuels and threaded through our densely populated island, simply isn’t viable.”

Third Energy was granted planning permission in May 2016 to frack the KM8 well at Kirby Misperton.

But the operation has not yet happened. In January 2018, the government ordered an assessment of Third Energy’s financial resilience. There has been no public statement on the outcome of the test.

Since then, Third Energy’s onshore gas business was sold to the subsidiary of a US firm. Last month , Third Energy announced it was focusing on conventional gas in Ryedale.

Local anti-fracking campaigner, Peter Allen, said:

“The recognition by Ryedale District Council that fracking is totally unsuitable for the area is to be welcomed. Let us hope that the enlightened stance of the council is followed by similar actions from the county council and the government.”

“The amended motion also recognises the contribution of campaigners who have fought to prevent fracking in North Yorkshire. Frack Free Ryedale recently celebrated the fact that in the five years since the group formed, no fracking has taken place in the district but they vowed to keep the pressure on until fracking is banned completely.”

Steve Mason, a Lib Dem councillor on Ryedale District Council, said:

“This is great, and a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the anti-fracking campaigners everywhere. You do have to give credit where credit is due, and the Conservative motion was a positive step forward for the council. I’m especially glad they accepted our amendments to make it an indefinite moratorium and also write to the government to set out this position.”

Ryedale District Council is not a mineral planning authority. Any decisions on fracking applications in the district would be made by North Yorkshire County Council.

But Jennee Dixon, of the campaign network Frack Free United, said the motion by Ryedale could have a significant role in influencing future government policy.

“The message that I hope these local Conservatives convey to their colleagues across the country is: ‘Is fracking a price worth paying?’

“Let’s not forget that it is still Conservative party policy to frack the UK. It’s increasingly likely that an election is coming. Fracking, which affects over 170 constituencies, including 40 marginal seats, could be an electoral earthquake for the Conservative party.

“It is clear that developing fracking in the UK will lead to unacceptable negative impacts on local communities, the economy, democracy, environment, health and also hamper efforts to tackle climate change.”

32 replies »

    • Why will the lights go out? We have gas security for the next 20 years without the need for shale gas, according to the government. We have many energy options available to us, there is no threat of the lights going out.

        • Not panicking Eli, far from it, questioning your obvious scaremongering. As the government states we have gas security without the need for fracked gas. I completely understand energy supply and demand. The fact we have a surplus of hydrocarbons and because of that prices are forecast to stay low for several years, a fact that is causing US shale producers to cut back, that is obvious. Even BP has openly acknowledged the fact it now has stranded assets, in other words it will not be able to develop all of its known reserves as green energy continues to grow and its costs continue to decrease, as developed countries continue to tighten carbon reduction policies and implement energy efficiencies markets and demand for fossil fuels will be impacted. The lights won’t be going out and we certainly couldn’t rely on U.K. shale even if they were. The industry is still decades away from being able to produce any meaningful quantities of gas, and that is if it ever does, what with earthquakes, the possibility of only circa five years of gas supply and the CCC’s three tests, the U.K. couldn’t possibly consider shale gas as a credible way of ensuring the lights stay on. Which is exactly why the government excluded it from their 2017 report!

  1. Easy decision when Third Energy have stated they have no intention to frack! No risk of costing the local tax payers and being held responsible.

    Bit like a moratorium on burning witches. Gesture politics and virtue signalling.

    • Given Third Energy’s record, you’d have to be pretty gullible to accept their statement at face value. They’ve applied for a seventeen (!) year extension to their PEDL licence, during which period they hope to upgrade their infrastructures to a point at which they will be able to process shale gas. Still, this news is an opportunity for the really gullible to churn out the dismissive clichés – “gesture politics and virtue signalling.” The words could come from Boris.

    • There are other licence holders in this area other than Third Energy, including INEOS, so you’re wrong Martin. And from what I’ve seen and read recently several Conservative MPs are also withdrawing support for fracking.

  2. Don’t be ridiculous Martin , you know full well that they intend to frack at a later date , face facts the industry is a dead duck.

  3. Except their record has nothing to do with it, as this is a new company. So, who is being gullible, referring to a previous company record? Like saying the previous one played 4:4:2, that is the record, so the new coach will follow that, even though he has stated he will not!

    “You know full well.” No-that would be speculation, not knowledge. This is a new company and they have plenty to do with the existing resource. So, you may speculate for the distant future, which is ridiculous, I will stick to the reality, which is not.

    Certainly gestures and signalling, but not based upon anything. Thanks for emphasising how it works. Couldn’t have done any better myself.

  4. I suspect it is not within their (RDC) legal powers to enforce this. More money wasted on lawyers ahead?

    • No Dr Riley, no lawyers required. A council is quite entitled to agree a stance or position on issues, it does not interfere with its statutory duties. Indeed RDC has had a moratorium against fracking in place for the past few years.

  5. Third Energy does not have a new coach as Martin Collyer amusingly suggests. The former Chief Operating Officer Alan Linn,has been rebranded as the Chief Executive Officer.. Third Energy Gas UK Ltd is now at the bottom of a hierarchy of companies which are free to hide behind the secrecy afforded to those registered in the Cayman Islands.

    It is impossible to find out who exactly is at home here. The immediate Parent Company (York Energy) was formed in February 2019 and has no need to file accounts for another two years.

    Even advocates of Fracking must wonder if this is a suitable financial structure to be engaged in exploration activities that are high risk and as Cuadrilla has demonstrated – with its unpredicted “trailing” seismic event- clearly still in the learning phase. Private Equity is the last type of financial engineering that should be used for onshore shale gas extraction which has need of resources to meet any liability for damage – residual or otherwise.

    Private Equity uses leveraged lending to burden the operating company with a debt that grossly exceeds its capacity to service the interest.. Benefiting from the protection afforded to limited liability companies. the Ultimate Parent Group will always arrange things so that at end of operations, there is never enough cash to pay for site restoration or clean up. My evidence ? Canada.

    And yes, I am delighted that the Conservative group at Ryedale Council has recognised that Fracking is only economic at scale and that this level of industrial activity is completely unacceptable in a rural economy grounded on agriculture, racing and tourism.

    • Canada close to Ryedale??? Strange geography some resort to. And economics! Same sort of comments were made when TE were owned by Barclays Bank!

      If you want to resort to that sort of guff, how about looking at the carbon footprint of solar panel manufacture in China, the transport of the same to the West (largest container ship in the world recently docked in Felixstowe, having arrived from China), and the way the materials for those same panels are mined and the environmental damage that is causing-plus, the health issues to those involved.

      Makes UK fracking look positively angelic in comparison, and also better than UK buying oil and gas from other countries conducting the fracking to produce it.

      By the way, Cuadrilla recently restored a site. Sorry to bring the discussion back to reality, but it would seem that any company currently involved exploring fracking in UK is restoring where required. Of course, they might not in the future if they decide to follow the example of-Canada, or Venezuela or Russia-although I suspect such countries operate somewhat different systems of regulation!

      I know there will be some who get excited about delayed restoration, but that needs to be looked at in the context of when the operating company decide it is fully surplus to their requirements. Ironically, it is often delays caused by the antis and planning that delay such decisions by the operating companies!

  6. Philip Tate

    How does your model apply to UK onshore oil and gas sites in terms of restoration?

    There are many restored sites around Eakring and Egmanton, though not all have been restored.

    So maybe the parent group will not always arrange things such that at the end of operations there is never enough money to pay for Site restoration or clean up.

    I also see that Tinkers Lane cleanup is progressing well.

  7. I stand to be corrected, but I was not aware that either the Cuadrilla site or the Tinker Lane site – which have been restored – actually went into production. I think you will find that the working capital requirements for a production site are significantly greater than those at the exploration stage. I am aware that Canada is some distance from Ryedale but mathematics and accounting practices can cross the Atlantic unharmed. The Private Equity model of finance is based on extracting value as early as possible and filling the gap with leveraged lending on the balance sheet of an operating company.

    The Uk has not had any sites that have gone into production using Fracking to extract shale gas. It is impossible therefore to produce a home grown example of the danger of allowing Private Equity to develop the industry. What we do know is that Private Equity regularly destroys company value and one only need to look at the history of it acquiring Care Homes to see how quickly these enterprises become burdened with debt they can not service and thus go into administration.

    As a stickler for detail, Mr Collyer, Third Energy was never “owned” by Barclays Bank. Third Energy had four constituent companies ( still does , I believe) and used an Investment Bank to raise capital . These bonds were of variable duration and as the operating company ran out of cash most of them were redeemed with new borrowing repayable within a year. The original share capital was exhausted years ago and the shares were worthless.

    The new supplier of capital is Alpha Energy which has persuaded Third Energy bondholders to receive shares in a new venture in return for writing off the debt. Since there was no money to redeem the bonds – they had little choice but to accept bits of paper in the hope that one day they might have some value.

    You might disagree with all this “guff” – but a little courtesy would be appreciated..

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