The MP representing the area around Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in Lancashire has opposed efforts by some fellow Conservatives to lift the moratorium on fracking and relax regulations on earthquakes.
Mark Menzies wrote to a constituent:
“The geology is not going to change and, despite the opinions put forward by some in the industry and beyond, neither are the regulations.
”There can be no moving of the goalposts and I am not supportive of efforts by some Parliamentary colleagues to do so.”
His letter was dated two days before the industry regulator granted a year’s reprieve for the sealing of Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas wells.
On the news last week, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, urged the government to also lift the fracking moratorium in England. He had previously called for looser controls on fracking-induced earthquakes.
But Mr Menzies said:
“Cuadrilla and its contractors have had 10 years to prove gas reserves under Fylde can be fracked safely and within the seismic limits they themselves helped to set.
“Given the failure to achieve this I am of the view that fracking is wholly unsuitable for Fylde. It cannot be done without risking the safely of our communities and without causing unacceptable levels of seismic activity.”
He said he did not believe the geology and population density allowed safe fracking in the Fylde.
“I have always held the view that fracking should only be carried out if it can be done safely. I insisted on clear and unequivocal measures to monitor, record and respond to seismic activity and the industry agreed to the traffic light system, which was used throughout the operation of the Preston New Road site.
Mr Menzies said the shale gas industry had agreed to traffic light system, which requires operators to stop fracking when earthquakes reach 0.5 on the local magnitude scale, known as a red event.
In 2018, there were three red events caused by fracking at Preston New Road and another three 0.5ML+ earthquakes after pumping had finished.
In 2019, fracking at Preston New Road caused 12 seismic events measuring 0.5ML or above – all of them after pumping. They included the UK’s strongest fracking-induced earthquake. This led to the suspension of fracking at Preston New Road, followed by a moratorium on fracking in England which remains in force.
In 2011, Cuadrilla’s fracks at Preese Hall, also in the Fylde, caused 2.3ML and 1.5ML earthquakes.
A year later, Cuadrilla told the then energy minister, John Hayes:
“In conjunction with industry experts and your team at DECC [the then Department of Energy and Climate Change] we have developed a traffic light seismic monitoring and mitigation system.”
The company said the UK traffic light levels had set below those used in other parts of the world to “ensure that we maintain a much larger factor of safety at this exploratory stage”.
Mr Menzies said fracking would not resolve the crisis of rising energy and fuel prices in the short term.
Instead, he said, the UK should focus instead on “future technologies, to renewable energy and next generation nuclear, powered by fuel produced here in Fylde, to deliver a cleaner, reliable, sustainable future.
The government’s energy security strategy is expected next week. Today, the Daily Mail reported that proposals to look again at fracking would be put on the back burner.
But the Telegraph said the government was to review the moratorium on fracking for safety and technology to help “accurately predict and manage seismic events”.