Statement by Nicky Mason

Statement to North Yorkshire County Council Planning and Regulatory Functions Committee considering Third Energy planning application to frack at Kirby Misperton, 20 May 2016

Good morning

The reason for me standing before you today is a simple one, to try and protect the future for my children and the environment in which they are to grow up. I am a mother of 2 and work in the science industry specialising in genetics.

I have serious concerns on the impact of Hydraulic Fracturing for shale gas. You will no doubt hear numerous speeches on the environmental impacts of this heavy industry and the serious implications of industrialisation of rural North Yorkshire.

I am also clerk to Gt Habton Parish Council, the next village south of km8. I represent my community on the ‘Third Energy Community Liaison Group,’ a group set up in their words “ to build an open and constructive relationship between the local community and Third Energy”. They have said they will be “transparent and open” toward the local residents.

I have enclosed the Terms of Reference of this group as an appendix to my written statement.

Considering this, it came as somewhat of a surprise to me to then discover that Third Energy had encountered operational problems within the last six months that we as residents were unaware of.

It transpires that just 7 months ago, in November 2015, Third Energy had a faulty valve at the Malton site in my village which was leaking gas, thus creating so called fugitive emissions.

In their own words to the environment agency ‘safety protocol dictated that the line pressure had to be reduced immediately to enable the remedial works to be carried out. The urgent nature of the scenario did not provide sufficient time to allow the gas turbine to run through its start up sequence (circa 30mins) and as a result the inventory had to be diverted to the ground flare at Knapton…’

Third Energy considered this to be a minor leak!

But they also considered that ‘due to the urgency’ they would have to drain down the miles of pipe to allow for the valve to be repaired. A resident near Knapton power station even complained of odour at the time of this emergency operation.

Not surprising really, apparently to rectify this ‘minor leak’ over 74,000 cubic metres of gas had to be released into the atmosphere, because when in the words of Third Energy ‘it did not combust upon contact with the ground flare pilot lights’.

74000 cubic metres is the equivalent of 30 Olympic size swimming pools.

Third Energy is required by law to notify the Environment Agency within 24 hours according to the terms of their environmental permit.

They didn’t…..

In fact the Environment Agency was not informed until late January 2016. The company is also required to amend their annual report back to the Environment Agency to specifically detail the incident.

In MY job as a cytogenetics consultant I understand the need for regulations and for these to be adhered to. So why did it take Third Energy over 2 months for THEM to report this incident to the Environment Agency.

The only way that these breaches of their permit has come to light has been through a Freedom of Information request to the Environment Agency from a concerned member of the public. You, as councillors, may have expected, as would I , that these issues would have at least been brought to the attention of the Community Liaison Group in the spirit of openness and transparency. However, we have had several meetings since this incident and it has not been raised.

I have attached the Environment Agency document as a further appendix to my written statement

This is just the latest in a succession of problems experienced by Third Energy and their ageing infrastructure which have been previously documented on line.

We all know that Hydraulic Fracturing brings a substantially higher level of risk than current conventional gas operations, and these are to be self-regulated!! Just from the problems raised above I believe there is already a serious issue on the weakness of self-regulation, self-reporting and failure to disclose information to both regulators and the general public.

One of my main concerns is the ability of Third Energy to comply with the regulations that are to be put in place. The company cannot seem to comply with regulations on their conventional sites, let alone be responsible enough to follow the so called ‘gold standard regulations’ to be implemented for Hydraulic Fracturing. Incidents like the one documented only bring to light the weaknesses and true nature of a company with little concern for the local area and community.

I, as a local resident and member of Third Energy’s Community Liaison Group, have no confidence in their capacity to act in an open, transparent and competent manner with this highly risky and potentially dangerous technique.

I urge you, the Councillors, to consider my statement alongside the one from the United Nations Environment Programme that “Hydraulic fracturing” for shale gas may result in unavoidable environmental impacts even if the gas is extracted properly and more so if done inadequately.”

I urge you, please reject this application.

Response by Third Energy