Statement to North Yorkshire County Council Planning and Regulatory Functions Committee considering Third Energy planning application to frack at Kirby Misperton, 20 May 2016
My name is Richard Storey. I live at Settrington near Malton.
By training I am a lawyer.
By experience a businessman mainly in provincial newspapers.
I have lived for nearly 80 years in Ryedale – farming, woodlands, gardens, amidst the scenes, scents, sights to view and historic sounds of beloved rural Ryedale essence of rural England.
My group, for whom I am speaking today, of about 20 people comprises seven larger property owners and business people and smaller owners and they go across the east of the county starting with Wykeham Estate, near Scarborough, moving east to Duncombe Park Estate, Settrington Estate and Birdsall Estate both near Malton, moving on to Hovingham Estate, Castle Howard which everybody knows of course, and Nostell Priory out to the west. A score of us all opposing fracking.
The group contains many families who have devoted themselves for generations to nurturing their land and premises for the present national benefit and for whom it would be particularly desperate if they were to be industrialised.
The origin of the group is easy to explain. It emerged from a letter to the Yorkshire Post. Had I known that this was going to be its conclusion I would probably have been able to get two or three times as many the number I have now got today for whom to speak.
I myself wrote three researched objections but without much impact as I only found one small reference to one small part of the rejection in the pages of the North Yorkshire County Council document. I want, nevertheless, to congratulate the authors of the document for the time and trouble taken to produce it. It demonstrates a great deal of time and energy. I also want to congratulate and thank County Councillor Andrew Backhouse for his earlier report, an admirable report, called a Covering Report.
I was told to tell you a story so I am going to tell you half a story. The Kipling story of the cat that walked by itself. Google it and find out all about it if you don’t know it. You will find it in Google just as Kipling wrote it and styled it. It concerns cave dwellers in the dawn of time and a guileful cat. The guileful cat was not loved by the cave dwellers to begin with but it managed to wind its way in to the cave to a bowl of hot milk where it stayed for the rest of time. This is an allegory: the cat represents Third Energy, the cave dwellers represent the planning committee of North Yorkshire County Council. If we, in opposing fracking, are not fleet of, we will find there will be fracking by Third Energy and others throughout Ryedale for the rest of time.
Those poor people across the world whose lives have been blighted by fracking all say the same thing: don’t give them anything or you lose everything. Secondly they say you will never get it back – and, dear planners, even you cannot replace it.
I now have four specific comments.
First, regulation: while I realise that much regulation is outside the immediate control of NYCC, I do ask the Council to do all that it can.
We are often told that English regulators are the very best and that nothing awful could happen here.
Fracking as we all should know is a novel process as the NYCC lawyer has written. Preese Hall Farm was the only English fracking operation – and that has been confirmed in writing by DECC – so what did the regulators manage there?
- They failed to anticipate seismic events despite much evidence from around the world that it was likely to happen.
- They failed to prevent seismic events.
- The well casing was so constructed that even a weak earthquake broke it.
Total regulatory failure. So fracking there had to stop.
Why should we expect regulation at KM8, or anywhere else for that matter, to be any better than regulatory failure?
Even worse, Jo Hawkins then of Bristol University, now independent, has investigated English regulations and reports gaps in them. She and now also the Shale Gas Task Force remain dissatisfied with the regulations. See my addendum in my third objection on page 14. What can North Yorkshire County Council do to help, one must wonder?
My second substantive comment is on the Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering report. This report, much relied upon by politicians was unable to obtain any evidence on English fracking because by then Preese Hall Farm had closed.
Two points on this RS/RAE report of June 2012: it recommends, so wisely, that there be research into what it calls the public acceptability of fracking: now, four years later, none has been published. Surely no fracking should proceed without such prior research. The second point of that report is that it is very careful indeed to explain that it is only endorsing exploration and not production. It says precisely why: production needs to take into account disruption to local residents and the report just did not do that. So if NYCC approves production they would be doing so without any RS/RAE endorsement.
My next substantive point: at page 245 NYCC questions reliance on foreign examples of fracking. As DECC has now confirmed, England only has Preese Hall Farm. Therefore we must need foreign information. Indeed had regulators used foreign information themselves from Ohio, for example, on seismicity, it might not have failed so badly at Preese Hall Farm. Likewise, had RS/RAE taken evidence from real fracking abroad, the report might have proved more useful. So when my New Zealand friends tell me their lives were ruined by fracking, I do take notice. I cannot believe that all the geologies and regulatory regimes around the world are so different that the Archangel Gabriel who apparently runs the English regulators has nothing to learn, nor that we suffering exploited public has nothing to learn from the foreign disasters which are legion and at random I select: the four months of vast uncontrolled Californian gas leak compared to the Bay of Mexico oil leak, the Dutch earthquakes from conventional drilling destroying houses, the huge amount of evidence of American polluted drinking water, the devastation of miles of Australian countryside, the gas explosion and the following blaze at a Pennsylvanian oil well – endless examples that NYCC needs to learn. Moreover what these disaster had in common… guess what: unanimity from governments, contractors, regulators, all singing in unison this is not caused by fracking.
In Groningen in Holland as houses were literally collapsing the government was saying this is not caused by drilling. But the law courts found otherwise in favour of the house owners. There is danger even in England, especially under this government, that peoples’ voices are excluded by legislation proscribing how they may complain so go home now and prepare to emigrate, or fight on.
Thus, as a lawyer, I do find foreign evidence useful because it is the only evidence there is.
My next substantive point is the newly published ethane report. I find it incongruous that the NYCC report contains two government imprecations first – dash for gas, secondly protect the country from climate change disasters. It seems that NYCC planners while dashing for gas, are ignoring the new Paul Mobbs report on ethane emissions in North Dakota from the fracking of the Bakken shale. Ethane has a strong influence of the tropospheric ozone. This American Geophysics Union-sponsored research, and I quote illustrates the key role of shale gas production in rising global ethane levels – my addendum pages 15-16. This Ethane report is not mentioned in the 400 pages so far as I can see, whereas, selectively, they do quote the highly contentious, albeit government-sponsored Mackay Stone report – one can only wonder why.
Concluding now with five randoms. First, decisions are often a balance of scales. I brought my own with me.
In favour of fracking: jobs’ creation. But they would be balanced by the jobs lost.
In favour of fracking: gas supply but as we are told so authoritatively by Lord Howell, we don’t need any, so I put nothing in favour there.
In favour of fracking: keeping the Conservative government pleased: well put something in there for the sycophants.
On the other side: the destruction of Ryedale’s environment, exploitation of people, the risks as mentioned above. The scales are now massively unevenly balanced against fracking.
Second random: look at page 133 sub paragraph 6.96, it reads with reference to planning applications and I quote: the accumulative impact of mineral development can be a material consideration in determining planning applications. That must be an observation useful to the Planning Committee.
Random three: Marshall MacLuhan’s definition of an expert, whose views appear throughout the NYCC report, sometimes replacing common sense: an expert is a one who never makes small mistakes while moving towards the grand fallacy.
Random four: over recent years I have challenged EVERYONE to tell me where I can see for myself anywhere in the world an example of friendly fracking. I have not had one reply.
Random five: writing on fracking, I adopt the words of Anne MacIntosh: for an area reliant on farming and tourism, I cannot imagine anything that will be more harmful.