Six years into a natural gas boom, Pennsylvania has for the first time released details of 243 cases in which companies prospecting for oil or gas were found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking water wells.
The 243 cases, from 2008 to 2014, include some where a single drilling operation impacted multiple water wells. The problems listed in the documents include methane gas contamination, spills of waste water and other pollutants, and wells that went dry or were otherwise undrinkable. Some of the problems were temporary, but the names of landowners were redacted, so it wasn’t clear if the problems were resolved to their satisfaction. Other complaints are still being investigated.
Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal.
This news will worry anyone in the UK who is close to a fracking site, which is pretty much all of us. We believe that fracking can never be safe, as wells and their casings crack over time and accidents happen during the fracking process. If you value your drinking water, say no to fracking.
The risk that drinking water in Sussex could be contaminated by fracking chemicals was known by the Government more than a year ago, previously secret documents reveal. Ministers were privately briefed by the Environment Agency (EA) that fracking near aquifers – underground rocks which contain water – should not be permitted.
In a private memo, revealed by Greenpeace through Freedom of Information requests to Number Ten, a senior EA official writes: “The Environment Agency would not allow hydraulic fracking to take place in an area where there are aquifers used to supply drinking water. If there were sensitive ground waters present in an area where a company wanted to carry out hydraulic fracturing, we would object during the company’s planning application and refuse to grant an environmental permit.”
However, this guidance was not released to the public and the EA’s head of climate change later changed the wording on a public statement related to the issue so as not to create “too stark a message” about shale gas drilling.
Read the full article from the Argus here.
This underlines two things: 1) the government knows that there is a clear and present danger that fracking would contaminate our water supply, and 2) government agencies are doing all they can to cover up this information and mislead the public.
According to UBS, the world’s largest private bank, big power stations in Europe could be redundant within 10-20 years as electric cars, cheaper batteries and new solar technologies transform the way electricity is generated, stored and distributed.
In a report that should make all producers of energy take note, the Zurich-based UBS bank argues that large-scale, centralised power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible, and are “not relevant” for future electricity generation. Instead, the authors expect it to be cheaper and more efficient for households and businesses to generate their own energy to power their cars and to store any surplus energy in their own buildings even without subsidies. Read the full Guardian article here.
Meanwhile, an article in the Daily Telegraph focuses on the problems of the oil industry and describes it as being ‘on borrowed time’ as more countries switch to solar and gas.
There is a clear narrative emerging here – renewable energy is becoming competitive around the world even without government subsidies, and more forward-thinking nations are already reconfiguring their energy strategy. Why can’t the UK do the same, instead of fracking for more fossil fuels, destroying our water, landscape and nature in the process.
North Yorkshire County Councillor Lindsay Burr has said that she is ‘against fracking, especially in Ryedale’ and that ‘fracking is an accident waiting to happen.’ She also adds: ‘I don’t want Ryedale to be caught up in an accident or worse, turn in to a min-Texas’.
Cllr Burr, writing in her monthly column in the Gazette & Herald, says that she has been deliberately quiet regarding fracking up to now, but is now ‘worried about the roofs over our heads and the ground beneath our feet’ and that the loss of open spaces and increases in lorry transport are ‘certainties’.
She also adds that ‘ministers need to stop encouraging the large energy companies to apply for licences and ensure residents are put before profits’. Read her full column here – her comments on fracking begin in the fifth paragraph.
Frack Free Ryedale welcomes Cllr Burr’s timely comments on the threat of fracking in the area, and are pleased to see that councillors are now prepared to voice their private concerns in public.
We would. however, like to correct one thing in the article. Cllr Burr says that she understands ‘that our national park is protected, thank goodness’. However, this is untrue. Although the government announced on 28th July that they were tightening guidelines for fracking in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), fracking in these areas can still be allowed in ‘exceptional circumstances and in the public interest’. Given that the government’s argument is that all fracking is ‘in the national interest’, and the final decision can be made by the government itself, this feels like no protection at all.
In fact, one only has to look at the situation developing at Ebberston Moor, in the North York Moors National Park, to see that fracking is a very real threat. Third Energy have recently been granted permission to inject millions of gallons or radioactive water back into the ground – all without any Environmental Impact Assessment on the consequences.
Read moor – sorry, more! – on this story here.
Articles in this week’s Yorkshire Post and the Molton and Pickering Mercury highlight the battle that is taking place over the future of Ryedale and surrounding areas – or, as the papers describe the area, ‘some of the most picturesque parts of Yorkshire’.
Anti-fracking campaigners and energy firms are fiercely lobbying over the rules which will be used to decide applications to carry out controversial fracking operations in North Yorkshire, York and the North York Moors National Park.
It’s encouraging to read that the message is finally starting to get through to the authorities, who have been “deluged” with calls to reject applications to frack in the area altogether by environmental organisations and individuals concerned about the potential visual impact, pollution of groundwater, earth tremors and traffic.
Ryedale Council has argued that until the impact of fracking is better known the policy “should not support the process in principle” while Hovingham and Scackleton Parish Council has also objected and Pickering Town Council has expressed concerns.
Russell Scott, spokesman for the Frack Free North Yorkshire campaign group, said the consultation responses showed that companies were trying to persuade the authorities to take an approach where fracking is “actively encouraged”.
Read the full article in the Yorkshire Post and the Molton and Pickering Mercury. Also, please register to comment at the bottom of the articles to show your opposition to fracking in Yorkshire and elsewhere.
The potentially massive impact of fracking on property prices was the focus of an article in the Daily Mail. Diane Westgarth’s home is on the Flyde Peninsula in Lancashire, just 300 yards from a potential fracking site. In 2012 the property, which includes two and a half acres of land, was valued at £725,000. However, when she had it recently revalued, the new valuation was only £190,000. And two other estate agents would not even offer a price, because the possibility of fracking meant that they couldn’t be sure it would be worth anything at all.
This is not an isolated incident. The article also cites examples from homeowners near Blackpool and in West Sussex, both of which are potential fracking sites, whose homes are now worth next to nothing. Find out more about how fracking can affect the price of your home in the full whole Daily Mail article.
This follows on from the revelation that the government censored a recent report on the effect of fracking 63 times, including information about the effect on property prices.
The Labour party believes the rules covering fracking are not tight enough and will attempt to strengthen regulation of the controversial drilling method by tabling a series of amendments to the infrastructure bill in the House of Lords.
The opposition wants to see well-by-well disclosure of the fracking fluid being pumped into the well, baseline monitoring of methane levels in the groundwater, and environmental impact assessments for all fracking sites.
The government argues that these are covered in voluntary agreements with energy companies. However, Labour said commitments from the industry were not strong enough to reassure the public. “If the government agrees these measures are a good idea they should sign them into law, simple as that,” said a Labour spokesman.
Read the full article here.
The Country Landowners Association, a campaign and lobby group that represents landowners and rural businesses, has accused the government of having too little regard for property rights and long-term liabilities to meet the demands of energy industry investors in its enthusiasm to realise shale gas extraction.
Their main concerns relate to compensation that would be due to landowners if their land or water would become contaminated. CLA President Henry Robinson said, “Large-scale shale gas development is new to the UK and the long-term implications are relatively unknown. There is currently no clear system in place to protect landowners from any ongoing liability should problems occur once a well has been abandoned. This is a major concern for our members and a glaring omission from the consultation. Land and property owners must be protected before further development takes place.” Read the full article here.
These words should make all landowners stop and think before they allow gas companies to establish sites on their land, particularly if they cast their eyes towards the USA, where farms are counting the cost. For a summary of the situation for farmers in Pennyslvania, read this Global Earth report on the damage done by fracking.
MORE than 150 people took part in a march through Beverley in what organisers say was Yorkshire’s biggest protest against fracking. Armed with banners, the protesters marched through the town centre on Saturday, before congregating outside East Riding Council’s offices at County Hall. Their aim was to send a clear message to East Riding Council that they do not want fracking in the area.
Their protest was aimed squarely at Rathlin Energy, who have installed drilling test rigs at nearby West Newton and Crawberry Hill. Pippa Hockey of Frack Free East Yorkshire, said: “We believe Rathlin is planning to start its operations shortly to carry out a mini-outfall test or mini-frack.”
Rathlin continue to protest that they are not planning to frack the area. However, Rathlin said in a letter dated 4th August that “Very shortly we hope to be able to announce that, at West Newton, we have completed all the work we intend to do in the lower formations of the well, including the evaluation of the Bowland Shale.” We wonder why they would spend thousands of pounds evaluating the Bowland Shale if there were no plans to frack it?
As we have discussed elsewhere on our Ryedale page, it now appears to be standard procedure for gas companies to set up conventional gas and oil test drill sites first – which are easier to get planning permission for – then apply for fracking permits at a later date, once the infrastructure is in place. This ‘softly softly’ approach has become known as ‘fracking by stealth’ and seems to be designed to draw protestors’ fire and allow the companies to protest their innocence until the last moment.
Each day, the oil and gas industry uses more than 2 million gallons of water on average in California on dangerous extraction techniques such as fracking, acidizing and cyclic steam injection. At a time when California is facing the worst drought on record, when farmers and cities are both struggling to find ways to conserve water, the oil and gas industry continues to use, contaminate, and dispose of staggering amounts of precious water resources each day. Read more about the California drought here.
This is a stark reminder of what Britain faces if it chooses fracking over clean and plentiful water supplies. And of course it’s not only the amount of clean water that is used every day, it’s also the fact that this water is contaminated by a cocktail of dangerous chemicals in the process and is very difficult, if not impossible, do dispose of safely.
You can also read more about the global water crisis caused by fracking in other countries in this Food and Water Watch report.