The long-delayed report from the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) was finally published on 7th July, 99 days after it was submitted to ministers, and sneaked out in the wake of the Chilcott Report on the Iraq war.
The CCC concluded that shale gas would breach the nation’s targets for emissions cuts unless these three key tests were passed (as described on the Drill or Drop report):
A report in the New Scientist, with the headline ‘UK will struggle to meet climate target if fracking goes ahead’ says: “It’s bad news for the UK’s wannabe frackers. Those conditions are going to be very difficult to meet in practice, which means the UK government cannot allow fracking on a large scale if the country is to meet its emissions targets.”
The general tone of press articles on the report was that it was bad news for the shale gas industry, and this was continued in other papers on the day of publication. Here are a selection:
The only two sources that appeared to give the report the thumbs up were the pro-fracking Times Newspaper – with a headline ‘Fracking gets green light from climate experts’ – and the BBC, which not for the first time took a very pro-fracking line on all its media outlets, with the headline ‘Cautious green light for fracking’ on its Online News page.
As for the Government, they did their best to spin the report in their favour, saying blithely that all conditions and regulations were already in place and they didn’t need to do anything else, and ignoring completely that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – a requirement by the CCC for one of its conditions – is as far away as ever.
You can read what the Ecologist website thought about the government’s response, the article headline being, “Fracking not compatible with climate change targets, say CCC.”
How this will affect the Judicial Review for fracking at Kirby Misperton, for which the NYCC’s failure to assess the impact on climate change correctly is a key issue, we shall have to see.
On 7th May, Friends of the Earth and members of Frack Free Ryedale applied to the High Court for a Judicial Review of the NYCC’s decision to allow Third Energy to frack at their KM8 wellsite at Kirby Misperton in Ryedale. You can read the official press release by clicking here.
The NYCC decision to allow Third Energy to frack at Kirby Misperton was made by a 7-4 vote of the Conservative-dominated Planning Committee, despite 99.2% of respondents opposing the application. Nearly 100 people gave evidence against the application, including local residents, climate change experts, businesses and ex-Ryedale MP Baroness Anne McIntosh.
Concerned residents have revealed that fracking licence holder, INEOS has invited parish council representatives across Ryedale and York to a private meeting next month.
Details of the meeting, on May 11th in Malton’s Milton Rooms, appear in a leaked letter seen by Frack Free Ryedale. The meeting will take place behind closed doors with the public excluded from observing or contributing to the process of consultation.
Malton, Norton, Helmsley, Pickering and Kirbymoorside town councils and 10 parish councils in Ryedale have already passed motions against fracking, as has Ryedale District Council.
Ian Conlan, of Frack Free Ryedale, says: “Even some parish councillors, who are all volunteers, will be unable to attend because they have day jobs, and the wider public are being treated with utter contempt as they are completely excluded from this sham consultation.
“The meeting looks like it is little more than a slick PR exercise. Those councillors who are able to attend need to ask the many awkward questions about the real impact of fracking on local communities that INEOS hope to avoid by excluding the wider public.
“A key element of the INEOS presentation to the meeting will be to offer 4% of revenues to land owners who are willing to have a fracking site on their land and a further 2% to communities. It is interesting to note that payments in the United States range from 12% to 21% of revenues, so INEOS is also short changing the public in their effort to bribe people to accept fracking.”
Russell Scott, Frack Free North Yorkshire says: “This isn’t the first time councils have been offered private meetings in the area: it has taken our Freedom of Information request to reveal that Pickering Town Council has already met privately with Cuadrilla at an informal un-minuted private “briefing”.
“Given that it is Third Energy that hold the licence covering Pickering, it would suggest Cuadrilla, with their dreadful record in Lancashire, is looking to take over Third Energy’s P.R. and try to hoodwink councils just as INEOS are also looking to take over sites in the area.”
Cllr Paul Andrews says: “The amount paid to communities will never compensate individual householders and property owners for the loss in the value of their properties, blighted by fracking, or for the decimation of a tourist industry that relies on our reputation for beautiful unspoilt countryside.
“It will be of no comfort if the landscape is ruined with thousands of wells, water contaminated and lives disturbed by continuous drilling. All these things have happened in other areas, and recent research has now added cancer causing chemicals to the mix.
“INEOS should be turned away just as local district, town and parish councillors have said no to Third Energy’s plans at Kirby Misperton.”
Malton resident, Dr Liz Garthwaite says: “My town council in Malton gave short shrift to Third Energy. This issue has energised ordinary people who have never got involved in politics before, because it is their health that is threatened, as is displayed in a wealth of studies.
“It is exactly those ordinary people that this company shows contempt for. Let’s show them what local democracy is made of by demonstrating outside this meeting. If the public are excluded I think there are going to be a lot of empty seats inside this building, and rather more people protesting outside it.”
UPDATE: Here’s what Friends of the Earth Scotland had to say when Ineos launched a similar “lovebomb” PR campaign in their licence areas north of the border last year.
After years of official skepticism, Oklahoma’s government has at last embraced the scientific consensus that the earthquakes now rocking the state are largely caused by the reinjection underground disposal of billions of barrels of wastewater from fracking.
The state is now having an average of 2.5 earthquakes of at least magnitude 3 every day, when it used to average only 1.5 a year.
It isn’t the fracking that actually causes the earthquakes, but the disposal of the wastewater created during the process. Fracking companies pump this dirty water into the earth in a place with deep underground faults, so it doesn’t return to the surface. The theory is that this activity on the fault line lubricates Earth’s plates where they rub against each other, allowing them to move more freely, causing more frequent earthquakes.
The largest registered a magnitude 5.7. It injured two people, destroyed 14 homes, toppled headstones, closed schools, and was felt in 17 states. It was preceded by a 4.7 foreshock the morning prior and followed by a 4.7 aftershock. The home of Joe and Mary Reneau (less than two miles from the epicentre of the quake) took six months to rebuild
UK geology is thought to be more heavily fractured and faulted than that of the US, so we would expect more earthquakes from the same amount of activity, as the limited experience in Lancashire has shown.
The recently published Medact report on the health impacts of fracking mentions that “There are now over 450 peer-reviewed publications in this
field, consisting of studies, reviews and commentaries. “
Some of the key ones are the December 2014 review of evidence by the New York State Department of Health (already published on this site), plus four other reports not seen here before:
The evidence is very, very clear.
Anybody who ignores it is either:
a) unintelligent, or
b) lying, and
c) doesn’t care about the health of the people or the other negative impacts, which are now very well known and well documented.
Eighteen senior UK health professionals have written to the British Medical Journal, saying that “The arguments against fracking on public health and ecological grounds are overwhelming.”
The BMJ has published the letter.
The letter mentions a recent report by Medact (a UK-based organisation of “Health professionals for a safer, fairer & better world”).
You can read the report here.
You can read the letter to the BMJ below, and also here.
We write as concerned health professionals who seek to draw the public’s attention to the dangers associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and shale gas extraction in the United Kingdom, as highlighted by a recent report published by Medact.
Fracking is an inherently risky activity that produces hazardous levels of air and water pollution that can have adverse impacts on health. The heavy traffic, noise and odour that accompanies fracking, as well as the socially disruptive effects of temporary ‘boomtowns’ and the spoilage of the natural environment are additional health hazards.
Such risks would be magnified in the UK where fracking is projected to take place in closer proximity to more densely populated communities; and where there are concerns about the effectiveness of the regulatory system for onshore gas extraction.
But in addition to this, shale gas is not a clean source of energy. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas in its own right, and when burnt, produces carbon dioxide. Shale gas extraction would undermine our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and be incompatible with global efforts to prevent global warming from exceeding two degrees centigrade.
The arguments against fracking on public health and ecological grounds are overwhelming. There are clear grounds for adopting the precautionary principle and prohibiting fracking.
Dr Robin Stott, Co-Chair, Climate and Health Council
Professor Sue Atkinson CBE, Co-Chair, Climate and Health Counci
Professor Hugh Montgomery, UCL
Professor Maya Rao OBE
Professor Martin McKee, LSHTM
Dr Clare Gerada, GP and former Chair of RGCP
Dr Christopher Birt, University of Liverpool and Christie Hospital, Manchester
Professor John Yudkin, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, UCL
Dr Sheila Adam, former Deputy Chief Medical Officer
Professor Klim McPherson, Chair of the UK Health Forum
Dr John Middleton, Vice President UKFPH
Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, KCL
Helen Gordon, Chief Executive, RPS
Dr Frank Boulton, Medact and Southampton University
Dr Sarah Walpole, Academic Clinical Fellow
Professor Allyson Pollock, QMUL
Dr Julie Hotchkiss, Acting Director of Public Health at City of a York Council
Professor Jennie Popay, Lancaster University
Competing interests: No competing interests
In 2011 the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce asked 14 leading oil and gas service companies to disclose the types and volumes of the hydraulic fracturing products they used in their fracking fluids between 2005 and 2009.
The resulting report can be accessed here.
The relevant extract from the Executive Summary reads [emphasis added]:
“Between 2005 and 2009, the 14 oil and gas service companies used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 chemicals and other components. Overall, these companies used 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products – not including water added at the well site – between 2005 and 2009.
“Some of the components used in the hydraulic fracturing products were common and generally harmless, such as salt and citric acid [though do you want these added to your groundwater?]. Some were unexpected, such as instant coffee and walnut hulls. And some were extremely toxic, such as benzene and lead.
“The most widely used chemical in hydraulic fracturing during this time period, as measured by the number of compounds containing the chemical, was methanol. Methanol, which was used in 342 hydraulic fracturing products, is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
“Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. These 29 chemicals were components of more than 650 different products used in hydraulic fracturing.
“The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – appeared in 60 of the hydraulic fracturing products used between 2005 and 2009. Each BTEX compound is a regulated contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act and a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five year period.
“In many instances, the oil and gas service companies were unable to provide the Committee with a complete chemical makeup of the hydraulic fracturing fluids they used. Between 2005 and 2009, the companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret. Committee staff requested that these companies disclose this proprietary information. Although some companies did provide information about these proprietary fluids, in most cases the companies stated that they did not have access to proprietary information about products they purchased “off the shelf” from chemical suppliers. In these cases, the companies are injecting fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify. “
Academics from Warwick Business School and University College London have published an opinion piece based on research funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).
They advise policymakers that, for continuing economic, social and environmental reasons, the UK’s gas strategy should be developed on the assumption that there will be no domestically produced shale gas.
They say that recovery of UK shale gas (while still keeping within two degrees of climate change) might only be an option if ten conditions apply.
Summarising, these conditions include:
Given that Deutsche Bank (and others) is already saying that solar power has won, these conditions seem increasingly unlikely to be met. (In some countries, such as Australia, solar electricity is already less than half the retail price of electricity from the power companies. Within two years it expected to reach ‘grid parity’ in around 80% of countries worldwide.)
You can read more about the academics’ report at: http://phys.org/news/2015-03-shale-gas-uk-low-carbon-transition.html
Chemicals from fracking pose “serious health risks” to pregnant women, babies, and children, a new study has claimed.
Research published in the peer-reviewed journal Reviews on Environmental Health today finds fracking operations use and create chemicals linked to birth defects, infertility, miscarriage, impaired foetal growth, low birth weight, preterm birth, and premature or delayed sexual development, among other health problems.
The report’s authors, from the non-profit Center for Environmental Health (CEH) in California and the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany, find more than 750 chemicals may be used in fracking operations, many of which are “routinely released” into the environment, posing a potential threat to nearby communities.
They state that the substances include about 130 known or suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which have been linked to a range of health problems including altered reproductive function, increased incidence of breast cancer, abnormal growth and developmental delays in children, and changes in immune function.
Still, the fracking fluid that Third Energy are planning to use at Kirby Misperton only contains ‘non-hazardous’ chemicals and is completely harmless, so no need for us to worry …
Read the whole article in Business Green.
He opens by saying that he had recently attended two key meetings, that between them “gathered just about all the expertise in the planet on shale oil and gas and fracking issues.”
And then he summarises the current situation, and lessons learned from the USA, before drawing five conclusions for fracking in the UK.
I’ve summarised his points below, though to be honest his piece is very short and you would likely be better off reading the whole thing here.
And what I think this means for us in Ryedale is:
Remember also that since this article/viewpoint was published,
i) Rather than trying to negotiate, the government has chosen the path of confrontation, seeking to impose fracking via the so called ‘Infrastructure Bill’, currently before the House of Lords.
ii) Third Energy has made planning applications to NYCC to put in place some of the critical infrastructure without which it would not be able to frack.