Authorities duplicitous, ill-informed and one-sided on fracking

Evidence increasingly undermines MP Soames' assertions that fracking will be 'adequately regulated'.

In a letter to the Mid Sussex Times, MP for Mid Sussex Nicholas Soames assures readers that fracking will be ‘adequately regulated’.

This conceit – used by varied bodies from Balcombe Parish Council (BPC) to West Sussex County Council (WSCC) to Ministers – misses a key point.

The authorities deciding on regulation have repeatedly been proved duplicitous,  ill-informed and one-sided on fracking. In light of the following evidence it’s no surprise that local people feel uneasy about the threat of hydraulic fracturing:

Duplicitous

1/ Balcombe MP Francis Maude listened to his constituents’ concerns about fracking in late 2011- but omitted to reveal he had appointed a Cuadrilla director to his department in government .

2/ The British Geological Survey (BGS) is a key advisor to the government on fracking – yet the BGS receives a portion of its funding from the fracking industry, leading to concerns over conflicts of interest.

3/ The gas industry has hired lobbyists to promote their cause and gain access to decision makers – one of these lobbyists has been revealed to be a local district councillor.

Ill-informed

1/ The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was unaware that fracking was to take place at Balcombe – until informed so by Balcombe residents.

2/ WSCC and BPC repeatedly told constituents (and each other) that fracking had been suspended – until residents forced an admission from DECC that the ‘suspension’ was nothing of the sort.

3/ The British Geological Survey (BGS) has begun a baseline survey of water quality around proposed fracking sites – a full three years after oil and gas licences were issued, and only after significant public pressure. Incredibly, this survey does not include Lancashire.

One-sided
Repeated statements by varied authorities state there is no evidence to link water pollution to fracking. Widely-read studies conclude precisely the opposite -

1/ Duke University in the US correlated methane levels in water with proximity to gas wells. The closer they got, the more methane they found. This finding was repeated by the US EPA in late 2011.

2/ Gas company Cuadrilla’s own report demonstrates that hydraulic fracturing in Balcombe could bring gas outside the well head to within 667 feet of the surface.

3/ The gas industry itself concludes that 60% of its wells leak.

By attempting assurances of the ‘it will be fine’ variety, authorities like Soames just make themselves look patronising.

This appearance of benevolent paternalism in the face of mounting evidence to the opposite only leads to cynicism and revulsion.

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11 Responses to Authorities duplicitous, ill-informed and one-sided on fracking

  1. ‘Cynicism & revulsion’ is what Will’s uncalled for, anonymous, abusive & fallacious post above generates in me.

    Duplicitous
    – 1: Francis Maude was under no obligation to flag Lord Browne’s appointment to the Cabinet Office. His position there is most probably due to his long experience heading a major quasi national private company. His position in Cuadrlla’s holding company is of little import, so stop trying to twist it into something sinister;
    – 2: BGS probably gets funding from across the geological sector, and is not beholden to its sources;
    – 3: that a Cuadrilla lobbyist is a councillor in a different county makes it irrelevant;
    Ill-informed
    – 1: so what – the well programme had been approved;
    – 2: the suspension is de facto, even if the de jure position is confused;
    – 3: better late than never, but perhaps the BGS has other priorities. After all, fraccing has been performed in the onshore UK since the seventies;
    One-sided
    – 1: try as they wished, the Duke study found not one ‘fraccing’ chemical in their study. Methane is not a pollutant & is common in Pennsylvania;
    – 2: no it does not. The report shows that a rare geological feature in Lancashire led to upward flow. This cannot be cross-referenced to W Sussex, a completely different geology;
    – 3: no. That 60% figure is way high, & the ‘gas industry itself’ referenced is a sales advertorial claiming a ‘fault’ in order to sell a ‘cure’. The issue of cement bonding is far too complex to address in a single paragraph, & well operators & drillers tend far too easily to cut corners on cementing, but this “60%” sales approach should not be taken as reason to condemn gas exploitation, but rather as reason to improve pratices. See ‘Faulty Wells, Not Fracking, Blamed for Water Pollution’ at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304537904577277814040731688.html?mod=WSJEUROPE_hps_sections_news#articleTabs%3Darticle

    This post was nothing more than a cheap shot at the Mid Sussex MP {just because he was not a ‘Green”?}.

    Let’s try & keep this site more factual, less polemical.

  2. Admin says:

    The lights arent such a big issue. Its heating that consumes most of the energy in the UK’s poorly insulated / designed housing stock. As an aside my ‘domestic power’ comes from http://www.goodenergy.co.uk – I asked them recently about their customer base and how demand / take up is going … the reply was that they are currently sourcing more than required and one way of dealing with that is by selling to other energy companies. Proof indeed that energy can be supplied safely. Given the right investment I see no reason that their model could not scale up. Other than money being diverted on projects like shale gas of course.

  3. Rev'd Peter says:

    The lights may not go out Rodney and Tim but the water that will be polluted from fracking may cause you to wonder what matters most.

  4. rococonnor says:

    …and the ‘usual suspects’ will continue to lobby for them.

  5. Rodney Jago says:

    Glad to hear it! Interesting article but be sure new nuclear & gas plants (windmills being irrelevant) will be opposed all the way by the usual suspects!

  6. Rodney Jago says:

    This anonymous abuse is a classic pot calling kettle black! Remember this rumpus started with a leaflet headed ‘Earthquakes in Balcombe ‘ but failed to mention that the so-called earthquakes could only be detected with sensitive instruments!
    The authorities have the difficult job of balancing the very real need for domestic power with with safety & the environment. At times they must feel like giving up & just letting the lights go out!

    • Hi Rodney,
      Will Cottrell here, from GDIB – I wrote the post.

      I contest your description of ‘abuse’. I give three referenced accounts of the authorities being duplicitous, two of being ill-informed and three where they’ve chosen to ignore evidence.

      I don’t count that as abusive – when an authority such as Soames says to ‘trust us’, it’s important to hold up past behaviour to judge whether ‘trust’ is justified.

      • Rodney Jago says:

        Thanks for owning up to authorship! I accept that not all MPs or oilmen are angels but I could write a rant in turn about the (as I see it) untruths, half truths, wild exaggerations, anti-enterprize, anti -American biased attitudes displayed by some in your movement and the Greens in general.This would not be helpful.
        I trust our system of governmant for all it flaws will eventually produce an honest oppinion by properly qualified people balancing the risks (there will always be some) and the national interest. Perhaps the dangers will be considered too great in which case I would entirely agree the project should be stopped. Will your movement be similarly guided?
        Remember that well educated people claimed the cows would stop milking when the railway came!

    • Regarding earthquakes, you might be interested to watch Eric Vaughan, Cuadrilla COO, describing his seismic events as ‘earthquakes’ throughout this video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vp7Ct4La4FA&context=C4bdf47eADvjVQa1PpcFMhLhs7fxzEZ36nPhqysFgchmcgNAiY8nQ=

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