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:
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.
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.
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.
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.