The results are in! The new name for fracking is…

Poll Result

In a recent parliamentary debate on the potential role of UK manufacturing in development of onshore oil and gas, Penistone and Stockbridge MP Angela Smith said that the name fracking was ‘unhelpful’.

We were so concerned by the sight of both Conservative and Labour MPs struggling with the quandary of how to sell fracking to a hostile public, that we thought that we would help them. So we called upon the frack free community to come to Angela’s aid and vote on a list of new, more ‘helpful’ names for fracking.

From a selection that included ‘Gas Charming’ and ‘Chemical Reiki’, the winner by a clear margin was ‘Shale Fondling’. A few other alternatives were suggested, but we are afraid that they cannot be repeated here.

We are sure that with this much fluffier, softer sounding name, opposition to fracking all around the country will melt away. We will cheer the drilling rigs as they thunder through our towns and villages and we will take our families to picnic in the fields surrounding well pads, to watch the flares illuminate the countryside at night.

Of course, the poll was intended to ridicule just how out of touch many of our MPs really are. The very thought that the public are so gullible, that all MPs need to do is to think up a clever ruse to ‘sell’ fracking to them is appalling.

MPs genuinely think that all that is needed is a vague nod towards ‘gold standard’ regulations, along with a few measly, short-term jobs and public fears about the environmental disasters that fracking may bring, as well as the over-ruling of local democracy will be waved away. There is only so much polishing that a turd can take!

Victory for Upton campaigners

This article originally appeared in the The Standard.

In a great victory for anti-fracking campaigners, IGas have abandoned two sites in Chester despite wasting a lot of police time and money clearing the site at Upton. This is a perfect illustration that people power can win and we need to bring the same fight to Barnsley.

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FRACKING company IGas has announced that they will not be drilling at any sites which they currently have planning permission for in Chester.

The company, which has permission to drill for coal bed methane at Duttons Lane in Upton and at Salters Lane in Mickle Trafford, has announced on Friday afternoon that they will not drill at either site as they do not meet the company’s criteria for commercial development.

Duttons Lane in particular has been the scene of numerous protests, not least the Upton Community Protection Camp, which was on site for around 20 months in a bid to slow down any development of the site. They were evicted last month by high court bailiffs.

A spokesman for IGas said: “Between September and November 2015 IGas undertook a significant 3D seismic acquisition programme in the North West covering an area of 110km², this included the area around its sites at Duttons Lane and at Salters Lane in Cheshire.

“That data is in the processing and interpretation phase, the full results of which will determine the Company’s future exploration and appraisal work programme in the area.

“Having considered some early results from this recently acquired 3D seismic survey and following a review of its coal bed methane (CBM) exploration work programme in the area, IGas has concluded that the sites at Duttons Lane and Salters Lane do not meet its criteria for commercial CBM development.

“IGas has therefore decided not to progress with these CBM exploration wells under the current planning permissions.

“The land at Duttons Lane will now be returned to its former state including rectifying the damage caused to the area by the protest camp and the protesters.”

Study suggests fracking could release radon from ground

A new study in the USA has linked a rise in levels of radon gas with fracking.

Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas. It’s formed by the radioactive decay of small amounts of uranium that occur naturally in all rocks and soils.

The main danger from high radon exposure is the increased risk of lung cancer. For most people, radon is the single largest source of radiation exposure whether they are at home or at work.

Radon can be released by mine workings and is soluble in water.

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Originally published in USA Today, by Liz Szabo and Doyle Rice.

Levels of cancer-causing radon gas in Pennsylvania homes have increased as the fracking industry has expanded, a new study shows.

The study is a preliminary “first look” into a possible connection between fracking and radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, says co-author Joan Casey. While the study doesn’t conclusively prove that fracking releases radon from the ground, the findings are concerning, says Casey, a researcher at the University of California-Berkeley and University of California-San Francisco.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has spurred a boom in oil and natural-gas production. The fracking process blasts millions of gallons of water — mixed with sand and chemicals — deep underground to break apart shale deposits and release natural gas.

While supporters of fracking says it’s a safe source of energy, opponents are concerned that the process could contaminate local water supplies and even contribute to earth quakes.

Authors of the new study, published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, say they focused on Pennsylvania because it has one of highest residential radon levels in the country, and because the state has a huge, detailed database of home radon measures.

Pennsylvania’s high radon levels stem from the type of bedrock that runs through much of the state, which contains radioactive materials such as uranium and radium, which degrade into radon, an invisible gas, Casey says.

Radon can seep into basements through cracks in a home’s foundation and become trapped in homes that aren’t well ventilated.

Doctors are concerned about radon because it’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer, behind only tobacco, says Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy at the American Lung Association. Radon causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Authors analyzed more than 860,000 indoor radon measurements from Pennsylvania’s database, taken from Jan. 1, 1989 to Dec. 31, 2013.

Researchers found that radon levels fluctuated from 1989 to 2004. But radon levels in the state began to rise around 2004, when fracking really took off, the study says.

Authors also noticed that radon concentrations were 21% higher in buildings with well water than in those using municipal water. Radon can dissolve in water. So it’s possible that radon enters homes through showers and faucets, then spreads into the air, says study coauthor Brian Schwartz, a professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Schwartz notes that it’s possible that something other than fracking caused home radon levels to rise. For example, homes may have become more energy efficient since 2004. Although well-insulated homes save energy, they can also trap radon inside, he says.

A top industry group was unimpressed with the study. The Marcellus Shale Coalition, Pennsylvania’s leading natural gas organization, provided USA TODAY with this statement:

“It’s unfortunate, yet not unexpected, that some anti-shale activists continue to peddle profoundly flawed and unsubstantiated claims, such as this, based purely on hypothetic and perhaps pre-determined narrative-driven ’cause and effect’ conclusions with the goal of generating fear,” the statement read. “Thankfully, however, these suggestive scare tactics veiled as ‘research’ are easily refuted with readily available unbiased, fact-based data and independent scientific findings.”

Authors of today’s study acknowledge that their findings conflict with those of a January study from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, which reported that “there is little potential for additional radon exposure to the public due to the use of natural gas extracted from geologic formations located in Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania officials, however, say it’s difficult to compare the two studies, because they measured radon in very different ways.

While Casey and Schwartz’s paper included radon measurements from homes, the Pennsylvania state report measured radon at fracking wells, gas processing facilities, disposal sites and waste water processing facilities and other places, says the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Ken Reisinger. The state report measured radon levels in the natural gas coming out of the ground, as well as in air near the fracking facilities. Radon levels weren’t higher than expected, Reisinger says.

Reisinger questioned Casey and Schwartz’ conclusion that fracking may be causing radon levels to rise. That’s because their report also found rising radon levels in parts of the state with no fracking.

Casey and Schwartz say researchers should conduct more detailed studies to see if their findings can be confirmed.

Some health experts say the link between radon and fracking is worrisome.

“There are a tremendous number of poorly understood and potentially serious health risks associated with fracking, one of which is exposure to radioactivity,” says Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician and associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard H.T. Chan School of Public Health. “We simply do not have anything close to adequate safeguards for people’s health.”

Fracking has been linked to a wide spectrum of health problems for Americans across the country, according to a December report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

That report said Americans who live near oil and gas drilling wells are exposed to fracking-related air pollution in the form of chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde.

Ministers Plot to impose fracking on the UK

This story was originally published in The Telegraph

Leaked Cabinet plans propose letting unelected planning inspectors, rather than councils, give the go ahead for shale gas wells to boost production

Northern Powerhouse

Communities could lose the right to block fracking wells as part of a Cabinet plan to create a shale gas industry within a decade.

The 10-page plan, leaked to anti-fracking campaigners, sets out a timeline for the expansion of the shale gas industry in Britain.

Three Cabinet ministers put their names to the scheme which would see fracking wells classified as ‘nationally significant infrastructure’.

If that was to happen, then councils would be stripped of the ability to block planning applications for fracking wells in local communities.

Instead unelected planning inspectors would be given the power to decide if shale gas drilling sites got the go-ahead, paving the way for a huge uptake in fracking.

The move would also speed up the planning process.

The change comes as Ineos, one of the big fracking companies headed by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, disclosed to The Telegraph its own plans to kick-start the UK’s shale gas industry by drilling tens of wells this year. Ineos said it intended to submit a series of planning applications in the spring.

A map of exploratory licence sites across northern england. Frack-off.org.uk.

A map of exploratory licence sites across northern england. Frack-off.org.uk.

Friends of the Earth, which obtained the leaked letter, branded the proposed changes “an attack on democracy”, while the MPs on the Commons’ Energy and Climate Change committee threatened an investigation.

The letter was sent to George Osborne, the Chancellor, and signed by Amber Rudd, the Energy secretary, Greg Clark, the Local Government secretary and Liz Truss, the Environment secretary.

The letter states that “within 10 years” Britain will have a “maturing shale gas industry”, with “exploration under way and first few sites hydraulic fracturing” by 2017.

By 2020 it envisages that “production [is] underway from the first converted sites (assuming the gas flows and is commercially recoverable)”.

Fracking –short for hydraulic fracturing – involves using high-pressure jets of water to release gas. However, environmental concerns have dogged the industry, with protesters opposing new wells.

Protesters march on the Blackpool offices of Cuadrilla to oppose plans to erect a fracking rig in the area  Photo: EPA

Protesters march on the Blackpool offices of Cuadrilla to oppose plans to erect a fracking rig in the area Photo: EPA

The last fracked gas well in the UK – at Preese Hall in Lancashire – stopped work nearly five years ago, and only two new applications are being considered.

Planning inspectors are due to hear an appeal in the next fortnight on Lancashire County Council’s decision to reject an application by Cuadrilla.

The decision to frack a well in Kirby Misperton in Yorkshire is due next month.

The Government is an enthusiastic supporter of fracking, which David Cameron described in 2014 as being “good for our country”.

The Prime Minister blamed a “lack of understanding” about the process for some of the opposition to it, and insisted they would be addressed once people could see functioning shale gas wells in the UK.

In a bid to encourage the nascent industry last year the Government introduced powers to allow ministers to call in fracking planning decisions if councils were taking too long to reach them.

In a bid to encourage the nascent industry last year the Government introduced powers to allow ministers to call in fracking planning decisions if councils were taking too long to reach them.

However the Cabinet ministers believe the Government now needs to go further and classifyfracking wells as “Nationally Significant Infrastructure” to allow planning inspectors decide if they get the green light.

The minister say in the letter, which was dated July 7 2015, but has only just come to light: “We are therefore minded to bring commercial shale production within the Nationally Significant Infrastructure planning regime and to be ready to begin the move from early 2016 for large scale applications.

“However we need to think carefully about whether to slow this approach until a number of exploration sites are underway in order to avoid delaying current and prospective exploration applications or undermining public support for exploration sites.”

The Cabinet ministers add: “We need some exploration wells, to clearly demonstrate that shale exploration can be done cleanly and safely here. So we must put our immediate efforts into securing some early wins in exploration”.

The letter goes on: “It is vital that we reach a position where mineral planning authorities feel able to take sound planning decisions within appropriate timescale and at an appropriate cost.”

A series of earthquakes near Blackpool was caused by hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking'. The earthquakes damaged the well casing, but Cuadrilla refused to cease production Photo: Alamy

A series of earthquakes near Blackpool was caused by hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. The earthquakes damaged the well casing, but Cuadrilla refused to cease production Photo: Alamy

A public relations campaign will be necessary about the safety of shale gas to convince sceptics, likening the concerns to health worries about mobile phones in the past

The letter states: “Alongside geology and investment, the biggest challenge we face is to foster a climate of opinion in which the development of our shale resources is seen as safe and acceptable to a majority of the public, nationally and locally, ie communities likely to be directly affected.

“Other new industries and technologies, such as mobile telecommunications, faced similar challenges in the past and were able to reassure the public. We must now do so with shale.

“Government has to be united using the levers it can control, and bringing in others to support our policy where we are not in control.

“This will be a challenging balance given public misgivings. It will be important that we can demonstrate that shale can be developed safely, so this will be a key feature of our communications strategy.”

Campaigners and MPs condemned the plans to take away powers from councils over new wells. Craig Bennett, the Friends of the Earth chief executive, said: “David Cameron said communities would have a voice in whether or not fracking should happen near them, but clearly they are saying one thing while privately pursuing quite another.

“Communities and local councils could have an opinion on what colour they want the security gates to a shale gas site to be painted, but seemingly little else. This Government appears to promise democracy, they don’t intend to deliver.”

Angus MacNeil MP, chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, said the letter demonstrated “breathtaking hypocrisy “ from the Government.

He said: “There is a massive double standard her when the Tory Government now wants to run roughshod over the wishes of local communities.

“I feel sorry for people in England who can have their wishes and powers disregarded by a centralised two-faced government driving a very narrow agenda.

“It will be a worrying development for many communities in England and my committee may scrutinise inconsistencies in energy policy approach.”

The full letter to George Osborne below (click to enlarge):

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Help Angela Smith to rebrand fracking

Angela Smith
Angela Smith thinks that referring to fracking as, er ‘fracking’ is unhelpful. Ever eager to help, we would like to offer a few suggestions for a new name.  

How can we rebrand fracking so that you will be convinced not to be against it anymore?

Please vote for your favourite option below, or add your own suggestion in the comments and we will send the winning name to Angela Smith.

Misson: Work begins at IGas shale gas site

This story by Ruth Hayhurst originally appeared on Drill or Drop.

misson-equipment

IGas has wasted no time beginning work at its proposed fracking site at Misson in north Nottinghamshire.

Equipment arrived today, just over a week after permission was granted for groundwater monitoring boreholes.

Nottinghamshire County Council’s planning and licensing committee approved the company’s application on 19th January 2016 for up to 12 monitoring boreholes at land off Springs Road. DrillOrDrop report

This is the first step towards fracking for shale gas at the former Cold War missile test site. A separate planning application for a vertical and a horizontal exploratory well is being considered by the county council. There’s no date yet when a decision will be made.

If approved, that proposal would involve taking samples from shale layers but would not include fracking. The company has said if the results from exploration suggest further appraisal were worthwhile it would submit another application for a flow-test, which may require hydraulic fracturing to help the gas to flow.