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.