Lancaster MP opposes ‘pro-fracking policy’

Friends of The Earth Protesters outside Lancashire County Hall as the Fracking bid for Roseacre Wood is refused
Friends of The Earth Protesters outside Lancashire County Hall as the Fracking bid for Roseacre Wood is refused
  • County council officers recommend decisions on fracking sites
  • US “frack master” wades in on argument
  • Health charity says process will have significant risks
  • Decision due to be made by councillors next week

Lancaster MP Cat Smith is calling on Lancashire County Council to reject fracking applications in the county.

On Monday, county council officers announced they were rejecting plans for hydraulic fracturing at Roseacre Wood, near Blackpool, but supported plans at Preston New Road at Little Plumpton.

Cat Smith - Labour candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood - opposed fracking

Cat Smith - Labour candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood - opposed fracking

The plans - proposed by oil and gas company Cuadrilla – are seeking permission to develop two new sites to explore for shale gas by drilling, hydraulically fracturing (fracking), and testing the flow of gas.

Separate applications have also been received for a series of boreholes to monitor for seismic movement and water quality.

As the arguments for and against fracking - which is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into rocks to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas - rages on, even a Texas based “frack master” has urged councillors to back the plans.

Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood Ms Smith said: “Fracking isn’t wanted by the people of our area, but the government want to push ahead regardless.

Fracking rigs like this one are a common site in America.

Fracking rigs like this one are a common site in America.

“Lancashire County Council only have limited grounds under which they can reject the plans because of the pro-fracking policy of the government, but they can use these to reject fracking, especially with a strong mandate from the public.

It’s vital that councillors hear our voice.”

But Babs Murphy, chief executive of North and Western Lancashire Chamber (NWLCC) of Commerce, said shale gas offers “enormous potential” for Lancashire.

She said: “Shale gas represents a huge economic opportunity for Lancashire firms not only in terms of winning new business but also creating new jobs and generating new market opportunities.

Pix Dave Nelson. The proposed site at Roseacre Wood, which has been recommended for refusal

Pix Dave Nelson. The proposed site at Roseacre Wood, which has been recommended for refusal

“If Cuadrilla is successful in obtaining the relevant permissions for the Preston New Road exploration programme, opportunities for local suppliers are likely to start at a modest level, but the scale of this could soon expand if results from the test wells are positive and the company seeks to move to natural gas production in the county.

“It is up to all of us to work together to keep as much of these economic opportunities here in Lancashire.”

The application for Preston New Road has been recommended for approval, subject to a number of conditions controlling time limits, working programme, restriction on permitted development rights, highway matters, soil management, hours of working, safeguarding of water courses, control of noise, dust, lighting, security, ecology, archaeology, landscaping, restoration and aftercare.

The application for Roseacre Wood has been recommended for refusal based on an increase in traffic, particularly HGV movements, resulting in “an unacceptable impact on the rural highway network and on existing road users, particularly vulnerable road users and a reduction in overall highway safety”.

The application for Preston New Road will be heard on June 23 at 10am, and for Roseacre Wood on June 25 at 10am, at County Hall in Preston.

Chris Faulkner, CEO of Breitling Energy Corporation based in Dallas, Texas, and known by the media as the ‘Frack Master’, said: “The announcement last week by the US Environment Protection Agency that it has found no evidence that fracking has had a widespread effect on the nation’s water supply is a further testament to how safe the process is.

The study, which was commissioned by the US Congress in 2010, estimates that 25,000 to 30,000 new wells were drilled and hydraulically fractured annually from 2011 to 2014, and concludes that fracking took place in at least 25 states from 1990 to 2013. It found that from 2000 to 2013, approximately 9.4 million people lived within one mile of a fracked well.

“It noted several specific instances in which the chemicals used in fracking led to contamination of water, including drinking water wells, but it emphasised that the number of cases was small compared with the number of fracked wells.”

He added: “The small number of wells to be drilled in Lancashire will be undertaken with the benefit of the experience of fracking over a million wells in the US. They will also be drilled under greater regulation and oversight than in the US, reducing further the small risk associated with the process.

“What’s key here is the UK can gain greater independence from foreign gas by developing this massive resource under its own soil.

“It is similar to the North Sea, but somewhat ironic that oil wells there have been fracked since the early 1970s without Aberdeen of the eastern coast of Scotland being affected.”

However other evidence suggests a different picture.

Health charity Medact are due to hold a public meeting at Preston Minster today, June 18, to inform residents about the health impacts of fracking.

Dr David McCoy, director of Medact, said: “We are organising this public meeting to provide an opportunity for Lancashire residents to find out more about the health impacts of fracking.

“Earlier this year, Medact, alongside a wider group of health professionals, called for a moratorium on fracking due to the serious risks to public health.

“Fracking has already been suspended in Wales and Scotland due to the health and climate risks.

“New York State has also banned fracking due to ‘significant health risks’.”

“This meeting will explore the report’s key findings and provide residents with an opportunity to ask questions on these important issues.”

Earlier this year, Medact published a report, which concluded that fracking poses significant risks to public health and called for an immediate moratorium to allow time for a full health impact assessment to be completed.

These findings were supported by a letter in the British Medical Journal, signed by numerous health professionals including Professor Hugh Montgomery (UCL), Dr Clare Gerada (former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners), Dr Sheila Adams (former Deputy Chief Medical Officer) and many others.

Due to the high risks, Medact objected to Cuadrilla’s application for fracking in Lancashire in 2014.

Friends of the Earth’s north west campaign Furqan Naeem said: “We are disappointed that planning officers have not recognised the unacceptable impact that Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Preston New Road would have on local people, climate change and the environment.

“The Council must now listen to the tens of thousands of people who have objected to fracking at both sites, and the strong evidence put before them, and reject both of Cuadrilla’s proposals to frack.

“Fracking has already been halted in Scotland and Wales because of the serious risks it poses to the environment and health, and impacts on climate change - two thirds of people in Lancashire want it halted too.

“Rejecting Cuadrilla’s plans is the only way to stop Lancashire’s communities and environment being made the UK’s guinea pig for risky and polluting fracking.”