What better place to frack than the beautiful Lake district? And where better to frack than Wordsworth’s beloved Grasmere? Just imagine a fracking rig in the centre of all this! And the poem the Bard would write on it;
I wandered lonely as a cloud
And drank some fracking fluid
The ground shook below my feet
and the sheep were not good for meat
No, all that is scaremongering, that is what Friends of the Earth have done in their latetest leaflet;
Don’t let frack destroy all this
The cover has a picture of Grasmere from Loughrigg Terrace and is there to evince horror at the destructive effect of fracking, which on the same page they present as.
It also asks for funding to “allow our campaigners to investigate the practices of fracking giant Cuadrilla” , which suggests that Cuadrilla is guilty of malpractice.
In the last few weeks Friends of the Earth have distributed the leaflet Don’t let fracking destroy all of this. It was included in copies of Private Eye and the Sunday Times, and that is how I got my copy.
Because of our concern Ken and I put in a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, which is now being considered. today The Sun ran an article on it http://www.sunnation.co.uk/anti-frackers-reported-to-watchdog-over-shale-gas-revolution-cancer-claims/
So what are we to make of it all?
For decades many people have seen Friends of the Earth as a tremendous guardian for the environment and over the last few decades has done so much good. That was my view too, though I lapsed as a member years ago. For a time I was an active member and went to their meetings regularly. I also helped on Saturday mornings putting 3 inches of fibreglass insulation into OAPs’ houses. (That may date me!) We then moved and I got involved with the Ecology Party and was invited on their local constituency committee. I declined as I felt with my calling as a vicar I should not be so politically identified. Since then I had a great affection for Friends of the Earth for many years, until recently I saw a side which I found unacceptable.
That occurred in March 2014 when I went to a meeting organised by RAFF (Residents against Fracking: Fylde) at Inskip in Lancashire, which is a few miles from Cuadrilla’s proposed sites at Roseacre and Preston New Road. The speakers from RAFF gave an impassioned and inaccurate presentation, with ideas written up in their leaflet Shale gas:the Facts, which was withrdrawn in January 2015 after we put in a complaint to ASA. I tried to challenge several of their dodgy statements and was surprised that they got a local FoE worker to support them in their misrepresentation.
I then began to realise the Friends of the Earth were backing the local anti-fracking groups in many ways and that they were more political agitators than environmentalists. Over the next year I became aware that they were fuelling anti-fracking on the Fylde with false information. This became absolutely clear at the hearings in Preston in June 2015. The barrister for Lancashire County council gave a judgement that councillors could be liable if they refused the application going against the planning Officer’s advice. The FoE barrister gave legal support to counter the advice of the LCC officers and their barrister, and eventually the application was rejected.
Since june the Foe has been active in Lancashire ensuring that the application from Cuadrilla is turned down on appeal.
In mid-October 2015 fundraising leaflets for Foe’s activity in the Fylde have been put in Private Eye and The Sunday Times (11/10/15) .
some readers of Private Eye thought the leaflet nonsense and wrote in (added 16/10/15);
The leaflet is well-produced with a picture overlooking Grasmere with the caption “Don’t let fracking destroy all of this”. Very odd, as these rocks, being volcanic contain no carbon-rich material whether coal, oil or gas! For a geologist this scare story is so laughable as the rocks on surface are Ordovician Borrowdale volcanics,, with a later Devonian intrusion below. If there had been any organic material in the older Cambrian slates below they would have been burnt of 360 million years ago. No, there wont be fracking in the Lake district, but there has been loads of mining.
Below is a picture of Grasmere looking north, and three pictures taken on Hellvellyn yesterday.
To a fracker, the Lake District is classic moosepasture!
The leaflet gives a good local story, but its presentation of fracking is inaccurate, flawed and misleading, along with its attack on Cuadrilla. Those familiar with the Fylde area of Lancashire will have seen many of the placards put up by worried residents
However not all Fylde residents oppose fracking as we see in Broughton
As the leaflet was paid for to be included in with distributed publications, it is a possible subject of an ASA complaint and below is our complaint, which deals with the hard facts rather than the emotional blackmail. In summary here is what Friends of the Earth are doing;
- FoE are after money, and they are doing this under false pretences
- They are presenting fracking as dangerous when it is not
- Do they really think the EA, HSE etc would permit dangerous practices? They dont in any other areas.
- They go on about hazardous chemicals that are nor permitted in the UK
- They persuade good people to be scared over nothing.
- The industrialisation thing is massively exaggerated
And so to our complaint;
Our Complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.
We await what they say over this latest complaint, but three leaflets have been withdrawn after previos complaints one by Frack Free Somerset , one by RAFF (Residents against Fracking: Fylde) http://wp.me/p4fjWT-5u and another http://wp.me/p4fjWT-kC Anyway here it is , it deals entirely with the leaflet Don’t Let Fracking destroy all of this. Warning; it is rather clinical and detailed
From Ken Wilkinson
and Michael Roberts
We would like to complain about an advert that was included in my recent copy of Private Eye from Friends of the Earth. This is a paid for advert, as was confirmed by a conversation with the advertising dept. of Private Eye.
There are many false claims in this and we would like this to be looked at.
Complaint 1. There are numerous statements that imply fracking is dangerous, or has a serious consequence
‘When fracking ‘threatened’ her community. (title)
‘They were clear they did not want dangerous fracking in their community’ (para 3)
‘Wherever they are threatened by fracking’ (para5)
This matter has been looked at by a vast array of competent bodies, and to state that it is ‘threatening’ or ‘dangerous’ is inaccurate.
A small selection of these bodies includes the Environment Agency who approved the operational plans for the wells proposed.
The Lancashire County Council Planning Dept, who wrote a long report on the matter, and approved the process, as it was considered safe.
An Environmental Impact Assessment was commissioned by the well operator, Cuadrilla, and performed by the independent body, ARUP. Again it was considered low impact and low risk.
In 2012, the Royal Academy of Engineering (under the banner of the Royal Society) looked at this and concluded operations would be safe if carried out in a responsible and well-regulated way. (See summary page 4)
Health Protection England 2014. Again, they concluded it was safe if done properly. (See complaint 5 for more from HPE)
There are many more expert groups that have looked at the safety of fracking that could be quoted if need be.
The advert has a statement that ‘millions of litres of water, containing a toxic cocktail of chemicals’.
This is incorrect. The use of the word ‘toxic’ is not acceptable. The law in the UK states that all chemicals used must be ‘non-hazardous in their application’ under the Environmental Permitting Regulations.
Under EPR Schedule 22, paragraph 6 we must take all necessary measures to: (a) prevent the input of any hazardous substance to groundwater; and (b) limit the input of non-hazardous pollutants to groundwater so as to ensure that such inputs do not cause pollution of groundwater. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2010/9780111491423/schedule/22
The pollutants the Environment Agency are concerned with for groundwater are: ‘Hazardous substances’, which are substances or groups of substances that are toxic, persistent and liable to bio accumulate, and other substances or groups of substances that give rise to an equivalent level of concern’ (EPR Schedule 22, paragraph 4).
In addition, this is covered by a 2006 European Directive that states. ‘In order to protect the environment as a whole, and human health in particular, detrimental concentrations of harmful pollutants in groundwater must be avoided, prevented or reduced.’ among other statements that clearly forbid the use of ‘toxic’ chemicals.
The use of the word ‘harmful’ is defined by the Joint Water Framework directive in European law. The link is for the ‘JAGDAG’ list of proscribed chemicals. http://www.wfduk.org/sites/default/files/Media/Substances%20transferred%20from%20List%20I%20%26%20II%20to%20hazardous%20or%20non%20hazardous.pdf
The word toxic clearly indicates that it will cause harm. The statement makes no mention of concentration, which is crucial in deciding if an organism will be harmed. In addition, ‘hazardous’ chemicals are not permitted at all.
The proposals, and practice from the US indicates that concentrations of chemicals will typically be less than 1% in water, and that they only contain ‘non-hazardous’ materials. In addition 5% of sand is also added. It is often claimed that sand is toxic, but again the use of this is covered by HSE regulations so that no harm is done to the operators. http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg463.htm
The above laws make use of ‘toxic’ concentrations of any chemical illegal.
The ad claims ‘Up to 80% never returns to the surface and could end up in your drinking water.’
There have been cases of poor fluid handling that have led to surface contamination in the US. (Open pits, unlined well pads, open venting of gases etc.) None of these processes are permitted in the UK. The Environment Agency/DECC simply will not issue a licence to drill if those methods are proposed.
However this states that water that has been pumped down as frack fluid could end up in drinking water
There is no science to support that statement that frack fluid could end up in your drinking water.
- The hydrological conditions mean that water would only be returned to the surface in the production tubing, which means there is no possibility of it contaminating water supplies.
- The Royal Academy of Engineering confirmed that this has never happened.
- The US Environmental Protection Agency also confirmed the same recently.
- This is at odds with research done in the USA by the National Academy of Science that has concluded that in shale rocks, any excess water is absorbed.http://www.pnas.org/content/109/52/E3625.full
- ‘Such low water saturation leads to capillary binding that will not allow entrained brine to leak upward naturally into shallow groundwater thousands of feet higher in the stratigraphic section’.
Could I suggest the ASA contact a suitable expert to discuss this, as it is a highly technical issue? (UKOOG would be glad to refer you to someone independent.)
The advert implies that the planning decision in Lancashire is finished.
‘My group is so relieved…We can now breathe….FoE’s practical support… etc.
In fact the shale gas application is currently being appealed (a normal part of the planning process) and hearings will take place next year.
In addition, the decision could be overturned by the Secretary of State.
As such to imply that Friends of the Earth, and locals, have ‘seen off’ this proposal is incorrect. Mention is made of ‘fast tracking’ of applications, but nowhere does it state that the application in question here could be overturned. Friends of the Earth are asking for money for protests that they know can be overturned by the authorities, and as such this is misrepresenting what they can achieve.
The advert states there are ‘health risks’. ‘A hospital near a US fracking site reports asthma rates three times higher than average.’
I presume this is about ozone, but cannot identify the study. Possibly it is related to this report? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/08/wyoming-ait-pollution-gas-drilling_n_833027.html
It is ironic in that shale gas has reduced airborne pollutants massively in the US. Gas is replacing dirty coal in generating electricity. It has been well publicised that air pollution levels are of concern in many countries, with coal (as well as diesel) being among the main culprits. Gas however is a clean burning fuel.
Looking at the report above, it clearly is a local issue, and this is related to high levels of drilling, poor gas security, snow on the ground, stable conditions, and a basin that trapped the air.
I did find this expert report from 2014 however that states that there have been no issues. It is also worth noting that the chemicals mentioned (apart from ozone) are not permitted in the UK.
There is no way that the level of drilling that caused this local issue would be permitted under UK local planning. In addition, only non-hazardous chemicals are permitted. (See complaint 2). The Environmental Impact Assessment referred to in complaint 1 indicates very little concern from a few diesel engines running in a rural setting.
Studies from the US that have reported health effects have proved to be poor science, and many have been done by activists. Health authorities and other independent experts have rejected their conclusions.
It is again worthy of looking at the report on health and fracking that was carried out by Health Protection England, (HPE) who concluded.
‘The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated. Where potential risks have been identified in other countries, the reported problems are typically due to operational failure. Good on-site management and appropriate regulation of all aspects of exploratory drilling, gas capture as well as the use and storage of hydraulic fracturing fluid is essential to minimise the risks to the environment and health.
It has not been considered necessary to update any of the conclusions, as HPE reiterated their conclusions in the Lancashire County Council planning report referred to in complaint 1. (Pages 307 to 313 contain their comments on the reliability of oft claimed health impacts of fracking)
HPE also issued a warning that ‘Caution is required when extrapolating experiences in other countries to the UK since the mode of operation, underlying geology and regulatory environment are likely to be different’
Regards, Ken Wilkinson and Michael Roberts.