Why CPRE is opposed to fracking

Over recent months the CPRE Council for the Preservation of Rural England have gone in for the kill on fracking, with a (duplicitous) petition , various articles and here an article by their CEO in The Countryman

 

Chief Executive has a column in The Countryman. Here is a recent one on frackingji

 

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This is simply the usual anti-fracking woo which has permeated social media for the last few years. It is long on opinion and very short on evidence and reasoned argument.

Maybe CPRE has gone the way of Friends of the Earth – to keep their finances solvent?

I can understand why some people have concerns about fracking – and these need to be listened to with respect and answered with sound evidence. But CPRE have gone down the route of fakenews and scaremongering’

That is a great shame as their aim are excellent and much of what they strive to is likewise excellent and very necessary. I wonder if they will lose their good reputation. There is so much of rural England which needs preserving

here a few photos of some of my favorite spots in Northern England which need preserving, plus some peat degradation reminding us what needs to be put right

DSCF3172DSCF0118DSCF9119 (1)DSCF0376DSCF8775

 

CPRE are proud of this petition which has got 150,000 signatures, but its comparison of fracking and building a garden shed  is very much less than honest. I cannot see how a group like CPRE could do it if they have any integrity

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/don-t-fast-track-fracking

New government proposals are trying to force through fracking despite mass opposition.

Please drop measures to:

● Treat exploratory drilling as permitted development.
● Include fracking in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Regime.

Why is this important?

From The Yorkshire Moors, to Sherwood Forest, to the Fylde Coast, our countryside – and our democracy – is at risk.

The government has announced plans to streamline the planning process for fracking. If this goes ahead, it will be as easy to drill an exploration fracking well as it is to build a conservatory or erect a fence.

These plans are deeply undemocratic – they twist planning laws to give the government and fracking companies the power to override the will of local people – who have fought relentlessly to halt fracking at every turn.

These proposals could see scores of new drilling sites appear over the next couple of years in the English countryside – with the risk of untold environmental, landscape and climate impact.

This is the government taking desperate measures to make fracking happen and it’s up to us to stop the proposals before it’s too late.

 

They’ve  been going on about this and here is a long weekend read published in Drill or Drop, which I have interspersed with my comments

Weekend long read: The blueprint for fracking needs a rethink

(or why CPRE reckons fracking should be banned)

Weekend long read: The blueprint for fracking needs a rethink

Mark Robinson, Campaigns and Policy Assistant at Campaign to Protect Rural England, argues that radical changes are needed to national planning policy to prevent the threat

He needs to spell out the threat and give evidence why it is a threat.

of fracking to the countryside and the communities who live and enjoy it.

“The issue is the guidance“, said Jim Cameron of CPRE Cheshire, as I asked about his experiences grappling with the local decision-making over hydraulic fracturing.

This was not the first time I’ve heard that, despite the substantive weight of opinion and evidence against fracking

Without any supporting references this is just pure assertion. If there is substantive weight then they must be loads of evidence. But what?

 

, operations were still being approved on the basis of guidelines that robustly defend the industry.

Really, the guidelines and regulations lay down all the predures fracking must follow and agree to follow to get permission. This allegation is empty as it gives no substance.

Having spoken to people across the CPRE Network, and hearing this same point reiterated time and time again, it’s clear that the national framework behind fracking policy is in need of an update.

The shale tide approaches
As a countryside charity, CPRE has been worried about the impacts of fracking since its first brief UK appearance in 2011. Unlike the US, fracking on a commercial scale in the UK would result in drills being constructed much closer to people’s homes.

He has not been to the USA where houses can be 50 yards from a fracking pad as here in Pennsylvania.

Closer proximity of wells to nearby communities increases their risk of exposure to water contaminated by the process

Unless the water is from a local well, it cannot be contaminated as most comes from reservoirs miles away AND fracking is not allowed where an aquifer is used for drinking water. He is simply misinformed at this point and does not know where domestic/industrial water comes from.

 

, health issues

Does he mean the discredited first edition of the Medact report o 2015? The second edition could give no hard evidence

In fact in 2016 Medact admitted there was no data to link the many studies with any health effects, even in the US. The chemicals cited are simply not permitted in the UK anyway. If you can explain to me how Climate Change is within the remit of a UK public health body I would be interested to see that explanation. Quite simply it isnt.
Medact 2016 stated
‘Based on current evidence it is not possible to conclude that there is a strong association between shale gas related pollution and negative local health effects.’ So even Medact have retracted all their daft claims from 2015. https://www.medact.org/…/shale-gas-production-in-england/

and seismic tremors

Again he seems not to understand seismicity whether natural or that induced by fracking.

, from an industry that continues to prove resistant to regulation.

This is a very dangerous allegation. It is irresponsible if not libellous, for CPRE to make such allegations.

It can only be described as a double whammy that fracking would also stall the UK’s efforts to tackle climate change

This ignores/rejects the argument held by many including Lord Deben of the DCC that fracked gas actually reduces emissions

, the biggest threat of all to the countryside.

Despite these concerns, fracking companies are pushing through their expansion plans with vigour. Just last month, INEOS shale won the right to take the National Trust to the High Court over its refusal to allow seismic testing in Clumber Park estate. INEOS has also taken advantage of government-granted special treatment

This he needs to state, otherwise it is simply scaremongering. What is the Special Treatment?

by appealing for ministers to decide applications which the company felt councils were taking too long to approve.

While companies claim to let communities have a say, local opinion turns out only to be valid when it aligns with that of the applicant.

He needs to give evidence for this assertion, which is a very serious one.

Local opposition is instead mostly met with appeals and injunctions, as the industry turns to a pro-shale government to bypass the democratic process.

He needs to ascertain what the local opposition is, whether it is truly representative of the local population. It is not in Lancashire. Further as with Cuadrilla in Lancs the democratic process was not bypassed as applicants for planning permission have the democratic right to appeal to central government. In fact Ridley’s coal mine was turned down by central govt.

Local authorities are increasingly fighting against these aggressive industry tactics with any available tools at their disposal.

Again, he must give evidence for this and not make an unsubstantiated assertion

Planning guidance offers little substance for councils seeking to oppose fracking applications, so planning committees are making do with whatever they can use.

 

In Derbyshire, councillors voted last month to position themselves against INEOS’s shale gas exploration plans at Bramleymoor Lane on grounds of noise, traffic and impacts on the Green Belt. A week earlier, Rotherham borough council voted unanimously to stand against a similar INEOS application in Harthill, on wildlife and road safety grounds. Three weeks ago, Rotherham refused another application by INEOS for shale gas exploration due to potential wildlife harm and traffic impacts.

However cllrs in Yorks passed it at KM as they did for a potash mine

 

In their recent rejection of an IGas application, Cheshire West and Cheshire Council went one step further. Councillors employed their own local planning policy to claim that testing for a gas well did not address climate change or make the best use of renewable energy

They needs to be a clear argument here

. As Third Energy begins to take equipment off the Kirby Misperton site in Ryedale to deal with its scrutinised finances, North Yorkshire councils are defending a joint ‘minerals and waste plan’ with far stronger safeguards on fracking than the current regulatory landscape provides.

He needs to say why regulation is not sufficient

Yet local authorities can only go so far when the national guidance from which policy is developed favours fracking, given that the government is intent on a shale energy revolution

The primary source of guidance relied on by local government when making decisions on applications, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), is vague at best, and at worst outwardly pro-fracking.

According to Kate Atkinson in CPRE North Yorkshire, the industry is hanging largely onto one paragraph (144) in the NPPF to defend their applications, which states that local authorities should ‘give great weight to the benefits of mineral extraction’.

All people rely on the products of mineral exploration , whether from the UK or abroad, whether oil/gas, building materials, cement, various metals etc. This is tantamount to saying we should only import minerals – which will, of course, have environmental implications at the place of extraction and dire economic effects in Britain.  This is airy-fairy idealistic thinking, detached from a world where people need feeding , housing and given a reasonable standard of life.

Kate pointed out, quite rightly, that there is no indication that this ‘great weight’ designation is any more important than others, such as the ‘great weight’ given to conserving the landscape and scenic beauty of AONBs, National Parks, and designated heritage assets.

This is woffle and incorrect. It also ignores the fact that most National Parks and AONBs have been exploited for minerals both in the past and the present.

Furthermore, paragraph 144 also states that local authorities should,

“ensure, in granting planning permission for mineral development, that there are no unacceptable adverse impacts on the natural and historic environment, human health or aviation safety, and take into account the cumulative effect of multiple impacts from individual sites and/or from a number of sites in a locality.”

The key words are “unacceptable adverse impacts” This quote shows that any decision is made by balancing conflicting demands.

But much of this is put to one side as planning officers frequently conclude in their recommendations that approval of shale gas exploration or extraction would not compromise any of the above considerations. Clearly, the paragraph is being interpreted as one where fracking takes precedent.

This assertion needs substantial evidence or else it is blackening the character of planning officers. Note in 2015 Stuart Perigo Planning Officer for Lancashire was pilloried for his report and recommendations. His reports were thorough and balanced and not always palatable to Cuadrilla.

The lack of attention given to climate change in the NPPF is an equally serious issue.
Any fracking operations, currently or soon-to-be approved, have been permitted despite the legitimate weight of evidence claiming that shale oil or gas extraction would be incompatible with the UK’s legally-binding climate change targets – let alone the even stricter targets of the Paris Agreement.

At best there is a division of opinion whether fracking is incompatible with climate change targets. The author needs to acknowledge rather than showing his bias.

 

Kia Trainor, of CPRE Sussex, pointed out how this leads to a burgeoning gap between political rhetoric and policy reality. The government’s new ‘clean growth’ narrative directly contradicts the NPPF’s prioritisation of energy security and the economic benefits of fracking above threats to the climate.

Sweeping statements made without justification

Infrastructure Act

Supporting these NPPF recommendations is a spate of new legal instruments and policy statements Westminster has rolled out since 2013, with the intention of fast-tracking fracking applications through the planning system. Among them is a weak and vague definition of fracking that provides ample opportunity to evade regulations and scrutiny. Fracking is defined in the Infrastructure Act 2015 by the amount of fluid used at each stage of the process – any operations under these amounts can avoid regulatory safeguards such as, independent well inspection and well sealing after use.

As fracking as a process is carried out in a variety of ways it is difficult to give one definition. Extraction from a vertical well in tight gas is “fracking” as is horizontal wells in shale . This shows that so-called horizontal HVHF can use less fluid than an older more “conventional” fracking.

https://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2014/5131/pdf/sir2014-5131.pdf#

Yet these definitions would not have even covered the activity that caused the Preese Hall earthquake

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in 2011 that led to a temporary fracking moratorium. Neither would it cover 43% of US wells between 2000-2010 – a country famed for its lack of regulatory safeguards.

Exactly – it is the danger of a definition. Further he should be aware due to his employment that regulations in the USA heve been tightened up.

 

Furthermore, fracking currently defined is allowing dubious activities such as acidisation in the Weald Basin to be classed as ‘conventional’ extraction by operators, despite the very similar risks associated with this activity to those presented by fracking.

“acidisation” has been carried out for over a century. It is also used to clean out water boreholes in aquifers!

Such issues require a much broader definition of fracking and the threats it poses to climate change and public health.

This is such a vague statement lacking any substance. It will convince some opposed to fracking but fails to give any evidence

Return of the planners
If we want to change the game, we need to change the rules by which it’s played.

The revised NPPF, currently out for consultation, pushes the case for fracking even further by calling on local authorities to

“recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons… and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction”.

This is hugely concerning for those already struggling to repel fracking applications using a planning system weighted against them. As a result, the NPPF consultation is perhaps the last opportunity available to call for a more balanced interpretation of the risks and benefits that fracking presents.

The good news is that we have the tools in our hands to get the changes required. Government policy is swinging drastically away from its previously robust pursuit of fracking. The recent Clean Growth Strategy doesn’t mention the controversial technique at all, and a new climate change minister is placing enormous effort into getting the UK back on the international stage as a climate leader. Such a change in government narrative provides ample opportunity to argue, in response to the revised NPPF, that planning guidelines must contain a much healthier consideration of climate change,

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communities and the local environmental impact of controversial activities such as fracking. Indeed, such a change might deliver a decisive blow to an industry which, until now, has enjoyed undue privileges from government despite a torrent of public opposition.

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The ultimate tool we need in this campaign though is our own agency – a self-belief that we can make a difference. The planning committees referred to above, where fracking was decisively rejected, were full to the brim of local people, many of whom spoke one after another with a persuasive combination of individual experience and robust knowledge of the elements of planning policy that would be infringed by such an application being approved.

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It was uplifting to hear Andy Tickle of CPRE South Yorkshire explain how they had been providing help to individuals seeking advice on the planning system, and how they are soon to host training on public inquiries, with many coming up this year.

Andy also told me how inspired he had been by the mobilisation of communities that had previously not been involved in campaigning:

“In 15 years of working here, I’ve never seen so much anger against a threat to the countryside.”

It was encouraging to hear how CPRE had been engaging with this, whether through drafting objections to fracking applications, mobilising communities to engage in the planning system and forming wide coalitions that sees multiple interests unite in opposition to an unwanted industry.

I hope this momentum will continue this year as many big decisions are made on the future of fracking, and with it our countryside, under threat from a dangerous and unnecessary activity with no economic, social or environmental licence.

Mark Robinson works primarily on energy, infrastructure and climate change. His role is part of a graduate scheme established by CPRE in 2016

Perhaps CPRE need to improve their mentoring of graduates

to support graduates and young workers to get a foothold in the environmental sector. Mark holds an MSc in Environmental Sustainability from the University of Edinburgh and a BA (Hons) in Geography from Lancaster University.
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