Tag Archives: frackademic

Fracturing democracy? State, fracking and local democracy in Lancashire



At a meeting with anti-fracking lectures in Preston last night – 30th August 2016, Anna Szolucha gave a lecture on the impact of the fracking saga on the communities of the Fylde.

R Hayhurst gave a summary about it and comments from various people.


Some couldn’t find an electronic copy but here is a copy of a another paper of hers on Fylde fracking taken from the Univ of Bergen website. The actual paper given was far longer but this gives a flavour of her arguments. The paper given at Preston is entitled “The Human Dimension of Shale Gas Developments in Lancashire”

Rather than intersperse my own comment I give the paper “neat” without comment. I may add I have a draft of a paper on the history of gas exploration on the Fylde dealing with same issues but with different conclusions.

It is up to you, dear reader, to make your own mind up 🙂


Fracturing democracy? State, fracking and local democracy in Lancashire

* Anna Szolucha**

After an unusually hot spring, another heatwave hits Lancashire and all of Britain in late June. As scattered clouds are lazily rolling over the magnificent red-brick structure of county hall in Preston, a large group of protesters with sunburnt necks and shoulders are clustering round near the Pitt Street entrance, trying to escape the sizzling heat in the semi-shade of a line of young chestnut trees. To the accompaniment of a gigantic, blue barrell-turned-drum, the colourful gathering breaks into a chant: “Frack free Lancashire, frack free planet!”

On the 25th and 29th June 2015, Lancashire County Councillors decided to refuse permission for two fracking applications by Cuadrilla: in Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road, Little Plumpton. This follows a long campaign and a lot of arduous work by numerous local residents’ groups, environmental organisations as well as campaigns such as Frack Free Lancashire, among others. Outside the county chamber, the announcement of the votes is greeted by loud cheering that is soon eclipsed by tears of joy and friendly hugs. The outcome is an unprecedented victory for the local residents and their self-organising as well as the local democratic process that involves parish, borough and county councils. It also comes as a definite blow to the national government’s stated interest in “going all out for shale” in the UK. Given this controversial priority, I look at how democracy has fared in the country since it declared that around 60% of its land would be available for fracking companies to licence.

In late June 2015, the Development Control Committee at Lancashire County Council, who determined the decisions, were under a lot of pressure because the legal advice provided to the Councillors seemed to leave them no choice but to approve the application for Preston New Road (PNR) lest the Council and the people of Lancashire foot the bill when Cuadrilla appeal the decision. Ultimately, an alternative legal opinion was sought and provided to the Councillors and, after a unanimous vote to refuse permission to frack at Roseacre Wood a few days earlier, the Councillors felt there were also sufficient grounds to reject the PNR application.

The results of the votes clearly diverge from the recurrently short-sighted policy-making and technocratic narratives that characterise much of the global and national discussion about the future of resource extraction and energy production. The Council did not cave in to financial pressures and the discourse that portrays fracking as a matter of an overriding national interest.

The process, however, has also made something else plain clear; it confirmed that the agenda of resource extraction, energy production and their impact on climate change cannot be surrendered entirely to political representatives and industry. What is missing in their approach is a true and sustained commitment to an open dialogue about the systemic issues surrounding the future of energy as well as the future of democracy.

The worrying trend is that even at the level of the county council – where the planning process comes into contact with local representative democracy1 – the grounds for refusing permission for fracking are thoroughly disappointing from a democratic point of view. The permission to frack in * Another version of this text was published on OpenDemocracy.net on 28th July 2015 [link to the article]. ** The article is based on a research project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 657039. 1 PNR was refused on the grounds of noise and visual impact. The application for fracking in Roseacre Wood was rejected because of the potentially severe impact of the planned development on the road networks. The permissions were refused not because of the adverse impact of fracking on human health or climate change or the fact that there were thousands of objection letters and many more petition signatures that were submitted in relation to the two applications.2 It is obvious that the focus of the planning system should be on the considerations about what constitutes an acceptable use of land so I do not argue that the Development Control Committee should have a responsibility to take into account all kinds of possible objections to fracking. I do argue, however, that outside of the Committee, there is insufficient room for citizens to exercise their democratic right to make decisions about what sort of development they would like to have in their locality and which energy sources offer best chances for ensuring a better common future. What happened in Lancashire is not an exception but a symptom of an increasingly problematic relation between state, fracking and democracy, understood not solely as a rule of periodically elected representatives but as an ability of people to govern themselves and make direct decisions about their communities. The positive outcome in Lancashire is undoubtedly a result of the local residents’ perseverance in mastering the welter of legal regulations and precedents which they skilfully utilised to make and defend their case. They also raised a host of other relevant topics that should be a matter for democratic debate such as issues of climate justice and the influence of corporate interests on politics. None of these concerns, however, could be brought to bear on the Committee’s decisions. In effect, fracking in Lancashire (and the UK) may be and has been framed and viewed as a problem of and for planning systems. Rarely is it debated as something that has real consequences for people, communities and democracy. Meanwhile, fracking has been at least temporarily banned in states such as France, Germany, Bulgaria or the New York State where some democratic discussion about it has taken place. In the UK, on the other hand, many see the fracking objective to be the driving force behind the rewriting of some of the most important laws. Below I am listing a few examples of the scope of controversial pressures and recent changes to the legislation. I am paying particular attention to those of its provisions that appear to be designed in ways that help evade different forms of popular democratic contestation and reinforce persistent inequalities between various stakeholders.

 Localism Act, 2011. The Localism Act was supposed to devolve some powers from the central government levels to local representative bodies. It introduced a new requirement for developers to consult local communities in the pre-planning stage – before they submit their applications. As part of their engagement with the community, Cuadrilla has also established a special community liaison group in Roseacre where representatives of the company, their consulting engineers and local residents have met fairly regularly. Necessarily however, the meetings did not offer room for debating whether or not the development should take place but were overwhelmed by discussions about technical parameters, measurements and designs, where experts’ role was to reassure the residents about the safety of the development or advise on the appropriate mitigation measures. Quite paradoxically given its name, the Localism Act has also given government ministers responsibility for making decisions about nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs). When a development gains the status of the NSIP, it can move ahead even without local consent. The government has already added the highly controversial nuclear waste storage facilities to the list of NSIPs so it is clear why many are afraid that fracking might 2 become the next NSIP. There is also another, less apparent, side to the status of an NSIP. International experience with strategic oil pipelines, for example, shows that all projects that are declared to be in the national interest of a state tend to be heavily policed and their “defence” against real or perceived threats becomes securitised. A very early foretaste of what this might entail could be seen even during the protests in front of County Hall in Preston. In addition to the usual police presence, the colourful and peaceful gathering of local residents was policed with the help of Metropolitan police, at least three vans of the operational support unit and a private security company with multistage security checks inside the County Hall.

 Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act, 2014.

The Act has been dubbed the “gagging law” as it places substantial burdens on the ability of NGOs, charities and other organisations to campaign on issues of legitimate concern during an election period. In contrast, there is no parallel restriction that would apply to lobbyists representing vested corporate interests. Cuadrilla’s consultant lobbyist – Hannover Communications International Ltd.3 which boasts about its unconventional oil and gas portfolio to span from Shell and Valero to Cuadrilla and Tamboran Resources – is, therefore, let off the hook to lobby whenever it sees fit.

 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, 2014.

The Act introduced new dispersal powers where a police inspector may issue an authorisation to disperse for a period of up to 48 hours with an immediate effect, replacing an earlier requirement to consult with a local council to designate a dispersal zone in advance. This may have a potential impact on the policing of protest in the UK.

 George Osborne’s letter dated 24 September 2014 (revealed January 2015).

The Chancellor sent a letter to his cabinet colleagues (Committee on Economic Affairs) urging them to fast-track fracking, making the rapid progress on the issue their personal priority as well as responding to some requests from Cuadrilla. The letter also shows government’s commitment to full exploration and plans to centralise regulation by moving to a single national regulator once production is under way.

 Infrastructure Act, 2015. T

he Act introduces a political definition of fracking as a process that involves more than 1,000 cubic meters of fluid per stage or more than 10,000 cubic meters of fluid in total. These quantities are less than what was used in the fracked well at Preese Hall, Lancashire and less than what has been used in some wells in the United States. If the law had been enacted before the operation at Preese Hall4 began, legally speaking, it would not constitute fracking. The Act also changes trespass laws for underground drilling access. It grants drilling companies automatic access rights to use deep-level land (below 300m) in any way for the purposes of exploiting petroleum, including passing through, putting in and keeping any substance in deep-level land. Since fracking uses horizontal drilling, this means that companies can drill under anybody’s land without their permission or compensation. The Department of Energy and Climate Change played down objections to the proposal raised during the consultation stage as mainly campaign texts and moved ahead despite popular opposition. Finally, the Act forces the government to assume the economic objective of drilling corporations as its own national objective since the law obligates all future governments to maximise the economic recovery of UK petroleum (and hence, oil and gas extraction). This is at odds with the UK’s climate change legislation as well as its international commitments to become a low carbon economy. 3  Environment Agency opens a Standard Rules Consultation, March 2015. New standard rules, generic risk assessment and waste management plan are proposed for onshore oil and gas activities at exploratory wells. The stated aims of the proposal are to generate a positive financial impact on business as well as saving time and money.  Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs report on fracking, July 2015. After a Freedom-of-Information request, an un-redacted version of the report on the impact of fracking on rural economy is revealed. The covering note added to the report states that it is a draft literature review for internal use only and that it is based on assumptions that are not supported by appropriate evidence. The full report, however, demonstrates that the previous, heavily redacted, version left out significant chunks about potentially negative impacts of fracking – in the name of not letting early thinking close down discussion. The above list looks rather pessimistic when it comes to the prospects of ensuring that debate about fracking is a level playing field for everybody. More democratic debate and decision-making, however, is crucial if we care about the human dimensions of fracking that are currently being obscured in planning jargon and discourses. If democracy (not only locally and nationally but also internationally) is about putting the interest in real effects on vulnerable populations on the front burner, then we need to talk openly about the consequences that the dash for unconventional gas has had and is likely to have on democracy. A gradual taking away of citizens’ rights in times of intensified popular mobilisation is not a new phenomenon; it is well-known to students and researchers of social movements. The pace of this process in the UK, however, has been staggering. Legislation that rules much of the fracking activity has been passed over a period of just two years and many potential challenges associated with anti-fracking campaigning, protest, trespass litigation etc. have been removed, bolstering industry confidence in the eventual success of their ventures. As a result, the persistent gap between citizens’ rights on the one hand and industry and state resources on the other, has widened even further.

Moreover, the local resident groups in Lancashire have been boxed in by the planning system and national narratives that have redefined what constitutes a reasonable concern and a relevant objection to fracking. With no room for a robust democratic debate about fracking, the planning procedure carefully selects which objections are valid and which are not. Citizens’ attempts to gain an authoritative voice on the social impact of fracking run up against a wall of technical regulations and undue pressures from politicians. To be sure, this is not an exclusively British problem. Global climate change is also seen as a technology or economic problem that can be solved by geoengineering and appropriate trade systems. Climate change is not necessarily automatically seen as an environmental or social justice issue and its human side is largely secondary. As the protesters in Lancashire chanted, however, frack free Lancashire does not mean much without a frack free planet. This does raise important moral and democratic questions about vulnerability, inequality and best models of democracy. The potential consequences of fracking go beyond road destruction, noise pollution and change in landscape; they extend beyond Lancashire. The impacts of climate change tend to be distributed unequally across different regions and different parts of the population. And it is the protesters that are bringing all of these aspects of fracking to the forefront by challenging embedded assumptions and asking tough questions about responsibility and the necessary scales for 4 meaningful action.


What lessons can be drawn from the anti-fracking struggle in Lancashire? It is clear that with great courage and perseverance, it is still possible to challenge the system and win even when one is playing by its rules. It is important to be able to do that because it ultimately achieves what it is supposed to achieve – at least for the time being. As the above overview of the recent legislation shows, however, rules can be changed quite quickly, after scant democratic debate and with little regard for public opposition. Are there then any vulnerabilities of this system that local groups could use to their advantage when they are striving to live with clean water, air and land not as luxurious commodities but as part of a healthy and equal planet? They can definitely set up their own democratically-run renewable energy initiatives. In addition to providing clean energy, this would also insert the issues of democracy and responsibility for climate change into the national and local discourses as well as producing positive global effects. Instead of letting fracking and state policies fracture it, local communities can play a vital role in repowering democracy in and beyond the UK. 5


1 Before the applications at Roseacre and PNR, Cuadrilla applied for planning permissions at seven other locations in Lancashire. Five of them (decided between 2009 and 2011) never went to a relevant committee. Instead they were decided by a delegated chief officer.
2 Although not evident in the formal process, they did make the case of local groups opposed to fracking stronger
3 The company works also for such clients as: Goldman Sachs, Allianz, Microsoft, Sky plc as well as several pharmaceutical concerns.
4 In 2011, Cuadrilla’s activities at Preese Hall triggered two tremors and put a temporary halt to fracking in the UK.

Dangers of ideological purity on fossil fuels and climate change

I get fed up with the Green litany that renewables are possible now when they are not. It is fine if you are ideological and are either load loaded like a luvvie or too obsessed to realise, but it is simply not pragmatic and will be a disaster rather than a solution.

Here Nick Grealy in his usual way makes the case against ideological fanatics.

I have , of course, nicked it from


(Many of the articles from Natural Gas Now are good)

Purists vs. Problem Solvers, As Shale Revolution Changes All

LNG - Nick Grealy ReportsNick Grealy
Administrator of NaturalGas2.0NoHotAir and ShaleGasInfo Blogs


While the shale revolution offers to make real environmental differences and solve real problems, ideologically blinded purists demand 100% solutions.

The US shale revolution is now going global via LNG. Countries that formerly would have chosen coal for power generation are now going gas.

“There are markets like Bangladesh and Pakistan where traditionally they would have gone with coal but now gas can be the cheaper option once you include the cost of new infrastructure,” LeLong of Goldman said. “You are seeing these energy poor countries often with poor credit ratings turning to LNG.”

shale revolution

While China and India are the two carbon monsters in Asia, there are many smaller ones also doing the math about coal and gas and finding gas wins on cost, pollution and infrastructure.  Coal was the default option for years. but we’re seeing smaller markets embrace  natural gas as in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka will cancel plans for a 500 megawatt Indian-built coal-fired power plant at its strategic eastern port city of Trincomalee and will instead opt for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plant, a cabinet minister said late on Tuesday.

“We do not want to hurt India. So President Sirisena in his visit has offered an LNG plant instead of the coal plant,” Weerakkody told Reuters. “This has been discussed at the highest level and there is consensus.”

The Philippines provides another example:

Royal Dutch Shell plc and France’s Total S.A. made moves earlier this year revealing their interests to progress plans for LNG terminals in the Philippines, where demand for the clean fuel has been crimped by a lack of LNG receiving options.

Vietnam is booming, but they too are looking at gas instead of coal:

Vietnam’s 2016-2025 gas development plan, which was approved by the government earlier this week, gives priority to LNG imports and cutting LPG imports eyeing higher domestic output instead.

In short, the shale revolution is providing clean and affordable energy that will not only slow carbon emissions but put them into reverse.

shale revolution

Yet, in the US,  environmentalists are fighting gas export infrastructure. Sandra Steingraber has been active in fighting fracking in the US and now wants to expand it to gas export infrastructure

Wearing blue and carrying banners from past civil disobedience blockades, the Seneca Lake defenders—many of whom had been previously arrested in actions to stop gas storage in underground lakeside salt caverns—attracted considerable attention from marchers from other grassroots groups who were fighting fossil fuel infrastructure projects that were threatening their own communities. These include pipelines, compressor stations, LNG export facilities, oil trains and new gas power plants.

Yet, US environmentalists cite their fight as a global one too:

“Climate change is already causing conflicts and crises around the world, from Louisiana to Syria. We need to make giant leaps towards a clean energy economy and put an end to the vicious cycle of dirty wars, climate refugees and reliance on dirty energy,” Alesha Vega of the Coalition for Peace Action said.

The US shale revolution is not slowing down the path towards carbon reduction from green power or efficiency at home.  It won’t happen in Europe, where we see coal disappearing off the UK system for days at a time as huge wind projects also come on line.

Simply put there is room for everyone. It’s bizarre that Food and Water Watch, et al seek 100% solutions worldwide by wanting to either ban US fracking or prevent it’s export.  The gas industry constantly points out that renewables have either nothing to fear from gas or should be welcomed by carbon reduction advocates. We’re not proposing 100% solutions. Why are they?

Fracking causes Asthma!!! Or does it?

Well, fracking causes terrible problems and the latest scare story is that it causes asthma. This has appeared on the Boots medical website citing an American study.




It even appears on the UK local government site.


It has gone semi-viral on anti-fracking sites, but it is yet another spurious peer-reviewed paper on the health effects of frackinjg

The article is published in the prestigious JAMA – Journal of the American Medical Association. (I first came across this as in the 90s they published a paper arguing Darwin had panic attacks and agoraphobia. Seeing he wandered around Snowdonia when ill in 1842, it seems unlikely he had the latter. JAMA ignored my response, but no one with agoraphobia could visit Cwm Idwal in 1842DSCF7213

Here is the article



the abstract sums the content of the paper and how

Residential UNGD( aka Fracking) activity metrics were statistically associated with increased risk of mild, moderate, and severe asthma exacerbations. Whether these associations are causal awaits further investigation, including more detailed exposure assessment.

This sounds serious but the actual conclusion says;

Asthma is a common disease with large individual and societal burdens, so the possibility that UNGD may increase risk for asthma exacerbations requires public health attention.

This is hardly a firm conclusion as it is only a possiblitiy.


Importance  Asthma is common and can be exacerbated by air pollution and stress. Unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) has community and environmental impacts. In Pennsylvania, UNGD began in 2005, and by 2012, 6253 wells had been drilled. There are no prior studies of UNGD and objective respiratory outcomes.

Objective  To evaluate associations between UNGD and asthma exacerbations.

Design  A nested case-control study comparing patients with asthma with and without exacerbations from 2005 through 2012 treated at the Geisinger Clinic, which provides primary care services to over 400 000 patients in Pennsylvania. Patients with asthma aged 5 to 90 years (n = 35 508) were identified in electronic health records; those with exacerbations were frequency matched on age, sex, and year of event to those without.

Exposures  On the day before each patient’s index date (cases, date of event or medication order; controls, contact date), we estimated activity metrics for 4 UNGD phases (pad preparation, drilling, stimulation [hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”], and production) using distance from the patient’s home to the well, well characteristics, and the dates and durations of phases.

Main Outcomes and Measures  We identified and defined asthma exacerbations as mild (new oral corticosteroid medication order), moderate (emergency department encounter), or severe (hospitalization).

Results  We identified 20 749 mild, 1870 moderate, and 4782 severe asthma exacerbations, and frequency matched these to 18 693, 9350, and 14 104 control index dates, respectively. In 3-level adjusted models, there was an association between the highest group of the activity metric for each UNGD phase compared with the lowest group for 11 of 12 UNGD-outcome pairs: odds ratios (ORs) ranged from 1.5 (95% CI, 1.2-1.7) for the association of the pad metric with severe exacerbations to 4.4 (95% CI, 3.8-5.2) for the association of the production metric with mild exacerbations. Six of the 12 UNGD-outcome associations had increasing ORs across quartiles. Our findings were robust to increasing levels of covariate control and in sensitivity analyses that included evaluation of some possible sources of unmeasured confounding.

Conclusions and Relevance  Residential UNGD activity metrics were statistically associated with increased risk of mild, moderate, and severe asthma exacerbations. Whether these associations are causal awaits further investigation, including more detailed exposure assessment.

Asthma is a common disease with large individual and societal burdens, so the possibility that UNGD may increase risk for asthma exacerbations requires public health attention. As ours is the first study to our knowledge of UNGD and objective respiratory outcomes, and several other health outcomes have not been investigated to date, there is an urgent need for more health studies. These should include more detailed exposure assessment to better characterize pathways and to identify the phases of development that present the most risk.

The article seems quite impressive but the devil is in the details or rather the map they provide to demonstrate their claims. This shows the occurrence of spudded wells and the incidence of asthma. They show the area covered with recorded incidence of asthma and then colour-coded numbers of patients with asthma.

Dark blue means the highest incidence and thus should coincide with greatest number of wells. Oh dear! They do not as the highest number of wells coincides with low incidence of asthma!

Apart from the fact that authors did not consider other causes of asthma – air pollution, smoking, obesity etc , the map simply does not support their claims, which are assertion-based rather than evidence-based.

Seth Whitehead deals with it more fully in his EID article cited below.



More and more dealing with anti-fracking claims is like dealing with creationism. all you need to do is a bit of simple checking with a moderate grasp of the science involved and the arguments crumble to dust (possibly carcinogenic or at least harmful).

Recently a prestigious peer-reviewed paper linking fracking to cancer was retracted  https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/fracking-will-give-you-cancer-not/

not to mention the embarrassing refusal of David Smythe’s geological paper https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/david-smythe-anti-fracking-geologist/

or MEDACT’s study guided by Mike Taylor https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/medacts-madact-on-fracking/ Medact have backed off and mostly emphasise climate change issues.

Yet we are told there are hundreds of peer-reviewed papers against fracking, but these are challenged  and often retracted.

Speaking sarcastically the biggest health risks of fracking are Stress-related illnesses due to scaremongering!



And also energy in depth give sound arguments why the paper is worthless.


Despite Provocative Headlines, New Pa. Study Fails to Link Fracking to Asthma

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Geisinger Health Systems have teamed up again to release another study of the potential impacts of oil and gas development in the Marcellus, this time focusing on exacerbations of asthma attacks. This new study claims those who live near shale gas wells are “1.5 to four times likelier to have asthma attacks than those who live far away.”

Just to provide some quick context, this is the same team of researchers who published a study claiming premature birthrates were higher in counties closest to shale wells, even though theywere right in line with the national premature birth rate. One of the researchers that stands out is Brian Schwartz, a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute which has called fracking a “virus.” Considering that background, it’s not surprising that, despite the fact that study after study, including data from the Environmental Protection Agency, has shown that fracking does not harm air quality, the researchers apparently started the study with the following preconceived (and debunked) assumption.

“UNGD has been associated with air quality and community social impacts. Psychosocial stress, exposure to air pollution, including from truck traffic, sleep disruption, and reduced socioeconomic status are all biologically plausible pathways for UNGD to affect asthma exacerbations.”

As the researchers likely intended, the study produced provocative headlines like “Health study shows connection between asthma attacks and gas drilling” even though it actually doesn’t show that and the authors openly admit that. Here are some important things to keep in mind when reading this study:

Fact #1: Authors admit they have no data to link asthma exacerbations to fracking

By comparing the electronic health records of 35,508 asthma patients “with and without exacerbations” treated at Geisinger Clinic between 2005 and 2012, the authors claim to have identified 20,749 mild asthma exacerbation instances (new oral corticosteroid medication order), 1,870 moderate (emergency department visit) and 4,782 severe (hospitalization) asthma exacerbations that they claim show an “association” to residential proximity to natural gas development.

“Association” is the key word in the latter sentence — the authors concede right off the bat they have no data to show causation attributable to shale development:

“Residential UNGD activity metrics were statistically associated with increased risk of mild, moderate, and severe asthma exacerbations. Whether these associations are causal awaits further investigation, including more detailed exposure assessment.” (pg. 1)

Reuters rightly reported that “The study doesn’t prove fracking causes asthma or makes symptoms worse.”

Fact #2: Data show counties with highest number of asthma sufferers have little to no shale development; Includes no data for Washington County, which has the most shale wells

One would think that if you were going to study whether fracking contributed to asthma exacerbations you could want to compare patients with exacerbations in counties with shale development to patients with exacerbations in counties without shale development. But the researchers didn’t do that. Instead, they only looked at whether patients with exacerbations lived near a shale well.

What’s more than a little interesting is the fact the areas researchers studied (outlined in the graphic below in gray) which had the highest concentrations of asthma sufferers have little no shale gas production. Energy In Depth has added the names of three high production counties — Bradford and Tioga, which were included in the study, and Washington County:

The above graphic shows that most of the counties with significant numbers of asthma patients have little to no shale gas production.

Curiously, the county with the most shale gas wells in the state, Washington County, wasn’t even included in the study. A vast majority of Geisinger’s patients reside in the counties highlighted in dark blue, each of which have little to no natural gas development.

So based on the graphic above, it is clear that a vast majority of the 35,000-plus asthma patients included in the evaluation live in areas with little-to-no development. Which begs the question: How relevant could the relatively small number of patients included in the study who reside close to natural gas wells be considering a vast majority of Pennsylvania residents who live in areas with shale development were not included in the study?

All of this brings us back to the question of why the researchers didn’t compare data county-by-county. For instance, although between just 21 and 63 Geisinger asthma patients live in Bradford County — which has the second-most shale wells as any county in the state — data comparing Bradford County asthma exacerbation rates with counties with no shale development might have given a better picture of whether there was an association. But maybe the data didn’t support the researchers’ narrative, and therefore wasn’t included in the study?

What’s more, not only were a vast majority of Pennsylvanians who actually live close to natural gas wells not included in the study, the researchers included 72 patients who reside in New York state, which has, of course, banned fracking.

Fact #3: Researchers admit severe exacerbations occurred in patients who smoked or were overweight – yet they still suggest it’s because of fracking

Not surprisingly, the researchers’ data revealed that smokers and people who were older or obese suffered the most severe asthma exacerbations:

“Compared with patients with mild and moderate exacerbations, patients with severe exacerbations were more likely to be female, older, current smokers, and obese.”

The fact that the researchers failed to prove causation isn’t surprising considering asthma has numerous triggers including airborne allergens, animal dander, mold, smoke, cockroaches and dust mites. According to the Mayo Clinic,

Exposure to various irritants and substances that trigger allergies (allergens) can trigger signs and symptoms of asthma. Asthma triggers are different from person to person and can include:

  • Airborne allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, mold, cockroaches and dust mites
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
  • Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
  • Cold air
  • Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
  • Certain medications, including beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen (Aleve)
  • Strong emotions and stress
  • Sulfites and preservatives added to some types of foods and beverages, including shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer and wine
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your throat

The researchers also concede that one of the study’s limitations is that it doesn’t consider what the patients’ occupations are, which could be major contributors to exacerbating their asthma.

Interestingly, in a recent radio interview, Dr. Theodore Them, the Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine for Guthrie Health Systems in Bradford County, Pa. noted that studies on shale often leave out the very crucial element of “confounders” as the authors here have done. As Dr. Them put it,

“And there can be confounders such as smoking habits, drinking habits, drug use that never get accounted for in these studies and cause people to come to the wrong conclusions.”  (28:36-30:09)

Fact #4: Multiple Pennsylvania studies have shown the oil and gas industry is not impacting air quality in areas of development.

Schwartz states in the study’s press release, “We are concerned with the growing number of studies that have observed health effects associated with this industry,” but it is more likely that he and his colleagues are actually concerned that there are numerous studies showing the opposite is true. Just to name a few:

  • A recent Pennsylvania report commissioned by Fort Cherry School District in southwest Pennsylvania actually examined air emissions at a nearby well site in Washington County — the state’s most active shale county — and “did not show anything remarkable with respect to chemicals detected in the ambient air. When volatile compounds were detected, they were consistent with background levels measured at the school and in other areas in Washington County. Furthermore, a basic yet conservative screening level evaluation shows that the detected volatile compounds were below health-protective levels.”
  • Another recent Marcellus study led by researchers at Drexel University found low levels of air emissions at well sites. As they explained, “we did not observe elevated levels of any of the light aromatic compounds (benzene, toluene, etc.)” and “there are few emissions of nonalkane VOCs (as measured by PTR-MS) from Marcellus Shale development.” Another Pennsylvania study by Professional Service Industries, Inc., commissioned by Union Township in Pennsylvania that found “Airborne gas and TVOC levels appear to have been at or near background levels for the entire monitoring periods in the three locations monitored.”
  • The Pa. DEP conducted air monitoring northeast Pennsylvania and concluded that the state “did not identify concentrations of any compound that would likely trigger air-related health issues associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities.” A similar report for southwestern Pennsylvania came to the same conclusion.
  • A peer-reviewed study looking at cancer incidence rates in several Pennsylvania counties found “no evidence that childhood leukemia was elevated in any county after [hydraulic fracturing] commenced.”

There are several more examples of studies using direct measurements finding low emissions throughout the country that the researchers apparently chose to ignore when making the stereotypical activist claim that, “Unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) has community and environmental impacts.”

Even studies conducted by fracking opponents have shown no elevated health risk near fracking sites, albeit after they garnered the desired headlines. A corrected version of a 2015 University of Cincinnati found that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emissions in Carroll County, Ohio, are well below levels deemed of concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The original retracted study exaggerated cancer risk by 725,000 percent due to what the researchers later claimed was an “honest calculation error.”

Fact #5: Improved U.S. air quality — courtesy of fracking — is actually reducing asthma

Not only does the Johns Hopkins asthma study dismiss the aforementioned Marcellus studies that have shown low emissions at well sites, it also ignores the fact that fracking is the No. 1 reason that three pollutants linked to asthma — nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) are all in rapid decline.

A recent study of the U.S.’s top 100 biggest power plants, which account for 85 percent of the country’s electricity, found that SO2 emissions are down 80 percent, while NOx emissions are down 75 percent. PM 2.5 levels decreased 60 percent from 2005 to 2013, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The reasons for these declines is obvious, considering power plants have traditionally been the biggest source of this pollution and power plants just happen to be shifting from coal to natural gas at a record pace. Natural gas emits one-third the nitrogen oxide as coal and just one percent of the sulfur oxide of coal, and the two pollutants combine to form PM 2.5.

Recent World Health Organization data indicates that the U.S. is reducing these air pollutants while much of the world continues to struggles, which WHO states contributes to increased risk of asthma and other health problems:

“As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.”

Ironically, the U.S.’s progress in improving air quality, thanks in large part to the Marcellus Shale, is perhaps most evident in New York, which has infamously banned fracking.

The “Big Apple” has the cleanest air in over 50 years, thanks to an increased use of natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid this out in a press release in 2013, stating:

“Today, because of the significant improvements in air quality, the health department estimates that 800 lives will be saved each year and approximately 1,600 emergency department visits for asthma and 460 hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular issues will be prevented every year. The City expects further improvements in air quality and the future health of all New Yorkers as buildings continue to convert to cleaner fuels over the next several years.”

In 2005-2007, it’s estimated that PM2.5 levels in New York City contributed to over 3,100 deaths, over 2,000 hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and 6,000 emergency department visits for asthma annually.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has also developed a factsheet that explains how natural gas reduces asthma attacks:

“This shift has also yielded significant public health benefits, avoiding thousands of premature deaths and more than 100,000 asthma attacks in 2015 alone.”

So, even assuming for a moment that the Johns Hopkins study’s “association” of asthma exacerbation could actually be proven as causal, it is clear that shale development has done far more to reduce asthma and other troublesome ailments than it has done to make them more prevalent.

Fact #6: Study conducted and funded by fracking opponents

We have to give Schwartz some credit: after producing numerous studies that fail to disclose that he’s a fellow at the anti-fracking Post Carbon Institute (something EID has brought to lightwith his previous studies) he finally disclosed that fact in this latest study:

“Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Schwartz is a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute (PCI), serving as an informal advisor on climate, energy, and health issues. He receives no payment for this role. His research is entirely independent of PCI and is not motivated, reviewed, or funded by PCI. No other disclosures are reported.”

The study also received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: at least three of itsboard members are also on the board of World Wildlife Fund, which has made it clear that it is, “against the use of fracking to extract shale gas – or any other ‘unconventional’ fuels – from the ground.”

The study also used satellite data from Skytruth, a group that is against hydraulic fracturing and indeed all industrial activity. Skytruth is funded by numerous anti-fracking groups, including the Tides Foundation, Greenpeace, Oceana and the Heinz Endowments.


The researchers claim this study “adds to a growing body of evidence tying the fracking industry to health concerns.” Problem is, the study — and many others like it — actually doesn’t have any evidence to prove causation, while numerous studies that actually provide real evidence that fracking is reducing asthma throughout the U.S. continue to be overlooked.

This further blog continues the hatchet job.
This map from a PA state survey puts the knife in further.

More details in this extensive paper.



When will the paper be retracted?

Fracking will give you CANCER – not

Among the many alleged heath risks of fracking are that will give you cancer


So says Talkfracking and many others .  Fracking is so clearly worse than smoking for giving you cancer.


This was clearly demonstrated by this paper by American academics

Impact of Natural Gas Extraction on PAH Levels in Ambient Air

Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, United States
College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, United States
§ Department of Environmental Health, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45267, United States
Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015, 49 (8), pp 5203–5210



And thus is cited as one of the many studys on why fracking is bad for health by FrackOff

Frackoff retract

Now this means fracking should be banned!

But, oh, Whooops!! The paper has just been retracted for mathematical errors meaning that the cancer risk was vastly exaggerated. and here is the embarrassing notice of retraction




And here is a discussion of what was wrong



Corrected UC Fracking Study Shows Retracted Original Exaggerated Cancer Risk by 725,000 Percent

Prior to being retracted last month due to what researchers called “honest calculation errors,” a 2015 University of Cincinnati study on the effects of shale development in Carroll County, Ohio, suggested “natural gas extraction may be contributing significantly to PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon emissions) in the air, at levels that are relevant to human health.”

That assessment led to alarmist headlines, such as Newsweek’s “Fracking Could Increase Risk of Cancer, New Study Finds,” But it turns out that the corrected version, posted this week, has reached the exact opposite conclusion:

“This work suggests that natural gas extraction is contributing PAHs to the air, at levels that would not be expected to increase cancer risk.”

In fact, the researchers’ “honest calculation errors” in the original study led to an exaggeration in the cancer risk from PAH emissions in Carroll County by an astounding 7,250 times what the corrected study shows they actually are. The following graphics from the original and corrected study pretty much tell the tale.

PAH Comparison-Original_edited

PAH Comparison-CORRECTED (2)_edited

The first graphic illustrates the original study. The blue, green and yellow bars on the left of the graph indicate emissions at the well sites (close, middle distance and far away from natural gas wells) while the purple bars on the right are supposed to indicate emission levels detected in similar studies conducted in urban areas such as Chicago, as well as a refinery in Belgium and a pair of oil spill sites. The original study showed PAH levels in Carroll County at 330, 240, and 210 ng/m3, respectively, for each the three study groups, which were much higher than levels in urban areas and refineries.

But the second graphic, which is the corrected graphic, shows that PAH levels were actually 1.2, 0.94, and 0.97 ng/m3 in each of the study groups. These readings are far below all the comparable studies it cited and more than 20,000 percent lower than what the original study reported.

Most notably, the corrected study shows that PAH emission levels are well below the level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says would increase risk of cancer — the complete opposite of what the original study claimed. Amazingly, the original study exaggerated the cancer risk 725,000 percent what it actually is, based on the researchers’ revised data.

Let’s take a look at the most notable data corrections from the retracted study to the corrected study, with the first three examples concerning cancer risk.

Original Study Claim: “Closest to active wells, the (cancer) risk estimated for maximum residential exposure was 2.9 in 10,000, which is above EPA’s acceptable risk level.”

Corrected Study: “At sites closest to active wells, the risk estimated for maximum residential exposure was 0.04 in a million, which is below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’ s acceptable risk level.”


Original Study Claim: “This suggests that the maximum exposure scenario would produce risk levels above the U.S. EPA’s acceptable range. Thus, PAH mixtures in areas heavily impacted by NGE may have higher than acceptable cancer risk increases as exposure moves closer to an active NGE well.”

Corrected Study: “None of the estimated ELCRs (excess lifetime cancer risk) were above one in a million, which is the conservative end of the range that the U.S. EPA considers acceptable. Thus, NGE in this study did not appear to emit PAH levels into air that would elevate carcinogenic risk associated with inhalation.”


Original Study Claim: “For the maximum residential exposure scenario of 24 h/day, estimated excess lifetime cancer risk (ELCR) decreases from 290 to 200 in a million when moving from the close to far group. For the minimal residential exposure scenario of 1 h/day, estimated ELCR decreases from 12 to 8.1 in a million when moving from the close to far group. The outdoor worker scenario was also calculated to approximate exposures working outside amidst NGE activity, such as farming or working on NGE wells. For this scenario, estimated ELCR decreases from 59 to 50 in a million when moving from the close to far group.”

Corrected Study: “For the maximum residential exposure scenario of 24 h/day, the estimated excess lifetime cancer risk (ELCR) decreases from 0.040 to 0.027 in a million when moving from the close to far group. For the minimal residential exposure scenario of 1 h/ day, the estimated ELCR decreases from 0.0017 to 0.0011 in a million when moving from the close to far group. The outdoor worker scenario was also calculated to approximate exposures working outside amidst NGE activity, such as farming or working on NGE wells. For this scenario, the estimated ELCR decreases from 0.0082 to 0.0055 in a million when moving from the close to far group…”

Essentially, the revised study completely contradicts a claim by study co-author Kim Anderson of Oregon State University, who was quoted in a press release accompanying the original study saying: “Air pollution from fracking operations may pose an under-recognized health hazard to people living near them.”

The original study also trumpets that two PAHs in particularly — benzopyrene and phenanthrene — are primary concerns for cancer. Interestingly, in the original study phenanthrene was identified as the most prominent PAH detected. However, the corrected study identifies naphthalene as the most prominent PAH detected, while benzopyrene wasn’t even mentioned as being prominently detected.

Here’s a look at the differences between the two studies in regard to phenanthrene and benzopyrene and all PAH detection in general:

Original Study Claim: “Average phenanthrene levels were 130, 96 and 88 ng/m3 for the close, middle and far groups.”

Corrected Study: “Average phenanthrene levels were 0.25, 0.18, and 0.17 ng/m3  for the close, middle, and far groups.


Original Study Claim: “Average benzo [a] pyrene levels were 2.8, 2.7 and 1.9 ng/m3 for the close, middle and far groups…. Average BaPeq (Benzo[a]pyrene equivalent) concentrations in all distance groups would be potentially concerning in chronic doses.”

Corrected Study: “Average benzo [a]- pyrene levels were 14 Å~  10−6 , 7.1 Å~  10−6 , and 2.9 Å~  10−6  ng/m3for the close, middle, and far groups. Average BaPeq concentrations in this study would likely not be concerning as chronic doses.”

Original Study Claim:
“… PAH levels closest to natural gas activity were an order of magnitude higher than levels previously reported in rural areas.”

Corrected Study: “PAH levels closest to natural gas activity were comparable to levels previously reported in rural areas in winter.”

Though the authors’ acknowledgement of their errors and relatively prompt publication of the corrected study is commendable — especially when compared to how UC’s still yet-to-be-published study showing no groundwater contamination from fracking has been handled — it is still becoming more and more difficult to give UC the benefit of the doubt.

Combined with the many flaws of the study EID has already pointed out – the fact that the authors admit their sample size (25 samples) was too small, that fact that they conceded that the chief assumption used for their research model was “totally impractical,” the fact that study participants were recruited by an anti-fracking activist group, and the fact that worst case scenarios were assumed in their cancer hazard assessments, just to name a few — the sheer degree to which the research team botched the original data borders on shocking, especially considering scientists would seemingly be capable of catching such egregious mathematical errors.

But maybe it shouldn’t come as a big a surprise, considering lead author Erin Haynes not only presented the study’s original findings at a meeting of an anti-fracking group, and the researchers specifically thank that group’s leader in the corrected study.

“This work was funded by grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to Oregon State University (P30-ES000210) and the University of Cincinnati (P30-ES06096). We thank Glenn Wilson, Ricky Scott, Jorge Padilla, Gary Points, and Melissa McCartney of the OSU FSES Program for help with analysis. Thank you to Dr. Diana Rohlman of the OSU Environmental Health Sciences Center Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC), Sarah Elam of the University of Cincinnati (UC) Environmental Health Sciences Center COEC, Jody Alden of UC, and Paul Feezel of Carroll Concerned Citizens, all for assistance with volunteer recruitment and communication. Thank you to Pierce Kuhnell of UC for mapping sample sites. Finally, thank you to the volunteer participants in Ohio for making this study possible.”

Considering the study was taxpayer funded, it seems more explanation may be in order as to why the original version was so off the mark.


Now I wonder how many more of the peer-reviewed papers on the evil of fracking also need to be withdrawn

Fracking Fun by Pinnochio

Well. petroleum products are so ungreen and we can see how fossil-fuel dependent the bicycle is;


So cheers to fracking


Fracking will destroy our countryside and will make it look like this – The Jonah gasfiled in Wyoming


This is what our countryside will look like


Hold on a mo! Jonah is not fracking of shale but tight gas from sandstone done before fracking for shale. A big porkie. This picture is simply deceitful



Just one snag – these are caused by wastewater injection not fracking – and the earthquake damage is from the Far East.




Whoops. Walport never said anything like that . It was said by a leftie prof from Sussex and misquoted by Adam Vaughan in the porkie Graudain


Now here are lots of misrepresentations of the effect of fracking on our water. The graphics do not give true scale so it seems that fracking takes place just below an aquifer. Mendacious






How do these parties compare to the Tories?


plaid cymru

This is nearer the truth showing actual fracking 8000ft below the surface. Frack cracks do not travel more than 1000ft upwards so still a mile off an aquifer



And the chemicals  – actually 99.5 5 water and a bit of sand and polyacrylamide. A drinkable mixture. The claim of 632 chemicals is what HAS been used in the past, not what are used even in the USA today.



Naughty Cuadrilla. Please count the porkies. They are easily counted but take longer to give details why they are porkies


A Blackpool college. An energy centre in the area of Britain with the highest unemployment……



How to intimidate academics. Yes, I have heard accounts of what has happened . It is not pleasant


Alleged health effects.




But smoking has no health effects


Experts like Mike Hill say fracking is dodgy


After all Blackpool will go under the sea. The effect of a few 6in holes 8000ft below surface


Mike hill’s office in Lytham

Hill under water

His misrepresentation of flares


and so the locals of Lancashire get hopelessly confused. I don’t blame the writer of the letter but I do blame those who have conned the people of Lancashire

Quake in Lancs

as does the sub-christian horror comic The Church Times.

It was a bishop who told me that the CT was a sub-christian horror comic


And now for more green shibboleths; – for light entertainment




Danger of GMO

Chemical-free organic food





Now here’s the result of a frack-free, organic, no-vaxxer  lifestyle.


Not for me , thanks







David Smythe – anti-fracking geologist

 A world-class star of geological research

One of the difficulties of following fracking is working out who the experts really are amidst the clamour of competing voices. This is especially so if one has no technical expertise. Very quickly I discovered that the anti-fractivists in Lancashire looked to two experts. For the actual drilling and later for medical stuff, the expert was Mike Hill from Lytham, who was taken down a peg or two in 2015 about the time of the publication of the Medact report,  https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/medacts-madact-on-fracking/. This also refers to the Times report on Hill.

When I heard Tina Rothery rave about Prof David Smythe I was intrigued and several cited him at the hearings in County Hall, Preston in June 2015.

Smythe was prof of geophysics at Glasgow and left in 1998 shortly after giving evidence for friends of the Earth over the Nirex plans to deposit nuclear waste in Cumbria. (D Oldroyd; Geol Soc Memoir No25, Earth, Water, Ice and Fire, p271-288.  (This chapter is useful as it gives background on how Smythe and Haszeldine were consultants for Friends of the Earth  in the 90s.)


Since then he has not been employed professionally as a geologist but has given evidnece for environmental groups most notably on fracking, gaining the accolade of fractivists.

Controversy came in 2014 when the Geological society of London told him to stop using the letters C. Geol (Chartered Geologists) after his name as he had not paid his dues since 1996, nor refreshed his skills. (Thus I cannot use the letters A.M.I.M.M. as I am long lapsed.)


In June 2015 he made a deposition to the Lancs County Council hearings in County Hall, when Cuadrilla’s applications were rejected. Several fractivist speakers cited his material, even though it went against all other geologists, e.g. the CPRE speaker. Dr James Verdon blogged against his views of Lancashire geology here  http://frackland.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/professor-david-smythes-critique-of.html 

More recently Smythe has started a blog, almost aping the title of Verdon’s blog.

blog http://www.davidsmythe.org/frackland/

His blogs are relatively few but one is devoted to attacking fellow geologists  “The insolence of Office”, eching critics on fracademics.


It is difficult not to see this as pure vitriol against leading geologists like Riley, Rutter, Davies, Lord Oxburgh, Selley, Shipton , Styles, Verdon, Younger. I have met and discussed matters with several of these. Incidentally Lord Oxburgh was one of my geological teachers, and very good was he – and entertaining in the pub at Horton in Ribblesdale, where he was teaching us geological mapping.

Most odd was his post in July 2015, The Mysterious case of Frack-free Witney  http://www.davidsmythe.org/frackland/?p=162 , why discusses why the Prime minister’s constituency of Witney was not up for shale gas exploration. The reason was implicit – that Cameron did not want fracking in his constituency. This idea gained traction among fractivists.  The location of Witney is clear from the map copied from his blog.



However note that the area to the east of Witney is not available for exploration. It seems very suspicious until one considers the geology. The sub-surface Carboniferous strata below that area are much thinner than elsewhere as in Carboniferous times that area which stretches over to Belgium, known as the Brabant High was mostly a landmass and thus very little deposition took place. Thus to an oil/gas prospector it is moose pasture i.e. nothing there and not worth drilling. Smythe and I had a twitter exchange on this and he seemed unaware of the Brabant High, knowledge of which is no more than second year geology. (He got narked with me and told me to simply organise bible studies!! He does need to learn some geology! )

In January 2016 Smythe offered a paper   Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald Basins, UK  to the journal Solid Earth Discussion. This was posted to their website http://www.solid-earth-discuss.net/se-2015-134/ for comment and review.

Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald Basins, UK

David K. Smythe 1College of Science and Engineering, University of Glasgow, Scotland
*now at: La Fontenille, 1, rue du Couchant, 11120 Ventenac en Minervois, France

Abstract. North American shale basins differ from their European counterparts in that the latter are one to two orders of magnitude smaller in area, but correspondingly thicker, and are cut or bounded by normal faults penetrating from the shale to the surface. There is thus an inherent risk of groundwater resource contamination via these faults during or after unconventional resource appraisal and development. US shale exploration experience cannot simply be transferred to the UK. The Bowland Basin, with 1900 m of Lower Carboniferous shale, is in the vanguard of UK shale gas development. A vertical appraisal well to test the shale by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the first such in the UK, triggered earthquakes. Re-interpretation of the 3D seismic reflection data, and independently the well casing deformation data, both show that the well was drilled through the earthquake fault, and did not avoid it, as concluded by the exploration operator. Faulting in this thick shale is evidently difficult to recognise. The Weald Basin is a shallower Upper Jurassic unconventional oil play with stratigraphic similarities to the Bakken play of the Williston Basin, USA. Two Weald licensees have drilled, or have applied to drill, horizontal appraisal wells based on inadequate 2D seismic reflection data coverage. I show, using the data from the one horizontal well drilled to date, that one operator failed identify two small but significant through-going normal faults. The other operator portrayed a seismic line as an example of fault-free structure, but faulting had been smeared out by reprocessing. The case histories presented show that: (1) UK shale exploration to date is characterised by a low degree of technical competence, and (2) regulation, which is divided between four separate authorities, is not up to the task. If UK shale is to be exploited safely: (1) more sophisticated seismic imaging methods need to be developed and applied to both basins, to identify faults in shale with throws as small as 4–5 m, and (2) the current lax and inadequate regulatory regime must be overhauled, unified, and tightened up.

Citation: Smythe, D. K.: Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald Basins, UK, Solid Earth Discuss., doi:10.5194/se-2015-134, in review, 2016.

Several geologists responded and most were very critical. Click on “discussion” on the page to read the responses.

CO Editor

Interactive discussion Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
[Login for Authors/Topical Editors][Subscribe to comment alert]Printer-friendly Version – Printer-friendly version      Supplement – Supplement
SC2: ‘Comment on “Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald basins, UK” by D.K. Smythe’, Rob Westaway, 05 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC9: ‘Interim reply to Dr Westaway’, David Smythe, 31 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC18: ‘More rhetoric rather than substance’, Rob Westaway, 01 Apr 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC11: ‘Regrettable re-insertion of citation of a tabloid press article’, David Smythe, 01 Apr 2016Printer-friendly Version
EC1: ‘EC on SC2’, Federico Rossetti, 09 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC4: ‘Advocacy-Based Science’, Terry Engelder, 16 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC2: ‘Conjecture and refutation; author’s response to Dr Engelder’, David Smythe, 22 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC13: ‘In a tangle over philosophy of science’, Rob Westaway, 28 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC14: ‘In a tangle over philosophy of science – ii’, Rob Westaway, 29 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC3: ‘Water well contamination case history: Bradford County, Pennsylvania’, David Smythe, 22 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC6: ‘TYPOS CORRECTED SC5: ‘Erroneous assumptions lead to fundamentally flawed hydrogeological conclusions”, Paul L. Younger, 18 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC8: ‘Reply to Professor Paul Younger’, David Smythe, 31 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC20: ‘Rejoinder to Smythe’s response on hydrogeological issues’, Paul L. Younger, 14 Apr 2016Printer-friendly Version
EC2: ‘removal of SC3 and SC5’, Federico Rossetti, 19 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC7: ‘This paper shows a poor understanding of the hydraulic fracturing process’, James Verdon, 19 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC8: ‘Correcting formatting issues in Verdon comment SC7’, James Verdon, 19 Feb 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC7: ‘Reply to Dr James Verdon’, David Smythe, 31 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC9: ‘Reply to “Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald Basins, UK”’, Huw Clarke, 02 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC5: ‘Reply to Huw Clarke of Cuadrilla Resources Ltd’, David Smythe, 24 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC10: ‘Some additional thoughts on Preese Hall’, Rob Westaway, 04 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC1: ‘Failure by Dr Westaway to incorporate well data released in April 2015’, David Smythe, 05 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC12: ‘Diversity of stratigraphic interpretations for the Preese Hall-1 well and surroundings’, Rob Westaway, 10 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC11: ‘Misunderstanding of the Literature and Expanding the Discussion of Fracturing Fluid Migration Modeling’, Daniel Birdsell, 04 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC4: ‘Response to Daniel Birdsell and co-authors’, David Smythe, 22 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
RC1: ‘Smythe se-2015-134 Review’, Andrew Aplin, 29 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
AC10: ‘Reply to review by Professor Aplin’, David Smythe, 01 Apr 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC15: ‘Comment on use of data and figures in Smythe paper’, Andrew Kingdon, 29 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC16: ‘Clarification of Affiliation’, Andrew Kingdon, 29 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
AC6: ‘Thanks for new PH-1 image data; faulting on 3D seismic not ambiguous; nothing missing from Balcombe logs’, David Smythe, 31 Mar 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
SC17: ‘Preese Hall-1 bedding dip’, Rob Westaway, 31 Mar 2016Printer-friendly Version
EC3: ‘regarding SC18 and AC11’, Federico Rossetti, 02 Apr 2016Printer-friendly Version
SC19: ‘About SC18’, Fabrizio Storti, 04 Apr 2016Printer-friendly Version
RC2: ‘Review’, Stuart Haszeldine, 15 Apr 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
RC3: ‘Review of Hydraulic fracturing in thick shale basins: problems in identifying faults in the Bowland and Weald Basins, UK’, Anonymous Referee #3, 10 May 2016Printer-friendly VersionSupplement
RC4: ‘review’, Anonymous Referee #4, 12 May 2016Printer-friendly Version
EC4: ‘decision on SE Discussion paper’, Federico Rossetti, 14 May 2016Printer-friendly Version

Apart from Haszeldine ( aformer student) the responses were very critical.Finally on 14 May Rossetti made a decision not to publish on the grounds of 3 out of 4 referees rejecting the paper http://editor.copernicus.org/index.php/se-2015-134-EC4.pdf?_mdl=msover_md&_jrl=431&_lcm=oc108lcm109w&_acm=get_comm_file&_ms=49101&c=106184&salt=14965404591990297433

F. Rossetti (Editor) federico.rossetti@uniroma3.it Received and published: 14 May 2016
Dear Dr. Smythe,

your ms. has been now evaluated by 4 independent reviewers. Based on the resulting reports (3 negative over 4), I regret to say that we can not go forward with this ms., since too much work is needed to render it potentially suitable for final publication on SE.

My decision is therefore to discourage submission of a revised manuscript.

Yours sincerely,

federico rossetti

This is a sharp response, especially the last sentence.


I find this a strange story, and would be more sympathetic if he did not get some basic geology wrong i.e. unaware of the Brabant High, and did not try to trash so many eminent scientists, whose work I have got to know.

There do seem to be close parallels with Mike Hill, who also opened himself up to be discredited, yet both are held in high regard by fractivists.

I am left rather baffled why both Hill and Smythe have followed their courses of action.


Friends of the Earth get sand in their eyes

It is every child’s dream to play on a sandy beach on a perfect summer’s day and perhaps building a sandcastle.

But from what Tony Bosworth said on television  in October 2015, it seems that this could give you cancer!!!!

He probably regrets saying it, especially as the trigger factor for his comment has not gone away. In the last month a Friends on the earth leaflet was enclosed in several publications –  at least Private Eye, The Sunday Times, Simple Things. I don’t know if there were others. Presumably FoE paid hard cash to have the leaflet as an insert.

For more my assessment and the complaint put into the ASA see;


The leaflet was asking for donations for FoE’s work in attempting to stop fracking in Lancashire, where they have been very active in working among communities over the last few years. Among other things they wanted donations “to investigate the practices of the fracking giant, Cuadrilla”. The cover had a picture of Grasmere with the words “Don’t let fracking destroy all of this” – what numpties! A little geology would have told them there is no gas in Grasmere.  They also claimed “25% of the chemicals used in the fracking process could cause cancer”.

Exactly what FoE meant by the 25% of the chemicalsis not clear. Did the mean 255 of the number of chemicals used  – including dihydrogen monoxide,which in its pure from kills several hikers each year in the Arizona desert. Or did he mean 25% of the total volume of chemicals? Bbut on BBC TV on 19th October Tony Bosworth said it was silica, which makes up about 95% of beach sand, and so I draw on some humorous artwork from Backing Fracking. (The quotes are made up but give the gist of it!)

fracking sand

Sand gets in your eyes and gives you cancer!! Yes, sand i.e. silica CAN give you cancer but only if you breath in vast amounts as did coal miners, who often got silicosis rather than cancer. (I know too many who died of that and it was not pleasant, with oxygen cylinders and being virtually housebound.) It was a silly example as the Health and Safety Executive lay down VERY stringent regulations on how sand/silica should be used to protect workers. I say “workers” as even if the HSE regulations were not followed very little silica would blow off site to be a hazard to those nearby.

To clear matters up a letter was sent to the HSE requesting their guidelines on the use of silica and below is the reply. Frankly, it shows that Tony Bosworth was grossly ill-informed about the dangers of silica and unaware of the regulations. It is surprising that as Energy Campaigner for FoE,  Tony Bosworth could be so ill-informed. He only compounded the errors and scare-mongering of the leaflet.

If you are bored with this, you can read the HSE’s response to the question about silica and decide for yourself whether or not rig-workers and local residents are at risk of getting cancer. I honestly think all are at greater risk of getting silly-cosis.

So here it is;


Health and Safety Executive on the use of silica

Thanks for your email, below is an overview of the HSE’s expectation regarding silica use on oil and gas well sites in GB. I hope you find this helpful.


Silica is one of the major components of soil, rock, sand, granite and many other minerals and is a major constituent of construction materials such as bricks, tiles and concrete. Silica itself is not harmful but silica dust can cause a whole host of health problems for those who work with this mineral. Many common workplace activities such as cutting, drilling, grinding and polishing, produce fine dust containing Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS).


Repeated and prolonged exposure over many years to relatively high concentrations of RCS in the air is known to cause a lung disease called silicosis and also lung cancer. Such exposure may occur for instance when rocks containing crystalline silica are ground up during mining or quarrying operations. The term ‘respirable’ means that the dust particles are small enough to get deep into the lungs when they are inhaled. Silica is not readily soluble in water or body fluids and this is thought to be one of the contributing factors determining the damage that silica can cause in the lungs.


The hydraulic fracturing of rock, (fracking) process used to exploit gas and oil from shale deposits requires a substantial amount of sand. In 2008, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a safety warning, because they have evidence that in the US the risk of exposure to silica dust was not managed effectively.


The risk of exposure to silica dust is well understood in Great Britain and the HSE has issued guidance to help employers manage the risks and to raise awareness of the importance of controlling exposure at work.   The occupational use of silica is regulated under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). Occupational exposure to all substances hazardous to health, including RCS, should be adequately controlled using measures that are proportionate to the health risk. There is a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) for RCS,  a WEL is the maximum concentration of an airborne substance, averaged over a reference period, to which employees may be exposed by inhalation.


RCS has a WEL of 0.1mg m-3 and in practice, employers are expected to keep exposures well below 0.1 mg m-3 and to apply good control practice, as well as getting below the WEL. The position around the WEL, including developments in the EU is being kept under review by HSE.


In oil and gas wells sand can be used as a propant – a material that holds open fractures in the rock caused by hydraulic fracturing. Where sand is used on well sites the risks of exposure to RCS should be controlled. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is to ensure that the sand is transported to the site and introduced to the hydraulic fracturing fluid in a way that worker exposure is minimised.


Using sealed silos is a good way of ensuring that workers are not exposed to sand that could contain RCS. This technique was used at the Preese Hall well and there is an expectation from HSE that similar techniques to limit exposure will be used on other oil and gas wells where hydraulic fracturing is planned.


Further information is available from HSE:





Kind regards

name removed

HID Oil and Gas Policy Team

Health and Safety Executive

Redgrave Court

Merseyside L20 7HS




Greenpeace is WRONG over fracking




Open letter to Greenpeace regarding their misleading science regarding Fracking Greenpeace comments in red, and quotes and links in blue. My comments in italics)

Regarding the fracking information link http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/climate/fracking

Re Section 1, about Climate Change, there are some interesting points, but as every scenario shows us using gas until 2050, and we are at present getting 40% of our electricity from coal, safely produced shale gas seems the least worst option as can be seen here https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/237330/MacKay_Stone_shale_study_report_09092013.pdf

Section 2.

‘New roads would be built for the thousands of polluting diesel trucks laden with chemicals, fracking fluid and waste fluids travelling to and from the drilling site.’

There are no plans in any of the current cases for water to be transported to the site, as it would be supplied by pipe. Many of these projects are located by motorways, and the figures fade into insignificance with the daily traffic. The roads would be short, as they would use the existing road network. They are also covered by local planning consents.

6 to 17 trucks, so that’s 1 truck every 90mins to 4 hrs on average. Perhaps Greenpeace should campaign to stop farming, or fuel/milk/animal deliveries in rural areas?

‘Fracking uses so much water that the water industry has warned it could make our shortages even worse.’

This is incorrect or irrelevant

Please see this link. This has all been agreed with Water UK.


Also see page 6 of this publication. It states Water companies will assess the amount of water available before providing it to operators. How could this lead to shortages then? This publication (Page 6) indicates the amounts used are small. A 1GW power station uses the amount of water to frack one well every 12 hours.

Click to access Water.pdf

In view of 8GW being produced by coal in the UK frequently, this relates to water usage that could frack I well every 90 minutes. It also amounts to just 1% of the daily water leaks from United Utilities, in the North West.

‘The fracking process involves potentially toxic chemicals at almost every stage.’

This is scaremongering

The link given does not describe this. The UK industry is governed by UK and EU law. The meaning of toxic is inflammatory and incorrect. Is the use of the word ‘potentially’ a method of saying anything you want, with no science or law to back it up? ‘Potentially’, oxygen, water, salt, sugar, carbon dioxide are all possible causes of death. To present these materials as intrinsically ‘toxic’ would be bizarre.

You can see a review and links of the laws and statutory instruments at


Please take note of the JAGDAG list and the WFD restrictions on chemical usage in this field. This is EU law after all.

Flowback fluid contains NORMS and must be disposed of under Environment Agency licence. It is incorrect to describe this as ‘toxic or hazardous’. It is correct to describe it as ‘radioactive’ as it is above the level that means that designation applies. (I have all of this from a Chartered Waste Engineer, Lee Petts of Remsol)

As the UK’s Environment Agency found, flow-back fluid from the Lancashire shale contained “notably high levels of sodium, chloride, bromide and iron, as well as higher values of lead”

This is irrelevent

As disposal of this is all covered under Environment Agency licence, why is there a problem? As I am sure you are aware, the Environment Agency and Lancashire CC planning office were perfectly happy with the fluid handling proposed by Cuadrilla. In fact, the current plans are to treat flowback water, and reinject it, meaning that the vast bulk of this would be returned from whence it came. Wells are fracked in as many as 30 separate stages. Flowback water from one stage is cleaned up on site and reinjected on the next stage.

There are many industries that produce polluted water, and all are required to follow the law on disposal. That is why the UK is an increasingly clean country. There is no evidence that laws for the fracking industry are any different. Regulations were in fact tightened after the first fracked flowback water was dealt with in Davyhulme waste treatment facility.

‘The shale is fracked deep under ground but if something goes wrong with the well, gas and fluids can leak into the ground or water supply higher up’.

This is incorrect

This displays a lack of knowledge of how wells are produced and the hydraulic forces that govern fluid flows. Gas would come up a production ‘tubing’ that is inside the casing, and sealed off near the production zone by a ‘packer’. If that or any of the tubing did leak, it would immediately become apparent, as the annulus would pressure up. The gas will not come into contact with the casing in normal operation. Please feel free to discuss this with any competent drilling engineer. It also fails to take account of the pressure profile that would prevent frack fluids from rising, as they are too dense. They would simply remain deep down in the well whilst non-toxic gas bubbled up through it. Shale gas in the UK is very similar to the N Sea gas we have been using for decades.

‘Studies in the US have indicated this may be happening in areas with lots of drilling in Pennsylvania and Texas where contaminants including were found at higher concentrations in water wells closer to fracking sites.’

This is incorrect (The Pennsylvania link refers to well casing leaks, and the Texas one has no information about fracking)

In fact the US EPA has recently published its draft review. The press release headline is

‘Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources’.


It then goes on to state

‘Apart from a very few cases of very shallow fracking, the risk to water is a result of…

 inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;

 inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources;

 spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.’

In addition truck accidents and spills that have not been cleaned up have also resulted in pollution.

The fracking process itself, provided it is done at sufficient separation from aquifers, is very low risk, as was noted by the Royal Academy of Engineering report in 2012. See 1.4.1

‘Many claims of contaminated water wells due to shale gas extraction have been made. None has shown evidence of chemicals found in hydraulic fracturing fluids’


Shallow fracking is against the law in the UK, at less than 1000m, unless there is a special licence as can be seen here. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/7/section/50

It is common for the claim to be made that the few issues that have occurred are due to fracking. This is false. They are a risk in any form of drilling. This was reported before the EPA draft report.


Reports such as the AP one of ‘243 wells polluted in Pennsylvania’ ONLY involve gas or naturally occurring materials with one exception (drilling mud).. There are many press reports but the following link deals with the science. This is to do with poorly constructed wells, and poor regulation, NOT fracking. http://energyindepth.org/marcellus/digging-deeper-into-those-243-dep-determination-letters/

There was a recent report that did claim that a chemical used in fracking, 2-n-Butoxyethanol had migrated 1 to 3km underground. This would seem unlikely as the chemical is

 unstable, it quickly breaks down. It is in fact a food additive

 it is present in hundreds of other applications, including in the cement that was used to seal surrounding wells where the sample was found.

 Quote ‘Part of the problem may have been wastewaters from a pit leak reported at the nearest gas well pad’

It transpired that the scientist doing the research was working as an expert witness for the water well owner who was suing the drilling company! Quote from footnotes ‘Conflict of interest statement: G.T.L. and Appalachia Consulting provided litigation support and environmental consulting services to the impacted households’…so that’s not very ethical is it?

This is the paper abstract. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/20/6325.abstract

Industry comment is also available at http://energyindepth.org/national/major-research-gaps-in-new-groundwater-study/ It is complex and detailed but it would appear that the newspaper headlines stating that this was caused by fracking are inaccurate. The ‘pollution’ is of parts per trillion of a common chemical could have originated from a variety of sources. In addition analysis of accompanying chemicals would indicate the origin of this pollution is not frack fluid.

Of course how relevant is this in the UK, where 99% of water is delivered by EU law compliant water supply companies! Also only non-hazardous chemicals are permitted by the regulatory authorities….

‘And then there is the risk of a leak from fluids held at the surface……’

This is scaremongering

Unfortunately Greenpeace does not seem to be aware that the fluid containment regulations have been designed to avoid some of the problems that have occurred in the poorly regulated US. These include.

Open flow and storage pits for chemicals are not permitted. See page 4 of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277211/Water.pdf

‘In some cases, overflows from such wastewater pits have caused surface water contamination. However in the UK the regulations prevent this fluid contaminating water sources by requiring the operator to:

make appropriate plans for storing fluid safely, and not in open pits

design the site so spills are avoided (and are contained if they do happen)

dispose of flowback fluid safely’

Please see the Cuadrilla website where what they are required to do by the Environment Agency is described. This includes lined and bunded drill pads that would contain fluids in the event of mishap. Are you not aware of any of this? If not then please modify your literature. If you are, then why are you presenting false data to the public? http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/protecting-our-environment/

In addition, it is a condition of licencing that gas containment is 100%, except for emergencies. This can be seen on page 2 and 3 of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277219/Air.pdf

Quote ‘Natural gas may only be vented for safety reasons’. This includes the containment of other gases from flowback.

‘but most of the monitoring will ultimately be down to firms like Cuadrilla, and when has that ever gone wrong before?’

This is misleading

How is a link to the ‘edge of drilling technology’ i.e. the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a comparison for the low pressure land wells proposed? Would Greenpeace compare the dangers of racing a top rally car, with daily driving?

Why are there no comparisons with the North Sea, or any other oil/gas fields? Or comparisons with other engineering disciplines, such as Crossrail/architecture/aircraft and engine design/car

manufacturing and many others. All of these are self-regulated in the UK and we are proud of their safety and innovation.

The North Sea, which is an extreme environment, has been exploited for over 40 years, and has not been in the news on safety grounds for decades and has subsidised our economy with massive inputs of tax revenue. The Piper Alpha disaster (NOT a drilling accident) of 1988 lead to a massive review of safety practice. This is an ongoing practice, involving the HSE, DECC and the unions. Drilling is a VERY safety conscious industry. The last I read, the biggest risk were the helicopters, not the drilling.

In terms of the environment, has the quality of North Sea fish/scallops etc, diminished due to oil and gas drilling?

I would appreciate a speedy respomse to the points I have raised, and request modification of the misleading parts of your website.


Ken Wilkinson BSc Hons (Aeronautical Engineering. Manchester University 1971-74) 26/07/2015

!2 years working as an engineer on oilrigs throughout the world

Medact’s madact on Fracking

Update on Medact; On Thursday 18th June there will be a presentation of the Medact report on Health and Fracking at the Minster in Preston, where they will push the supposed heath risks of fracking, It is regrettable that Medact did not revise their paper to bring it into line with Public Health England. From what we saw at the launch in London we expect the same ill-founded concerns.

Shale Gas Task Force is very critical of Medact Report https://darkroom.taskforceonshalegas.uk/original/e4d05cb29b0269c2a394685dad7516e6:c48ffe7884e9b668b8d4b7799a027874/task-force-on-shale-gas-assessing-the-impact-of-shale-gas-on-the-local-environment-and-health.pdf

See page 29

added 15/7/15

I would still like to know what evidence there is of increased illness in the vicinity of onshore wells in Britain.

Perhaps we should ask if there has been a spike in cancers in Elswick where there has been gas well for over 20 years.



On Monday 30th March 2015 Medact launched their report on the health effects of fracking http://www.medact.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/medact_fracking-report_WEB3.pdf . Its conclusions are very different to that of Public Health England (PHE) last year https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/shale-gas-extraction-review-of-the-potential-public-health-impacts-of-exposures-to-chemical-and-radioactive-pollutants

Reaction to the Medact report has been swift. It has been welcomed by anti-fracking groups, but has received criticism;  http://oesg.org.uk/news/medact-fracking-report-criticised-by-sme-trade-body/     : and  http://frackland.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/medact-vs-british-columbia.html where Dr Verdon compares it unfavourably to a recent Canadian Report.

and also the critical response from UKOOG, published in April; .http://www.ukoog.org.uk/about-ukoog/press-releases/146-shale-gas-industry-says-medact-report-fails-to-understand-uk-regulatory-system-and-lacks-credibility

But here is an open letter to Medact from Ken Wilkinson highlighting the flaws of the paper.

Open letter to Medact, calling for the withdrawal of the recently issued Health and Fracking publication.

The reason I am writing this that I am concerned about fundamental flaws in the publication mentioned above. Each one of these is in itself a cause for withdrawal, and the totality means that the only ethical course for Medact is to withdraw the publication for review. As seasoned academics, you will of course accept that clear evidence of fundamental flaws would damn any research that your students might undertake, and lead to its rejection.

I have to state that I am totally independent in my views, and would describe myself as pro fact, rather than pro fracking. I have no financial interests at all, and I value that status. Like many, I give my time up for free for a cause that I believe in (the truth). I am recently retired and this gives me the time to research, when I am not doing my many sporting activities, and volunteering in a tough inner city school.

I have 12 years of experience working as a wireline engineer, finishing up as the most senior engineer in my company, in Libya. I dealt with customer liaison, problem wells, and jobs, and so had to know my stuff. I left in 1990 to become a Physics teacher.

It was made clear in all of the evening discussions, that Medact wanted to bring clarity to the debate. Dr Mccoy discussed this with me at the end of the evening. I am afraid this report brings false data and yet more confusion. It is little more than a propaganda piece for ‘anti’ frackers, not surprising when one of the report’s authors is an anti frack campaigner.

The Medact board is clearly a group of highly qualified academics that have great concerns concerning Climate Change, Global Warming, environmental pollution and health matters. These are issues that I (a humble BSC in Engineering) have great sympathy with. The planet could be on a path to destruction and there needs to be change. The problem would seem to be that simply publicising climate change issues would probably not have the desired effect of forcing a stop to fracking.

It is however unacceptable to present false science to ‘win the argument’ to stop fracking, by scaremongering and citing risks that do not exist in the UK regulatory environment.

Fundamental Flaw No 1

It would seem that Medact is publicising issues of health and safety that will not exist in the UK context. The fact is that there are many differences between practice in the US and the UK. These have not been considered. I would hope that this is due to misinformation only from Mike Hill, rather than the rest of the panel. He does not seem to have a grasp of many basic drilling concepts and has no relevant qualifications. I do not believe he has any experience of fracking, and not much, if any, of drilling. The fact that he so frequently refers to himself as an ‘expert’ is in itself odd. How many doctors would do that? Please see



The clear evidence is that one of the main authors of your report is an anti-frack campaigner. This means that any credibility for Medact immediately vanishes. The Times article states that Dr McCoy was unaware that Mr Hill was standing as an MP on the single issue of opposition to fracking.


Fundamental Flaw No 2

At the launch of the report it quickly became apparent that the board had no idea that the use of chemicals in drilling is controlled by laws from the EU and the Environment Agency, the regulatory body concerning risks to groundwater. In particular the JAGDAG list of proscribed chemicals is not mentioned anywhere in the report. As benzene is mentioned in the report it is worth mentioning that this is on List 1 (Hazardous pollutant), along with many other nasty chemicals.

In Balcombe, Cuadrilla wanted to use antimony trioxide in drilling mud. This is a common chemical but permission was denied. Human studies are inconclusive regarding antimony trioxide exposure and cancer, and it is not classed as a carcinogen, but animal studies have indicated it may possibly be a risk. This indicates that the EA regulatory system works.

The European wide Groundwater Directive is European legislation 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


The Environment Agency is also covered by statutory instrument.

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 bioaccumulate, and other substances or groups of substances that give rise to an equivalent level of concern.
  • Any non-hazardous pollutants, which is ‘any pollutant other than a hazardous substance.http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2010/9780111491423/schedule/22http://www.wfduk.org/sites/default/files/Media/Substances%20transferred%20from%20List%20I%20%26%20II%20to%20hazardous%20or%20non%20hazardous.pdfThis list is under revision to accommodate fracking, and chemicals likely to be requested are being classified.Benzene occurs naturally at very low concentrations in shale gas (parts per billion) and the levels of benzene are similar to domestic gas. Benzene is also found in high concentrations in petrol stations, and near roads.So much of this report relies on the idea that chemical usage is unrestricted. As a point of information, the many toxic chemicals that have been used in the US is largely historic, as the properties needed can be achieved by using food additive based materials. Only 3 materials have been permitted so far. (Polyacrylomide, Glutaraldehyde, and Hydrochloric acid.) In addition the US is moving to compulsory declaration of chemicals.Fundamental Flaw No 3. Failure to understand crucial differences in fluid handling, US/UKhttps://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277211/Water.pdfOther fluid protection requirements are listed on pages 3 and 4, and these should satisfy most that this has been looked at (by the Royal Academy of Engineering, in 2012) and that these requirements have been put in place, to avoid the small number of issues from the US experience.https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277219/Air.pdfAgain this means that the 400+ studies can be ignored, as they are mainly US based.I am not aware of any protests concerning a 7m wide tunnel drilled under London recently (Crossrail). We all assume that the engineers will do their jobs properly and self-regulate. Why should fracking any different? Tying in with the links above, a whole series of information papers has been made available for over a year to inform the public that their genuine concerns are being addressed. It is strange that Mr Hill has been unaware of these, as we (Rev Michael Roberts and myself) referred to some of these in our Advertising Standards Authority complaints against RAFF (Resident Action on Fylde Fracking). I understand Mike is RAFF’s technical ‘go to’ person. RAFF were unable to sustain their false claims and they withdrew the article to avoid the public humiliation of having judgements go against them. (The majority of our complaints were provisionally upheld BTW.) http://www.ukoog.org.uk/images/ukoog/pdfs/UKOOG_progress_in_meeting_Royal_Society_recommendations_March_2015.pdfThere are many other issues that I could raise, that I tried to discuss last night. I understand your desire to limit my speaking (I did speak a lot) but these points include.


  • UKOOG guidance on the progress of the 10 recommendations. (March 2015)
  • There are 10 publications, and they can be seen on https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/about-shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking (Early 2014 mostly)
  • Fundamental Flaw No 4 Failure to take account of Govt issued information and other freely available literature.
  • Unlike several statements in your paper, there is NO evidence that fracking is an inherently risky activity, and pollution incidents have NEVER been the cause of aquifer pollution. It has always been leaking wells, illegal dumping, truck accidents and open pits etc. (There is one possible exception to that in Pavillion,Wyoming, where a frack job was done at very shallow depth, but even that is inconclusive)
  • Incidentally, examination of the above document also shows how the EA regulatory system works. They require the operator to supply plans to meet the concerns of the EA, using best practice, latest techniques etc. As technology moves on, best practice will always be required. It’s pretty well how every high tech industry works. ‘Regulation’ of doctors is by the Hippocratic oath, codes of conduct, professional standards, and communicating about the latest techniques. Doctors do not bleed patients like in the 18th century, and progress has been made without the use of statutory instruments.
  • In the UK, all oil and gas operators must minimise the release of gases as a condition of their licence from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Natural gas may only be vented for safety reasons.
  • Another concern is the emission of VOCs (which is ONLY an issue with shale oil wells, and traditional oil wells). There are requirements that no gases are to be released except in an emergency. Please see page 2 of the following link.
  • make appropriate plans for storing fluid safely and not in open pits
  • On page 15, there is a statement that 33% of pollution incidents in the US have been due to ‘overflowing pits and failures of pit linings’. These are not permitted in the UK as can be seen here, on guidance for operators, page 4.
  • One fundamental misunderstanding is that emission of VOCs and benzene is ONLY a concern in shale oil wells. Shale gas has no evidence of these type of emissions, even in the US.
  • Many of the papers that refer to HF risks will have BTEX as the main causes of concern.
  • Benzene for instance is classed as List 1 ‘Hazardous’ and as such it is not permitted. The EA insist that all frack fluids must follow groundwater rules, even in areas where the water is not potable.
  • Classification of chemicals is covered by the JAGDAG list here
  • This can be seen on this link, in schedule 22, paras 4 and 5,
  • Failure of Mike Hill to accept that flaring will be done in enclosed burners, and that these have low emissions that have been investigated by the EA.
  • Failure to understand that a 30 stage injection frack job is like 30 separate frack jobs and is no big thing.
  • Failure of Mike Hill to understand that the PH1 well does NOT have an integrity failure. (Integrity means leaking to the environment, and the minor deformation of 0.1 inch ovality over 140 ft is below the regional seal. You need to understand wells to get this, and all of the evidence is that Mike Hill does not have that understanding)
  • References to ‘earthquake’ when this is not a significant risk and has been looked into with great detail, and academic research.
  • Failure to understand the limitations of bond logs in large casings (I used to run training sessions for oil company engineers on this and other matters many years ago. The technology has changed but the principles are the same)
  • Failure to understand that surface casing leaks with modern cementing are rare, and these would involve only methane, which is non toxic.
  • Scaremongering by suggesting a 60 multiwell pad would be an issue, when the surface impact would be not much more than a single well.
  • Ignoring the AMEC Environmental Impact Assessment and its conclusions. All of the concerns have been addressed, and mitigated, leading to low impact conclusions.
  • http://cuadrillaresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/RW_ERA.pdf
  • Ignoring the recent acceptance of fracking technology by Lancs CC and the EA in the case of the Cuadrilla wells. This indicates that the EA are happy with the environmental issues.
  • Suggesting that the HPE report is faulty as it should have considered issues of climate change when the HPE are not competent in that area.
  • Suggesting that the HPE report is faulty as it should consider noise/light issues when these are planning matters.
  • Inaccurate and misleading figures for truck movements due to piping of water and reinjection of flowback fluid.
  • Failure to highlight the one definitive paper that is undisputed, and peer reviewed by appropriately qualified people, (NOT anti-frack campaigners) and that shows undisputed HEALTH effects. The ones usually cited as exemplars are McKenzie 2012 (heavily criticised for poor science), and McKenzie 2014( rejected as bad science by the Colorado Chief Health officer) , and Elaine Hill (unpublished, criticised, but still cited in the New York ban)
  • http://energyindepth.org/national/the-dubious-scientific-foundation-for-new-yorks-fracking-ban/

Complaint to ASA against RAFF (Residents action on Fracking; Fylde) for Gross Errors



If you travel through villages like Westby and Roseacre on the Fylde in Lancashire, you will see anti-fracking notices claiming that fracking is highly dangerous.  The claims are simply scaremongering and reflect the success of propaganda from anti-fracking groups of which RAFF is the most active on the Fylde.
144 145 151 153


This is a blog with a difference as it is a copy of a complaint to the ASA (Advertising Standards Association) against the Leaflet Shale Gas, the facts, which has been produced by the leading anti-fracking group on the Fylde in Lancashire. I (Michael) has copies were given out at a public meeting in Elswick on 6th March 2014 and at the Garstang Show on 2nd August 2014. Ken has already complained to the ASA about similar inaccuracies in “factsheets” from Frack Free Somerset.

Neither Ken nor I have any connection with any shale gas exploration company but we are both concerned with the high level of disinformation put out by local anti-fracking groups.

Ken describes himself with this “CV”; After graduating with an Engineering Degree from Manchester University, I worked for Schlumberger Wireline Services as an open and cased hole engineer for 2 years in the mid 70s, in South East Asia, being promoted to ‘Senior Field Engineer’. In the 80s I worked for Halliburton wireline (Welex) as a cased hole wireline engineer. I worked in Libya, Kuwait, the USA, and India, mainly. I was promoted to ‘District Engineer’ in Libya,the most senior technical post. I dealt with customers, sorting out problems with leaking wells, cement bond logs, production logs, perforating etc. I quit the oilfields in 1990, after a total of 12 years, and became a Physics teacher. I have recently retired from teaching. I became interested in the fracking debate as I could not understand why people were protesting about shale gas fracking, in Balcombe. This was about an oil well, drilled in limestone, with no fracking planned. My researches and questioning of anti frackers (before they banned me) made me realise that the whole anti fracking bandwaggon is based upon falsehoods, failure to read UK regulations and procedures, nimbyism, and scaremongering. I am a beleiver in correct science.

As an environmentalist, and scientist, I agree with the IPCC and believe gas to be the sensible low carbon choice to fill in the gaps when renewables do not function, provided it is done properly. My researches convince me it will be, like any other technically advanced science that operates in the highly regulated UK.


For myself I graduated in geology, worked for a few years in Africa as an exploration and mining geology dealing with base metals like copper. I then was ordained in the Church of England and have recently retired. I have published much on science and religion and also in the history of geology and have written several academic papers on Darwin’s geological work in Wales and Shropshire, which he carried out in 1831 and 1837 -42. I have presented papers on Darwin’s geological work in the UK, Switzerland and the USA (at their annual conference of the Geological Society of America in 2008 and 2009). Like Ken I am an environmentalist, agree with the IPCC, (and wrote a book chapter on Evangelicals and Climate Change where I was very critical of Christian denialists like Beisner and other creationists) and with Dieter Helm in The Carbon Crunch see gas i.e shale gas as a bridge or transition to get rid of coal before sufficient renewables come on line, which will not happen in my lifetime. I have lived within 10 miles of Cuadrilla’s previous and proposed sites since 2001 so qualify as a local.

Several of my blogs have been on fracking and related issues

ed9/2/15 The irony is the first paragraph of RAFF’s leaflet;

It has become apparent that the UK government and gas and oil drilling companies have not been honest about the risks involved with shale gas development. PR consultants have been employed to disseminate misleading information to strengthen the case to extract shale gas in the UK.

It seems that the ASA did not quite agree with this claim



Complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority against leaflets distributed by ‘Stop Fylde Fracking’ and ‘RAFF’ (Residents against Fylde Fracking) in summer 2014
Presented by Michael Roberts, and Ken Wilkinson. 19 August 2014

The leaflet we would like to complain about is available online here http://stopfyldefracking.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/RAFF-BROCHURE-4-PAGE-NEW.compressed.pdf and has been distributed as hard copy in numerous meetings in the Fylde area. There are numerous inaccuracies in this document, and in view of the public interest in this, it is important that these inaccuracies are brought to light. Many inaccuracies are based upon reported poor practice in the USA, which are genuine concerns, recognized by the Royal Academy of Engineering report https://royalsociety.org/policy/projects/shale-gas-extraction/report/  in 2012. This led to recommendations https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/49541/7269-government-response-sg-report-.pdf that have been incorporated into recent regulation. There are also many points raised by RAFF that are either irrelevant, incorrect, or bad science. It is wrong for this group to attempt to influence public opinion using false arguments. This is but a selection of what could be many more complaints.
Page 1
Complaint 1  ‘Hydraulic Fracturing, established technique, or new technology?’
The history of this technique is summarized here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing_in_the_United_Kingdom#History . This paper http://fracfocus.org/sites/default/files/publications/hydraulic_fracturing_101.pdf suggests a 30 plus year history of shale gas fracking. As such this is false.
Complaint 2. ‘ What is the difference? Drilling for unconventional shale gas utilizes horizontal wells and…. ‘
The comparison was made with Wytch Farm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wytch_Farm#Environment. In fact Wytch Farm has around 100 wells, drilled from 10 well pads, and it uses horizontal drilling as a matter of course. It had the world record of a 10.5 km horizontal well. The reason for this is that to access the oil and gas, it has to be done in a World Heritage site, and AONB, in an area of very high property values. Horizontal drilling was developed in the North Sea, and is a well established technique.
Complaint 3. ‘Drilling would be intensive and on a large scale’ and the photo of the Jonah gas ¬field, Wyoming, USA (on page 3).
Drilling is covered by local planning consents, and the type of development suggested would be unlikely to gain permission. The Jonah gas field is a conventional vertically drilled gas field in the desert 30 years ago, when horizontal drilling was in its infancy. As such there was no reason to use horizontal drilling in this environmentally uninteresting area. Modern technology allows for 10 wells to be placed on a 2 acre site, each well being the source of up to 4 separate ‘laterals’, or steered horizontal wells, a total of 40 wells. That would be able to access gas from a radius of several kilometres, with no surface evidence, except the access road(s). Like Wytch farm, buried pipelines would mean that the public are hardly aware of any infrastructure. As such this information ignores latest technology, and is misleading. It is also subject to local planning consents.

Here is the photo of the Jonah Gas field. M Roberts drove past the field in 2012 passing within 400 yds of wells, but found it no more intrusive than other oil/gas fields

Complaint 4. The image of burning flares on Page 1 and 4.
We are unsure of the provenance of this image but believe that it is flaring of gas produced with oil. Any flaring in the UK would be short term, (up to 30 days typically) and is required by the Environment Agency (EA) to use low noise, low impact burners. ‘Green completions’, where gas is collected and used are highly likely, and are included if possible as this is ‘best practice’http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/about-us/best-practice/ . As such this information ignores latest technology, does not follow UK permitted procedures, and is misleading. This is covered in this publication https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277219/Air.pdf.

Page 2
Complaint 5Regulation’. ‘No regulation specific to the onshore unconventional shale gas industry exists’ and ‘The EA’s hands off¬ approach relies on the drilling company to self regulate’
This is simply untrue. The various regulatory agencies have all prepared and reviewed their practices to accommodate shale gas exploration. This series of publications  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/about-shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking present this information to the public, and shale specific regulations  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/283834/Regulation_v3.pdf are in place from the HSE http://www.hse.gov.uk/shale-gas/assets/docs/shale-gas.pdf , Environment Agency, DECC, UKOOG. (see this link https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265988/Onshore_UK_oil_and_gas_exploration_England_Dec13_contents.pdf as well). In addition, OUOG https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/office-of-unconventional-gas-and-oil-ougo  has been set up specifically to deal with these issues. As every action is covered by a licence http://www.ukoog.org.uk/knowledge-base/regulation/what-is-the-process , it is false to claim that there is no regulation. Much regulation is pertinent to the process of drilling and this is no different from conventional oil/gas wells. In addition BAT, (Best Available Technique)  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-roadmap-onshore-oil-and-gas-exploration-in-the-uk-regulation-and-best-practice is required which means that rather than following a prescriptive regulatory standard, the agencies can require improvements as technology improves.
Complaint 6In 2012, Steve Walker of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a key shale gas regulator, admitted they had failed to inspect Cuadrillas‘ wells in Lancashire.’
This is totally at odds with this link which reports 10 visitshttp://www.cuadrillaresources.com/protecting-our-environment/how-are-we-regulated/  . The EA and HSE have agreed to jointly inspect operations.
Complaint 7 ‘Chemicals’ ‘a chemical spill of Calcium Di Hydroxide at iGas’ Barton Moss site’
This does not indicate a lack of regulation, but a minor accident. Regulation, enforced by the EA, requires that the well pads must be chemical-proof http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/protecting-our-environment/water/ , and assessed against flooding risk to mitigate mishaps such as this which can occur in any industry. In any event, Calcium Dihydroxide is not hazardous. http://www.icca-chem.org/Portal/SafetySummarySheets/634578159377315274_PSS%20Ca%28OH%292_V01.pdf
Complaint 8 Chemicals used in the extraction process …. as well as BTEX volatile organic compounds; Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene, which return to surface with the gas….. in the USA people living near shale gas wells have found drilling chemicals in their blood and organs,….
None of these chemicals have been licenced by the EA. The EA require that in the UK, operators must show the Environment Agency that all such chemicals are non-hazardous in their intended application. (See page 4 of this link https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265972/Developing_Onshore_Shale_Gas_and_Oil__Facts_about_Fracking_131213.pdf ) In view of the carcinogenic properties of these chemicals there is no evidence to suggest that these would ever be permitted. The nature of chemicals must also be made public. The implication is that this would be included in the current plans, which is false. This also ignores the fundamental differences in regulation of fugitive emissions, controlled by the EA https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277219/Air.pdf . It also ignores the judgement of scientists at the Health Protection Agency (HPA) http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141391233 .
The assertion that drilling chemicals have been found in the blood and organs of people in the USA is highly contentious and would not happen here due to the regulation required. We believe it to be yet more scaremongering as all drilling chemicals need to be licenced by the EA. This link http://www.dartenergyscotland.co.uk/images/documents/Dart_Closing_Submissions-Mr_Steele_QC.pdf  (Pages 34 to 39) shows that claims such as these have been made before, and have no basis in fact. All additives are individually assessed and required to be non hazardous.
Complaint 9 ‘Well leaks… 6% of wells leak immediately, with 50% leaking within 15 years… Well integrity is a chronic problem that the oil and gas industry do not know how to fix.’
This is a common misconception and it is false. This is based on a paper from Schlumberger http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/en/pdf/Publications/MudCement2003.pdf , in 2003. In this, the problem of ‘sustained casing pressure’ is tackled, and the company helpfully provides a solution! Wells have a number of barriers to leaking gas, and a single leak is not good, but it does not necessarily mean a leak of fluids to the environment. It is also fixable by ‘squeezing’ cement, so the idea that ‘the industry does not know how to fix ‘ is false. The technique is described here http://petrowiki.spe.org/Remedial_cementing  . Leaks in the USA that have been heavily publicized have all been repaired. Further details are available on this link  . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing_in_the_United_Kingdom#Well_leak_concerns There are currently no wells leaking in the UK https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/268623/13_1664.pdf , with over 2000 land wells, and 6500 offshore wells. There were some historical prblems but these have been fixed. This paper http://www.spe.org/atce/2013/pages/schedule/tech_program/documents/spe166142-page1.pdf  indicates ‘true well integrity failure rates are two to three orders of magnitude lower than single barrier failure rates’ This is inaccurate, misleading and scaremongering.
Page 3
Complaint 10 ‘Where does the waste go’….. ‘vast quantities of hazardous wastewater also called flowback. It contains water, toxic chemicals, heavy metals, radioactive materials including Uranium, Thorium, Radium, Lead and Radon….. radioactive drill cuttings, however, a radioactive waste permit is not required.’
The treatment of flow back water and drill cuttings is covered by licencing from the EA https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265988/Onshore_UK_oil_and_gas_exploration_England_Dec13_contents.pdf  , (Page 23 on) under ‘Environmental Permitting Regulations’ as it is a ‘type 2 NORM industrial activity’ similar to many mining and extractive industries. It is open to public consultation as can be seen here https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/npsapp/dartenergy/dart_energy_west_england_limited  . The levels of radioactivity are monitored. Radioactivity and microscopic amounts of many materials are present in food, building materials, soil, the human body and yes, drill cuttings. The question is at what concentration? The main ‘toxic’ chemical is salt. This BBC report  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-25902272 covers the main issues, indicating that the EA have tightened regulations, and that treatment methods http://www.resource.uk.com/article/Comment/water039s_fine-3365#.U_Oiuf1wapq  mean that the fluid can be disposed of safely. As such this is both false, and is scaremongering.
Complaint 11 ‘toxic chemicals that rise to the surface with the gas are also discharged into the atmosphere. This results in poisonous air pollution’
Covered in this publication   https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/npsapp/dartenergy/dart_energy_west_england_limited . Use of the words ‘toxic’, and ‘poisonous’ is false and scaremongering. The gas that would be produced is mainly methane, and that would be collected, or burned, leaving no toxic products. Like much of the output from protestors, this is based on the open storage of flowback fluids. The EA and EU require enclosed steel tanks.
Complaint 12 The use of the image of the overflow pipe, ‘draining into the river Ribble’.
This pipe has been installed under licence from the EA, and is part of the drainage and storage of rain runoff. It is not a ‘secret’ chemical disposal point. As such this is scaremongering by people who have not bothered to enquire as to what this was for. Cuadrilla’s website http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/protecting-our-environment/water/  shows the construction of this and clearly a chemical proof pad will need to be drained after rain, after checking that there is no chemical contamination.

Page 4
Complaint 13Water contamination…etc ‘
There is ‘no medical evidence’ to support the Hollowitch case described, as can be seen herehttp://energyindepth.org/wp-content/uploads/marcellus/2013/03/Affidavit.pdf  . In addition, no pollution that could be ascribed to drilling was found by the authorities http://energyindepth.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/DEP-Response-Letter-to-Hallowich-08-12-2009-3.pdf  . As such the claim of a gagging order seems rather bizarre.
There have been many claims about methane contamination of water wells due to shale gas fracking, and it has been difficult to prove this as no base line measures were made in many cases (such as the one above). The British Geological Survey have recently completed a baseline survey http://www.bgs.ac.uk/research/groundwater/shaleGas/methaneBaseline/results.html  to inform any claims. In addition the Royal Academy of Engineering report https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/shale-gas/2012-06-28-Shale-gas.pdf  recognized this as a problem area and best practice in well design are required by the HSE.
The RAE report https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/shale-gas/2012-06-28-Shale-gas.pdf  also indicated that there has never been a case of fracking fluids entering aquifers in the USA, (see page 12, para 1.4.1) although this was an area of concern, regarding well design, and the separation of aquifers and shale formations. The reported AAP article appears to be this one  https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/shale-gas/2012-06-28-Shale-gas.pdf , and the only contaminant mentioned is methane, which is non toxic.

Unfortunately the ASA has provided support for RAFF in the past. This is frequently referred to by those who are against this technology. Many of the ASA sustained complaints http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2013/4/Cuadrilla-Resources-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_203806.aspx#.U_Okx_1wapp  seem tenuous, but one, that hydrochloric acid is ‘toxic’ is simply incorrect. The stated reference, the HPA, does NOT classify this chemical as ‘toxic’, merely as ‘irritant’, and in high concentrations, as ‘corrosive’ as can be seen here, on Page 13 http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2013/4/Cuadrilla-Resources-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_203806.aspx#.U_Okx_1wapp  . (The designations of ‘toxic’ refer to hydrogen chloride, not hydrochloric acid.)
We feel it is a matter of public interest have full judgments made. There are court cases arising from legal, well researched drilling plans being opposed on false grounds. In addition, policing of ill-informed protest is costly for the UK as a whole, yet the ‘anti fracking’ movement seems able to present these false arguments with no comment.

Regards, Michael Roberts, and Ken Wilkinson