Tag Archives: frackademic

Fracturing democracy? State, fracking and local democracy in Lancashire

 

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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.

https://drillordrop.com/2016/08/31/lancashire-fracking-prospect-causes-stress-suspicion-and-fractured-communities-new-research/

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 🙂

https://uib.academia.edu/AnnaSzolucha

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

footnotes

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

http://naturalgasnow.org/purists-vs-problem-solvers-shale-revolution-changes/ 

(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.

http://www.webmd.boots.com/asthma/news/20160719/fracking-may-worsen-asthma

 

boots

It even appears on the UK local government site.

http://www.localgov.co.uk/Fracking-industry-linked-to-asthma-attacks/41278

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

http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2534153

jama

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.

ABSTRACT

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.

 

asthma

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.

http://energyindepth.org/marcellus/despite-provocative-headlines-new-pa-study-fails-to-link-fracking-to-asthma/

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.

Conclusion

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.

Edit
This further blog continues the hatchet job.
http://energyindepth.org/marcellus/pa-health-report-destroys-activist-fracking-asthma-study-conclusion/
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

CaJVbzFWEAgmsif

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

Frackingsmoking

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

 

frackcancerpaper

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

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/ipdf/10.1021/acs.est.6b02342

cancerretract

 

And here is a discussion of what was wrong

http://energyindepth.org/ohio/corrected-uc-fracking-study-shows-retracted-original-exaggerated-cancer-risk-725000-percent/

 

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;

BukM1WJIMAEMIjV

So cheers to fracking

1891100_10152585896227589_1151668140_n

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

jonah

This is what our countryside will look like

fracking-sim-small

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

 

1959yellowstone

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

1521421_622953834436508_498065998_n

 

1655914_750161931739394_3445642341288021594_n

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

1779918_10201448818839191_1118963300_n

 

B3Pj6WZCMAAgFd4BwDMkI6IEAA6YUf

guest-1024x930

 

How do these parties compare to the Tories?

No-Fracking-campaign-image_opt

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

 

fracs-vs-aquifers-300x225

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.

 

frackingfluid

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

Cuadrilla

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

10731152_10152128926854229_4862207218892520750_n

 

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

frackademics

Alleged health effects.

frackedbabyfrackedbaby2

westwood

 

But smoking has no health effects

Frackingsmoking

Experts like Mike Hill say fracking is dodgy

postermikehill02

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

Blackpoolundersea

Mike hill’s office in Lytham

Hill under water

His misrepresentation of flares

hillflaring

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

Rapefracking

And now for more green shibboleths; – for light entertainment

GMO

 

GMO

Danger of GMO

Chemical-free organic food

chemical-free

Anti-vaxxers

 

antivaccers

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

 

Not for me , thanks

10251928_775996175803727_3695650450474677535_n

 

 

 

deadbythirty

renewable

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.)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/fracking/11005179/Scientist-who-gave-evidence-against-fracking-site-accused-of-claiming-false-qualifications.html

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.

http://www.davidsmythe.org/professional/insolence.html

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.

 

SmytheWitney

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;

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/dont-let-fracking-destroy-all-of-this/

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:

 

http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/index.htm

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/guidance/fd4.pdf

 

Kind regards

name removed

HID Oil and Gas Policy Team

Health and Safety Executive

Redgrave Court

Merseyside L20 7HS