Tag Archives: Yorkshire

Are Friends of the Earth losing their grip?

Are Friends of the Earth losing their grip? I certainly hope so after see what they did in Lancs and Yorks . Over the last few years they have cajoled too many in these counties to oppose fracking, yet they cannot get there facts right.


fracking sandDSCF9208

Here is Nick Grealy giving a good summary of their activities and why they may well be losing



Are Friends of the Earth leaving the field of the shale battle in the UK?  There are recent pointers that they are at least sidling towards the exit.  Ironically, for an organisation whose followers often see oil and gas money as the root of all evil,  it comes down to money.

In North Yorkshire, FoE and Frack Free Ryedale, are considering a legal appeal of the council’s planning decision, and are in the early stages of the process.  If it moves to the next stage, then it starts getting expensive, since under the UK legal system each party is liable for the legal costs of the other side if they were unsuccessful.

Given that appeal leans heavily on the argument that onshore natural gas is bad for climate change, a point broadly dismissed by the Committee on Climate Change itself,  the case is looking shaky.  Speaking for several in the industry however, we would happily welcome it. Bring it on – lets settle this in court where it belongs and not in the local press.  Then we can move on. Given that the multiple, if sometimes interminable, reviews of regulation are finally drawing to a close and the new government has other quixotic issues to waste years of time on, we will finally see a put up or shut up  day of reckoning – for both sides- sooner rather than later. This winter we may well see some actual results.  Based on the combination of 2017 technology and 300 million year old rocks,  the results may promise to be even more interesting than they could have been five years ago.  To those of us who have managed to survive, it may well be worth the wait.  Or perhaps not.  Even a failure of UK shale would settle things and allow an educated discussion of other UK energy options. Shale has been the elephant in the room that blocks all other energy projects too. The question has to be settled sooner or later, one way or the other, for everyone’s benefit.

FoE can commit their own lawyers’s time and risk their money on helping this cause.  But just as in shale exploration, investment from partners often depends on a complex web.  One thing that may be putting FoE off is that the donations from Frack Free Ryedale ‘s side are underwhelming with £618 out of £10K raised as of August 3.  Why should they run all the risk.  People have mouths – but sometimes you have to show them your money and FF Ryedale and their allies are neither putting up or shutting up. Insiders at FoE have told me that the Brexit referendum also counts in the calculations.  FoE, in line with most greens, and most of the onshore industry too, see Brexit as the real issue.  But as the insider from FoE notes, their allies in North Yorkshire and Lancashire voted two to one, not for the Earth, or Europe, but for selfishness and nimbyism. This highlights the essential clash of cultures in the shale battle between climate campaigners with progressive values and nimbys who are obsessively conservative. If the nimby side can only come up with £600, why should FoE bother?

But if it goes to court, even £10K will be peanuts.  So will FoE invest?  They have an in-house legal team so their costs are initially already low, but they run the risk of significant impact if they lose.

Insiders say they could run some commercial  risk for their arm Friends of  the Earth Limited, a company set up to avoid FoE’s charity arm ban on political campaigns. A complaint, long overdue in my opinion, against an egregiously alarming fund raising pamphlet by FoE Limited and inserted in the Sunday Times,


made by both Cuadrilla and private citizens is currently being decided by the Advertising Standards Authority.

If the complaint were upheld, FoE Limited run a risk of then being sued for damages based on restraint of trade or other principles. Cuadrilla would be unlikely to do so , but many other license holders and their potential suppliers could. At the very least, FoE can be expected to tone down some of the more fanciful allegations in their fracking scare machine.

It’s three years this month since we saw peak fracking frenzy in the press during the Balcombe protests.  Since then, nothing has happened either way.  The OGA ran an exploration round in the meantime that was  underwhelming in it’s results, and the press have moved on.  Anything other than the local press seems thoroughly bored with yesterday’s news. Meanwhile it’s clear that the shale revolution is advancing beyond anyone’s wildest expectations in the US, and starting to reach critical mass in China. At the same time, damage just isn’t showing up in modern shale and any point of having a debate based on the outdated Gasland movie is looking as meaningless as talking about solar and wind based on 2010 costs.

It’s time to move on and explore and see if the resource is actually there or not.  Then we can have a fact based discussion on the next moves. FoE have plenty of other good work to do. Fracking has been a money spinner for them, but the green brand is a valuable (as smart shale explorers are discovering) and attractive one and they can survive well enough without the fracking distraction.



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  1. Appreciate the article, Nick. Had much the same reaction to the news that these groups would legally oppose the 3rd Energy decision. I hope that challenge does go forward. From what I understand, if FoE seeks an injunction to prohibit the fracking from proceeding, it could lose a lot more because it would then be subject to paying for lost operational time in addition to legal fees. Let me know if you have any thoughts? Thx

  2. Interesting story from the UK. In the US, it appears that civil unrest in Venezuela, Iraq, and Nigeria can be found everywhere but in America’s oil import statistics! Today’s EIA report has high imports from all three states and Saudi Arabia and it appears that the ultimate law of OPEC is no member concedes any loss of the American market and will fight it at any cost.

    Also, I see that New York state has decided to include nuclear power as no-carbon power which will allow at least some reactors to continue running in the state. The justification offered was if they were shut, the power would be replaced by natural gas.

    I actually applaud this decision because it shows that the regulators (finally) understand that there are many competing values at stake, (no nukes!) (no carbon!) (save the earth!) and to choose one is to exclude the other. Making decisions on this basis is the sign of mature intellects making balanced decisions.

    If they continue this way eventually they will understand that allowing shale drilling in New York will lead to economic prosperity!

Have Frack Free Ryedale been naughty?


So far the storm centre for fracking has been Lancashire, culminating in the fractivist phyrric victory in June 2015. The amount of disinformation has been incredible from the various groups aided and abetted by Friends of the Earth. However RAFF (Residents against Fracking: Fylde) withdrew a leaflet after a complaint to the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) back in January; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/complaint-to-asa-against-raff-residents-action-on-fracking-fylde-for-gross-errors/ and now there is a complaint with the ASA about Friends of the Earth’s activities in Lancashire with their amazing suggestion of fracking in Grasmere https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/dont-let-fracking-destroy-all-of-this/

At present the action has crossed the Pennines to Yorkshire, especially to Ryedale, a beautiful part of Yorkshire with poor employment prospects.

2014-07-09 13.10.04 2014-07-09 14.10.38 2015-05-09 19.34.03

There Frack Free Ryedale has been very active and have come out with some extreme ideas as this tweet shows


That is false on several accounts, but the tweet was removed after criticism but the substance is still being repeated.

Over the last two year FFR have been active and even recruited a bishop to support them. Friends of the Earth are often present at times in the form of Tony Bosworth, he of “sand causes cancer” fame.

If you want to find out more You can look at FFR’s tweets or face book pages until you are blocked or to Friends of Ryedale Gas Exploration (FORGE)   https://www.facebook.com/ryedalegas?fref=ts

I hope this has given the background of what’s going on in Ryedale, but in September 2015 FFR put an advert into the Malton Gazette. As it was replete with error and misleading Ken gave it his usual treatment and complained to the ASA. You will find what he wrote below. What happens now is that FFR will be given opportunity to respond and either accept or refute the complaints. But nothing further can be said until ASA publish a conclusion

To the Advertising Standards Authority, from Ken Wilkinson 24/Sept/2015.

Regarding a paid for advert published in the Malton Gazette in the week of 23 Sept 2015.


I would like to complain about the content of this advert as I believe it contravenes your guidelines.

Complaint 1.

Frack Free Ryedale (FFR) have used a quote from a draft report from DEFRA that was never completed. It did not pass the standards required and did not present any new research. This was only published after a freedom of information request. As such this report would not represent a reasonable view of the matters being discussed. To quote https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-shale-gas-rural-economy-impactspaper ‘This paper is an early draft of an internal document; it is not analytically robust. Work on it has since been discontinued. The draft paper was intended as a review of existing literature. It includes early, often vague, assumptions which are not supported by appropriate evidence. These were never intended as considered Defra positions or as statements of fact. Containing no new evidence, the paper simply refers to data from overseas studies which cannot be used to predict impacts in the UK with any degree of reliability. The author of the paper was not asked to consider, and did not have an in-depth knowledge of, the UK regulatory framework. In June 2012, the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report concluded that environmental (and health and safety) risks can be managed effectively in the UK if operational best practices are enforced through regulation. The UK has a rigorous and robust regulatory regime which is fully capable of preventing and managing any risks.’ As such, the use of this document as a source of data that will be used to inform the public is not acceptable and I believe that breaches your guidelines.

Complaint 2.

FFR have made a statement that ‘Fracking IS bad for business’. It would appear that the source for this is the DEFRA report above. However, even the flawed report uses the word ‘may’ several times, to indicate conditional statements. They are, by their very nature, only indicating a possibility. FFR have stated that fracking IS bad for business with no evidence to support that. The press widely reported that ‘Fracking could generate 33 billion pounds and 64000 jobs’ in a report prepared by Earnst and Young, in 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/24/fracking-generate-investment-jobsindustry-report-uk as such it would appear that FFR have presented an unsupported statement that does not follow expert opinion. As such this would appear to have breached your guidelines.

Complaint 3.

the phrase ‘industrialisation of the countryside’ used in the last statement is problematic. On 24th April 2013, the ASA passed a judgement regarding a similar matter concerning Cuadrilla and a complaint made by Refracktion. ASA complaint A12-203806. In this Cuadrilla claimed that the land usage was small, and the ASA appeared to have agreed with that assertion, as the complaint was rejected. A similar complaint was made in the Lancashire Planning debate, with Cuadrilla, and the idea that this type of development is ‘industrialisation’ was rejected by the planners. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/industrialization The development of industries in a country or region on a wide scale www.Dictionary.reference.com defines industrialisation as ‘an economic organization of society built largely on mechanized industry rather than agriculture, craftsmanship, or commerce’. Other dictionaries use a similar definition, namely that the extent of the industry must be large, and have the effect of displacing other ways of living, such as farming or tourism. It also indicates something that would be permanent. The drilling and operations proposed by the local drilling company are temporary, and as such cannot be considered as industrialisation. A small number of wellpads, each one having possibly 24 wells, one every 3 miles, and well concealed behind trees, would hardly constitute ‘industrialisation’. In the UK, we have an extensive gas infrastructure, and it is all buried, out of view, and safe. In the area where FFR are trying to influence opinion, there are 8 producing wells that have been drilled in the last 20 years or so, and these were not noticed. They also did not affect local tourism or business. FFR would appear to be trying to further the impression that wells would be drilled vertically, with no regard to the local environment, as this aerial view from FFR’s leaflet that was distributed in the area tries to show. This is from an old coal gas project in Australia, and as such is not a fair comparison. It take no account of local planning law, or the ability to drill horizontally, or the fact that no one is planning this kind of development. http://frackfreeryedale.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/GAS-EXPLORATION-IN-RYEDALELEAFLET.pdf

this is fracking

It also fails to recognise the study done by AMEC in 2013, that visualises various scenarios for the development of shale gas using horizontally drilled wells. On pages 29 and 30 of this you can see wellpads with up to 24 wells are visualised. It also states that the ‘Minimum distance between well pad sites ……5 km in most densely developed areas’. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/273997/DECC_S EA_Environmental_Report.pdf Looking at the impact of a wellpad, they are assessed as being of 2 to 3 hectares. Looking at a 5 km square, that amounts to a land take of around 1/10th of one percent, or 1 in a thousand. This would be the only surface impact, once pipelines were installed. The drilling with its rig, is only a temporary installation, and so not ‘industrialisation’.

km8 siteThe picture here is of the visible impact of KM8 well, where work is proposed. It will look exactly the same after the proposed work that FFR are complaining about. As guidance, please see the following links, regarding the surface impact on the tiny amount of land that would be used. https://millicentmedia.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/image-of-a-completed-well-pad-with-10- wells-computer-generated-cuadrilla-resources.jpg

deccimageThis graphic from the govt DECC shows the minimal surface impact of a multiwell site.

onshore3rd   Each mark is a well that has been drilled in the North Yorkshire area for hydro carbons. (courtesy Third Energy).

wych farm  This is one of the 10 wellpads in beautiful Poole harbour, where 100 wells have been drilled. They are difficult or impossible to see, as they are all carefully sited and concealed. They have drilled under the millionaires retreat, Sandbanks, reportedly the fourth most expensive land in the world. When communicating with Frack Free Ryedale, could you please keep my name anonymous, describing me simply as ‘a concerned member of the public’ or similar. I would also appreciate that this matter be taken to the council for adjudication. I have brought three complaints in the last two years against misinformation from ‘anti’ frack groups. In all three cases, they withdrew, and promised not to present the adverts again. In view of the intense discussion over this technology it would only seem fair, and in the public interest, that the ASA actually makes a ruling on these matters, rather than accept the promises of a group that may well completely ignore the ASA’s views. I asked for this to be done on two previous complaints, but that was ignored.


Ken Wilkinson.