Thursday, 3 July 2014

Over 5,000 objections to Cuadrilla's fracking site application. Cuadrilla applies for second test site

Roseacre residents express their views on fracking

Over 5,000 objections have been lodged with Lancashire County Council against Cuadrilla's application to drill at a proposed site on agricultural land at Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton in Fylde, about 20 miles south of Lancaster.  You can read more about these proposals in our previous story here.

How to object
Updated 4/7/14. The County Council has just announced that the closing date for objections at Preston New Road is extended until 19 September 2014. You can lodge your own objections online on the Council's website at LCC/2014/0096 or very quickly sign a pre-filled objection (which you can also edit) at the Friends of the Earth website (click here).

Cuadrilla's equally important Environment Agency radioactivity licensing permit applications remain open to objections until 5 August and you have your say on that by clicking here. These are in addition to its applications to the County Council and are for licensing for its use of highly toxic chemicals where there is a risk of pollution to groundwater (as they did at Preesall), and managing its toxic waste.

A national government public consultation on Underground Drilling Access rights - ie the right to drill under private property without the landowner's consent closes on 15 August. Click here to view it and have your say.

New Applications for Roseacre Woods
Cuadrilla's application for a similar test drilling site at Roseacre Wood, about 5 miles from Little Plumpton has now been made public and can be viewed on the County Council website, where you can also submit your views (click here). The closing date is 19 September 2014. You can also very quickly sign a pre-filled objection (which you can also edit) at the Friends of the Earth website (click here).

The Roseacre Awareness Group (http://www.ragfrack.co.uk/) is just one of the dozens of anti-fracking groups that have formed throughout the region to raise awareness in local communities about the plans and enable local people to have their say. But is anyone listening?

New underground drilling legislation
Opposition to the fracking plans is widespread, but the Coalition Government is committed to supporting this extreme energy industry at any cost. It has rushed through a new Infrastructure Act with a clause to enable fracking companies to drill under private land and homes without the owners' consent.  Cuadrilla threatened to pull out unless this privilege was granted. Cuadrilla chairman Lord John Brown is the Coalition Cabinet's Chief Energy Advisor, from which position he enjoys a great deal more influence than Lancashire residents in the 'desolate north'.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, told the Times that the requirement to seek landowner’s permission was ‘ridiculous’.  You can respond via the government's consultation (click here).

Arup
Cuadrilla's application is backed by an 'Environmental Impact Assessment' by 'independent' consultants Arup Associates, whose website pitch tells us that they 'take sustainability beyond green'. It's possible that their landscape preferences are influenced by their time spent collaborating on major construction projects in oil-rich Middle Eastern desert states.

Arup numbers among its prestigious projects the King Abdullah Sports City in Saudi Arabia and the Doha City Stadium in Qatar. Another major client is Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB.  His newspaper The Sun has been a strong supporter of fracking as has its US counterpart, the New York Times.

Arup conclude that the natural, rural character of the Fylde area and its communities can be maintained throughout the proposed activities of the shale gas extraction industry in the area. This would be a unique achievement in the global history of an industry that has left behind it a well-documented trail of toxic pollution, seismic instability, birth defects, lung damage, chronic sickness, ghost towns, unsustainable toxic waste storage solutions, unrealised return projections, state corruption and cover-ups and bankrupt cleanup provision dumped at the doorsteps of traumatised communities.

Widespread opposition
Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth’s North West campaigner told the Lancashire Evening Post that: “People in Lancashire and across the UK are sending a clear message that Cuadrilla’s fracking plans are strongly opposed on environmental and community impact grounds.  

"The applications to frack multiple wells in the Fylde are of national interest as the area is nationally important for food production and wildlife protection, and what happens here will affect the future of the fracking industry across the country.”

What do our local parliamentary candidates say?
Local MP Eric Ollerenshaw has told Virtual Lancaster that he supports the development of the shale gas and oil extraction industries in the North and believes it can be adequately regulated to prevent harm to local communities and their land, water, air and transport infrastructure. This is despite a series of licensing breaches by Cuadrilla which do not appear to be acknowledged in any of their applications and which have not met with any sanction. He also told us about the Underground Drilling Access public consultation, which is helpful as no-one else has mentioned it to us.

Labour parliamentary candidate Cat Smith told VL "As with any planning application the wishes of the local community should be taken into account. Personally I have yet to be convinced by the case for fracking, on economic or environmental grounds. I know many local people are concerned about contamination of the water table, earth tremors and our over reliance on fossil fuels which are all valid concerns and ones which we need honest answers to."

Green party candidate Gina Dowding has clearly stated her opposition to fossil fuel extraction. In May the Green party published a new report on the region’s renewable energy capacity and its potential for the region's future – “Energy in the North West - Bringing about a low-carbon, affordable energy future”.  The report sets out the region’s potential to be a leader in green energy, creating thousands of much-needed jobs.

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