Tuesday, 4 November 2014

To frack or not to frack?

Oxfordshire County Councillors entering County Hall on Tuesday to speak on fracking insisted this was not a debate but simply ‘airing personal opinions’. Some also claimed that, as the planning authority they have limited powers relating to fracking. Although licences are now issued nationally the planning authority still has oversight. It was Lancashire County Council in the dock at Preston magistrates’ court for allowing Cuadrilla to continuing to drill two months beyond their permitted time in breach of their planning permissions. In Balcombe,  Cuadrilla have been shown to be in breach of their noise conditions and have withdrawn two applications for amendments to their planning consent on suspicion that the original consent was not fully lawfully granted, and an extension was challengeable

 The report presented to Oxfordshire County councillors specifies that the ‘authorities should ensure the … safety of underground storage facilities … taking into account the maintenance of gas pressure [and], prevention of leakage of gas …’ http://mycouncil.oxfordshire.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=27562&ISATT=1#search=%22fracking%22

Yet the well casing at the notorious PH1 Cuadrilla fracking well at Preese Hall, Lancashire was almost certainly deformed during earth tremors and now has problems with pressure. This is usually an indication that the cement casing is failing and there is gas leakage. The Health and Safety Executive have claimed that there have been no gas leaks  at PH1 and that the cement casing was thick enough to prevent "significant" leaks yet they have performed no inspections and are relying on data provided by Cuadrilla.

The Department of Environment and Climate Change assures us that the UK has a strong track record of robustly regulating the energy sector. They certainly do not have a robust record of monitoring fracking wells.
The same HSE we are asked to entrust with monitoring the safety of fracking wells has demonstrably and dramatically failed to do so.