Is National Trust open to fracking consultation?
The National Trust is prepared to consider fracking on its land, having all but ruled out wind farms, according to the head of the conservation charity, Dame Helen Ghosh. The trust owns 600,000 acres of land and 700m miles of coastline. Apparently, the Trust has yet to see what the surface environmental impact of fracking is, and is waiting for the evidence. Images from a US National Parks study provide a ready answer. This summer, Americans submitted more than a million comments to President Obama to protect national forests, national parks and the drinking water they provide from fracking. This might be an opportune moment for the Trust to consult on a fracking policy?
The US study says, “National parks are managed under a precautionary principle designed to err on the conservative side of any potentially negative impacts. The same principle should be applied to fracking activities on lands adjacent to our national parks.”
There is certainly an appetite for public discussion on shale gas extraction, with over 200 people crowding into a civic hall in East Grinstead, Sussex, last night to watch Gasland 2 , a new film from director Josh Fox, which includes toe-curling segments on the impacts of fracking in America’s National Parks on landscape, human health and politics itself.
The US national parks study raises a series of questions about fracking impacts that “even the experts can’t predict.” Will it contaminate the air we breathe in national parks? Will it harm native wildlife and the water and forests they depend on for survival? Will it damage the resources we value in our national parks? “The answers are just beginning to emerge.”
In the US, 35 national parks overlie or are in the vicinity of the geological formation called the “Marcellus Shale.” Covering approximately 48,000 square miles, the Marcellus Shale formation occurs beneath the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. An estimated 363 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could be recovered from the formation, enough to supply the entire United States at current rates of consumption for 15 years. These regions also supply fresh water to, for example, New York city, where the Mayor has banned shale gas exploration.
While all of the impacts of the US natural gas boom have yet to be fully understood, the study says impacts to US national parks may include:
- Water contamination related to drilling and the disposal of drilling fluid
- Reductions in stream flow and ground water levels
- Air quality degradation
- Impacts to wildlife
- Impacts to night skies and soundscapes
- Impacts to cultural resources
- Worker safety concerns
Gaslands 2 points to yet more impacts: cutting of new access routes and gas pipelines through forests, massive vehicle movements, impacts on human health (respiratory diseases, cancers) for those living in fracking zones, together with fundamental democratic issues involving civic and human rights in the granting of drilling permits.