The rational anti-fracking movement of Balcombe
The exploitation of any new energy source should be based on sound science and economics. The Prime Minister may come to regret his remarks that some people are “religiously opposed” to shale gas, declaring this “irrational.” In a 3,500-word submission to the House of Lords inquiry into shale gas fracking, the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association responds: “Some politicians label us ‘irrational’. But we in Balcombe have been soberly studying fracking for the past two years.” They draw on “peer-reviewed science, our experience of Cuadrilla operating in our village, and on personal contact with North Americans and Australians whose land and lives have been severely damaged by this industry.” Balcombe residents expressed disbelief at Cuadrilla’s claim yesterday that they have no intention of fracking in the village.
This is a brief extract of FFBRA ‘s compelling report:
- Community sweeteners: “The potential costs to health, environment and livelihood are too great.” The money would not go far in any case – FFBRA cites US road-mending data that show the costs of improving and repairing roads exceed any compensation.
- Longer-term costs: Wells once drilled will be there forever. Evidence from the USA shows that around half of all wells will fail or leak within a few years. How long will Cuadrilla’s insurance be valid, a company with apparently a six figure negative net worth.
- Cheaper energy: “Gas prices will not drop this side of the Atlantic for industry and hard-working families.” Virtually all the experts, including Lord Stern, are now agreed on this, but the government still repeats this myth. We are part of the European regional gas market, and any local extraction will have minimal impact.
- Hyped job figures: An Institute of Directors, Cuadrilla-sponsored study (including non-peer reviewed, industry data) promised 74,000 jobs. An official DECC-funded study by Amec predicted a range of 2,500 – 32,000. Yet government and industry still quote Cuadrilla’s figure.
- Climate change: Peer-reviewed scientific papers published recently in the USA provide powerful evidence of high levels of methane emissions in the air around gas sites, at levels that would undermine any claims that shale gas could result in lower greenhouse gas emissions if gas were to replace coal.
- Industrialisation of the countryside: fracking will ‘result in unavoidable changes to the countryside’. We are threatened with thousands of wells. Oil or gas flow declines sharply in shale wells, possibly by 70% over the first year.
- Inadequate on-shore regulation: adequate regulation “is impossible for on-shore shale gas exploration.” Baseline air and water quality data has been lacking. Companies have opposed public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing – well over 600 chemicals have so far been used in fracking fluid across more than a dozen states – including hazardous air and drinking water pollutants, and known human carcinogen. No long-term study has been done anywhere in the world on the public health effects of chronic exposure of human populations to the emissions from shale gas/oil extraction. But extended exposure to the radioactive and chemical emissions typically associated with shale gas/oil operations poses a serious mortality and morbidity risk and this should be made clear.
- The Environment Agency is increasingly understaffed and underfinanced. Setting a pattern for the future, last summer, Cuadrilla were allowed to self-monitor, self-report, and self-regulate.
- Conflicted role of government: The government is now caught between its reassurances about what it claims is a ‘robust regulatory regime’ and its promise to industry of ‘clear, streamlined regulations’. But ‘streamlined’ carries the implication that the oil and gas industry will influence the democratic process, dissenting voices will be ignored and that evidence pointing to dangers of grave environmental damage will be sidelined.
- Reflux: Around half the fracking fluid comes back up to the surface through the well. More fluid (or gas) can emerge elsewhere at unpredictable times and locations. Professor of Geophysics at Glasgow University, David Smythe, has examined the issue of rock faults acting as conduits to take such hazardous material back up to our immediate environment: ‘A leaky fault is a fast-track back to shallow groundwater and to the surface for methane and other gases”
Looking ahead, Celtique Energie has said it wants to explore for gas and oil at five sites in Sussex. Frack Free Sussex is similarly examining the complex scientific and environmental implications of a transient industry that will leave a permanent footprint.
Or, from this:
To this? (Wyoming)