|Yesterday saw good coverage in the South Wales Echo and Western Mail:
Today we had Catrin O’Neill from the http://thevalesaysno.com/ campaign being interviewed at length on Radio Cardiff at lunchtime.
More positively – surge in local media coverage on fracking March 31, 2011
|I cannot honestly say that this surprises me. It was always going to be an uphill battle to get the test drilling proposal called in by WAG. It should be easier once actually fracking is part of the proposed activity in a subsequent application.
However, I still think we have a real, but outside chance of getting VoG to reject it, which in itself would be an important landmark event.
The battle is likely to have to go the distance, I suspect, and the distance is a very long haul I am afraid.
I will not be submitting any further call in requests for test drilling applications, for the time being at least. I will try again on Phase Two – exploratory wells – which will probably involve trial fracking ahead of Phase Three – full scale production.
Full text of letter received from WAG is below:
Dear Mr Chyba
TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING ACT 1990 – SECTION 77
I refer to your earlier correspondence asking the Welsh Ministers to call in the planning
I have considered the issues associated with the application in the light of the Welsh
In reaching my decision 1 did not consider the planning merits of the proposed development
The first is that the decision not to call in this application is not, nor should it be construed
Determination of this application out of the hands of the local planning authority.
The second is that should the applicants decide at a later stage that they wish to extract
S M JONES
Signed under authority of the Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing,
|Thanks to Tunny Griffiths for these links from an excellent organisation called Media Lens
Part 1 – http://medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=608:noble-war-in-libya-part-1&catid=24:alerts-2011&Itemid=68
This in depth analysis of the intervention in Libya is spot on.
Here is a small extract to whet your appetite:
The claim of noble intent is challenged by Western indifference to mass killing in Yemen and Bahrain using Western weapons. Cockburn writes in the Independent:
The worst verifiable atrocity in the Arab world in the past week was not in Libya but in Yemen, where pro-government gunmen machine-gunned an unarmed demonstration last Friday, killing 52 people.
Asked whether the United States still supported Yemens dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, or if it was time for him to go, US defence secretary Robert Gates said:
I don’t think it’s my place to talk about internal affairs in Yemen.
Saleh is an ally of the US against al-Qaeda, Eugene Robinson observes in the Washington Post, and therefore, is a useful tyrant. He gets nudges, not bombs.
He better remain so, as look what happened to Saddam Hussein when he stopped being a useful tyrant to West.
More Fracking Developments – including House of Lords debate and the first use of fracking in the UK March 30, 2011
|Article focussing, as predicted, just on Llandow is in the Western Mail/South Wales Echo today I believe – online version here:
This goes to show that local residents rising up and making a big fuss can grab the attention of the media in a way that banging on about it from experts and politicians cannot. There are important lessons to be learned here.
There was a short debate held in the House of Lords on 28th March in response to the question:
I find the level of misunderstanding, ignorance and complacency in this debate very worrying indeed.
Lord Marland’s light-hearted Call-my-bluff quips underline that, despite being Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Energy and Climate Change, he does not really know what he is talking about.
When asked ” Is the Minister satisfied that fracking is environmentally safe?” he replies, utterly erroneously: “It is hydraulic fracturing-sending in water and chemicals to discover whether there is shale gas there.” !!!
And he goes on to suggest the Environment Agency can be trusted to monitor any water issues.
Baroness Smith of Basildon, clearly not satisfied, asks why not hold fire until after the Select Committee report is published, or the USEPA report on implications for humans and the environment.
Lord Roxburgh raises one of my principal concerns about the whole business: “Does the Minister agree that some of the difficulties with shale gas exploitation in North America and elsewhere have arisen because of an unsatisfactory regulatory regime or through regimes being put into place too late? Is he satisfied that the existing regulatory regime that would cover shale gas exploitation in this country is adequate and derives full benefit from the experience of shale gas exploitation elsewhere?”
Well, Lord Marland, I suspect the same is true of the French and the Germans, but it was reported yesterday that France has imposed a moratorium on shale gas development, while the German state of North Rhine Westphalia last week asked US ExxonMobil to hold off from fracking work until the end of the year while an expert opinion was prepared on possible impacts.
Fracking Campaign Update March 29, 2011
|The meeting called by local residents in Llandow last night was a huge success. The Hall was packed out and there were more people present than homes in Llandow (est 70-80)! And all at less than 48 hours notice.
I was happy to accept the invitation to be the principal speaker. I outlined what is involved, what has been seen to go wrong and what is at stake. I stressed that this was an issue far beyond the immediate environs of Llandow and that even if this proposal was defeated, there will be more, and even those some distance away can pose threats. This has to be more than a NIMBY protest, and I think that was well understood by the end.
The people of Llandow are prepared to lead the way in making this the huge issue it needs to become. Another local resident has already booked a bigger venue in Llantwit Major, the LLantonian Hall, for another public meeting next Wednesday at 7pm. In light of the proposals that have come to light again in Bridgend CBC, near Llangynwyd/Bettws and Maesteg, we ought to strive to support this meeting and campaign. Let me know if any body would like a lift.
I have also initiated dialogue with St Donats Art Centre with a view to getting them to screen GASLAND in their cinema. This film graphically illustrates what is at stake and shows the lessons we need to learn from mistakes stateside. Details as and when I get them. The film is also available on DVD (hire: http://www.lovefilm.com/film/GasLand/158608/ ; buy: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gasland-DVD-Josh-Fox/dp/B004CSKCT0/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1301402493&sr=1-1 )
I have formally requested the Call In of the Cwmdu, Maesteg proposal by WAG. Unfortunately, in undertaking this exercise, I uncovered another application for a site roughly half way between Llangynwyd and Bettws (if you draw a straight line between the two). This has got under my radar and was granted ‘temporary approval’ on 10th March. Temporary approval means, in this case, that they only have initial permission to operate for a period of three months after drilling commences.
Various press releases have been issued by Bridgend and the Vale Green Parties and the regional media, as well as the local media are beginning to sit up and take notice.
I have also been in dialogue with a Western Mail / South Wales Echo journalist, Peter Law, who is following the story, but with a curious focus just on just Llandow it seems. He is telling me that they will be running a story tomorrow (Wednesday). Look out for that.
More soon – no doubt!
PRESS RELEASE – Rash of Fracking applications in danger of becoming an epidemic of ‘Gasland’ proportions March 28, 2011
Bridgend Green Party first became aware of three planning applications for fracking proposals in locations just to the north of Bridgend (Llangeinor/Bettws/Ognore Vale) by Centrica. We instigated a campaign against these proposals, but it did not not need to go very far as Centrica quickly withdrew their proposals from Bridgend CBC.
We could not relax for long. Investigations revealed that Centrica had 5 proposals before Neath Port Talbot CBC, two of which had approval. Then the proposal by Bridgend based Coastal Oil & Gas Ltd at Llandow came to light. Local residents quickly sought our help in opposing this, leading to websites, petitions, letter writing and public meetings.
Back in Bridgend, a proposal by UK Methane Ltd at Cwmdu, just outside Maesteg has come to light. I have asked for this and the Llandow proposal to be called for scrutiny by WAG. They insist obn going through this time consuming procedure for each application separately. I have now stumbled across yet another one in Bridgend CBC by Coastal Oil & Gas at Cwmcydfyw, between Llangynwyd and Bettws. This one was granted ‘temporary approval’ a couple of weeks ago.
I know of other applications over near Swansea, and there will be ones in RCT and Merthyr Tydfil, but I cannot keep track of them all any more. The whole of the South Wales coalfield area (and a bit beyond) has already been licensed out by the Department of Energy. There could be applications anywhere, at any time. I initially wanted all coal bed methane applications called in, for reasons that should be becoming clear by now. We are facing a scattering of proposals that could occur at almost any random spot across the South Wales Coalfield area (and bit beyond), at any time and from a wide range of PEDL licence holders, across numerous planning authorities. Dealing with each one separately is crazy and is only going to increase the probability of nasty consequences somewhere. As the consequences are so far reaching, some joined up thinking is desperately needed. Surely that is grounds for calling in.
The authorities seem to be literally out of their depth in having access to the right expertise in dealing with these subterranean activities. The threat to groundwater and the consequences for human health and wildlife are well documented. The WAG needs to take the initiative and recognise the unusual nature of the threat and the unsuitability of existing planning practices in dealing with it.The mere nature of the proposals should make this self-evident. They are not going to simply drill straight down. They are steering drills into horizontal (or near horizontal) beds that extend many hundreds of metres away from the surface site, under other peoples’ land (which may not even be in the local authority area that allows the proposal). Once fluids are put into the ground, they could access the water cycle and thereby have no bounds at all.
This is not a trivial or minor threat. Vast swathes of the USA have been blighted by fracking – and it all started with the same activitiies we are already beginning to witness, and which found their way around the local regulators in ways that seem likely to happen here too – unless something is done sooner rather than later. GASLAND is out on DVD. It is there as a stark warning of what we could witness here in South Wales.
Fossil fuel exploitation – coal - has wrought enough damage to the landscape of Wales and the health of miners. This threat could make all that pale into insignificance.
Bridgend Green Party
|I have just submitted a Call In request to Wag for the Test drilling application at Cwmdu just outside Maesteg and in going through the documentation for this I stumbled across one that has just received ‘Temporary Approval’ at Cwmcedfyw farm, which is (yet again, tucked away in the middle of nowhere half way between Llangynwyd and Bettws.
This one was submitted by UK Methane Ltd back in November last year and was granted its approval on 10th March, just gone.
We really are going to have to think about how to deal with this situation from now on.
I have nade this point in my submissions:
The reason I initially wanted all coal bed methane applications called in should be becoming clear by now. We are facing a scattering of proposals that could occur at almost any random spot across the South Wales Coalfield area (and bit beyond), at any time and from a wide range of PEDL licence holders, across numerous planning authorities. Dealing with each one separately is crazy and is only going to increase the probability of nasty consequences somewhere. As the consequences are so far reaching, some joined up thinking is desperately needed.
The powers that be are still insisting that each separate application has be addressed individually. If they are not going to join up their thinking we will have to join up ours and work out how best to raise the profile of the issue.
IMPORTANT: Meeting regarding proposed Hydraulic Fracturing at Llandow to take place tomorrow evening (Monday): 7.3pm March 27, 2011
Those of you who follow the blog site regularly will know that I have been actively campaigning against Fracking across South Wales for some time.
You will know that Centrica withdrew its applications in Bridgend CBC, but I have recently become aware of an application in Maesteg by UK Methane Ltd on the site of the former St Johns Colliery. I will be looking in to this one very soon, but those of you in Maesteg ought to start getting up to speed and and think about what is at stake and what you want to do about it. Start by working through the fracking articles on the blog:
If anyone is free tomorrow, then support at the Llandow meeting would be much appreciated.
My book THE ASYLUM OF THE UNIVERSE is availbale here:
From: Vale Green Party
Date: 27/03/2011 20:51:43
Subject: IMPORTANT: Meeting regarding proposed Hydraulic Fracturing at Llandow to take place tomorrow evening (Monday): 7.3pm
Good evening all,
There has been an emergency public meeting organised for Llandow Village Hall tomorrow evening (Monday) at 7.30pm to discuss the proposed Hydraulic Fracturing at Llandow.
Although I understand it is short notice, it would be great to see as many of us there as possible showing our support.
Vale Green Party
|I know this is anathema to most Greens, but it is a debate that is not about to go away.
Let me quote George’s concluding paragraph:
“Yes, I still loathe the liars who run the nuclear industry. Yes, I would prefer to see the entire sector shut down, if there were harmless alternatives. But there are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power.”
Now read the whole article:
I have recognised the points he is making for a long time. There is a lot of ignorance about with regards to the potential to meet all our energy requirements through renewables alone. If climate change really is the biggest threat to mankind – and life on this planet as we know it – then as unpalatable as it may be, nuclear power cannot be dismissed out of hand. It could well be the lesser of the evils on offer.
|The acknowledgement letter (a standard letter) is posted as a comment at the end of this posting.
I will be sending in very similar Call In requests for the recent Maesteg application to BCBC next, followed by the NPTCBC ones that are still live.
If you hear of any others please let me know.
Dear Mr Saunders,
I have been advised by Clive Ancrum, in correspondence of 11/03 that I should address this (and other) applications for the calling in of fracking related planning applications.
The case will essentially be similar in all cases, with some local factors at play.
This particular request concerns the application at Llandow, before Vale of Glamorgan CBC. It has their reference 2011/0115.
The guidance available in preparing these applications is not particular detailed and uses some vague terms. I am therefore endeavoring to cover a range of possible interpretations. The guidance noes state that the issue has to be ‘of more than local importance’ so straight away we have one such vague term. What does local mean? I will deal with this in no.2 below.
Using the SIX examples of criteria cited in the guidance notes first, let us look at them one at a time (although I would hope that we would only have to satisfy one to have a case).
1. CONFLICTS WITH NATIONAL PLANNING POLICIES
Mr Ancrum says, and I quote: “nothing in MPPW or PPW leads me to believe that all applications for coal bed methane extraction or related processes are automatically contrary to national planning policy or automatically raise issues of more than local importance.” This begs the question of how much of these documents he has actually read.
PPW Ch4 – Planning for sustainability. Read this chapter and then explain how the technically unsound exploitation of more fossil fuels, with potential dire health consequences from the fracking process, as well as climate change consequences do not conflict with this policy. Burning methane produces water and carbon dioxide; leaks of methane itself are at least 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the CO2 released by burning it.
PPW Ch7 – Supporting the economy. Objective One states: “7.1.1 The Assembly Government is committed to building a ‘vibrant Welsh economy delivering strong and sustainable economic growth by providing opportunities for all’. The approach is built around the core strengths of Wales: an increasingly skilled, innovative and entrepreneurial workforce; an advanced technology and knowledge base; strong communities; a stunning natural environment and an exceptional quality of life.” How is this achieved by: fossil fuel exploitation with a maximum Lifespan, according to the proposing companies, of twenty years; that provides very few jobs during that twenty year period; that uses discredited technology imported from the States; that imposes long term worries as to what is happening beneath their feet on local communities; that has the potential to destroy wildlife and seriously harm human health not just during the operations, but for centuries thereafter.
PPW Ch13 – Minimising and Managing Environmental Risks and Pollution. It really should be self-evident that these proposals conflict with this planning policy. The problem seems to be, at local level for sure, that it all focuses on air, surface waters, noise and light pollution. There is barely even a mention of groundwater issue in this chapter, and out of sight seems to be out of mind. It is very much a specialist area that even the environment agency appears to have inadequate expertise in. It ought to be an issue here: 13.12.2 Local planning authorities should work closely with pollution control authorities when determining planning applications. The timing of applications under the different regimes may vary and the information relevant to an authorisation under Part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 may not be available when applying for planning permission. In deciding to grant permission for a development local planning authorities should be satisfied that any remaining pollution concerns are capable of being dealt with under the other pollution regimes. The problem here is that the only agency that ever seems to get consulted is the Environment Agency – and I am far from convinced they have the necessary expertise in this area.I can produce plenty of expert testimony for you – try these for starters from a BBC Newsnight story: http://news.BBC.co.UK/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9255520.stm It is all worth watching – but the experts I would point you to are rock fracture and groundwater specialist, Tony Ingraffea, of Cornell University (6:30-7:20; 8:30-9:00; 11:15-11:40) and Dr Theo Colbourn (9:30-10:00). Plenty more here: http://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/page/2/?s=fracking (especially the older posts)
MPPW – General Guidance. This worries me: “Wherever possible any mineral workings should avoid any adverse environmental or amenity impact; where this is not possible working needs to be carefully controlled and monitored so that any adverse effects on local communities and the environment are mitigated to acceptable limits” What on earth are ACCEPTABLE LIMITS of environmental impact? Acceptable limits of health consequences? Acceptable limits of wildlife harm? Acceptable limits of groundwater pollution? Section 7 clarifies:
“The main aims relate to minerals planning as follows:
• Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone: to provide for the benefits of increased prosperity through an adequate supply of minerals that society needs now and in the future, together with protecting and improving amenity;
• Effective protection of the environment: to protect things that are highly cherished for their intrinsic qualities, such as wildlife, landscapes and historic features; and to protect human health and safety by ensuring that environmental impacts caused by mineral extraction and transportation are within acceptable limits; and to secure, without compromise, restoration and aftercare to provide for appropriate and beneficial after-use.”
We do not NEED these energy resources now.We need investment in the renewable energy that is recognised by all but the mineral industries. This is recognised elsewhere in the planning policies. These policies cannot protect or improve amenity. Quite the contrary. These proposals are incompatible with cherishing wildlife, human health and safety. Restoration and aftercare is an everlasting commitment in these cases – as pointed out by this Geology Professor: http://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/fracking-short-term-profit-against-long-term-costs/
MPPW – Section 7. Pays lip service to the complexity of issues relating to groundwater, but ends with this salient statement: “Mineral planning authorities ………, where doubt exists, should adopt the precautionary principle in taking planning decisions on mineral development.”. That there is doubt is unquestionable. That MPAs are adopting this principle is not evident. Were it the case, they would be exercising their right to request you to call in these applications.
MPPW – Section 33. “Irrespective of Agricultural Land Classification grade, other agricultural factors, such as farm structure, soil conservation, farm water supply, surface water and field drainage may be matters to take into account when appraising the full extent of mineral working, restoration and aftercare proposals. The objective should be, wherever possible, to minimise any adverse effects on agriculture occurring as a result of mineral development. These factors are likely to be particularly relevant where agriculture is to be the after use of the site.” The land adjacent to the Llandow site is farmed. The farmers extract their water from boreholes. Need I say more?
MPPW – Section 34. Environmental Impacts. Just about all the impacts seem to get discussed in minuted meetings except: “Land drainage, impact on groundwater resources and the prevention of pollution of water supplies.” It is patently obvious that this is because no one understands it properly enough to discuss it. Unfortunately, this is the number one risk!
MPPW – Sections 37/38 Environmental Impact Assessment. 37 requires developments that are likely to have significant effects on the environment to be subject to EIA. But then 38 sets criteria for significance that excuse planning authorities having to undertake it, irrespective of the environmental impacts, so long as surface area criteria are not exceeded. This is an utter nonsense for this sort of development, where the surface impacts can be modest, but the underground impacts can be catastrophic.
MPPW – Section 64 – Onshore oil and gas. “ Where oil and gas operations can be carried out in an environmentally acceptable way and consistent with the principles of sustainable development, there is no case in land use planning terms for placing more restrictions on the development than are necessary to ensure the protection of the environment.” ”Policies should distinguish clearly between the three stages of exploration, appraisal and development”. These two statements are blurring the issues. Initial exploration, and even, perhaps, the appraisal stage, may not be using the hazardous fracking process required in the development stage of these operations. It is a bit like encouraging people to go out and find a suitable tree; practice their hangsman noose knots and then tell them not to kill themselves. The whole enterprise has to be discouraged. The companies themselves are not going to thank anyone for being allowed to invest in exploration and appraisal only to be told that development is unacceptable. It is only fair to all concerned to evaluate the likely impacts of the development in informing a decision on exploration and appraisal applications.
MPPW – Section 65 – Coal bed methane. “Coalbed methane extraction equipment is similar to that for conventional gas reservoirs but coalbed methane is more difficult to extract particularly from virgin coal seams because of the low permeability of coal. There are additional environmental considerations associated with coalbed methane extraction: • the environmental impacts of exploration, development, operation and restoration of coalbed methane wells which may have a relatively long productive life of 30 years or more; • coalbed methane extraction usually entails many more wells than conventional gas; • the disposal of water produced during well stimulation and gas production which may vary in contamination; and • adverse effects on subsurface resources such as groundwater.” So the issues are again given this lip service, but with no guidance about how to tackle this more difficult process and additional environmental considerations. These proposals should therefore be called in to establish exactly how this contentious process be handled by planning authorities, who are literally out of their depth.
2. BEYOND THE IMMEDIATE LOCALITY
The mere nature of the proposals makes this self-evident. They are not going to simply drill straight down. They are steering drills into horizontal (or near horizontal) beds that extend many hundreds of metres away from the surface site, under other peoples’ land (which may not even be in the local authority area that allows the proposal). Once fluids are put into the ground, they can access the water cycle and thereby have no bounds at all. This is even before we mention the issue global warming and fossil fuels.
The reason I initially wanted all coal bed methane applications called in should be becoming clear by now. We are facing a scattering of proposals that could occur at almost any random spot across the South Wales Coalfield area (and bit beyond), at any time and from a wide range of PEDL licence holders, across numerous planning authorities. Dealing with each one separately is crazy and is only going to increase the probability of nasty consequences somewhere. As tghe consequences are so far reaching, some joined up thinking is desperately needed. Surely that is grounds for calling in.
3. SUBSTANTIAL CONTROVERSY BEYOND THE IMMEDIATE LOCALITY
These proposals are controversial everywhere they happen. The Green Party of England & Wales have passed emergency motions condemning all such proposals and pledgeing to fight them. I am at the vanguard of this campaign. I personally pledge substantial controversy. We are helping co-ordinate local (http://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/llandow-fracking-action-group/), regional ( http://www.greenparty.org.uk/region/wales/news/fracking-vale-of-glamorgan.html) , national ( http://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/press-release-green-party-emergency-resolution-on-fracking/ ) and international ( http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/take-action/ ) opposition to fracking.
4. NATURE CONSERVATION ISSUES
The Heritage Coast would be affected by any surface run-off. This could especially impact on Cwm Colhuw Wildlife Trust Reserve. Worney wood Woodland Trust Reserve is also nearby.
5. NATIONAL SECURITY
National energy security could be best served by leaving such reserves well alone for possible future needs in case of real emergency.
6. NOVEL PLANNING ISSUES
As I have indicated elsewhere, above, there are are number aspects to these proposals that make them challenging for the the existing planning structures. The fact that these are highly technical underground issues is the the reason there have been so many calamitous ‘mishaps’ in other parts of the world (especially thae USA). The fact that the really dangerous practices do come into the equation until well into the development phase in most cases, means that the conventional approaches are inappropriate. The consequences, even then, can take some time to manifest themselves. Thus we are asking inadequately trained officials to pass judgement on things that may not have consequences either in their geographical area of jurisdiction, or in the timeframe of their period of office. If these are not novel planning issues, what are?
Call in these proposals. Get thorough environmental impact assessments from appropriate experts in the field. Get the conflicts ad issues with national planning policies resolved or adjudicated on by the WAG. Only then can these proposals be approved and us know who to hold accountable if and, more likely, when things go wrong.