Saturday, 13 June 2015

URGENT - Respond to the Fracking Consultation


STOP this Government Fast Tracking a ‘free for all Fracking boom’.

The Conservative government is trying to fast-track fracking. 

The changes, which have been VERY QUIETLY put out to public consultation, mean the advice of local residents would no longer be sought in the early stages of most new oil and gas developments. 

This is the eleventh consultation on such Draft Rules - just ask yourself, did you hear about the other consultations?

The proposal would allow 
"An operator who wishes to carry out a particular activity can look at the standard rules and, if they can comply with them, they may decide to apply for a standard permit. We are able to issue the permit more quickly and more cheaply because we have no decisions to make on site-specific permit conditions and therefore do not consult on them." 
Basically, the Government is attempting to fast-track fracking by doing away with the need for the public to be consulted before test drilling goes ahead. They want fossil fuel energy companies to be able to do test drilling *without* consulting local people first. 

Governments can ‘get away' with doing things we won’t like, by keeping consultations quiet and then rushing through regulatory changes which are never discussed in Parliament.

You have ONLY got until Monday 15th June 2015 to respond to the government consultation. 

Below is the letter I have sent – you can send something much shorter – and there is a suggested text on the 38 Degrees automated email page.

But, PLEASE TRY AND PERSONALISE your comments a little, or like a ‘postcard’ campaign, they will ignore your response.  Personalise it and they cannot ignore you.

The consultation is only open for two more days. Let’s flood it with objections. 

“Dear Sirs
As a responsible government, I trust that you will reconsider the proposal to change the way that permits to carry out test fracking are granted.
Texas: Before and After Fracking
Prior to becoming a legal academic, my first degree was in Geography.  In 1977, at University, we were discussing the desperate need to stop burning fossil fuels. The more we continue to burn, the closer the Doomsday clock will become to midnight. As a father, and hopefully one day a grandfather, I want my children and grandchildren to have a life of quality, not one approaching the apocalyptic images Hollywood delights in scaring us with. 

Fracking Wells in the Texas Landscape
I have seen the devastation that fracking has brought to the land in parts of Texas which now look like those post-apocalyptic visions. But other consequences are also quite astonishing. For example, since 2008 when fracking commenced, motor fatalities I Texas have bucked the national trend, and increased to now being the highest in the US. 51% of the accidents with fatalities involved commercial vehicles. Around some fracking sites, fatalities have more than quadrupled since 2004 — a period when most American roads have become much safer even as the population has grown. Analyses as to the reason for this show it requires 2,300 to 4,000 lorry trips per well to deliver the mixtures of water, sand, gravel and the over 700 different chemicals used in the fracking process. Older drilling techniques needed one-third to one-half as many trips. 

Close up of  a Fracking site in California
In the US, by mid 2014, researchers found there have been over 1,000 different cases of water contamination near fracking sites. In 2013, researchers from the University of Texas last year found levels of arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites, were on average, 18 times higher than in areas without fracking.
In New York state, scientists from the Department of Environmental Conservation analysed 13 samples of waste water and found "levels of radium-226, a derivative of uranium, as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink". SAs I am sure you know, current sewage treatment plants are incapable of removing radioactive materials from waste water which is then discharged into rivers, which often then become part of the drinking water cycle.

The View out of the Window of a Texas Home
Fracking also pollutes air quality: in 2013 the American Environmental Protection Agency released a report which stated that the fracking industry emits “emits "large amounts of harmful pollutants that impact air quality on local, regional, and global levels”. Many of the chemicals used in fracking are potentially carcinogenic, and Air- borne toxic chemicals are considered extremely dangerous as they can cause cancer, harm the heart, and damage the lungs and eyes.

Furthermore, in Wyoming, for example, over 1,200 wells have been abandoned by companies which, having made huge profits during the lifetime of the wells, are now seeking bankruptcy so as to avoid the costs of cleaning up the well sites. 

Economist Max Keiser refers to fracking as ‘suicide economics’. Until we are 100% certain that fracking in the UK is going to be able to be regulated so that it is done in a way which does not pose a danger to the safety of local residents or their drinking water, or the air they breathe, or the land that will one day be returned to farming, every ‘automated’ approval is another twist in the hangman’s knot we appear to be tying for our children. 

As a responsible government, I trust that you will reconsider the proposal, in particular the changes that take away the limited safeguards local populations currently have. Recognising the austerity framework, we cannot however afford the sort of suicide economics that have seen the fracking industry devastate large areas within the USA. 

Please consider committing funding to ensure more independent ‘before the event’ scientific evaluation into:

  1. safer ways of fracking, 
  2. alternatives to fracking, 
  3. the impact fracking will have on the government’s commitments to rein in fossil fuel burning, and what it will mean for our climate change targets

Finally, applications by energy companies to carry out fracking tests must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The concerns of local people must be listened to as part of this process and the views of scientists and experts in climate change, must be weighted heavily in any debate with those who support fracking. 
Fracking is a short term industry, creating huge profits for its investors. Climate change will see the long term devastation which our grandchildren will have to live with, no – which they will have to try and survive in. 
Yours etc.