Lancashire County Council has refused fracking in Lancashire yet this decision could be overturned by the Government within the next 3 months in response to the appeal made by fracking company Cuadrilla. The report from the Inspector is now with the Minister for a decision.
How does Fracking Work?
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a controversial method of extracting shale gas from onshore deposits. The process involves blasting a mixture of chemicals, sand and thousands of gallons of water at high pressure to fracture rocks underground and release the coveted shale gas held within, providing wealth, jobs and independence from the Russians we are led to believe.
Unfortunately, when this Aladdin’s cave of prosperity is opened, the residents in the area may also have to deal with less desirable side effects such as nose bleeds, earthquakes and contaminated drinking water.
Surely our essential drinking water in ground source protection zones will be protected though?
Actually no, there was a clause in the Infrastructure Bill protecting ground source protection zones, along with National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Beauty, although this has been removed so that all of these are now being offered to shale gas companies as the government didn’t want to “constrain the industry” by, for example, stopping them from drilling for gas under a National Park or near drinking water.
This brings ground water protection zones into a similar category as payment protection insurance – it seemed like a good idea at the time, we thought it would protect the stuff, but in the end it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Hydraulic fracturing may be coming to a town near you, so what can residents in those areas expect from the fracking process?
The range of issues includes the obvious environmental problems of releasing methane gas into the air and surrounding environment, deeper geological problems such as tremors and earthquakes, as well as a whole host of health problems caused by the heavy industrial process.
Fracking causes over a thousand man-made earthquakes in Holland
Residents of Groningen, a farming town in Holland, know all too well about the adverse effects of onshore fracturing, after suffering almost a thousand man made earthquakes since fracking was allowed in the area, now proven to be as a result of the extraction process and prompting over 50,000 claims for damages to properties.
As the shale gas is depleted from its reserves in the bedrock underground, this causes a change in pressure which has resulted in earthquakes up to 3.5 on the Richter scale in Groningen, a place with no previous history of seismic activity and not lying on any geological fault lines.
While the tremors are on the lower end of the scale, due to the fact that they originate at the comparatively shallow depths of around 3km underground, this has resulted in quite serious damage as a result, up to several billion euros in compensation claims. At present there are many schools, farms and houses crumbling to the ground in Groningen as frightened residents search desperately for answers.
Health Problems linked to Fracking
Studies have shown that the process of onshore shale gas extraction can leave communities exposed to severe health problems when taking place in the local vicinity or near a water supply.
The problems range from birth defects and problems with pregnancies, to nose bleeds, lung infections and scarring of the lungs, and has also been linked to heightened risk of cancer.
Further studies have highlighted that these health problems seem to dissipate when the individual moves away from the fracking site but recur again if the person returns to the same area.
Why haven’t I heard the horror stories?
One reason why you may not have been fully informed on the health risks associated with fracking is that when a fracking company is sued for causing serious health problems to residents near fracking wells, they often impose a gagging order or confidentiality agreement as part of the settlement, making it illegal for the affected family to talk about any negative issues surrounding the gas extraction in connection with their health or contamination to their water supply.
Take for example the Harrowich case in 2012 this was the first example in recorded history and setting a precedent for other cases, where a minor had their second amendment rights affected by a court ruling.
In this case the extraction firm Range Resources, admitted they were to blame for poisoning the family’s water supply but as a part of the settlement they imposed a gagging order that also extended to the seven and eight year old children of the family, who were also bound by strict confidentiality laws in order to keep the information away from public knowledge.
So these gagging orders may go some way to explain the lack of information available on fracking related horror stories. Having said that, a Yorkshire-based filmmaker is now currently producing an actual horror film based on fracking in Harrogate, so that horror story would be more difficult to suppress with legal action.
What do the Experts say on Fracking?
What has previously been only anecdotal evidence is now being backed up by scientific studies, especially in the US where several million people are exposed to fracking sites around the country.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation carried out a 7 year study which concludes that fracking poses significant environmental and health risks. The University of Pennsylvania has found that as more wells are built, the hospital admission rates for cardiovascular trauma steadily increases. The University of Pittsburgh conducted a study which shows that women who live near a fracking well are more likely to have abnormally small babies, whereas studies from Colorado show that people living near fracking wells were more likely to have babies born with a congenital heart defect.
Following on from studies such as these, several Canadian states have since banned fracking within their borders, including Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. In the US, New Jersey and the state of New York have placed moratoriums on well permits while they assess the risks to health and the environment.
At present, fracking firm Cuadrilla is appealing the decision made by Lancashire County Council to refuse planning permission for fracking in Lancashire. The planning inspector has sent her report and Sajid Javid, the new Government Minister for Communities and Local Government, is set to make his final decision on October 6th.
How can we stop Fracking in Lancashire?
Pendle Liberal Democrats are leading a campaign to stop fracking in Lancashire, but we are going to need your help. We are calling on all interested parties to get involved and get in touch with your evidence and information from where you live. We want to hear from pressure groups, protesters, activists and members of the public living near to fracking sites or potential sites for fracking.
Get in touch today
If you have any information you feel would be useful in taking the fight to the government over fracking then please contact Pendle Liberal Democrats directly using the contact page on this website.