More Fracking Developments – including House of Lords debate and the first use of fracking in the UK

Article focussing, as predicted, just on Llandow is in the Western Mail/South Wales Echo today I believe – online version here:
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/03/30/villagers-launch-campaign-against-gas-drilling-plan-91466-28426599/
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:
“What are the likely implications of the discovery of shale gas on United Kingdom energy policy.”
Transcript here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2011-03-28a.952.1

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.
He then goes on to state that exploratory work for these gas reserves is “largely in the area around Blackpool. I understand that there will be some investigation in Southport and on that coastline. I am not a geologist but it presumably links in some form to Morecambe Bay. That is largely the area that is being investigated.”
Hello!!!! Over here my Lord!

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 Marland replies: “We have evidence in the United States, as has been referenced. This has been going on for some time, so it is a proven technology. As I mentioned, the Environment Agency is on site to ensure that the process is taking place properly, so I am very comfortable with that. This is not a new technology. We have been using the fracking process in gas development for a very long time, so we have the safeguards in place.”

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?”
It seems patently obvious to me that relying on County Council Planning Departments and the Environment Agency is totally inadequate for these subterranean hydrology and geology issues. These are highly complex and specialised areas and all the independent expert testimony I can find suggests that this whole business is utter madness.
Lord Marland’s patronising response: “The noble Lord is a great expert in this field. However, we have been exploring gas in this country for many years and have a very long knowledge of it. We have extremely sound regulation, but that does not mean that we are complacent about it. We have a very sound industry structure that has stood the test of time, and a great deal of knowledge.”

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.
The same report informs us the the Cuadrilla site, near Blackpool, started using chemical fracking for the first time on Monday afternoon (28th March)
http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/NaturalGas/8720895

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