Monthly Archives: September 2011

Llandow decision deferred until after a site visit

There was a good turn out to protest ahead of the Vale Planning meeting tonight that drew fabulous coverage on the BBC, and a reasonable mention on ITV news.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-15101164

Louise Evans put in a great performance on camera – she really is getting more and more like Erin Brokovich by the day!

It was also good to see Bridgend Greens making the effort to travel down to Barry – John and Trish are prominent banner bearers on the TV coverage.
Many thanks to all who made the effort.

The TV coverage again had Councillor Kemp re-stating his desire to have the issue dealt with at, at least, a regional level – i.e. by the Welsh Government – so it was no surprise that they decided to buy themselves more time by deciding they need a site visit before deciding what to do. This is highly unlikely to give them any greater information than they already have before them, but the tactic worked last time around when Coastal Oil & Gas pulled their application and let them off the hook of having to make a decision. This time we are all looking for some leadership from the Welsh Government to take some initiative, but given Carwyn Jones’ steadfast refusal to get involved at all – he has failed to utter a single word on the fracking issue to my knowledge and ignored invites and representations in his constituency – it is hard to see who will do the right thing in Cardiff Bay.

So the fight goes on.

Watch this space.

More anti-fracking protest groups springing up across the country – says the BBC

There will be more and more protest groups springing up wherever the frackers dare to tread. I am hoping our links with The Co-operative will give us a central rallying point for all these local groups, to feed into a national groundswell of opposition that will eventually force this reckless government into declaring the nationwide moratorium that should really be in place by now, as in so many other parts of the world.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15021328

Support The Vale Says No!’s protest in Barry on Thursday

Time
Thursday, September 29 · 5:00pm – 8:00pm

Location
Civic Offices

Holton Rd
Barry, United Kingdom

Created By

More Info:
Please join us in a peaceful protest outside the Civic Offices in Barry before the planning committee meet to discuss the outcome of the planning application to test drill for Shale Gas in Llandow.

It’s still not too late to show the planners how much we object and how much we all say no. The more people we can get along, the better as there will be media attending to report the story.

After the protest, please join us in the planning meeting to listen to what the planning committee have to say.

This is a public meeting but we are not allowed to speak, so if you do come, please respect the protocol and remain quiet.

This could be a watershed moment not just for the local campaign but for how the campaign evolves across the country as a whole.
Councillor Kemp, leader of the Vale Council has already publicly declared his view that his planners are not adequately expert on this issue and that it should be passed on to the Welsh Government .
In this context, it would be pretty disgraceful for the Planning Committee to decide they can approve it.
They have two valid options, I believe. They can reject it on the precautionary principle that should hold sway when their is great uncertainties, or take a real stand and back their leader by refusing to make a decision and insisting that the Welsh Government deal with it.
Whatever the outcome – it is going to interesting!! So be there if you can!

Demand affordable childcare support for struggling families in the UK

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Fracking issue increasingly distorted by misinformation – on both sides of the argument

Caroline Lucas

Fracking must be halted until we know more

So what if 200tr cubic feet of shale gas lives under Blackpool. The industry, and the impact of fracking, are unknown quantities

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/sep/22/shale-gas-exploration-halted#start-of-comments

This is a pretty reasonable article from Caroline, but the comments posted on it by Guardian readers are real mixed bag – with a lot that are alarming.

It is clear that most people simply have no idea quite what the scale of the threat is nor the full range of the ramifications.

It is also clear that the arguments against need to be factually sound and free from exaggerated scare-mongering. This is not something all campaigners are good at – and it does far more harm than good to the wider debate.

Lessons for us from Cuadrilla’s PR gambits

Having talked to quite a few people who attended Camp Frack, it is clear that Cuadrilla’s people have been trying to prepare PR responses to the opposition – as we would only expect. Apparently they are ‘very clever’ and ‘quite persuasive’. Again, we should expect no less from people with their eyes on billions of pounds!!One theme they seemed to be bandying around has clear parallels with the situation here in South Wales, so merits particular examination. This is their claim that shale gas extraction has been going on for decades and therefore we have nothing really to worry about. You may remember Tim Yeo’s Shale Gas Inquiry trotting out similar lines. Cuadrilla have apparently gone so far as to cite the example of their Elswick site as producing gas safely since 1992, with Cuadrilla’s Mark Miller telling Camp Frackers that he had personally visited 70 or 80 gas wells in the UK where there had been no problems.

On closer inspection, Elswick has a lot of similarities to the Coastal Oil & Gas site at Cwmcedfyw Farm (between Llangynwyd and Bettws). I am now beginning to see how this very small site fits into the big picture. (At this point, I must acknowledge the work undertaken by our Fractivist colleagues of the FRACK OFF campaign in untangling Cuadrilla’s spin – http://frack-off.org.uk/why-does-cuadrilla-own-an-old-gas-well-near-elswick-in-lancashire/)

The Elswick-1 gas well was actually brought on stream in 1993 by a company called Independent Energy. It produces gas from a permeable sandstone reservoir and is used to generate power which is fed into the electricity grid. The reason for the gas being used to produce electricity is that it is coming from one isolated gas well far from other oil and gas infrastructure. It would be prohibitively expensive to build a pipeline to feed the gas into the National Transmission System (as it would to compress the gas and tanker it away) and so burning it on site to produce electricity is a much cheaper option. This essentially the same scenario as the Cwmcedfyw site, except that the gas is being extracted from coal seams. In the grand scheme of things, both of these sites is pretty cheap and simple to exploit, but tiddly compared to what the frackers have their eyes on. They have much bigger fish to fry, but maintaining the fish analogy, they are using a sprat to catch a mackerel!

Mark Miller, CEO of Cuadrilla Resources, has gone to print to say: “Our Elswick site has been producing gas since it was hydraulically fractured in 1993 without any inconvenience for the local community” (http://www.southportvisiter.co.UK/views-blogs/southport-visiter-letters/2011/08/11/southport-letters-11-08-11-101022-29213386/). Similar statements have been made in other local papers.

The PR strategy is clear enough. They are implying that what was done at Elswick is similar to what they propose with their Shale Gas developments. They want people to think that just because Elswick-1 has had little impact on the local community, there is nothing to worry about with their new plans. But hang on minute ……

In fact, Elswick-1 has next to nothing to do with Cuadrilla at all. They did not drill it or operate it until they bought it in January 2010, a couple of months after they obtained the Preese Hall planning permission. (Elswick is about 3 or 4 km from Preese Hall). In case you still need to join up the dots here, could it be that the curious investment in an old, small-scale electricity generating site is purely PR investment in making us believe we can trust Cuadrilla to frack away safely?

I would suggest that Coastal Oil & Gas’ investment in the tiddly Cwmcedfyw project only makes sense in a similar vein.

Cuadrilla’s duplicity over Elswick-1 goes a lot further. It is a conventional gas well, consisting of one single vertical borehole into sandstone. Any fracking to stimulate it would have probably been a one-off, old-style fracking, requiring just sand and water. In this sort of permeable rock, one single vertical well can access the entire gas field. Shale on the other hand is impermeable and requires heavy fracturing to get the gas to flow at all. It also means that it is necessary to frack pretty much the whole shale gas field. This is why Cuadrilla have talked about 400 wells across 40 sites in their plans for Lancashire (10 wells radiating out, up to a km or so, to horizontally penetrate the shale from each site). Hardly comparable to Elswick-1, would you not agree?

Coastal Oil & Gas’ hopes to pull off a similar PR stunt with Cwmcedfyw have already hit a couple of obstacles. The site has already seen an unprecented pollution incident in the local stream, for which BCBC have issued a fine to the landowner – who seemed curiously keen to take the rap. There have also already been incidents in the narrow lanes around the site, where lorries have strayed off agreed routes to and from the very remote site. They have also given the lie to the jobs boost their activities can bring to locals by using a Sunderland based drilling company employing Liverpudlian labour on the site. Once it is up and running it will not require anything other than occasional maintenance visits.

A second theme that Cuadrilla have been constantly keen to push is that they will not be a threat to water quality.
http://www.cuadrillaresources.com/what-we-do/technology/fracturing-fluid/
First of all, what do we make of their claim that their frack fluid is “supplemented with microscopic amounts of everyday chemicals typically found in peoples homes”?

I have just had a good look under my sink and in my shed and found plenty of things that I would not recommend anyone, bar perhaps Mark Miller, tries to drink! I also failed to find two of the ‘household’ ingredients that they condescend to list.

Taking Caudrilla’s own figures from their own website we find that their frack fluid contains:

  • Fresh water and sand 99.750% (why they feel the need to use ‘fresh’ water considering what they do to it is another question!)
  • Hydrochloric Acid 00.125%
  • Polyacrylamides 00.075%
  • Biocides 00.005%

This adds up to: 99.955%

Before anyone starts talking about rounding, I would point out that it is Cuadrilla that have chosen to round to the nearest 0.005% and deliberately leave 0.045% unaccounted for. Remember how clever we said they were?

It is anyone’s guess what that 0.045% includes. There are literally hundreds of chemical nasties that have been traced to frack fluid around the world. But it is not as if even the ones they have owned up to are pleasant, is it?

I found a variety of biocides in my shed. They included rat killer, ant killer, slug killer, weed killer and diesel. By definition, biocides kill living things.
I did not find hydrochloric acid, I am pleased to say. It is highly corrosive and a key frack fluid component as such as it opens up the pores of rocks. It is, however, also highly corrosive to human tissue – with known potential to severely damage respiratory organs, eyes, skin and intestines.
As for polyacrylamides, these flow enhancers are not in themselves toxic, but it is known that commercially available polyacylamide commonly contains residual amounts of acrylamide, which is a dangerous nerve toxin and carcinogen. Furthermore, there are studies that suggest that polyacrylamide may well de-polymerise to form acrylamide in some environmental conditions.

If these are the ones Cuadrilla are owning up to, what on earth are they keeping hidden?!

Not to worry – as they say, we are only talking ‘microscopic amounts’ to use their own words. But as world renowned Dr Theo Colbourn has proven, it only takes billionths or trillionths of concentrations of some of the known frack chemicals to cause devastating health effects.

Again using the industries own figures, an average ‘frack’ uses about 4.5 million gallons of water. Cuadrilla tell us that 0.25% of this is nasty chemicals.
Do the maths!
0.25% of 4.5 million gallons is 11250 gallons of nasty chemicals per frack. Hardly microscopic!

Cuadrilla tell us they plan 10 wells per site, and during the lifetime of a well it may need fracking, perhaps, 6 times (being conservative).
That is 675000 gallons of nasty chemicals per site.
Cuadrilla plan 40 sites in Lancashire, so that is 27 MILLION GALLONS of chemicals that Cuadrilla plan to pump into the ground beneath Lancashire, give or take a bit!!

And not a drop will ever pass our lips! Excuse me!!

South Wales has substantially more potential than Lancashire, so we could be looking at hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic chemicals pumped under South Wales if the frackers get their way.

The recover some of this as produced fluid – around 50% on average, but this can vary greatly depending on local conditions. This throws up another set of worries and concerns – highlighted by Cuadrilla themselves, would you believe. Again quoting there own website:

“Upon returning to the surface, they are stored in steel tanks and at no point come in contact with the ground. In the unlikely event that any liquid was spilt on the surface, seepage at ground level is prevented by the installation of an impermeable membrane on land at and surrounding the well site.”

Extraordinarily comprehensive and expensive precautions for a fluid they insist is no danger to us, wouldn’t you say?!!

Yoe see, these produced waters are often much more hazardous than the already dangerous frack fluids themselves. Shales often contain dangerously high levels of radon, radium and uranium. Now those precautions make sense, don’t they?

I will rest my case here – for the time being at least!

Andy.

Carwyn speaks!

First Minister Carwyn Jones: “We thought the days of mining disasters were behind us”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-14955526

Let us hope he appears at Bridgend College next Friday to put his weight behind the campaign to prevent a whole new generation of fracking related disasters being inflicted on the same areas of South Wales – and beyond.

https://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/the-co-operative-launch-their-frack-free-uk-campaign-in-bridgend-on-23rd-september/