Thursday, 30 November 2017

Reasons to be Fearful... 1,2,3 +

Will the shale gas industry damage our water, pollute our air and negatively impact our health? Will it do economic harm too by making the area less attractive for investors, home buyers and residents?

These are the types of questions that have brought residents in the UK to hundreds of public meetings across the country where shale gas development is proposed. Many of us have found research that gives cause for concern, yet others seem to think that the industry is a positive thing for our communities. It's hard to find a point of agreement but I want to put forward some of the research that led me to spend almost the entire year at the side of the busy A583 between Kirkham and Blackpool - not a sacrifice anyone would make lightly.

Here in Blackpool we have the only UK experience of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF); Preese Hall was explored for shale gas using fracking in 2011 and we are currently watching as a new site develops on the A583 that seeks to take the industry into full production. That first round of fracking did not go well:

Exploration for shale gas DOES cause seismic activity.

The British Geological Survey makes the headline clear:
[In Lancashire, UK, 58 earthquakes were linked to fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing at the Preese Hall well in 2011. The largest, on 1 April 2011, had a magnitude of 2.3 and was felt locally. These hydraulic fracture treatments were carried out during exploration of a shale gas reservoir in the Bowland basin, Lancashire. A further magnitude 1.5 ML earthquake was felt on 27 May, 2011 and also linked to hydraulic fracture treatments, leading to the suspension of operations at Preese Hall.

In total, 58 earthquakes were detected in the time period between 31 March and 30 August 2011, nearly all of these either during or within a few hours of fracturing operations at Preese Hall. De Pater and Baisch (2011) concluded that the earthquake activity was caused by fluid injection directly into a nearby fault zone, which reduced the effective normal stress on the fault and caused it to fail repeatedly in a series of small earthquakes.]

This initial experience ended in the site being shut down and a moratorium put in place (lifted Dec 2012) after work on this one well, on this one pad... caused those 58 seismic events. Caudrilla now propose upward of 80 pads in the Fylde alone and each of these would have 10+ wells. Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan claims they want to eventually create 'Super Pads' with around 40 wells on each and aim to make the site on the A583:

We'd be guinea pigs if the Super Pad goes ahead as it is a first. In Canada where they claimed the largest at 16-wells, they had this to say:

[…these industrial fracking pads, from which wells angle out in all directions over two km underground, represent but the early stages of exploration. It doesn't reflect the density of development needed to extract shale gas overtime. A 2012 Alberta study noted that "widespread commercial development... will require significant investment in surface infrastructure facilities and roads" and much greater land disturbance.]

Here in the UK where the industry has yet to get properly started, there are many concerned residents and businesses with worries about the implications of this, including: health, industrialisation, increased traffic, harm to tourism, risk to agriculture and the potential loss of property and asset value that could come. Protests here in Lancashire have been daily since 5th January 2017 with the commencement of development of the new site.

Peer-Reviewed Scientific Research

Although there is only one experience in the UK to draw on, there are multiple sources of first-hand evidence as well as peer-reviewed papers available to help better understand the potential future we are facing here. The following is from this link to the much cited  Categorical Assessment of the Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature, 2009-2015

[The present categorical assessment provides an overview of the peer-reviewed scientific literature from 2009–2015 as it relates to the potential impacts of unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) on public health, water quality, and air quality. Our results indicate that at least 685 papers have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that are relevant to assessing the impacts of UNGD.

-84% of public health studies contain findings that indicate public health hazards, elevated risks, or adverse health outcomes
-69% of water quality studies contain findings that indicate potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination
-87% of air quality studies contain findings that indicate elevated air pollutant emissions and/or atmospheric concentrations.

This paper demonstrates that the weight of the findings in the scientific literature indicates hazards and elevated risks to human health as well as possible adverse health outcomes associated with UNGD.]

Of course the industry insists that the risks would not be a problem if operators abide by the UK’s ‘Gold Standard Regulations’. Putting aside any jaded views of UK regulators, accidents can and do happen in an industry of this size and complexity. Road traffic accidents alone are a primary concern when you consider that 685-1050 vehicle movements required for each well (see Table 1 here of ‘Investigating the traffic-related environmental impacts of hydraulic-fracturing operations’ and each single pad will have multiple wells – thus vast amounts of additional traffic.

Talking about wells…

From one of the key regulators, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE):
[The main hazard from shale gas operations is the uncontrolled release of hydrocarbon gas due to a failure of the well structure, which may then reach a source of ignition leading to a fire or explosion.]

“Research shows that well leakage is an issue for shale exploitation”

Headline and research from Durham University Study:
[The risk of well failure… our research examined the leakage rates of hydrocarbon wells in various countries, onshore and offshore, and indicates that well barrier failure occurs in between 1.9% and 75% of wells. In the UK, shale gas production has yet to take place. However, large quantities of data are available on shale gas well integrity in the USA. Of more than 8,000 shale gas wells monitored in Pennsylvania between 2005 and 2013, our research shows that 6.3% had evidence of well barrier or well integrity failure.’

Inspecting Wells…

Again from the HSE link above:
[As wells are deep underground and complex in their construction most of the structure is not accessible to visual inspection. So, alongside inspections at the extraction site, HSE focus on ensuring the operator is managing risks effectively throughout the life-cycle of the well. Monitoring of well operations during construction is based on weekly reports submitted to HSE by the well operators. This is supplemented by a requirement for an independent well examiner to assess design, construction and maintenance.]

But how INDEPENDENT can that ‘Independent Well Examiner’ be if his boss is the company extracting the shale gas? The HSE goes on:
[The examiner does not have the power to give consent to, or prohibit, activities. The examiner can inform the health and safety regulator if he is unsatisfied that the operator has addressed his concerns. The operator commissions and pays for the services of the well examiner. The Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc.) Regulations 1996 states that the well examiner should be ‘sufficiently knowledgable and separate from the immediate line management of the well operations involved … This might be someone employed by the well operator’s organisation. It is important that those carrying out examination work have appropriate levels of impartiality and independence from pressures, especially of a financial nature. Promotion, pay and reward systems should not compromise pay and reward professional judgement’]

Cement Bond Logs (CBL) are what can help spot well integrity issues but according to the
government’s oft quoted Royal Academy for Engineering report:
[There is currently no legislative requirement for pressure tests or Cement Bond Logs to be carried out. Operators should carry out such tests as appropriate to ensure well integrity]

So those ‘Gold Standard Regulations’ seem to amount to box-ticking exercises and do not instil a sense of trust.

Another concern that provides no comfortable answers is the matter of what happens when a site is finished with. The industry says it puts the site back to its original state but that’s only at the surface; beneath the ground remain the wells and substances left there from the operation of the site.

Abandonment & Orphans

The Durham University Study again:
[When a hydrocarbon well is abandoned, cement is pumped into the production tubing to form a plug that seals the well. In the UK, the top of the well is normally welded shut and the land is remediated. After a well is abandoned it is not typically monitored for leakage.

Of the 2152 onshore UK hydrocarbon wells, our research shows that up to 53% were drilled by a company that no longer exists, or which has been taken over or merged. Between 50 and 100 are what we term ‘orphaned’ wells, where the company that drilled them has gone out of business or is insolvent. Without the monitoring of abandoned wells, their long-term integrity is not known. Furthermore, if a leakage incident occurred at an orphaned well site, it is uncertain whose liability it would be.]

Some governments have called a halt to fracking operations after doing their own research; I find it hard to understand how our government can still think the risk worth taking, when so many other notables have said no. No government rejects an industry that could potentially be an economic contributor, without good reason. Here in the UK it is only the Conservative Party that is pursuing fracking, with Labour, Green Party and Liberal Democrats saying they will ban it.

Bans & Moratoriums

The list is ever-growing but this is a snapshot. Much of the following was sourced from Wikipedia and utilises some of the text from there along with additional links for further detail:

September 2016, Victoria permanently banned hydraulic fracturing and all forms of unconventional gas extraction. The Principal Adviser at The Australia Institute, Mark Ogge, praised the ban as “sound economic and energy policy”. He said that Queensland’s experiment in unconventional gas had demonstrated that the economic benefits promised by the gas industry had largely failed to materialise, while negatively impacting other industries. Research had found that for every 10 new gas jobs, 18 agricultural jobs were lost.

Vermont banned fracking in 2012, Maryland has a moratorium on fracking and New York’s 2014 ban came along with a comprehensive report, authored by Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, that demonstrated the tremendous amount of scientific evidence of the health impacts, water contamination and climate risks of fracking.

Sandra Steingraber, PhD, biologist, author, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College and co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York  said: "The available evidence overwhelmingly indicates that fracking is incredibly harmful. Scientific studies have demonstrated that drilling and fracking can increase risk of cancerrespiratory conditions and migraines in communities surrounding fracking sites. Fracking pollutes the air, water and land in nearby towns and cities, and has resulted in explosions and earthquakes. There are least 17 million Americans living within one mile of a fracking site, whose lives will be negatively impacted and potentially shortened, by fracking."

In July 2015 the Dutch government banned all shale gas fracking and in Bulgaria after protests reached their height in January 2012, the government decided to ban it too. France’s ban came in 2011 and was based on the precautionary principle as well as the principal of preventive and corrective action of environmental hazards. The ban was upheld by an October 2013 ruling of the Constitutional Council following complaints by US-based Schuepbach Energy.

Germany in February 2013, the government announced draft regulations that would allow for the exploitation of shale gas deposits using the same fracking techniques common in the U.S  But… these plans immediately drew massive critique both from opposition parties and elements of the ruling party, as well as from major NGOs, large parts of the press and the general public. Within less than a month, the original plan was put on ice for the foreseeable future and a moratorium was  declared. Ever since, shale gas fracking has de facto been banned in Germany and the stance of the newly formed Grand Coalition government expressed in the coalition treaty is that unconventional  gas exploration will not be pursued in the country under this government. Here is an excerpt from the coalition contract:

[According to available studies on its environmental relevance, the fracking technology –  is
technology with enormous potential risks. The effects on humans, nature and the environment are scientifically not yet sufficiently clarified. Drinking water and health have absolute priority for us.

Finally in June 2016 German politicians passed a law banning fracking, with limited exceptions for scientific and non-commercial projects.]


All this is why I and so many others, get up each day and challenge this industry... and will continue to do so until they are stopped. The Conservative government is willingly playing Russian Roulette with my grandchild (and you & me) - and that cannot be ignored or tolerated.


*There's so much more you discover when researching this subject; some good bits like the honour and bravery of people like the Utah Midwives and George Bender or the wisdom and dedication of Jessica Ernst and Marianne Lloyd-Smith... but plenty of additional discoveries just add to an awful picture. The facts that many of academic institutions rely on funding from industries with vested interests, that many media outlets have bias and local government can be neutered at the whim of Westminster, have repercussions that go far beyond fracking. 

Image result for rolling stone utah midwives


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Women's Call for Calm...

In the Morning... our 17th Call. We do this Women's Call for Calm each Wednesday at a site where tensions run high, along with frustration, anger, dismay and sadness... we do this to pause the crazy that it is - to shine some light in the darkness, be the witness, hold peaceful purpose and contrast shades of activism. Our way is to represent as mothers and grandmothers. Those involved in violent actions/re-actions are the sons and daughters of other mothers - who if they were here, would call for an end to the harms being endured. We stand in place of the absent mothers and grandmothers as we hope others would, if our young were caught in conflict. Please join us for this or future Wednesday if you can *Wednesday 13th December is looking to be a big one if you can note it in diaries xxx Event page here: Event details from the page:
***NOVEMBER 2017 update:
We're now doing this weekly event in solidarity with others - many have joined the silence online and shared with us and now there are some who will gather together where they are too. We hope this action - the Call for Calm - can happen anywhere that conflict needs to be calmed or attention drawn. Please join us today or any Wednesday for a 15 minute silence at 11am where you are or where you can gather with others to be ♥............................................[Nana call out to ALL women... we need you to bring the power of our sisterhood to confront the violence being endured by the peaceful sons and daughters of other mothers... and to shame those who harm them.

The violent handling of peaceful Protectors by security and police at the gates to the growing fracking site on Preston New Road in Lancashire, is what caused this action to be started. From appallingly dangerous and aggressive driving by suppliers, to heavy-handed policing and untamed security guards lashing out - we have borne this without resorting to violence in return.

We call on women to come and be representative of the mothers and grandmothers of those who are part of this violent scene - this action is to demand safety for our peaceful Protectors, for a calming of the aggression by authorities and to recognise our human rights to protest.

We stand together in a period of silent protest to be the calm we wish to see and following this, have messages from other women who are facing challenges across the world. The event is for just a couple of hours to enable maximum availability for those with carer responsibilites, school-runs and jobs to consider... hoping that if you join us, we can make our stand as many. Each and every WEDNESDAY with the silence at 11am.

In order to raise visibility and unity - if you can, please WEAR WHITE.

Nothing more is required other than your presence... we will spend some time in silence and the rest in speaking out if we choose. Come feel the unity and be part of this call for the humane treatment of Protectors and respect for the non-volent way that all have conducted themselves at this site since 5th January 2017.

Checklist if you're coming:
-Arrive by 9:30am at MAPLE FARM (just down the hill from the site at PR4 3PE near World of Water) to walk up to the site mostly together :)
-Finish when you choose after the silence finishes around 11:15am
-Wear white clothing
-Bring your words & your silence
-Bring a female friend ♥

Please come and join us as we call for calm where there is turmoil ♥

Our actions at the site are not the only ones and other groups and plans may occur - there are though safe places to be and you can walk away if you choose.

***If you CAN'T make it... please take a photo of yourself in support and add it to this event page ♥ HASHTAG (to add onto your photo): #CallForCalm


Tuesday, 7 November 2017


Yesterday the police harmed me and others - not gravely but they did it and they intended to do it. They've done this before but my first-hand knowledge did not exist before yesterday.
............................. Today I find myself looking in the mirror at the bruises on the underside of my upper arms and trying to decide if these are ‘reasonable’ and whether I should make a fuss – after-all, if I was an activist in a less ‘democratic’ country, I could be facing imprisonment, serious injury, shooting or death… then I wonder at what it is to bring me to measure my life against this vile benchmark of inhumanity. I’m trying to be ‘fair’ and yet I realise it’s only me in this one-sided relationship with our police that is doing this. They weren’t fair yesterday when they made the bruises on me – an under 5ft woman aged 55 and without body building abs or any self-defence or fighting skills. I just tried to stand still – like we all do when we peacefully act to slow or stop industry progress. Of course I would be pushed from where I was by a wall of police – I know this but what I don’t expect is the addition of very painful arm pinching, tight body-hugging and strangulation... again I’m trying to weigh up if this word is ‘unfair’ or disproportionate – one of the 3-4 police officers that were on my body,., deliberately wrapped his thick arm around my neck and pulled back tight enough for me to fear for my next breath... yes then I'll go with 'strangulation'. It was dark all around me within moments of the first bit of shoving by the police line behind me – I expected to be marched across the now-closed bit of road and that would be that… but the dark was the genuinely shocking draping of three large male bodies on top of my small female one… the weight, the pushing and the sense of suffocation was confusing and the size of them blacked out light and all I recall is a small glimmer of road through the cracks in body mass. NO I was not seriously harmed… I’ll be ok but IT’S NOT OK. It’s not OK that an adult who got up and went to his professional job, in a uniform as a police officer, thought pinching and strangulation were ‘appropriate force’ – these were not accidental manoeuvres or things I can write off as simply a matter of the clash of bodies in a tense situation – they were deliberate acts. But what for? What was the intent? What went through the minds of these officers when they did these things? It wasn’t ‘dear god I’m at risk of harm, quickly stop this huge opponent’ that’s for sure… so what was it? They either panicked with fear (doubt this) or they CHOSE to inflict unnecessary pain because it either brought them perverse pleasure to do so .. or? Can’t think of an ‘or’. They behaved as sick, twisted abusers and there is NO PLACE FOR THIS IN OUR POLICE FORCE OR ANYWHERE. I raged after the incident and continue to now... yet tomorrow, I will try to find some bloody way to put this horrid reality down, take a 15 minute silence amongst the soothing wave of women in white and onward to another week of this absurd reality of protecting ourselves from a clearly corrupt and sick government and the industries that work hand-in-hand with it.
Women's Call 16


Call out from residents in Lancashire: PLEASE come be with us: "Cuadrilla the frackers have a new plan and it's t...