Rally for a frack free Ryedale

by | May 20, 2016 | Fracking, Local | 0 comments

Today we held a powerful rally at North Yorks Council Offices for a frack free Ryedale.

The occasion was the Planning Committee meeting to decide on Third Energy’s application to frack for shale gas at Kirby Misperton (KM8), a small village in the North Yorkshire heartlands.

Madeleine Buntings superb Observer article from last week beautifully sets out the deep seated issues that surround this application: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/14/fracking-ryedale-north-yorkshire-moors

NYCC Planning Department have recommended approval of the application.

However,

  • On Friday the Committee heard 64 people speak against the KM8 application; only a handful of supporters will speak on Monday (its a two day hearing)
  • NYCC received nearly 4,000 written objections to KM8; only 32 supportive submissions were received
  • Between 500 and 1,000 people rallied against the application on Friday; no one was there to support the application

In other words, Third Energy have NO social licence to frack at KM8.

We are back there on Monday for Day 2.

Here are some photos from Day 1. It was brilliant to see a Yorkshire – Lancashire alliance against fracking.

Main photo: Jayne Dennis (thank you). Others, Cheryl Atkinson (Don’t frack with my future, also thanks), the rest me.

Full report and video record of the meeting at http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/shalegas.

Some of the best quotes of the day can be found at https://drillordrop.com/

And here is the text of my letter to the Councillors:

Dear Councillor,

I am writing to ask you  to refuse the planning application by Third Energy to frack at their KM8 well at Kirby Misperton (NY/2015/0233/ENV) at the your meeting this Friday.

I have lived in Ryedale and worked in Helmsley since 2000. My childhood and various parts of my earlier life were spent in Brandsby and the surrounding area, so I know this part of Yorkshire very well.

My cousin, the late Bill Deedes (whose wife came from Stonegrave), wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph at the start of this century describing the stretch of land between Thirsk and Whitby as the last piece of unspoilt countryside left in England now that his beloved Kent had been overrun by development and industrialisation. He felt that Ryedale had taken on the mantle of ‘Garden of England’ and 16 years on nothing has changed to alter that description. Allowing Third Energy’s application to frack at Kirkby Misperton will be the first step in the industrialisation that my cousin blamed for ruining Kent and which will ruin Ryedale.

I ask you to listen to the grave concerns of my family (myself, my wife and my teenage son living within sight of the KM8 site) that we have over the health risks from fracking, of which there are many examples from the US and Australia. We believe there is powerful evidence that these health risks present a danger to the environment and the population here in Ryedale, and that this evidence is being downplayed. We believe it will be irresponsible for the Planning Committee to allow fracking in this situation. Whilst the applicant seems to say everything to reassure the Committee and the public, the evidence of serious problems in other parts of the world is powerful and cannot be discounted or shrugged off.

I am deeply concerned by the argument that ‘gold plated’ regulation will ensure none of us are harmed or disadvantaged by fracking. Regulatory failures are all too common. I attach a brief note I have prepared on the pitfalls of relying on regulation (based on research from Manchester University) and wonder if the Council has considered its potential liability if it hides behind regulation that proves inadequate.

My family and I are also deeply concerned that fracking is a retrograde step in terms of the environment and climate.  Every day we see advances in renewable energy technology and energy conservation. For instance, Solar Road and transparent solar panels (which could be fitted into windows) are two recent examples of leading edge innovation in this field. Fracking has no place in our world. It is a travesty, a backward step and is completely counter to the spirit of the age.

Finally, I would ask you to consider why, if Third Energy describe fracking as safe and clean, so many local, regional and country governments or authorities have imposed fracking bans, severe restrictions or moratoria, including Ryedale itself, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Catalonia (Spain), much of Canada, Pennsylvania, New York and many districts in the USA, France, Ireland, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Romania, Germany, Tunisia, and South Africa amongst others.

My family and I ask you to listen to us and the people of Ryedale, North Yorkshire and the rest of the world, reject the arguments put forward by Third Energy and refuse this planning application.

Thank you.

Jeremy Deedes

And my short paper on regulation:

To The Planning Committee
North Yorkshire County Council

Reference: Reference Planning Application No: NY/2015/0233/ENV

Does Regulation Really Work?

The argument that regulation will ensure none of us are harmed or disadvantaged by fracking is becoming more widespread.

For instance, Kevin Hollinrake MP in a recent article in the Gazette & Herald (13 Jan16) suggested that ‘robust regulation’ will ensure the extraction of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing will be ‘balanced and measured’ and ‘reduce the impact on people’s lives’.

Unfortunately recent history does not bear this out.  The Manchester University Policy Unit cites many examples of regulatory failure including:

GSK (unapproved drugs)
Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust and the Morecambe Bay NHS Trust
The 2007 Financial Crisis, big banks and the spin-off crises ( HBOS, PPI, LIBOR, Forex, insider dealing, money laundering etc)
Deepwater Horizon (The BP Gulf Oil Spill)
News International (phone hacking)
Volkswagen (emissions)

To this list can be added earlier examples such as:

Thalidomide
Asbestos
Pension miss-selling

The Manchester Unit identifies a number of reasons for regulatory failure. These include:

Failure of the Principle and Agent relationship which leads to the agent pursuing priorities that are at odds with the Principle’s (and the Regulator’s) agenda
Herd behaviour and groupthink, in which individuals accept decisions that are obviously contrary to regulations  to conform to the rest of their peer group
The MacWhirr Syndrome (after Joseph Conrad’s Captain MacWhirr) in which executives prefer to take uncertain and dangerous risks, even those banned by the Regulator, rather than face certain (and unjustified) criticism
The Profits v Ethics tug of war, in which the pressure for profits takes precedence over the consequences for the environment and society, and regulation is  ignored

To this somewhat academic analysis can be added that sometimes businesses simply treat the cost of non-compliance and the resulting fines as part of their project costs because this allows them still to make a profit, which they would not generate by complying with regulations or by shelving the project outright.

And the regulation itself has to be effective, and monitored. A study published in the Environmental Law Review authored by Joanne Hawkins of Leeds University warns that reliance on oil and gas regulations designed pre-fracking poses significant risk to human health and the environment. And there are also serious fears about the capacity of the regulators to regulate fracking sites on top of their existing workload.

The weight of the arguments against fracking continue to grow relentlessly. To say that regulation will deal with all these arguments is not proven by past experience in a wide range of industries; in fact, anything but. It is also an abrogation of responsibility if Councillors cite ‘gold plated’ regulation as the answer to objections, the equivalent of a bankrupt company blaming its auditors for incorrectly checking the figures.

If fracking is allowed go ahead then the Council, the drilling companies and the landowners must be prepared to accept full responsibility for anything that goes wrong, and not sit behind an imperfect regulatory environment.

Jeremy Deedes
MBA CFPCM Chartered FCSI RLP

References

Manchester University Policy Unit: www.regulation.org.uk

Joanne Hawkins ‘Fracking: Minding the Gaps’ (2015) 17(1) Environmental Law Review 8-21 http://elj.sagepub.com/content/17/1/8.full.pdf