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February 2014 - Fracking Update

February 2014 Fracking UpdateOur last Fracking Update was 9th August and a lot's been going on since then.

In Fylde, we're fortunate to have a lot of websites that give up-to-the-minute local and national news about fracking. They include websites run by the anti-fracking groups who are more up to date than we could be on such a large and specialised topic.

So although we were the first to report a fracking meeting in Fylde, we don't now aim to publish articles as urgently as topics that are less well covered, we leave that to others. But we will give readers our take on what's going on from time to time.

Here's our catch-up since last August

On 10th October 13, Virtual Lancaster News Blog broke the news that "Cuadrilla had pulled out of the site they established at Anna's Road in Lytham citing 'overwintering birds' as the reason"

We were impressed by their coverage and analysis which we thought was better than some we've seen.   Readers can follow this link to see for themselves at  'Virtual Lancaster'

Virtual Lancaster suggest the initial postponement of drilling was because of 'technical difficulties', and implied this might have been an issue of legal compliance. We've also heard it said that the soft peat soil in that area made it difficult to case the wellbore in cement because the cement was oozing into the soft surrounding peat soil.

Our own take on abandonment is pretty straightforward.

First, we know our MP has, since the site was announced, spoken consistently against its development. It's too close to housing, and too close to the large 'Farmland Conservation Area' that forms part of the planning permission granted to the Queensway development.

When a representative of the Government doesn't agree with what you're doing, it isn't going to make your life any easier.

But we think the main reason was the wildlife - as Cuadrilla said.

The Farmland Conservation Area was to provide a refuge for the wildlife that would be inadvertently disturbed (children, dogs, walkers etc) when the Queensway development extended into what is presently their dining room and lounge. Putting an industrial site in the field adjoining the FCA was always going to mean the wildlife had nowhere to go.

Virtual Lancaster had said  "Environmental campaigns are sceptical about the excuse for departure as there have been pink-footed geese and whooper swans in the Ribble Estuary for as many years as people can remember." and that's undoubtedly true, but the point at issue is the number.

At present the FCA is 'Functionally Linked' (That's a technical environmental term) to the Ribble and Alt Estuary Special Protection Area (for certain categories of wild birds). In effect it means it's so closely linked as to be almost inseparable - even if it doesn't meet the criteria for designation as a SPA itself.

However in the last few years there has been a significant increase in the numbers of these birds recorded as using the area, and the environmental agencies and organisations (like English Nature and the RSPB) are taking closer interest.

We would not be completely surprised if it were to transpire that the area of the SPA becomes extended to include such land (due to the number of birds using the area). And even if not, were sure it will be much more difficult to put the birds at risk of being disturbed in the future.

We also think that's why a recent report to Fylde's planning committee regarding the proposed Queensway development (which asked that decisions on all the outstanding layout matters should be delegated to officers to decide) was withdrawn and deferred for more consideration at the officers request. It seems that the developer had submitted revised information to the environmental authorities, but - according to Fylde's officers - their response had been such as to require a more fundamental re-think of the matter.

So we're inclined to think it is 'the birds' - and we're sure people living in the northeast of St Annes nearest to the Anna's Road site will have cause to be grateful to both them and our MP.

In November 13, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive set out a joint statement on how they would work together to regulate 'unconventional oil and gas developments' This clarified their roles and responsibilities and sought to co-ordinate regulation. Follow this link for more details

It has to be a step forward, but it's not what many have called for, which is a unified regulatory body to take overall responsibility for shale gas. Government seems to have set its face against that at the moment.

The two agencies had also issued another note about the 'Environmental Permitting Regulations'

These are not specific to 'unconventional gas' and address a much wider field of activity - but, given that the 'joint working' note on permitting regulations was issued at more or less the same time as the one above, we imagine it includes joint working on activities such as unconventional gas development.

The regulations themselves are not new (they date to 2010) but they are what many would consider to be the unpleasant or unacceptable face of environmental regulation.

In essence they are a licence to pollute.

The Environment Agency is one of the regulators under the Environmental Permitting Regulations and has responsibility for issuing permits for some industrial, farming, waste management, surface water and groundwater discharge activities, radioactive substances and mining waste activities, and it can issue licences which - in effect - remove the threat of prosecution for activities that would otherwise contravene the pollution regulations.

The HSE does not issue such licenses (Frankly, we simply couldn't imagine the HSE adopting a similar stance - where, for example, they might issue a licence to work unsafely, or to damage health, or to abandon safety), but they have said they would work together with the Environment Agency to regulate onshore unconventional oil and gas developments (which as far as we can see looks to be a rose by any other name).

The note says "Although the Health & Safety Executive is not involved in ‘permitting’ decisions for activities regulated under Environmental Permitting Regulations, they work together with the Environment Agency to regulate onshore unconventional oil and gas developments."

The note they issued explains how each agency will work with the other.

Having the HSE - in effect - being party to licenses to pollute doesn't seem to us to be a particularly good thing, and although at present it doesn't seem to be a significant adverse step, we do see it as a small step in the wrong direction, and we're reminded of the experiences relayed by Jessica Ernst when Canada started to modify its environmental regulation to make it easier for unconventional gas exploration.

This is the sort of thing that winds people up.

Ordinary folk simply can't understand how or why you should grant dispensations for pollution, and it does nothing to strengthen trust in the institution that is supposed to be doing the regulation.

Furthermore, it doesn't help when Prime Minister David Cameron pledges he will introduce a "simplified system" for companies to get permission for fracking.  Readers can follow this link for more details about joint working on environmental permitting.

On 29 November13, Our MP asked the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change "what steps the Minister is taking to ensure the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil is working with regulators to encourage public engagement."

The minister (Michael Fallon, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) said "The Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) works closely with the regulators on public engagement and to improve understanding of the facts about shale gas development. Staff from OUGO have attended a number of events alongside colleagues from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA), in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the regulation in this area."

We didn't think this answered the question very well, and it looks to us as though the reply focussed more on EA and HSE staff going to seminars, conferences and meetings together. That's not exactly what we'd call 'public engagement.'

On 11th December, Lord Deben - who as John Selwyn Gummer MP was environment secretary under John Major (He currently chairs the Committee on Climate Change) - outraged anti-fracking campaigners when he said "It just isn't true that fracking is going to destroy the environment and the world is going to come to an end if you frack" adding that people "ought to be worried about the security of our energy supplies" and it would be "much better" to have more UK-sourced gas.

We know him of old and have briefly crossed swords with him on an issue in the past.

He's the one who famously fed his daughter a hamburger in May 1990 to demonstrate the safety of British beef and to restore confidence after the great BSE dRt Hon John Gummer Feeds his daughter beefburgers in 1990isaster - where Government had caved in to pressure from animal feed manufacturers to continue the use of cheap 'mechanically recovered meat' in animal food and refused to ban it.

He told the BSE inquiry that he understood it was not something that had to be done on human health grounds, and the "almost universal advice" he had was that the risk to humans was "so remote as for all practical purposes to be ignored".

It was banned five years later, when the damage had been done and CJD was a growing problem.

Fortunately his daughter survived his parenting - but we're certainly not going to take any lessons on environmental safety from the likes of him.

In December 13, the Government announced new controls which - they said - justified a resumption of hydraulic fracturing operations for shale gas in the UK.

Operations had been suspended since May 2011, after two seismic tremors experienced near Preese Hall, at Weeton.

The new regulations require operators seeking consent under the licences for any fracking operations for shale gas will have to:

  • Conduct a prior review of information on seismic risks and the existence of faults in the area;
  • Submit to DECC a fracking plan showing how any seismic risks are to be addressed;
  • Carry out seismic monitoring before, during and after the fracking;
  • Implement a “traffic light” system which will be used to identify unusual seismic activity requiring reassessment, or halting, of operations.

We didn't think there was a lot of new stuff there, it's mostly what is already being done by the operators anyway.

That being the case,  it seems government has simply said "OK Chaps - off you go again"

The department of Energy and Climate Change has issued a background note prepared by Dr C. Green of G Frac Technologies Ltd "to assist understanding by non-specialists of the independent experts’ report about the induced seismicity during hydraulic fracturing at the Preese Hall site, Lancashire, NW England."

We thought it was a useful explanation, and readers might want to follow this link for their own copy

In January, David Cameron launched what he called an "all-out" drive to promote drilling by saying Councils that back fracking will get to keep more money in tax revenue and they would get all the business rates collected from shale gas schemes - rather than the 50%. business rates they would otherwise get.

The announcement came as French company Total said it would drill two exploratory wells in Lincolnshire.

Total is the first major energy company to invest in fracking in the UK, and ironically, being French, it is prevented from fracking in France because of the French Government's outright ban on fracking there.

Separately, the mining industry has offered communities £100,000 for test drilling and a further 1% of the revenues if shale is discovered.

Mr Cameron said: "A key part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain's future is to back businesses with better infrastructure. That's why we're going all out for shale. It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people, and economic security for our country."

Energy Minister Michael Fallon said local councils could benefit by up to "£10m per wellhead" if shale gas was successfully extracted in their communities, through the 1% levy on revenues, and this would be on top of the business rates they would receive from companies involved in drilling.

The Local Government Association has said that it should be 10% - as elsewhere in the world - not 1%

Greenpeace said of the moves: "Cameron is effectively telling councils to ignore the risks and threat of large-scale industrialisation in exchange for cold, hard cash. But the proposal reveals just how worried the government is about planning applications being turned down. Having had their claims that fracking will bring down energy bills and create jobs thoroughly discredited, the government is now resorting to straight up bribery to sell their deeply unpopular fracking policy."

We believe the Government knows it is losing the battle for hearts and minds and is, as Greenpeace says, attempting bribery to bring people back on side.

It might work with a few, but we suspect the majority will see it as an act of desperation and if the bribe doesn't work, and it transpires that opposition continues to grow, we worry that the next stage is likely to be more stick than carrot.

It's quite clear this Government is absolutely set on pursuing access to unconventional gas, and we suspect that if necessary, they will not hesitate to unleash the environmental equivalent of another industrial revolution - but this time for 'dark satanic drills' rather than dark satanic mills.

Also in January, our MP asked Secretary of State for Work and Pensions "what steps he is taking to ensure that the Health and Safety Executive conduct regular inspections to ensure existing regulations are adhered to in the shale gas industry?"

In reply, Mike Penning MP said "The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uses a range of techniques to regulate shale gas work activities throughout the life cycle of a well to ensure that operators manage and control health and safety risks effectively. This includes engaging with well operators at the well design stage, assessing well notifications before operations start, reviewing operators' weekly reports to ensure work on the well is progressing safely to plan, and conducting targeted on-site inspections informed by these activities. HSE is also committed to visit jointly with the Environment Agency all shale gas sites during the current exploratory phase of shale gas development."

Better than nothing we thought - but maybe still not what it should be.

January also saw the Government say it was looking at legality of allowing fracking to take place under people's houses without their permission.

At the present time, operators need to ask home owners before they drill under their land, but Government has said "There is an existing legal route by which operators can apply for access where this can't be negotiated." adding that "We're currently considering whether this existing route is fit for purpose."

The sub-text here is that Government is looking to make it easier for fracking to drill under people's land and potentially under their houses.

Doesn't inspire confidence does it?

The rights you have over and under land used to be what the lawyers call 'settled' - It was accepted practice that if you owned a piece of land you also owned everything above and beneath it, from heaven to hell.

It's a precedent that (arguably) dates back to Roman times [Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos neccesam] which slid into English common law in 1587, in a case enabling a property developer who owned land extending to the boundary of his neighbour's house to build upwards, even though this meant blocking a window through which his neighbour had enjoyed natural light for 30 years.

Even today, a vertical column, centred on each plot of land with sides matching its boundaries, extending indefinitely into outer-space and down through the Earth's crust, is the popular 3D vision of land ownership that prevails in legal discourse.

But things are changing

One drawback of this concept is that as you approach the centre of the Earth, there is not enough room - because the column would have to taper to a point.

So in 2010 the former deputy president of the Supreme Court, Lord Hope - basing his view on some US landowners who had unsuccessfully tried to prevent low flying aircraft over their land - said the simple notion of such a column was plainly no longer tenable.

Since 1900 the view has been tested and shifting.

Decisions in the US about who owned the land that sewers passed through, and a 1978 High Court decision that aerial photography plane was not trespassing lead away from the concept.

But in a 2010 case (Bocardo SA v Star Energy UK Onshore Ltd and another) a UK court ruled that diagonal drilling down to 2,800ft from an adjacent plot of land was still trespassing under the surface of land owned by former Harrods boss Mohamed al-Fayed who had complained that an oil firm had drilled diagonally from an adjacent plot through the land beneath his grand Surrey mansion, without obtaining consent.

The position is also made more complicated because some minerals don't belong to the landowner but to the state.

Silver and Gold belong to the Crown as of right. The Crown is also entitled to oil, petroleum, coal and natural gas by statutory right, as per The Coal Industry Act 1994 and the Petroleum Act 1998.

Furthermore, the Crown has the right to treasure found in the land under the Treasure Act 1996.

We also know of ancient Manorial Rights which are claimed to give some people holding the title of 'Lord of the Manor' rights over some land below two 'spits' (= spades = 20-24 inches) deep, and that may yet get thrown into the mix as well.

So the position is now perhaps less 'settled' than it was - which gives the Government some wriggle room to see if the common law needs changing by an Act of Parliament.

This is the same sort of story unfolding here as Mrs Ernst experienced in Canada - where when the regulations get in the way, you simply change the regulations.

It's not on, and it's going to do nothing more than widen and harden opposition to fracking.

There may be an early test of the present law, because as the BBC has reported, Marcus Adams, a landowner in the Sussex Downs National Park was one of several who were mounting a "legal blockade" to block a potential fracking site.

Solicitors are acting for residents near Fernhurst, in West Sussex, and one, (Mr Adams), told the BBC: "People right across the country have legitimate concerns about the impact of fracking on their communities - from water contamination to air and noise pollution from heavy lorry traffic - but all this happening in a national park just doesn't bear thinking about."

The local drilling company - Celtique Energie - said there were no firm plans for the drilling site as yet: "The horizontal well is only an option at this stage and would be drilled on the basis of positive data from the vertical well."

The BBC also reported that Greenpeace had launched a mass legal block against fracking in October and quoted their energy campaigner, Anna Jones, saying she thought the Fernhurst action would inspire others: "As ministers' desperate charm offensive is given the cold shoulder, the Fernhurst legal blockade is likely to become a blueprint for local resistance right across the country."

We think there may be more to come on this.

We were unable to go to the first fracking meeting organised by the Parish Council, but we had trusted readers there and as we reported in 'One Week and Three Meetings' it was viewed as a shambles, with one reader describing it as "a master class in *How NOT to hold a meeting -* and absolutely hilarious."

Another told us "Cllr Fiddler should have brought a spade with him as he dug himself deeper into the hole he had created for himself."

It seems the parish Council in Freckleton had - as George Bush might have said - misunderestimated the concern of local residents.

Blaming the shambles on the meeting's being hijacked by out of town anti-fracking groups, Freckleton's Cllr Trevor Fiddler told the Lancashire Evening Post he "accused anti-fracking campaigners for ‘hijacking’ a meeting to discuss shale gas."

But one of the campaigners we spoke with recently, told us they were delighted with what Cllr Fiddler had said, and were thinking of offering him employment as a Recruiting Sergeant for them - because the Freckleton anti fracking group had blossomed since that meeting and his comments.

So much so that the group itself held a public meeting of its own which was attended by - we're told - about 200 residents. One of the speakers was a chap called Ian Crane who, we were told, had unsettled some of the more moderate ant-fracking types by using innuendo as humour. That can damage trust in what's being said, but others thought the meeting went well.

What it does appear to have done is to cement the bonds amongst a decent sized group of anti-fracking activists from Freckleton, which is adding to the local opposition throughout Fylde, and more importantly, adding to the voices being raised in concern as word of their concern spreads to friends, neighbours and families.

Then we heard of a tightly controlled meeting being held by Fylde Council where, together with our MP, various selected 'stakeholders' were being invited to the Town Hall last Friday to hear information about fracking.

We're not quite sure what qualifications you need to be a 'stakeholder' in this regard - one of our correspondents noted a lot of schools seem to have been invited and wondered whether alleged contributions of £10,000 to schools might give them the status of 'stakeholder' - but we've no real idea what constituted a 'stakeholder' (We figure that, like the term 'the international community' - 'stakeholders' means whoever you want it to mean at the time it's used, and the aim of deploying the term in this instance is to cloak what were selective invitations with apparent legitimacy).

There appeared to be a news blackout about what was going on - anti-fracking campaigners knew something was happening, but couldn't get a handle on the details.

We also heard it was said that at least this would be a meeting that counterbalance couldn't report

(But in true Pantomime tradition - 'Oh yes we can!')

Then news leaked out that it was expected to have officials from the regulatory agencies present. Then we heard one of the anti fracking groups had been invited. Then we heard a lot of people representing local schools had been invited. The we heard parish councils had been invited.

From what we could see this process might have had some of the hallmarks of a 'divide and rule' exercise - because different groups were being invited at different times of the day for what appeared to be the same presentation.

That can give the presenters the opportunity to slant the presentation to favour the views of each audience.

It also doesn't augur well that the meetings were arranged with such secrecy surrounding them - but then Fylde is rapidly becoming the 'North Korea' of local authorities whose attention to news management exceeds their attention to openness and transparency.

Thankfully, we have several readers who were invited to attend, (and who represent a broad spectrum of opinion), so we're able to bring their impression of what transpired.

The first session was for Councillors and Parish Councillors. We're told there were quite a lot of parish councillors, but only about 15 Borough councillors who attended.

From what we can understand the acoustics were not brilliant and the presentations were sometimes difficult to hear. The following is an amalgam of our readers views:

Meeting for Councillors and Parish Councillors
The presentations were reasonably interesting but had no real 'new information'. Our MP was present, but did not make a presentation himself.

There was a presentation from the Department of Energy and Climate Change / Office of Unconventional Gas who explained what fracking was about and handed out a December 2013 booklet called 'Developing Onshore Shale Gas and Oil – Facts about Fracking' Our readers can follow this link to obtain their own copy.

Then there were presentations from the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency who explained the control and inspection regime they expected to implement.

The key point here seems to be that for smaller companies like Cuadrilla, they are going to have a specialist site inspector who was external to Cuadrilla, but if the exploration was from a much bigger company they might use an employee of the company as their inspector.

They explained that Cuadrilla had permission to use three chemicals in the fracking process, including a lubricant and biocide, but at the present time Cuadrilla planned to use only one.

The drilling and fracking process had been divided up into segments, and each stage required Cuadrilla to give 21 days notice of its move to another stage.

Overall the impression we gleaned from our informants was that there was some concern, but the meeting was not especially negative, and it had been quite constructive.

Meeting for Other Groups
Later in the afternoon, other groups were invited to hear presentations. We understand the room was full with about 60 people present. Again we were told that those at the back found it difficult to hear, and the slides had writing so small it couldn't easily be read.

Those attending at the presentations included representatives of at least three anti-fracking groups we know, and some other community organisations.

Our informants included one known supporter of fracking and one known to be opposed to it in principle.

Overall, the clearest perception to come from this meeting was that those on the 'top table' were left in no doubt that they were simply not being believed in what they said.

And the thing that surprised us most was that when we asked a previously pro-fracking correspondent (who had attended) what the meeting was like, the emphatic reply was "It was absolute rubbish. The Environment Agency did a wonderful job for Cuadrilla - but what can you expect from a body that is a government agency when the Government is so committed to fracking"

The anti fracking folk who were present made it clear that they didn't trust the information that was being given.

When an official said they had already dealt with 2,000 wells and had experience of them, one of the anti-fracking members of the audience said he agreed a lot of wells had been drilled in the UK - but they were not unconventional wells were they?

Another told us that officials were eventually forced to admit that the only well in the UK to have been fracked was at Preese Hall, Weeton.

One person told us they almost left during the first speech because there seemed no point in being there just to hear what they thought was a lot of waffle and bureaucratic flummery and, as one of the FoE people had pointed out, they were giving stuff out that was taken straight from the Cuadrilla brochures.

A dairy farmer who was present said he was concerned that any spillage might poison his cows. He said they drank 20 to 30 gallons of water a day and if the land became contaminated he wanted to know who would compensate him?

Another farmer asked about damage to his potato crop.

There was at least one instance of people being refused the opportunity to ask questions, with the Chairman seeing them but shaking his head at them.

One person told us that one of the more outspoken anti-fracking folk attending had let the side down and behaved badly during the meeting and ought to have been escorted out.

Our previously pro-fracking correspondent was also angered with the way that flowback water contaminated with radiation was going to be dealt with. They were told that it was very low level radiation (around 90 Becquerels), but if there was an excess over what was allowed, it would simply be diluted with more water until the level was acceptable.

This caused our correspondent to refer to the regulatory bodies as 'Government Puppets' adding "to hear them, you'd think it was Cuadrilla talking"

There had been some discussion about alleged technical incompetence at Preese Hall and the regulatory authorities were asked, in view of the fact that they have only a few qualified examiners, how they would get more people to carry out inspections as the pace picked up.

The answer seemed to be that the drilling companies would pay the government and the regulatory bodies would be given the money to employ more people - although this did not seem to address the time needed to train inspection staff.

An issue was raised about insurance for people who believed they had been adversely affected by drilling and fracking, and the officials gave the answer that it would be up to those affected to complain to the drilling or fracking company. Several anti-fracking activists said this was simply not good enough, and the Government must undertake to meet the legitimate losses of individuals and recover the money from the drilling/fracking companies themselves.

One positive announcement seemed to be that the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency said they will be holding public consultations.

But at least one of the earlier and central issues still remains a thorny matter. Normal people expect site inspections to be unannounced and wholly independent, but in practice, the HSE and EA seems to want to be to get the operator to self assess their own compliance, and to self certify that it has all been done properly.

The HSE in particular seem to be adopting a process know as 'Goal Setting', where it's left to the operator to try to interpret what controls are required and how to implement them. The idea is to require the operator to use best practice, and to notify HSE as it is done.

But some see this approach as nothing more than cover for the fact that HSE aren't actually doing adequate inspections themselves.

We wonder what would happen if the traffic police adopted this sort of approach - you know, with drivers having to say what they will do to drive safely based on the (best practice) Highway Code, then submit weekly sheets saying we've stayed within the 20 or 30 mph limits and driven safely and carefully.

As one of our readers now living in Scotland would undoubtedly have said

- "Yeah, right"

So there we have it. On the face of it not much new information, except that the two main regulators appeared on the same platform to demonstrate closer working, and the appointment of a dedicated inspector must be a positive move.

But on the other hand, the meeting seems to have managed to change at least one pro-fracking person into an opponent.

As we have said before, public opinion is moving steadily against fracking and opposition is growing. Meetings like this, however well intentioned they might have been, seem not to be having the desired effect.

Shortly before the Town Hall meeting referred to above, the Telegraph broke news that Cuadrilla had selected two new sites for drilling, fracking and testing the flow of gas from up to four exploration wells on each of the sites, one at Roseacre Wood and the other at Preston New Road. But they had scaled back plans to frack at another five locations.

This is the first time any shale gas explorer has sought permission to frack since the 18-month fracking ban was lifted after Cuadrilla caused two earth tremors with previous fracking activity.

The sites are at Roseacre - toward the Treales end of Roseacre Road, and not far from where Cllr Heather Speak lives. The other is at Little Plumpton, just off the Preston New Road.

It's expected that if all goes well, drilling might begin late this year and fracking might follow early in 2015. Cuadrilla said it would install seismic arrays to monitor for earth tremors during the fracking process.

The process begins with the submission of a "scoping report" to Lancashire County Council setting out its plans for environmental impact assessments at the new sites.

The scoping report sets out what factors Cuadrilla propose to take into account, and - more importantly - which (if any) matters they intend to disregard altogether, when they undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment and produce the Environmental Impact Statement as part of their planning permission.

The scoping reports (which we've not yet digested) are available from the Cuadrilla website, one for each site, with both following a similar format.

Follow these links for the pdf downloads

Issue 1 Roseacre Wood

Issue 3 Preston New Road

We understand these have been prepared by a company we knew as 'Ove Arup' but now seems to be called just "Arup". They are a company of international substance, although we don't know their environmental credentials that well.

At least we hope (and might reasonably expect) they will be less hopeless in the advice they have given Cuadrilla than their former environmental advisers were, as we showed in the section headed 'Fracking: Cuadrilla's EIA Scoping Report' (within our February 2013 article 'Democracy & Localism + Fracking') which was a complete disaster.

At the same time as its announcement was made public, and in a move which we think shows their attempts to limit the scope of anti-fracking groups to become involved, Cuadrilla leafleted the immediate community in the morning of their announcement, to say they were holding a public meeting that same day, between 3pm and 7:30pm at Elswick Village Hall.

We understand they also held a similar meeting at Pipers Heights for the Preston New Road site.

They say that's not the only meeting they will hold, but the incredibly short notice of the meeting does seem to show how their tactics appear to be changing because of opposition to what they are doing.

Even so, most of the vox-pops undertaken by the Gazette showed disagreement and concern, both for the fracking activity, and for the short notice of the meeting.  So if it was intended to win local hearts and minds, and to exclude those from further away, we think it looks to have backfired.

We'll bring you more as it unfolds.

We hear news that two of the largest anti-fracking groups - Defend Lytham and Residents Action on Fylde Fracking will soon be announcing a large public meeting to be held in the middle of March. We'll bring more news as we get it.

Dated:  9 February 2014


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