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Fracking Inquiry: Week 3

CONTENTS OF THIS PAGE

DAY 9  (23 FEBRUARY 2016)

DAY NOT NUMBERED (24 FEBRUARY 2016) - SITE VISITS

DAY 10   (25 FEBRUARY 2106)

EVENING SESSION FOR PUBLIC SPEAKERS

DAY 11:  26 FEBRUARY 2016


Fracking Inquiry Week 3It was reported that the webcast is not working because the man who does it has not arrived yet, and Cuadrilla's QC said she was not aware where he was or when he would arrive, she presumed he had been held up on the motorway. As we write, other people trying to get it up and running.

9:45 The Webcast operator has now arrived, and at 9:50 the Inspector has announced the webcast is now up and running.

 DAY 9:    (23 FEBRUARY 2016) 

 EVIDENCE OF DR. ANDREW MCKENZIE

The first speaker addressed the issue of Noise especially at the Preston New Road site.

For the benefit of our non-technical readers, the fundamental of the noise argument is this: The work will be 24 hours for some of the time, and at night, it is agreed that the noise will not rise above the absolute limit of 42dBA.

However, below this level, there is a requirement to reduce the noise as much as possible without placing an unreasonable burden on the operator.

At the LCC meeting, Cuadrilla had said they could erect a huge sound baffle that would reduce the noise to between 39 and 37 dBA.

During cross examination, Mr McKenzie  agreed that this would be a level that would not place an unreasonable burden on the operator (because he had offered to do it at LCC), and that LCC should not have refused it at that level according to the guidance.

However, he made the point that below the 42dBA cap, it was a matter of planning balance as to what was appropriate, and LCC didn't think that even 37/39 was low enough.

The upshot of all of this is, and the essence of the argument is that, at night, the operation is too close to residential property at Preston New Road to mitigate the level to one that LCC feel is acceptable without that being unreasonably onerous on the operator.

In other words, whilst if it was further from the property, LCC would not have refused it, but the fact of the matter is that LCC believe this site is simply too close to the residential properties around it to allow planning permission.

We thought Dr McKenzie was a reliable, careful, and thoughtful witness who gave his considered expert opinion to the inquiry without being partial to either side. This of course, is exactly what witnesses should be and do.

He also clearly had a grasp of the intricacies in the matter and presented his evidence in a first-class manner.

 Cross examination by Ms Lieven for Cuadrilla.

She first secured agreement that the drilling work would be 8 months then a 4 month gap, after which it would resume for a further 6 months.

For the fracking operations she said there would be 4 periods of two months, for only 3 hours a day, not after 6pm, not on Sundays, probably not on Saturday afternoons, but there was disagreement whether it could take place on Saturday mornings.

She agreed with the witness that there would not be a 'significant adverse effect' from the operations and that the difference between them was how, and to what extent, they should mitigate the adverse impact of the noise that was below the 'significant' level

There followed an exchange during which it became clear to us that the essence of the argument was as we have set out above.

The Ms Lieven introduced a DEFRA document new to the inquiry (Dated November 2014) which she said set out the Government's approach to cost benefit analysis of reducing noise levels below  42dBA and thus monetising the value of sleep disturbance. She argued that it said data below 45dBA has been excluded because it was unreliable.

The document was new to Dr McKenzie but after a quick look, he said it was concerned with environmental noise and transport, and also neighbourhood noise, and he couldn't see how that was relevant.

She moved on to another topic regarding the Government's assessment of noise in relation to HS2. The witness again said that without more detail, he could not see how that was relevant either.

He was firm and clear in his view, and he evidently wasn't going to agree to having words put into his mouth or ideas transplanted into his head if he wasn't sure of the detailed facts.

Ms Lieven was struggling with him because he was such an able expert and such an able speaker. A first class witness we thought.

  Re examination by Mr Evans for LCC  

Picked up one or two matters. The first was about noise and Government policy on sustainable development. The Government's Vision required people to have regard to noise in relation to the promotion of good health and quality of life.

He also asked about whether the issue of an 'unreasonable burden' appeared in the Planning Policy Guidance on Minerals. Dr McKenzie said it did not, and only said that noise should not exceed the background noise level by more than 10 dBA.

Referring to the late DEFRA document, he noted the claim for unreliable evidence below 45dBA, and asked whether Dr McKenzie's case was based on noise that would wake you up, or noise that you would hear after being woken.

Dr McKenzie said his case was about the nuisance or annoyance that arose and would be ongoing after being woken up.

He sought other clarifications on a few ancillary matters as well, all important, but not anything that struck us as being highly significant.

 Inspectors Questions 

The first question - after he had criticised Arup's baseline noise study (which he said had been for just one hour on one night) was - what he thought should have been done. He said he thought it should have been for at least a week.

She also asked about the issue of the noise below 42dBA and what he thought the level should be. The answer was really complicated because it depended on the background level and other factors, but in his experience people did not usually complain below 35dBA

She also asked at what point he thought the 'unreasonable burden' would kick in, and whether the use of the huge 8m (25 feet) tall 'shroud' noise barrier (that Cuadrilla had spoken to LCC about at the time of their application) was appropriate.

He said he didn't understand why they had gone for an 8m tall noise barrier when he thought there would be better ways of doing it. He went on to say he would approach the manufacturer of the equipment to offer less noisy equipment.

And there the morning session ended.

 EVIDENCE OF NEIL STEVENS LCC

Mr Stevens is LCC's Highways expert (we saw him in action at the Queensway Moss Road Inquiry) and he is dealing with highway and transport matters around the Roseacre Wood site

He said the site was remote from the road network, and involved the use of inappropriate rural roads. He said some aspects of the transport management plan were not enforceable and the plan was therefore not acceptable.

He regarded the impact of HGV's (Hopefully not, we thought) would be severe, and lead to highway safety issues, and overall the impact on the community would be moderate to high.

At this point there was a delicious irony.

Cuadrilla's QC interrupted his evidence to complain that a noise which could be heard in the room was disturbing and might affect those watching  the webcast.

The inspector agreed, and asked if there was anyone from the venue in the room who could see about getting it stopped.

She said "I don't know what it is but....." and she voice trailed off as the public galley, almost in unison said "ITS DRILLING" because someone in another part of the building was using a hammer drill and the reverberation could be heard in the Inquiry Room.

It stopped, but we hope the point was not lost on the Inspector!

Mr Stevens continued. One area of difference between him and Mr Ojeil (for Cuadrilla) was the way each had classified various HGV bandings and the width of the vehicles that should be counted (whether both or one or none of the wing mirrors should be counted in the width of the vehicle).

He said he was most worried about vehicles impacting each other side to side as they crossed, and also there was a risk of the HGVs not being able to tack their back end in tightly enough and cutting across that of a car.

In terms of traffic management, he said it was not unusual for developers to have a traffic management plan. This one had been designed for HGV's using rural roads, but in his view the plan did not overcome all of the issues and it only considers the site-related traffic and in any case, it can only control the release rate of vehicles from the site. It cannot control the layby (which is 9-12 mins away from the site) traffic and use.

He said the routing say it will use the MoD site but there is no certainty whether an agreement will be signed or not. He said the issue of safe access into the MOD site, and issues of security and vehicles waiting to access the site etc are still unclear.

The management plan relies on driver education, and he did not think that, with the other issues he had outlined,  this will be sufficient

 Cross examination by Ms Lieven for Cuadrilla.

Ms Lieven put on quite a show of not wanting to cross examine Mr Stevens starting at 3:45 pm when she thought they would need at least 2 hours and the inspector wanted an hour for her questions.

A few folk told us they though she had another agenda in play. Some thought she wanted time to sort out arguments to points he had made in his presentation, whilst others wondered if she wanted what he had already said to have gone from the minds of those present when she started the cross examination.

It might have been either or neither of these of course.

She was quite pushy in trying to get the cross examination delayed until Thursday, but the Inspector was having non of it and after a short 10 minute break, the inquiry resumed.

When she began, it looked to us as though she was niggled. The tone was more assertive than we'd seen up to now. The gloves were off, and whilst not an iron fist, there was certainly a much harder approach.

At one point she said she didn't think he was being reasonable in the answers he was giving.

Mr Stevens is well used to this sort of thing though. His manner is a mean, tight, stonewall that it's really hard to get through. We wondered if these two had history from inquiries elsewhere.

Sadly we couldn't stay all afternoon, but when we left at=round quarter to five, the stone wall was still standing and Ms Lieven was continuing to try to find a way through it.

Unsuccessfully

 DAY not numbered   (24 FEBRUARY 2016) 

Today is a non-sitting day and occupied by site visits. We managed to get some photos of the visit. They are all taken from Preston New Road.

The clickable images below will open a new large picture in a new window.

PNR Site visit At first sight, this could be an invasion of the Injuncted Cuadrilla site by those wearing Frack Free shirts. It's actually the inspector and her party on a site visit at Preston New Road

Click the image for a big photo

Inspector watches the balooon launch The Inspector watches the launch of a balloon arranged by the PNR group. It will ascend to 53m - the height of the tallest rig that Cuadrilla might use

Click the image for a big photo


The height of a drilling rig

This shows the balloon at 53m. The tiny speck at the bottom is the chap who launched it, and in the large picture you can just see the pylons in comparison.

Click the image for a big photo


Rig heigh in context Too small to see here, but the larger picture shows the balloon in context in the landscape and at the same height as the largest rig. The yellow specks are the Inspector's party just leaving.

Click the image for a big photo



 DAY 10:    (25 FEBRUARY 2016) 

Before the Inquiry got going, Cuadrilla's QC said they had received, either direct by email, or emails forwarded on by the Programme Officer some very detailed questions, one of which had four very detailed questions within it.

She made the point that the inquiry has no requirement or procedure to accept or deal with written questions such as these and whilst her client was prepared to answer simple questions, the complexity of these mean that they would have to go back to their experts Arup in order to formulate a response and, unless the inspector said otherwise, she was not prepared to ask her client to do so.

She asked for the Inspector's view because she did not wish to attract criticism for not responding to them.

The Inspector said there would not be criticism from her because the inquiry was not intended to be a free-for-all for those who did not attend the Inquiry and use the opportunity she had provided after each witness for members of the public to ask questions of the witness.

The message was clear, if you'd wanted to ask a question, you needed to attend when the experts who opposed your view was on the stand.

We suspect this comes about because the evidence is being broadcast via the internet, and whilst nowadays (especially with the proliferation of social media) most people now expect a website to offer a two way process. But the Inquiry in Public system has not yet caught up with this expectation.

Mr Evans fro LCC then noted a few extra documents they had submitted to the inquiry.


 EVIDENCE OF KATIE ATKINSON (Planning) LCC

Ms Atkinson is a qualified planning consultant working for KVA Planning Consultancy in Yorkshire.

She was taken through her evidence to the Inquiry by Mr Evans of LCC, after which he asked her a series of specific questions about the weight that should be attached to various aspects of what she had said.

We're just going to pick out a couple of them. Mr Evans asked her to what extent she thought the decision-taker able to come to a decision about what is or is not an "unreasonable burden" in respect of noise reduction. The witness said it was very difficult to assess because there was no cost / financial evidence before Inquiry. The sum of over 1m had been spoken of as being unreasonable, and that sounded a lot of money, but for some companies it would not be.

He also asked about the time taken to construct the monitoring arrays, and asked what evidence there was on this matter. Ms Atkinson said they had looked again at what LCC knew, and came to the view that whilst there was information about the time for drilling (which was as Cuadrilla's witness had said), but there was no actual evidence available to the inquiry to state how long the whole process to install the arrays (of which drilling was only a small part) would take.

 Cross examination by Ms Lieven for Cuadrilla.

Ms Lieven first went to the Ministerial Statement (from Greg Clark last autumn) and asked Ms Atkinson to confirm it was a material consideration to the decision on planning permission ('Yes'), and in terms of the weight to be attached to it,  was it very recent? ('Yes'). Was it directly related to shale gas ('Yes'). Did it say there was a national need for shale gas development ('Yes'). So all of these add weight to the ministerial statement don't they?  ('Yes, but it's a statement not policy')

There followed a disagreement as to how important this Ministerial Statement was in terms of planning. Ms Lieven said "It must carry very considerable weight" and the witness saying "it is a material consideration that should be give due weight"

We thought this little exchange (it was actually longer than we've reported) neatly explained the nit-picking process of word-twisting that forms such a part of these inquiries.

It was all about Ms Lieven twisting meanings and interpreting words in her own way to cajole the witness to agree with her and this weaken the arguments she had advanced in evidence.

There was a similar argument about whether, (because Government policy said there were various benefits from the "exploration and development of shale gas")  this applied here, (because the applications were only for exploration and not production and development). Tricky stuff, but that's what these folk get paid to do.

The witness was less firm in her views than some we have heard at the inquiry, but that tends to be a common feature of planners whose job is essentially to balance competing needs, so they are conditioned to try to see both sides of the argument.

But it makes a 'pushy' advocate seem to be winning the argument when the witness hesitates in order to give a considered view.

Ms Atkinson was no pushover, and there were several instances where she replied with a blunt "No", and disagreed with Ms Lieven's contention, but to be honest, we would have liked her to be a bit more firm in giving her convictions.

And at this point we broke for lunch.

 

  Re examination by Mr Evans for LCC

He began by contrasting the importance and content of the Ministerial Statement and Planning Policy, and referred to The National Planning Policy Framework which separated exploration from development.

The witness said the NPPF is planning policy, and it says that says each of the stages must be considered separately and on their own merits.

So in this sense, we took his point to be that, whatever the Minister or Government had said in its Ministerial Statement, what it had set out in its National Planning Policy, it would be the policy that trumped  the statement.

As we've said before, his are a safe pair of hands.

He picked up other points where Ms Lieven had appeared to score hits on the witness during cross examination, and he  helped the inspector to see a different perspective.

 

 Inspectors Questions 

Q1: On the Preston new Road Monitoring application - how many monitoring sites would not constitute the creation of an Industrial Landscape. Witness said she would have to defer to the Landscape consultant.

Q2: was about what might overcome Ms Atkinson's  concern regarding how long the monitoring installation would take overall. She struggled to answer.

The Inspector then went on to ask about Ms Atkinson's view regarding apparent conflict between National and other planning policies, and where some of then referred only to permanent features or whether temporary one were also covered. and what she thought about the word 'temporary' in planning terms, and a number of other matters.

Then Ms Atkinson's evidence had ended, as had  the daytime session of the Inquiry, and we look forward to the public session this evening.


 

 PUBLIC SPEAKING FOR PRESTON NEW ROAD

An evening session for those for and against the Preston New Road application. The picture shows the room starting to fill up

Preston New Road group's evening

We found this a really impressive evening. The room was packed, and the lasting impression we took from the event was a cry of anger and a howl of anguish from those who spoke.

Whilst many of the speakers strayed from the planning policy issues that the Inspector will use to make the recommendations, we thought she could not fail to be moved by what she heard.

 

SUPPORTING THE APPEAL

 Malcolm McVicar

Former University of Central Lancs Vice Chancellor. Keen to retain / improve economic activity. Blackpool is one of the most deprived areas in the UK and could be helped by shale gas development. That has already started with the proposed energy academy in the town. We need to grow a modern sustainable economy.

 John Kersey

Chair of Institute of Directors (Lancashire) and member of the NW Energy Task Force Panel.  Energy plays a crucial role in the UK and any country. The economic importance of sustainable energy cannot be overstated. Gave facts and figures about national energy situation. said we need a reliable and affordable supply of energy. Need to get on with exploration, and these two sites are important.

 OPPOSING THE APPEAL 

 Robert Sanderson

Retiring chairman of Dairy Farmers Association from Kirkham. Has worked on farms in the UK and US. The commonality between Cuadrilla and the farmers is money, but the people opposed to it couldn't care less about money, they just want to protected their homes and families. All if this just adds to the pressure on us when its not needed. Flooding could have been averted if Government had listened to farmers and people. It's the same here, should listen to the people. Fracking seriously compromises the farming industry.

 Robert Silverwood

Has a business in Lytham, which is bordered by green fields. People don't realise the impact that fracking will have on them. It's a poisonous industry and now it's being banned in the US and elsewhere where it is close to people - like here. Proximity to a dirty industry will not attract people here and he gave a list of things that were once considered OK (eg DDT) but are now banned. We want to protect our environment. He also warned that people were not insured against property damage from fracking, only from seismic activity.

 Cllr Kevin Ellard

Deputy Chairman of Development Control at LCC. Spoke in a personal capacity. Agnostic on fracking, said it needs gold standard controls. Need to protect the physical and mental health of residents. On regulation  he is concerned about the proliferation of regulatory agencies and there are also real questions of capacity in the regulatory agencies. Potential damage to tourism (4bn a year). Risk of flooding and other problems. He regretted LCC's decision to approve monitoring at Roseacre Wood and asked the Inspector to correct LCC's mistake on this decision He said Minster had prejudiced his independence by expressing support for development of fracking in Fylde..

 Valerie Sutcliffe

Speaking about PNR monitoring. Frightened at the prospect. Cuadrilla's announced ambition is 100 wellpads and 400 drillings. Monitoring should be independent. No proper measurements of noise or light. EA permit allows the creation of an underground dump for all sorts of waste including oil, gas and even low level nuclear. Well integrity is not secure. They will eventually leak albeit perhaps measured in decades. We are not protected now or in the future. Cuadrilla has no track record an has never satisfactorily fracked any well. Very grateful to LCC for what they have done for us.

 Richard Sutcliffe

Spoke about unintended consequences - Issues around health, noise, transport etc. Spoke of USA towns undergoing an unwelcome change which were the unintended consequences of allowing fracking. We are now seeing unintended consequences here in terms of falling property values. His parents are also unsettled by the threat hanging over them.

 Dr Frank Rugman

We've seen him before and said he was the equivalent of an exocet missile. So we expected sparks. Retired NHS haematologist consultant. Spoke as a local resident. Fylde population is 4 times the density of Pennsylvania. Huge numbers live very close to these sites. There is growing concern about the long term effect of chemicals. Onsite diesel compressors can produce particulates that give rise to serious medical conditions. Spoke of the noise and its implications for residents. All Foxwood Chase residents are more vulnerable because of age or existing health. Is there a plan for baseline health monitoring. Letter to BMJ to chair of College of Practitioners from eminent medics said fracking is an inherently dangerous activity that can have adverse impacts on health.

 Peter Watson

Speaking as nearest family to PNR site 300m away from proposed site. Has heard unbelievable semantic acrobatics at the inquiry, but what is being forgotten in all of this is the nearby community and their  families. He spoke from the heart. Noise was going to disrupt their life. He had a deteriorating chronic condition as have five elderly neighbours at Foxwood Chase. Had to have a nap today to gear up for tonight, but couldn't do that if fracking was going on. Gave intimate personal examples of how granting the application would change his and his family's life.

 Chris Cannon

Raised concerns about below ground issues. Sites are temporary but end result is not. Will leave holes with laterals extending - creating a  web of metal pipes underground. At some stage the casings will be abandoned and will decay. They will also have future implications on planning permissions. Concerned about range of regulatory bodies who rely on the operator to regulate themselves. This in not the recipe to inspire confidence. Concerned about the legacy of abandoned wells in Lancashire.

 Cllr Chris Henig

County Cllr for Lancaster SE. Former social worker. Regular visitor to the area. She was on the Committee that considered the applications. Spoke of her personal views of that process. Struck by several issues. Supporters of fracking were all about economic benefits. Legitimate concerns about various issues were dismissed on the basis that this was a temporary application. Also concerned about multiplicity of regulatory agencies and officer failure at LCC who had not properly challenged the statement of common ground. Said there should be no threat of costs for following the Democratic Process.

Andrew Pemberton

From Birks Farm, Lytham. 4th generation dairy farmer, 3km away from the site. Milk and dairy products delivered direct to local customers. Very worried about possibility of pollution of water supply and even just the perceived threat of contamination damaging his business. Also concerned about unknown watercourses under the ground. Land floods locally and this produces other risks.

 Chris Holliday

Lives across the road from PNR spoke about monitoring sites 20m x 20m. Land is wet and boggy and may need more land to access. But even so, each monitoring site is 400m2.   In total the monitoring sites equate to and area of 2,188 houses. Significant area. Worried about well integrity and traffic light system that he is concerned will not be effective.

 Dawn Ansell

Lives 1.3 miles from PNR site. Registered childminder. Concerned about future success of he business. Worried about children being withdrawn. Provides afterschool and preschool classes for local primary school. Recognises proximity of motorway, but can't change that. Doesn't want to add to that. Gave inspector a photo of PNR balloon taken from her driveway. Worried that Cuadrilla are not up to the job. Shaking woke them up in the night when Preese Hall rig was fracked and caused cracking in their house. Also spoke of heavily faulted geology in Fylde, and worried about industrialisation of the area.

 Emma Bird

Worried about what could happen if this goes ahead. We 're people not 'receptors' Spoke from the heart of her personal experience of rural life. Doesn't want it threatened. Can't afford to leave and is caught. Who wants to buy a smallholding close to the fracking site? Spoke of her experience and the beauty of wildlife of the area.

 Claire Stephenson

Local resident, said it has been an incredibly difficult two years. Decision to refuse Cuadrilla threatened to be overturned. Spoke of intimidation by Cuadrilla's staff. Young daughter photographed with her by Cuadrilla staff. Spoke of her experience and gagging from speaking about fracking and children's health as a school governor, which caused her to withdraw from that post. Criticised threat form Minister to override local decision and predetermine this appeal based on statements he had already made.

 Danielle Trachillis

Emelia Ansell age 17 spoke on behalf of above who is unwell. Owns a cafe 600m from PNR site. Business built up over 7 years. Very worried about impact on cafe customers and her and other jobs. Residents an businesses in the immediate area not being well enough considered.

 Cllr Karen Henshaw

Painted a picture of a green and pleasant land. Fylde means field. It is a green and pleasant land. Popular for people to retire and visit.  Also important for farmers where confidence is everything. But the changed picture is an industrial landscape with flares like a birthday cake but with candles that you can't blow out and countless tankers on our country roads. She quoted 'Jerusalem' which seemed entirely appropriate

 John Hobson

Management consultant from Lytham. Spoke about alleged, but in his opinion illusory economic benefits. Gave a lot of statistics about employment citing Institute of Directors figures.  He said the working age population of just the West Lancashire area alone is about 425,000 but the average direct employment figure calculated here for shale gas extraction across the entire UK would equate to just half a percent of that West Lancashire figure. He gave other examples as well, criticised the NW Chamber of Commerce's presentation and asked the inspector to recommend refusal.

 Kenneth Hopwood

From Lytham spoke about vibration and said homeowners would need to get a survey done before drilling takes place in order to establish their own baseline for the future in the event of property damage from vibration. Spoke of seismic activity coming in the future. Said the site was too close to residential property Also spoke of  a 'myshake' Android mobile seismic monitor available developed by an American university which can relay quite small tremors back to the university, so, he said, everyone with an android phone can use GPS to be their own seismic monitor.

 Mark Mills

Has a home at Little Plumpton. 10 acres. Prior to fracking it was valued at 5m Cuadrilla had laid a charge and trespassed on his land only backing down after court proceedings. They still set off charges in fields nearby. Mired for 4 years in a legal case trying to recover costs of damage to his property. He said Cuadrilla can never be trusted with our environment. His oration is a salutory tale, and the public gallery's reaction to it at the end shows the extent of the pent up anger and frustration of those present.

Listen to it as anaudio filemp3 file

 Maureen Stevens

Not an expert but has read widely. Spoke of personal experiences and of concern about regulatory agencies capacity and ability to do their job. Parish, Borough and County Council have all refused these applications. She urged the Inspector to recommend refusal.

 Lynda Shannan

Lives 800m from the site. Everything about fracking is wrong. Cited a range of instances which she thought were wrong. Spoke of buffer zones in New Zealand. Said Cuadrilla should not have been granted a licence after a known breach of contract and failure to report the tremor they had caused. Spoke in personal terms of the effect on her family life, adding that if the planning process allowed this to happen, then the planning process itself was in need of change.

 Sue Marshall

Supported the Council's refusal. Psychotherapist working with children and adults with PTSD. Concerned about local residents who were anxious, depressed and traumatised as a result of the worry about fracking. Fate of this decision has been hanging in the balance for everyone. LCC rejected it, thought things were better but hen Cuadrilla, growing like a Hydra, put on another head and resurrected the worry with this appeal. Doesn't  trust the Government having said they will take the decision themselves.

 Richard Marshall

Spoke on planning policy,  gas demand, economic factors and the mix of imported and homegrown gas. Contrasted predicted costs for gas from various sources and said shale had no benefit over other sources. Also spoke about environmental considerations. Sin the development was not essential nor did it have an important need

 Morgan Marshall

Age 13. Lives a few miles away from PNR, and brought the house down. For as long as it is there, you can see this amazing presentation to the Public Inquiry by a young man who is the future. See Morgan on YouTube

 Meg Green

She volunteers for estuary cleaning and is worried about impact of contamination of water. Especially  how the contaminants will be removed from the water and how they will be disposed of and how the water will be returned to the environment. Spoke of lots of issues regarding marine wildlife and the fragility of the estuarial ecosystem.

 DAY 11   (26 FEBRUARY 2016)

 EVIDENCE OF PROF. KEVIN ANDERSON (Climate Change)

Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre Manchester University. Was engineer in petrochemical Industry. Called by FoE but gave evidence as independent expert witness, and views are not necessarily those of FoE.

He said it was erroneous to regard any fossil fuel as 'low carbon', and he said natural gas and shale are almost identical in practical terms. Both are forms of methane but differ in the composition of some organic molecules, but he said emphatically that shale gas is NOT low carbon.

He made some interesting points about the use of any gas as a bridge between coal and low carbon was a bit of a nonsense because the coal not used in the UK would be sold and burnt elsewhere, and as far as climate change is concerned, it is the world use of fossil fuels which must be considered.

He also said that natural gas will bridge the gap between the phasing out use of coal up to 2025, but given the UK's commitment to carbon reduction, there is no significant role for gas of any type after 2030 and gas will have  a rapidly declining role after that date.

He said Cuadrilla's emissions from the exploration alone was equivalent to 18 months of all car journeys in Fylde and he did not think it was justifiable.

This was a firmly spoken, clear and cogent expert witness who gave evidence that led to  confidence in what he said.

 Cross examination by Ms Lieven for Cuadrilla.

Said she had very few questions but referred to Ministerial Statement which, she said, supported exploration and extraction. Prof Anderson said in effect, that may have been right at the time, but better knowledge and further information since 2015, including the Government's more recent commitments on climate change had changed the situation.

Put simply, his perspective on the situation is this: given the commitments that the UK Government has signed up to, by 2030, all forms of gas (including shale gas) would be rapidly declining.

It is also the case that production of shale gas in the UK cannot begin to contribute to the national energy supply until about 2025.

So his view was to question the value of creating a new shale gas industry in the UK when its lifespan would only be about 5 years.

His key message was that the Government's signature on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change had changed the game, and UK policy had yet to catch up with it.

The only other option would be for the UK Government to renege on the Act it had passed and the recent agreements it has signed.

  Re examination by Ms Dehon for FoE  

Raised two matters. She said the Ministerial statement quoted by Ms Lieven went on to say that shale gas development was supported provided it was conducted in a safe, sustainable, and  timely way, and asked for his (predictable) answer to that.

She also asked a complicated question about the mathematics of calculating the impact of the exploratory phase.

 Inspectors Questions 

The Inspector asked about the pattern of gas extraction in the exploration phase once the gas had started to flow. Prof Anderson said because UK was unique geology, you couldn't tell how often re-fracking would be required.

She also asked about energy efficiency, and he said changes in purchasing patterns often simply resulted in purchasing from other, equally damaging, fuel sources, and the real solution was to design policies to discourage the use of energy, and probably price was one of the key areas here.

She also asked about he last paragraph in his evidence. Prof Anderson said some developments give rise to public concern (turbines, nuclear), and the way the public oppose something does have a practical political impact and that has a tangible effect on the security of any particular supply.

And on the Paris Agreement, she asked who was party to the agreement, was it the UK or the EU. Prof Anderson said all of the partners of the EU were party to the agreement, but implied it was actually the EU that had signed it.

She also asked about the legal dimension to the agreement which Prof Anderson's evidence had described as a legally binding agreement. He was not really able to help with further clarification of what that meant.

We wondered if this question from the inspector was related to the UK's potential from withdrawing from the EU in the forthcoming referendum, or whether the process to create the 'legally binding agreement' would actually stand up in international law.

 EVIDENCE OF ALAN WATSON - Waste

Consultant expert in pollution and waste, and had worked in DoE on energy and waste.

Ms Dehon said it was very technical evidence and he would read his summary. He spoke of the flowback water and its contents.

He said the UK exploration was experimental and UK had limited capacity to deal with arising waste pollution, and that the cumulative effects of both sites in the application would consume 68% of the UK's treatment capacity which was he said "Very significant"

He explained how complicated it would be to manage the flowback process and its transport from site, so that's why Cuadrilla planned to increase its on-site storage capacity.

He said there would need to be a variation of the existing Environmental Permit; there was uncertainty of the extent of the flowback that would return to the surface. He also said that the sites that would treat the flowback had been anonymised as sites A and B, but he had deduced which and where they were from a Parliamentary answer to a question, but it had been difficult to do because within the anonymised information, 'A' and 'B' were not consistently identified in differing parts of it (Sometimes 'A' was one place sometimes it was the other!).

Spoke of the parliamentary answer setting out 3 sites that could deal with the flowback, one in Stoke, one in Leeds, and one in Middlesbrough.

He then gave a very technical assessment of the UK capacity to handle a) the overall volume of the flowback, and b) the volume of the radioactive (NORM) that would be produced.

Asked to translate this to simple planning terms, he said if the treatment limits at the disposal site are exceeded, then the waste could not be disposed of and it would start to build up on site. That would need more capacity than was currently planned, and involve a consequent change in the land used for on-site storage, and transport etc.

He also said the Environmental Statement appeared to be based on science, but it refused to publish the sources of the data on which the science was based. And by doing this it makes it difficult for other experts such as him to make a proper assessment or judgement about - for example - the scale of the data sampling and the quality of that data.

He them spoke of emails obtained by FoE where Cuadrilla had told the EA that their flowback at Preese Hall showed  70% returned within 3 months then slowed down. This was followed by volume data which had been redacted and was not available to the inquiry.

He then said a new discrepancy had come to light in the last day or so in version 7 of the Waste Management Plan. This said that overall it was expected that 22,000 cu. m. of flowback per well would be generated based on a 40% flowback return rate. At first they wondered if this was a typographical error, but with this being version 7 of the plan and the fact that it was repeated elsewhere in the document, he thought that unlikely.

It also said 24,000 cu.m would remain underground.

Asked about the ramifications for this he said that the EA has accepted these figures of 22,000 and 24,000, and noted that some might be re-used but he said 22,000 cu.m per well would relate to 88,000 cu.m per application.

BUT the Environmental statement (also accepted by the Environment Agency) says only 21,250 cu.m will arise per application, and he argued that this would be only a quarter of what was really likely.

This showed there would be four times the volume that is anticipated in the Environmental Statement. Apart from a much bigger land take than envisaged for on-site storage, it would generate a massive increase in traffic above that currently predicted.

Most tellingly he said that treatment need had been assessed based on 21,250cu.m but it  might actually be almost four times that, at 88,000 cu.m.

Even at 21,250, it took a huge part of the UK's Treatment capacity, but at 88,000 cu.m there would be an enormous under-capacity in treatment availability and that would mean on-site treatment works, with the consequential increase in land use and industrialisation.

 Cross examination by Ms Lieven for Cuadrilla.

Ms Lieven said she might need some more time to re-consult her clients on the latest disclosure, and lunch for an hour was taken. We resumed at 2 and cross examination started.

Ms Lieven first addressed what we see as the fundamental of this matter namely that Government appears to have said that in planning terms, the decision taker should assume that the regulators would act effectively and Mineral Planning Authorities should assume that is the case and not try to second guess their ability.

The point FoE (and LCC) have made about this (and with which we concur) is that decision-takers have a separate responsibility in law - over and above transient ministerial statements - to decide for themselves whether the regulatory agencies can be relied upon or not.

There was a wonderful exchange when Ms Lieven had (probably) misunderstood the terminology about flowback, and the different periods of it's return to the surface, and the witness was correcting her standing on what appeared to us to be very firm ground and capable expert evidence.

Things got a bit heated, and Ms Dehon attempted to intervene to assist. A clearly niggled Ms Lieven snapped that she would be grateful to be allowed to cross examine the witness.

This was one of the best and most capable witnesses we have seen in the whole inquiry. We were delighted that Ms Dehon had found him to argue their case because, as we have said before, this issue of flowback fluid is one of our major concerns in the whole of the process. Here was a witness that clearly understood the matter, had a detailed grasp of his topic, and the personality to stand his ground when he thought he was right. There was no hesitation in his delivery. It was strong in character and clear in content. We thought Ms Lieven was losing ground with every question she asked.

A prompt from behind apparently persuaded her to move on to another topic.

She argued that if there was not enough national capacity for treatment,, then it was on the appellant to find it wasn't it? The witness disagreed and said the capacity of infrastructure was a proper planning matter to take into consideration.

She continued in this vein with the witness frequently seeming to correct her understanding, until she could go no further and changed tack again.

The only time she scored points was when she persuaded him to stray outside his own subject into the number of tanker journeys there would be.

She said assuming the assessment of 21,250 cu.m was correct, that would only lead to 10 two way movements of traffic per day.

She asked if Cuadrilla could not turn down the flow of the flowback to alter the rate it was output at. He seemed to say this was possible, but for various reasons he thought it unlikely.

Turning to the Environmental Statement she confirmed it said that 21,250 cu.m per site. He agreed with reservations, saying that he did not agree with the 21,250 based on subsequent findings. She said Cuadrilla assert that the flowback would be 1,750  cu.m per week, He said it was not possible to agree or disagree with that because Cuadrilla had refused to provide the data on which it was based. It was being kept secret.

 He said "That fact they haven't published it speaks volumes to me about the confidence they have in it."

After a long tussle, Me Lieven finally admitted that it appeared that neither Cuadrilla, nor The Environment Agency, nor Mr Watson has seen the error in the documentation until the last few days

She described it as a typographical error, to which Mr Watson quickly said It couldn't be, because it was repeated in other places in the document, and elsewhere it the basis for a figure which has been adjusted.

We thought this was incredibly fundamental. How on earth can the Inquiry come to a proper decision about the impact of transport and land take, let alone the matter of treatment capacity, if there are fundamental errors in the data they are presented with.

This was clearly a bad day for Cuadrilla.

Then it got even worse, because Mr Watson then said the real cause of the problem was that Cuadrilla had refused to put up an expert on this matter of waste. he agued they had not done so because that would have allowed FoE to cross examine them, and he had a lot of questions he would have liked FoE to ask of Cuadrilla's expert on his behalf.

At this point we realised he had in effect taken control of the cross examination because he had started to provide information to Ms Lieven to help her client devise some appropriate treatment works on site.

At this point she gave up.

  Re examination by Ms Dehon for FoE  

Ms Dehon (to whom we are grateful for having the courage and capacity to get these important matters raised in front of the Inspector) said she had no re-examination to undertake. (we were not surprised). We thought that on this topic it was game set and match to her.

 Inspectors Questions 

The first question was about the various forms of treatment available. Then she asked why Mr Watson had said the greater volumes of storage would carry greater risk of spillage. The answer was to do with pipework and valves and the changeover between freshwater storage and flowback water storage.

And there, after another couple of questions, Day11 and Week 3 of the Inquiry ended.  One of our readers told us after the meeting they thought the 'discrepancy' would show both figures to be correct, but the descriptive text applied to be wrong, with the one that is four times larger applying to four wells, not one well. Even so, for a mistake like that to have got this far does not bode well for Cuadrilla or the Environment Agency does it?

Next week there is no sitting on Monday or Tuesday, so the week starts on Wednesday with FoE's Public Health and Planning Policy witnesses, then on Thursday the evidence from RAG and PNR's advocates and witnesses begins.

Dated:   26 February 2016


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