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Shale Gas in the South East: Update from Friends of the Earth - July 2013

Fracking

URGENT E-mail your MP about new guidance on shale gas

If you only have time to do one thing please do this within the next few days!

We have recently put up an e-mail action regarding revision of Planning Guidance on unconventional gas and oil exploration.  We expect the government to publish guidance very soon and we want to ensure that the new guidance properly protects communities and that there is a full public consultation. Please e-mail your MP and share this link where you can.  Obviously personal letters or telephone calls to your MP’s office would be more influential if you have the time.

Balcombe and Cuadrilla

In the last update I mentioned that drilling had started at the Balcombe site. It was a borehole to test water quality and after much hassling we found out that the company did not need permission to do this work. The lack of communication by Cuadrilla and the Environment Agency on what was happening was of grave concern to us and local residents.

Sussex Extreme Energy Resistance set up Rigwatch to keep an eye on the site and a Very British Tea Party Protest was held on the verge outside the entrance. Some good coverage in the media was generated.

Thanks to the many of you who called or e-mailed the Environment Agency after the last bulletin. This, alongside Friends of the Earth’s lawyer pointing out the need for Cuadrilla to have mining and radioactive waste permits led to the Environment Agency announcing that these would be required. But a groundwater permit wasn’t mentioned in their announcement.

A short consultation on these 2 permits was launched – deadline 16th July.  Please do respond to this with any concerns you have e.g. about the wastes arising from any test drilling and possible groundwater contamination.

It seems that we had a double win here because now conventional drilling will need extra permits, which begs the question of why weren’t the regulators interpreting the law correctly in the first place?

More drilling in West Sussex: Celtique Energy

Celtique Energy want to drill in the South Downs National Park at Linchmere near Fernhurst. Frack Free Fernhurst is gathering momentum. Local residents attended a parish council meeting and aired their concerns. The South Downs National Park Authority is looking at the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment This is not open to public consultation. However people can contact Celtique Energy direct as part of their pre- application consultation.

Friends of the Earth has been giving advice and support to this campaign as we have concerns about the impacts in an area with the highest landscape protection.

This company has already received permission for test drilling near Billingshurst, and has another application coming forward at Wisborough Green.

What is happening near you?

Please keep an eye out for test oil and gas drilling near you. Hydraulic fracturing is unlikely to be mentioned in these applications, but if they are in one of the areas of shale rock it may be that the company will be looking for shale gas. Please let us know if you hear of other applications. The map of licenses can be found here.

National news

It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the number of reports and announcements on shale gas in recent weeks.  I won’t try to cover everything but here are a few high (and low) lights.  Working backwards in time:

Last weekend the Mail on Sunday issued a huge attack on Friends of the Earth calling us “green zealots” if you didn’t see it you might want to at least look at their diagram, which I think is meant to allay readers fears about potential groundwater pollution (!) Some of you might consider a letter in response if you have the time. Here’s our Energy campaigner’s blog where he points out that it isn’t just us concerned about fracking, but many local people (like you!)

Last week saw a big announcement about the potential amount of shale gas in the North of England. Stories about the “lights going out” were nicely timed by the government to stir up mass amounts of media interest which some of you will have seen. This piece is worth a read. Our response is here.

On June 27th the government announced it wanted to kickstart the shale gas industry in the UK. Partly through changes in planning guidance (see above) and using tax incentives and community pay-outs. It also mentioned that the Environment Agency would be speeding up the permit procedures. If you want a copy of the relevant section please contact me.

A new peer reviewed study of drinking water in Pennsylvania, near the Marcellus shale basin, found contamination with methane and other gases. The research found that proximity to fracking sites was a significant factor. “The new data reinforces our earlier observations that stray gases contaminate drinking water wells in some areas of the Marcellus shale.” said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School.

Horizon programme on Fracking. Well this caused a lot of tweeting and Facebook comments two weeks ago. Many people felt it skimmed over the wider potential environmental impacts and some have complained to the BBC. Professor Stewart of Durham University is not really helping the debate go forward – and again it isn’t just those who are opposed to fracking who felt the programme was poor journalism.

EVENTS – last but not least…

Rigwatch – If you can get to Balcombe for a couple of hours and join Rigwatch do show your support – at a time to suit you.

Film Screenings in July

Keith Taylor, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the South East Region has organised screenings of the film “Drill Baby Drill”. This is a David vs Goliath story of Polish Farmers against oil company Chevron. Please try to promote these if you live near to one of the venues. And share this with your groups or friends.

Friday 12th: Sandwich, Empire Cinema, 6:30pm

Saturday 13th: Canterbury, Gulbenkian Cinema 1:30pm

Saturday 13th Fernhurst, Fernhurst Village Hall, 7:45pm

Sunday 14th: Brighton, The Hanover Pub, 7:00pm

Monday 15th: Balcombe, Victory Hall, 7:45pm

Tuesday 16th: Oxford, Friends Meeting House, 6:45pm

Wednesday 17th: Reading, RISC, 6:45pm

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