Four more councils vote against fracking

Opponents of shale gas in the west country are celebrating a series of recent council votes against fracking.

In the past fortnight, Conservative-controlled Gloucestershire and Herefordshire County Councils have backed anti-fracking motions while Forest of Dean District and Watchet Town Councils have declared themselves Frack Free Zones.

Read a full report here.

Council vote against fracking, sort of

A dozen anti-fracking campaigners welcomed councillors attending the full Council meeting at Shire Hall on Friday (16th December), when a Motion on fracking in the County was to be considered. After a short debate, Council voted unanimously to adopt the Motion introduced by Kerne Bridge Councillor Paul Newman

“The Executive be asked to consider the risks of hydraulic fracturing, and the high importance of tourism income to this County and to write accordingly to the Secretary of State to ask the Government to consider withholding any licence which would allow fracking and any associated hydrocarbon extraction processes in or under Herefordshire’s vitally important Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

As expected, the debate focused mostly on the local rather than wider impacts of fracking, with one contributor saying that other areas of the country not as blessed with natural beauty as Herefordshire ought to be the places where fracking is introduced.

An amendment tabled by Green Councillor Felicity Norman asking for the Motion to cover all of Herefordshire and not just the County’s AONBs was defeated.

It is worth noting that legislation passed at Westminster last December already prevents fracking operations on the surface in a National Park or AONB. What that legislation doesn’t restrict are

  • Fracking operations outside but adjacent to the AONB which use horizontal drilling to reach under the AONB
  • Full visibility from within the AONB of fracking rigs in the vicinity
  • Heavy road traffic from fracking operations using roads within the AONB
  • Any extraction process for Coal Bed Methane which does not use fracking

The latter point means that should a company take up the licences for Herefordshire and find it is possible to extract coal bed methane without the expense of high volume fracking, they are not prevented from setting up operations inside the Wye Valley AONB, subject to planning permission.

However, on the subject of planning permission for fracking, this government has already shown In Lancashire that it is prepared to overturn local council decisions to refuse. Should the lapsed licences for fracking in Herefordshire be re-issued to another company, we are still very much at risk.

The Hereford Times report can be viewed here

Let Council know we don’t want fracking here

Herefordshire Council are meeting this Friday 16 December at 9.30 am to consider fracking in the county. There will be a peaceful anti-fracking presence outside Shire Hall from 9am, to show councillors that people care about protecting the county’s environment – and its tourist industry!

This is due to a motion tabled by Conservative Kerne Bridge Councillor Paul Newman. The motion is not as strong as we would like, as it only refers to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and recommends ‘considering the risks’ rather than saying no to fracking in principle, because the risks are well known. Nevertheless, the debate and decision are important. It may identify councillors, including those from the governing Conservative group such as Paul Newman, who are opposed to fracking, and it could support our campaign to keep it out of Herefordshire. A strong vote against fracking would also put Herefordshire in line with Gloucestershire which recently voted against (although Conservatives abstained!)

The motion for Friday states: –

“I therefore call upon this Council to resolve that: The Executive be asked to consider the risks of hydraulic fracturing, and the high importance of tourism income to this County and to write accordingly to the Secretary of State to ask the Government to consider withholding any licence which would allow fracking and any associated hydrocarbon extraction processes in or under Herefordshire’s vitally important Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

Please join us if you can at 9am outside Shire Hall to show councillors arriving for the meeting that keep Herefordshire frack-free matters to local people.

Fracking: a clear and present danger in Herefordshire

Members of green groups in Herefordshire, including Greenpeace and the Green Party, leafleted shoppers in Hereford last Saturday on the controversial issue of Fracking.

Fracking is used to extract shale gas [1], and has recently been given the go ahead in Lancashire and Yorkshire in the face of very vocal opposition from local people, councils and from campaigners across the UK concerned about the negative environmental impacts. [2].

The demonstration outside Barclays Bank was to draw people’s attention to the bank’s involvement – it owns fracking company Third Energy, which plans to drill 19 wells across the district of Ryedale, North Yorkshire – and to ask that bank customers let Barclays know that they would like the bank to stop financing fracking.

Green campaigners in Hereford want to raise awareness of the negative impacts of fracking wherever it happens in the country.  Parts of south Herefordshire have been identified as potentially suitable for fracking, and last December, licenses were issued for exploration based on a preliminary assessment of the potential for producing shale gas [3].

Leaflets handed out to passers-by listed the key dangers from fracking in an area like Herefordshire:

  • Groundwater pollution from chemicals injected into wells, some of which will remain in the ground after the wells have been exhausted and are sealed off.
  • Pollution of surface water from fracking chemicals.
  • Increased levels of heavy freight traffic on rural roads
  • Noise and light pollution from 24 hour drilling operations
  • Methane gas leakage adding to global warming
  • Damage to the local tourism industry
  • Depressed house prices.

Rob Hattersley, who helped organise the event, said, “The level of interest was very high – the great majority we spoke to agreed that fracking was dangerous and they were against it, especially if it did come to Herefordshire.” 

Rob Palgrave, Hereford Green Party, added, “Back in 2010 the Conservative Party claimed it would be the greenest government ever. None of its policy changes since then remotely fulfil that promise. They launched what the then Chancellor called “the most generous tax regime for Shale gas anywhere in the world”. And, by disregarding the wishes of Lancashire residents and overturning their Council’s decision to block fracking, this government has trashed local democracy. The revelation in the national press last month that they had intentionally withheld information in advance of the planning decision about fracking in Yorkshire is shameful [5]”

Rick Guest of Herefordshire Greenpeace said, ”When I asked Jesse Norman about voting yes in the House of Commons fracking debate last December, it seemed he could hardly remember there had been a vote, let alone how close it was – about 275 v 255. Our MP should be taking a lead on protecting Herefordshire’s natural resources, especially the River Wye, not allowing dirty polluting industrial activities to threaten them.”

Notes

[1] Fracking – short for High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing – is a technique for extracting shale gas from deposits in rocks up to 20,000 feet underground. After both vertical and horizontal drilling, explosive blasting is used to open up cracks in the rock, then very large volumes of water with sand and chemicals are injected at high pressure to open up the fractures and allow the trapped gas to escape.

[2] Permission to drill was refused by Lancashire County Council, but was granted by Westminster after the decision was called-in.

[3] Licences were subsequently turned down by South Western Energy, but the Oil & Gas Authority have not discounted offering licences to other companies in the next few years.

[4] Green Party opposes fracking in principle as it produces a fossil fuel which when burnt contributes to global warming. The Labour Party announced in September that it would ban fracking: “The real reason to ban fracking is that it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to clean energy. 

[5] “Government accused of ‘dirty tricks’ over controversial fracking report”: Ministers deliberately delayed a report showing fracking could affect house prices, health and the environment until after a crucial planning decision, documents reveal

It’s Christmas: a cycle network for Hereford?

Crowds at Hereford’s Castle Green Christmas Fair voted overwhelmingly to spend Santa’s £1,000,000 gift to Hereford on a comprehensive cycle network to reduce the city’s traffic delays and make roads safer, especially for children. Research suggests that school traffic is a major factor in rush hour congestion, so safe cycle networks would make a massive difference for a fraction of the cost and with no environmental damage.

It should be pointed out that Santa, like much political debate at the moment, is fictional (ssshhh, don’t tell the adults), and Hereford has not, in fact, been given a million to spend, although even more oddly the Council are pressing ahead with a short road to the south of Hereford for many times that cost which their own research tells them will do nothing to help congestion in the city.

The opinion poll was carried out at the Green Party stall at the popular annual event, with Christmas revellers voting with baubles for one of three options: a park and ride, a cycle network, or one twenty-third of a bypass. Actually, £1,000,000 will buy even less than this. They were also invited to create a paper Christmas bauble to hang on a Christmas Tree card on which was a message for 2017 to Jesse Norman MP. The tree will be presented to Mr. Norman by Green Parliamentary Spokesperson Diana Toynbee. Message ranged from ‘stop fracking’ (Norman is an Energy Minister and voted in favour – South Herefordshire is in the firing line) to ‘Fair Votes in 2017’ and several asking him to prioritise the natural environment we depend on, and stop Tory cuts to vital services.

Green Spokesperson Rob Hattersley said: ‘It was great so many people wanting Greens to do well in Hereford, and a general feeling that now is the time to engage with politics, not the time to withdraw. It was encouraging too to meet supporters from other parties keen for progressives to work together, on the day when Green co-leader Caroline Lucas campaigns with the Lib Dems in Richmond.’

 

 

 

Shale fracking affects house prices, health and environment, but government don’t want you to know

Of interest to those attending last night’s Big Green Conversation on Fracking, The Guardian reports this morning that Ministers deliberately delayed a report showing fracking could affect house prices, health and the environment until after a crucial planning decision.

BGC on Thursday 24th: Fracking the shire

A reminder that ‘Fracking the Shire’ is the title of our Big Green Conversation at De Koffie Pot on Thursday 24th November, 7pm for 7.30pm. Come along to find out what the fuss is about, what’s going on globally, and how it could affect Herefordshire specifically.

We are trying this event without the complication of Eventbrite – just turn up. But if you use Facebook please do click ‘Going’ and share the event as this really helps us to spread the word.

All welcome – please invite family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. If you can, download and email this poster around – or print and display!

Fracking: unsafe, unproven, bad for Herefordshire

THE GREEN PARTY strongly opposes fracking. Not only is a dangerous and unproven technology, even if it were safe it would be unacceptable because our overriding priority has to be to reduce our carbon emissions. All our efforts must be to reduce carbon use and increase renewable energy capacity.

And renewables are great news for Herefordshire where we already provide leadership.  With this, and our economic dependence on tourism and agriculture, fracking is one of the most stupid policies for our county that we have ever come across. It is only happening because some people think they can make money from it. It must be stopped.

Event | 24 Nov | BGC | Fracking the Shire

‘Fracking the Shire’ is the title of our next Big Green Conversation at De Koffie Pot on Thursday 24th November, 7pm for 7.30pm. Come along to find out what the fuss is about, what’s going on globally, and how it could affect Herefordshire specifically.

We are trying this event without the complication of Eventbrite – just turn up. But if you use Facebook please do click ‘Going’ and share the event as this really helps us to spread the word.

All welcome – please invite family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. If you can, download and email this poster around – or print and display!

Hereford MP Norman wants to frack

Hereford MP Jesse Norman has criticised Labour for saying it would ban fracking.

A Hereford Green spokesperson said: ‘Jesse Norman may find it interesting explaining his love of fracking to residents of South Herefordshire as they worry about falling house prices, polluted water supplies, earthquakes and damage to our tourist industry if the frackers are allowed to do their dirty work here in the beautiful Wye Valley. Why is he not putting all his effort into developing our renewables industry instead?’

Green MP Caroline Lucas welcomed Labour’s opposition to fracking but challenged them to oppose Hinkley too.

The Green Party believes that climate change is such an emergency that we have no time to use fossil fuel such as shale gas even to ‘transition’ to greener technology, and that this is a dangerous distraction.

All investment should be in renewable energy which would not only protect water supplies, the wider environment and our tourist industry, but would create local jobs too.

Read the full report from the BBC.

Don’t frack the shires

Diana Toynbee supported a send off for Rick Guest, aka Gandolph, who is emulating Tolkein’s hero and, in this case going to London to raise awareness of proposed fracking and CSG/coalbed methane operations in the Wye Valley AONB, which straddles two counties of Herefordshire & Gloucestershire. Here you can see a short film of the 4 day event which started from Barclays Bank in Hereford.

Jesse Norman MP meets Greens to discuss energy

In July, Jesse Norman was appointed to a junior ministerial post (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State) in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. His energy responsibilities are Nuclear and Oil & Gas including shale gas.  Soon after his appointment,  we contacted him to seek a meeting, intending to discuss the Hinkley Point decision, and fracking, among other issues.

We met him just after Hinkley Point was given the go ahead and shared our views on fracking, managing energy demand, the transport sector, home insulation, ratification of the Paris Agreement (COP21) and the extent to which government should directly manage the UK’s low carbon transition.  Unsurprisingly, there are still considerable differences between his position and ours, but it was a nonetheless a useful meeting.

Diana on sustrans bridge

Brexit: we still have more in common

Now the Brexit dust is settling, what does it mean for Herefordshire?

The fact is, no-one knows, and we are left feeling a little confused and uncertain.

But we can start by refusing the label ‘divided society’, and celebrate what we have in common, our caring communities, our beautiful countryside, our public services.

We can engage in the decisions that affect our lives by keeping an eye on what our politicians are up to: in Westminster, voting for nuclear weapons and against fairer voting systems; locally, voting for a pointless road, not protecting our rivers from pollution, and cutting vital bus services (sorry – ‘savings’, not cuts!).

Politics shouldn’t be something done to us from London – voting on June 23rd was a political act, so let’s keep going! If we ‘want our country back’ let’s stop selling it off to big business; let’s not allow it to be blasted by fracking!

Since June 24th we know how it feels to participate in a democratic process where every vote counts. Wouldn’t it be nice if that applied to all elections? If you agree, join the growing movement for proportional representation, so that all our voices can be heard.

Fracking fears in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean after licence issued to energy company

The Ross Gazette reports that Frack Off Our Forest, a local pressure group, is urging Herefordshire residents to write to their local MP, Jesse Norman, if they believe that fracking should not be allowed in the Wye Valley or the Forest of Dean.

It was revealed last year that areas of the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean are currently under consideration for fracking and gas and oil exploration.

On Thursday, July 21st, it was announced that South Western Energy had formally been issued a Government licence to explore for gas and oil. This licence had been offered to the company in December last year, and Frack Off Our Forest had been attempting to persuade the Government to withdraw this offer.

This licence area covers the whole of the Forest of Dean and a part of the Wye Valley. The licence gives South Western Energy exclusive rights to explore for gas or oil by drilling into rock and coal seams in the area.

Read the full Gazette article here.

Fracking licenses approved for parts of Herefordshire

AREAS in south Herefordshire are now licensed for fracking following a government vote, reports the Hereford Times.

The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean were part of the 159 Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences awarded for fracking across England voted through in the House of Commons on December 16.

But before a licensee can start operations it must apply for planning and other permissions.

The Forest of Dean and Symonds Yat are within the proposed areas.

Read the full Hereford Times report here.

Fracking in Herefordshire must be prevented

Areas in the south of Herefordshire are now licensed for fracking.
 
On 17 December, government announced that 159 Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) had been awarded for fracking across England under the 14th landward licensing round.

Areas to the south of our county, including inside the Forest of Dean and in the vicinity of Symonds Yat (known as SO 50, 51 60 and 61) are now licensed for the extraction of Coal Bed Methane by South Western Energy Ltd.

Before the licensee can start operations it must apply for planning and other permissions [1].

The Green Party believes that fracking for shale gas or to extract coal bed methane is totally incompatible with efforts (and UK commitments) to minimise climate change. The fuel extracted by fracking is a fossil fuel, and when burnt adds carbon to the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

The drilling processes are disruptive, dirty and noisy and pose a threat to human health and to the natural environment including water quality.

Despite the government’s assertion that shale gas is a key part of our energy future, many industry commentators believe that it is not commercially viable in the UK.

Hereford Green Party will vigorously oppose any applications the licensee makes for the required permissions.

Rob Palgrave, chair of the party said,” How shameful for Britain – days after signing the global agreement on climate change in Paris, our government announces the go ahead for more exploration and extraction of fossil fuels. I hope our local politicians will be as resolute as their counterparts in Lancashire in resisting the development of fracking here.”

NOTES:
1. The award of a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDLs) does not automatically give permission for operations to begin. The necessary planning and regulatory consents will be required before development can take place. All proposals will subsequently be scrutinised by the Environment Agency, and by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Consent from the OGA is also required before exploration or production drilling or production activities can commence.
2. Map of fracking blocks
3. List of operators awarded licences under the 14th round

Bill Wiggin doesn’t think fracking needs environmental permit

As far as we can tell, Leominster MP Bill Wiggin isn’t very bothered about the environmental impact of fracking in his constituency, according to this record of a vote on 26 Jan 2015.

As far as we can tell, Hereford MP Jesse Norman didn’t even express a view, although we would welcome clarification from him on this.

See the full details here from publicwhip.co.uk