October 23: US experience of fracking raises fresh concerns in Ryedale

From: Rt Rev Graham Cray, Main Street, Kirby Misperton.

MY wife and I have had our house here for 18 years, and have lived here permanently since May 2014. We are retired clergy. In September 2014 I accepted an invitation to give lectures at a theological college in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this September. it coincided with the visit of our MP Kevin Hollinrake.

My lecturing schedule allowed no time for travel around the state so I invited those who could inform me about the impact of fracking on local communities to meet me. I spoke with nine people, representing three different counties and was given an overview of the impact on the state as a whole.

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I learned that the city of Pittsburgh opposes fracking, and has had a moratorium in place since 2010. I also learned that the greatest problem with fracking is its scale, the huge number of wells needed for commercial viability and the additional infrastructure – storage facilities, pipe lines, compressor units and vehicle movements, particularly those with toxic waste. Fracking changes the nature of rural communities.

The well proposed here at Kirby Misperton has already been drilled, yet still requires 1,414 vehicle movements. Third Energy told the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee in March that they aspired to 19 sites, with 10-50 boreholes per site. That’s up to 950. Think of the traffic.

I learned that incidents of harm continue to occur: health problems, water contamination, animal welfare, noise and light pollution. These are frequently related to proximity to a well site. They occur at a minority of wells. But in Bradford County – twice the size of Ryedale – there are 1,097 wells and there have been 765 environmental violations.

I learned that monitoring has been woefully inadequate and continues to be so. The Department of Environmental Protection had neither the expertise nor the personnel for a task this size. It was also under severe political pressure to support the shale gas industry.

Finally I learned that local officers and elected officials also come under huge pressure to approve fracking applications. Local councillors who were elected to represent their communities find themselves unfairly on the frontline of an environmental controversy.

Mr Hollinrake has proposed a series of safeguards, including that fracking should not occur within a mile of houses. All his suggestions and more would be necessary. But none of them have legal force at the moment. Better that fracking is not allowed at all.

From: Caroline Davis, Pasture Lane, Hovingham, York.

I ATTENDED the recent “question time” event on fracking regulation chaired byThirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake MP.

I remain deeply concerned about the gaps in UK regulation. Joanne Hawkins in Fracking: Minding The Gaps is specific: “Reports, such as those conducted by the Royal Society and Public Health England, have expressed the opinion that if a ‘robust’ regulatory system is in place the risks associated with fracking can be reduced and controlled.”

The Government insists that current regulation for conventional oil and gas extraction is adequate to control fracking.

However, these controls were designed pre-fracking and, as will be discussed, whilst current oil and gas regulations do not fail to offer any relevant controls, their application leaves a number of gaps which may risk harm to human health and/or damage to the environment.

The lack of English expertise in relation to the regulation of fracking questions the ability of local authorities and other regulators to deal with and monitor such developments. The complexity in England with a multiplicity of authorities involved in the regulation of fracking is a significant concern.

From: G Wild, Highfield Terrace, Swinton, Malton.

KEVIN Hollinrake MP publishes many recommendations in his report from his visit to the fracking industry in Pennsylvania. Among them is the call for a minimum distance between the wells and settlements. He does not specify what is reasonable. Third Energy are currently applying to frack their well at Kirby Misperton. This well is about half a mile from the village and even closer to a caravan park. Approval of this application would set a precedent that wells can be sited very close to any settlement in the area.

Another conclusion in the report is that there should be long term, secure investment in subsidies to renewable energy. The present Government is doing the exact opposite by cutting renewable subsidies and putting most of its investment into shale gas and expensive nuclear. The Government is signed up to drastically cut climate changing emissions. The present policies will not achieve this. We need a huge investment in energy efficiency and an expansion of renewable energy. This would quickly provide jobs and secure and sustainable energy.

Who would risk the hot seat?

From: Graham Braithwaite, Tennyson Street, Guiseley, Leeds.

WHILST you could hardly say Leeds United are taking the beautiful game forward in any really positive way at all, they are certainly giving an entirely new meaning to “Manager of the Month!”

Protect BBC

From: Mrs M Lloyd, Skipton.

I WISH people like Tom Richmond would lay off the BBC (The Yorkshire Post, October 10). We should value it and protect it or we might all be very sorry.