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Mark Menzies Refuses to Answers Most of Our Questions on Fracking

Defend Lytham met recently with Mark Menzies MP. As a result of that meeting we put together a list of specific questions to clarify Mr Menzies’ position on fracking which were put to him by email on Thursday 19th September 2013. He has not answered to the committee as requested but he did eventually send a private response on 30 October 2013 to the chairman of Defend Lytham.

In this response, which is reproduced at the end of this page he explains why he is unable to answer more than 5 of our 38 questions, because they “assume that I have a detailed technical knowledge of the engineering requirements behind the shale gas industry or are of such a speculative nature that it would be inappropriate of me to hypothesise on the answers.”

Mark Menzies has been Member of Parliament for our area, which has had PEDL licence 165 on it for the entire duration of his parliamentary career.

Until 2012 Mr Menzies was PPS to Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change.

He is currently Vice Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Unconventional Oil and Gas (AKA Fracking for Shale Oil and Gas) which receives considerable support from the shale gas industry and its associates as revealed in Private Eye earlier this year.

Private Eye

Private Eye

 

We would suggest that it is eminently reasonable to expect Mr Menzies to be able to voice opinions of some pretty straightforward and important questions. We are immensely disappointed by his responses which we have collated below, insofar as they exist.

 


1. General

1.1. Do you know that Cuadrilla claim to be able to extract 25% of the UK’s energy requirement from their licence area (PEDL 165) at peak (1).

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question – We think he should know the answer]

1.2. Do you know that 25% of the UK’s consumption (~3 tcf pa) would equate to approximately 0.75 tcf per annum.

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question – We think he should know the answer]

1.3. Do you know that the IoD have estimated that to extract 0.85 tcf pa would require 4,000 wells on 100 x 40 lateral well pads to be drilled over a period of 17 years (2)

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question – We think he should know the answer]

1.4. Do you accept that it is therefore likely that if Cuadrilla are allowed to go ahead with production that they plan in the region of 100 well pads. (We have written evidence from Daily Telegraph journalist Emily Gosden that Francis Egan told her he envisaged 100 well pads)?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question – We think he should be able to answer]

1.5. Do you stand by your comments made in public in St Annes, and to the Defend Lytham committee in your surgery, that you could not support such a scale of development?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question – Why?]

1.6. If so at what point will you begin to demonstrate that you do not support this level of development in your constituency.

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

2. Regulation

2.1. What is the “gold standard of regulation” that you refer to – What does it actually mean?

As you are aware, I have been championing a gold standard of regulation surrounding shale gas extraction since shortly after I was elected to parliament.

You have asked what that would entail and much of what I mean can be found already at work within our successful offshore oil and gas industry.

These processes include mandatory Environmental Risk Assessments, regular on the ground well inspections, ensuring water requirements can be met sustainably and making sure regulation remains fit for purpose of the industry grows.

2.2. Why do you not insist that we need it for exploration as well as production?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

2.3. You said in parliament (3) “although I welcome the environmental assessment currently being undertaken by the Environment Agency, I call for environmental impact studies to be undertaken on any proposed site, regardless of size”. Do you still support mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments on all development and production wells and why?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

2.4. What is your reaction to the fact that Conservative MEPS have stated that they intend to block vote against the EU amendment which would make Environmental Impact Assessments mandatory on all developments?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

2.5. What is your reaction to the fact that in spite of your calls for mandatory EIAs the coalition government has released new planning guidelines (4), which make it clear that EIAs will only be required by exception?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

2.6. You also asked in parliament (3) “Furthermore, does the Minister have any plans to encourage a health impact assessment in a similar vein” Will you insist on health impact assessments?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

2.7. You stated (3) “I do not believe that the regulatory system is robust or transparent enough to instil public confidence should permission be granted to the industry. That is why I am calling for an independent panel of experts to be set up without delay”. We ended up with The Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO), a subsidiary of DECC and therefore not independent, whose brief is to promote shale gas and streamline regulation – do you agree that we did not get what you said was needed?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question – It isn’t complicated – We think he should be able to answer it.]

2.8. Will you continue to call for an independent panel of experts to enforce regulation or are you now going to accept OUGO even though you stated (3), when calling for an independent panel that it “is vital that we support the work of current regulatory bodies. In no uncertain terms can we allow the environment or the well-being of our constituents to be compromised”

In line with that I called an adjournment debate in October 2012 – which can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121024/debtext/121024-0004.htm#12102465001852 – where I asked for the creation of a body to oversee the industry’s various regulators.

This has now been set up in the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil and one of my focuses from here is to ensure that office fulfils its obligations as set out in its mandate and that existing regulators perform detailed scrutiny of potential shell gas sites in file.

In my debate, I also asked for rigourous on-the-ground inspections of any sites and in the last month I have had two meetings with Environment Secretary Owen Paterson MP who gave me his personal assurances that there will indeed be a rigourous regime in place should extraction go ahead.

2.9. David Cameron said “No regulation must get in the way” (5) of shale gas extraction. Do you think he is right to say this? If not when will you comment on this publicly?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

2.10. Do you support the European Groundwater Daughter Directive which means that fracking companies must monitor and manage all fracking fluids?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

2.11. Will you insist that green tanking / green completion to minimize methane emissions should be made mandatory?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

2.12. You stated in parliament (3) that “I would consider the current site at Anna’s road, where exploratory drilling is taking place, to be an unacceptable location for extraction to occur. I would vehemently oppose its development as such”. What are the specific grounds on which you regard Anna’s Road as unacceptable as a location for extraction to occur?

During the debate, I also flagged up concerns over the Anna’s Road site and said I would vehemently oppose any future development on that site.

You asked why I regarded the area as unacceptable and it is because I believe the moss land between Lytham and St Annes and Blackpool should be protected and not be developed. In the past I have opposed the Queensway housing development close to this site because of similar concerns.

Cuadrilla Resources has now discontinued its plans for Anna’s Road and is currently working towards returning the site to its previous condition, something which I’m sure you will join me in welcoming.

3. Planning

3.1. You said on Radio Lancashire that “a lot of this (responsibility for decision on fracking) now sits in the hands of Lancashire County Council, who as Mineral Rights Authority have got rights over planning”. What is your opinion on the fact that the new planning guidelines take power away from CCs / MRAs and enshrine a presumption that permissions will be granted?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

3.2. Are you happy that new planning guidelines propose EIAs only in exceptional circumstances?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

3.3. Do you support the proposed “Revised requirements relating to planning applications for onshore oil and gas” (6) that drillers should not have to specify whose land they intend to drill under when applying for planning permission?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

3.4. Can you clarify Michael Fallon’s statement (7) “It’s for local communities to decide whether they want to host shale gas exploration. These are planning decisions which will first of all be taken locally and it’s up to the developer to engage early with local communities and explain to everybody what they’re planning to do.” It seems that this runs counter to the opinions being expressed by other members of the government.

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

3.5. Do you support the idea expressed above that local communities should be able to veto shale gas wells in the same way that Eric Pickles’ Department suggests that will be able to veto windfarms (8)?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

4. Management

4.1. There is currently no regulation that forces operators to fund Bonds for Abandonment up front. Cuadrilla suggested to John Hayes in December 2012 (9)that they had put in place “additional financial security to address any concerns about well abandonment commitments”. However, when Cuadrilla were asked “Firstly, as this was “additional” what financial security was already in place against well abandonment issues. Secondly, how much money has been set aside in total to “address any concerns about well abandonment commitments”, where is it and how can we be sure it will still be safely available in future (will it be held in escrow somewhere?) their response via their PR agency, PPS Group, was “Cuadrilla has more than adequate funding available to provide for security for wells drilled in the current exploration phase. Should an increase in scale during any extraction phase require additional security, Cuadrilla will agree with the appropriate regulatory authority (in this instance DECC) what security it requires.”

From this rather vague statement it is clear that the claim made by Mr Egan to Mr Hayes is misleading as it suggests that additional financial security has already been put in place? Clearly the implication of Mr Egan’s statement was that Cuadrilla had set aside a sum of money as security against abandonment. This is evidently not the case as you can see from their subsequent response. You were made aware of this issue in March 2013. Can you please tell us what progress you have made in ensuring that operators are made to fund bonds for abandonment before any work, exploratory or otherwise, takes place?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

4.2. What level of “community benefit” payment do you regard as adequate for development wells and what % of profit on production wells?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

4.3. Are you confident that profit will not simply be funneled to other parts of any operator’s group structures to avoid both tax and community payments – especially if the operators have a significant proportion of offshore investment?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

4.4. Who is the “community” to whom any benefit will be paid?

With regard to your specific questions around community benefits, I recently met with the Prime Minister to discuss this very issue. While the specific details of how any payments would be made are still being decided, he assured me that the intention was that people living closest to any potential wellsites would be the ones to principally benefit.

4.5. Do you agree that, as the County Council is also the Minerals Rights Authority responsible for planning decisions on shale gas developments, that there would be a clear conflict of interests if the County Council were allowed to receive financials benefits as a result of granting permission for shale gas projects?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

4.6. What steps are in place to ensure that fracking companies are made to pay to rectify damage incurred to highways due to excessive traffic created by their traffic?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

5. Political Issues

5.1. Do you believe that shale gas extraction in the UK will bring down energy prices?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

5.2. Do you believe a significant number of jobs will be created? If so, how many? How many of these would be for local people in the Fylde? For how long will they last?

You also asked about jobs related to the shale gas industry and I feel we are now moving into an area which is highly speculative at this stage.

However, the Prime Minister recently referred to making Blackpool the shale gas centre for Europe and I feel I should clarify this point as there appear to have been some misunderstandings surrounding what he meant by that.

Rather than indicating the Fylde Coast should have more drillsites than anywhere else, the Prime Minister was in fact referring to the infrastructure attached to the industry.

If there are any jobs in the manufacturing sector, either in research and design or establishing a head office, then I would prefer those employment opportunities were in filed rather than elsewhere in the UK or Europe.

5.3. Are you committed to the government’s legally binding emissions limit of 1,950 MtCO2e over the fourth carbon budget period (2023 to 2027)?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

5.4. If so, in your opinion how will support for shale gas allow us to meet this target?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

5.5 Are you aware that Cuadrilla are obliged to relinquish 50% of their licence are before the end of this year?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question – We think he should know the answer]

6. Risks

6.1. Flood risk – Given the recent floods in Colorado and the associated problems with contamination resulting from flooded and damaged shale gas installations, do you feel that the flood plain of the Fylde (10) is an appropriate location for shale gas extraction?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

6.2. If so how do you believe measures can be put in place to protect shale gas installations against potential flood risk?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

6.3. Do you believe that the local agriculture and tourism industries would be affected in the event of a development of 100 well pads in the Fylde?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]

7. Overall

7.1. Are you for or against the development of shale gas extraction at the level proposed in your constituency?

[Mr Menzies declined to answer this question]


Notes:

1. “In our licence alone we can supply a quarter of the UK’s gas demand” Mr Egan said.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/9716558/Cuadrilla-set-to-resume-fracking-as-George-Osborne-backs-UK-shale-gas.html
2. IOD “Getting Shale Gas Working” – P128

3. Adjournment debate – 24th October 2012

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121024/debtext/121024-0004.htm

4. “An Environmental Impact Assessment is only required if the project is likely to have significant environmental effects.” DCLG – Planning practice guidance for onshore oil and gas

5. “UK Prime Minister David Cameron offered robust support for European exploitation of shale gas, telling journalists: “No regulation must get in the way.” http://euobserver.com/news/120202

6. “The Government is minded to amend the notice requirements for applications for planning permission for under ground oil and gas operations. It would retain the requirement to serve notice on individual owners and tenants of land on the above ground area where works are required (who the applicant knows to be such a person and whose name and address is known to the applicant) but remove this requirement for owners of land beyond this area ie the owners of land where solely underground operations may take place”
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/revised-requirements-relating-to-planning-applications-for-onshore-oil-and-gas

7. Eric Pickles statement reported on http://uk.news.yahoo.com/minister-hails-wind-power-potential-104823012.html#pXcDkQh

8. “Current planning decisions on onshore wind are not always reflecting a locally-led planning system. New planning guidance supporting the planning framework from DCLG will make clear that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities. It will give greater weight to landscape and visual impact concerns”
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/onshore-wind-communities-to-have-a-greater-say-and-increased-benefits

9. Letter to John Hayes MP from Francis Egan of Cuadrilla
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/79201/080213Cuad.pdf

10. No change scenario – Map based on nothing being done to the existing flood defences and it uses the results of an extreme tide; and it takes account of global warming and sea level rise.

Tidal Flood Map

Tidal Flood Map


    Mr Menzies Response.

Thank you for your continued correspondence and the list of 38 questions relating to the shale gas industry you recently sent to me.

Over the last two years you have written to me on at least 24 separate occasions about a wide range of issues.

I have always tried to do as you request or answer all the letters you sent with a detailed response covering each and every issue laid out.

However, on this occasion I am sorry to say that I am unable to accurately answer the 38 separate questions you have submitted on behalf of Defend Lytham.

The reason for this is that many of the questions assume that I have a detailed technical knowledge of the engineering requirements behind the shale gas industry or are of such a speculative nature that it would be inappropriate of me to hypothesise on the answers.

I believe that the issue of shale gas extraction is of huge importance and should be treated as such, and therefore I am unwilling to conjecture on the various issues based on press speculation or rumour.

However, I will try to answer the questions which I am able.

As you are aware, I have been championing a gold standard of regulation surrounding shale gas extraction since shortly after I was elected to parliament.

You have asked what that would entail and much of what I mean can be found already at work within our successful offshore oil and gas industry.

These processes include mandatory Environmental Risk Assessments, regular on the ground well inspections, ensuring water requirements can be met sustainably and making sure regulation remains fit for purpose of the industry grows.

In line with that I called an adjournment debate in October 2012 – which can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121024/debtext/121024-0004.htm#12102465001852 – where I asked for the creation of a body to oversee the industry’s various regulators.

This has now been set up in the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil and one of my focuses from here is to ensure that office fulfills its obligations as set out in its mandate and that existing regulators perform detailed scrutiny of potential shell gas sites in file.

During the debate, I also flagged up concerns over the Anna’s Road site and said I would vehemently oppose any future development on that site.

You asked why I regarded the area as unacceptable and it is because I believe the moss land between Lytham and St Annes and Blackpool should be protected and not be developed. In the past I have opposed the Queensway housing development close to this site because of similar concerns.

Cuadrilla Resources has now discontinued its plans for Anna’s Road and is currently working towards returning the site to its previous condition, something which I’m sure you will join me in welcoming.

In my debate, I also asked for rigourous on-the-ground inspections of any sites and in the last month I have had two meetings with Environment Secretary Owen Paterson MP who gave me his personal assurances that there will indeed be a rigourous regime in place should extraction go ahead.

In July this year, I also called the Westminster Hall debate to discuss the work which has been carried out by government since my previous adjournment debate. Should you wish to be the contents of that for further information can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130716/halltext/130716h0001.htm#13071668000001.htm_spnew37

With regard to your specific questions around community benefits, I recently met with the Prime Minister to discuss this very issue. While the specific details of how any payments would be made are still being decided, he assured me that the intention was that people living closest to any potential wellsites would be the ones to principally benefit.

You also asked about jobs related to the shale gas industry and I feel we are now moving into an area which is highly speculative at this stage.

However, the Prime Minister recently referred to making Blackpool the shale gas centre for Europe and I feel I should clarify this point as there appear to have been some misunderstandings surrounding what he meant by that.

Rather than indicating the Fylde Coast should have more drill sites than anywhere else, the Prime Minister was in fact referring to the infrastructure attached to the industry.

If there are any jobs in the manufacturing sector, either in research and design or establishing a head office, then I would prefer those employment opportunities were in filed rather than elsewhere in the UK or Europe.

I hope this answers at least some of the questions you had. As ever should you have any specific concerns you wish me to bring to the attention of ministers, as I have done for you on numerous occasions in the past, I will of course be only too happy to do so.

Many thanks for your continued interest in this subject.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Menzies

Member of Parliament for Fylde


Mr Menzies photograph can still be seen featured prominently on Cuadrilla Resources Website

Mark Menzies MP

Mark Menzies MP


 

One Response to Mark Menzies Refuses to Answers Most of Our Questions on Fracking

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