An Open Letter to David Cameron From A Concerned Local Resident

The open letter below is from concerned local resident Kate Styles and is published with her permission.

“Dear David Cameron

I would like to talk to you about fracking. I know that you think it is ” the right thing to do” ( see, having listened to what you say, .. you do say this a lot. Oh, I get it, it’s a catchphrase.), but I, and many, many people here in Britain disagree.

I know you probably think you know all you need to know about fracking – all those advisers and industry representatives, and lobbyists and DECC, and Defra, and the Environment Agency and UKOOG. But, and I don’t mean this disrespectfully, I think you are like most of us. We know a little about a lot of things and a lot about a little.

Now, this may surprise you, but I and many, many others who live in this beautiful land have spent hours, days, weeks and months researching fracking.Some, but not me, have spent years. From building the well pad, transporting the equipment, the rig, the compressors , the water and the pipelines to understanding the drilling process, the fracking process ( yes, we do understand that actually fracturing the shale is just a part of the process), flow testing, and full scale production.

We have read about the Marcellus shale, the Utica shale, the Fayetteville shale, the Eagleford shale and the Bakken shale. We have learned about the Halliburton loophole, the EPA, the API and IPAA.

We have seen evidence of water contamination from fracking in Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. We have read the EPA draft report whose conclusions have been challenged at peer review stage by its own scientists. We have the latest analysis of more than 1,000 chemicals in fluids used in and created by hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Yale School of Public Health researchers found that many of the substances in fracking wastewater have been linked to reproductive and developmental health problems, and the majority had undetermined toxicity due to insufficient information.

We have read myriad reports regarding adverse public health impacts on those who live within 5 miles of a fracking site. High risk pregnancies, low birth weight babies, increases in respiratory complaints and chest and heart conditions. We have watched infra red cameras recording toxic gases released through venting and flaring gas and learnt about VOC’s. These volatile organic compounds are nasty – Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

We have read of livestock suffering from unidentifiable illnesses, and high incidences of stillbirth in cattle and horses. We hear of nosebleeds, rashes, nausea and headaches in children . All of this near fracking operations. Could it be the VOC’s? You know, when you keep seeing the same symptoms, and the only common denominator is fracking…well. My mother used to say if it looks like a pig and it oinks like a pig, then it probably is a pig. Sorry, in retrospect that was probably not the best analogy to use, but you get my drift

And despite this and the earthquakes ( so many earthquakes – more than 30 in Oklahoma yesterday, and 900 in 2015, in a state that historically had one or two per year) that are linked to fracking, it is just business as usual. Despite all the regulators, there doesn’t appear to be changes… No fines, no STOP, no one does anything except talk, and talk is cheap. .In a way, the fact that nothing is done, nothing changes , is as shocking as all the events I have mentioned. To feel so powerless, so impotent against an industry that just keeps rolling along would fill me with despair.

We hear that fracking is seen as a bridge to renewables, that it is cleaner than coal, yet we read of rogue methane emissions far more damaging than Co2. Satellite observations of huge oil and gas basins in East Texas and North Dakota confirm staggering 9 and 10 percent leakage rates of heat-trapping methane.Natural gas as an energy source for electricity production is less of a contributor to global warming than coal only if less than 3.2 percent of methane escapes during production. Recent measurements estimate that between 2.3 percent and 17.3 percent of gas escapes.

We hear you and your ministers keep talking about “gold standards ” of regulations, yet there are NO fracking specific regulations and there are massive cuts to the very agencies that you tell us will uphold these first class operations. Do you actually know what regulations you refer to Mr Cameron, or is this just a handy soundbite? I will be frank, I sometimes get the feeling you think if you say it often enough we will just take your word for it. Mind the Gaps is a research piece into this very subject that I would suggest is a good place to start.

The PHE Report ( superseded by about 350 new peer reviewed studies on fracking and its impacts) gave me a bit of pause for thought.. Anyway, PHE seemed to say that that direct application of the North American research to the UK situation is impossible because of the wide differences between the two countries. Now, studies I have read regarding negative air impacts found NMHCs ( non-methane hydrocarbons ) that surface with the raw natural gas. The USEPA estimates that on average the mass composition of unprocessed natural gas is 78.3% methane, 17.8% NMHCs, – there are other things but I don’t want to get too technical.A literature search of the health effects of the NMHCs revealed that many had multiple health effects, including 30 that affect the endocrine system, which is susceptible to chemical impacts at very low concentrations, far less than government safety standards. You see, the thing that confounded me about what PHE stated is that we are talking about gas here. Do we have different gas in the UK?

Anyway Dave. You don’t mind me calling you Dave? I seem to recall you saying “Call me Dave ,” We heard you proudly proclaim to be the ” greenest Government” and yet you have cut subsidies for renewables and under your stewardship Britain has fallen from 8th to 11th place in the REIAI, causing the authors to comment that a plethora of policy related announcements …has sentenced the UK’s renewables sector to death by a thousand cuts. OUCH

We listened to you telling us that we would have more power…that local councils would have more power and more responsibility…that localism was absolutely essential to our economic, social and political future. Then, double whammy. Gas storage which had been turned down by the Government previously was suddenly approved after 12 years of being denied planning, AND we were told that decisions about fracking in our local area were going to be decided by Central Government. That the decision of our County Council ( and by definition the people of Lancashire) to not allow fracking was to be taken out of our local hands.

I have heard that law abiding citizens like me, who having read and researched and watched and listened and come to the conclusion that fracking poses unacceptable risks to our air and water and public health are labelled as domestic extremists. People like me, a hard working British mother of two hard working children, and my opposition to fracking is somehow a threat to security? I must have misheard that one.

And then there was Paris. A true consensus on the need to keep global warming below 2 degrees. A recognition that we need to end our reliance on fossil fuels. We breathed a sigh of relief because IF we are serious about climate change, we have to keep our fossil fuels in the ground. Therefore, fracking and the rogue methane leaks ( you may remember I mentioned these earlier and if taken into account make fracked gas no cleaner than coal) make it incompatible with our climate change commitments. How do you square that one Mr Cameron? Is it a case of saying one thing and doing another, or is it that you haven’t taken the methane into account?

The floods. Terrible scenes of what used to be once in a Century events but that have been occurring much more regularly. Three times in the past 5 years. That’s Global warming for you!

I do think we should spend more on flood defences, but don’t let me get off topic. The floods. Yorkshire and Lancashire were particularly badly hit, and this may come as a surprise to you, but 20% of fracking licences are situated on flood plains. Flooding is terrible, but can you imagine consequences of flooding AND toxic wastewater ( there is also NORM in there- naturally occurring radioactive material.It comes up from underground with the 60% of the millions of gallons of fresh water used to frack a well that returns to the surface. Strangely, no one seems to know what happens to the 40% of water that stays underground, not even the fracking companies. One of life’s mysteries!).

Not to put too fine a point on it, I am REALLY opposed to fracking. All the things I have mentioned are not the legacy I wish to leave for my children and grandchildren…. jumping the gun a bit here, no grandchildren yet, but I am sure I will get some eventually. I cannot in all conscience justify fracking to anyone, for any reason. And, those of us who are opposed just want a healthy life for those we love. Fresh air, clean water and a future. A future not threatened by fracking or Climate Change and its consequences..

We live with uncertainty. With the threat of fracking in our communities.With the very real risks of fracking pollution. With constant changes to the law that appear to be attempts to hasten the process of fracking and impose it upon those who don’t want it regardless of £100,00 community bribes – ok, community incentives then. Bribes,well, that is just how I see it. We don’t oppose fracking because we are intransigent.. and believe me, we all have so many other things we could be spending time on rather than this protracted battle. We just believe that having seen the evidence, fracking is not the right thing to do.

So, Mr Cameron, here we are. I have said what I think and If I had one wish, it would be this. Go and find out for yourself about fracking. Not from the Treasury who may be swayed by the thought of tax revenues. Not from the industry who may be swayed by the thought of profit. Not from anyone who has anything to gain. Just research it and hear the stories of ordinary hard working families who have been impacted by this industry. Read of those who would like to move but cannot as their homes have no value…. of families who have no rest due to noise and light pollution 24 hours a day. Listen to people who have to rely on bottled water deliveries, not just for drinking, but for bathing and showering. See the misery and stolen years that I have seen and look at the scars on the landscape that will be there forever . Imagine these impacts on the hardworking British public and this industrialised landscape transported to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and Lancashire’s verdant fields and …

Then Mr Cameron, tell me the dash for gas is the right thing to do.”

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