Defend Lytham met recently with Mark Menzies MP. As a result of that meeting we have put together a list of specific questions to clarify Mr Menzies’ position on fracking.
These questions were sent to him by email on Thursday 19th September 2013. We are reproducing these here and will add his answers when he replies.
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).
1.2. Do you know that 25% of the UK’s consumption (~3 tcf pa) would equate to approximately 0.75 tcf per annum.
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)
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)?
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?
1.6. If so at what point will you begin to demonstrate that you do not support this level of development in your constituency.
2.1. What is the “gold standard of regulation” that you refer to – What does it actually mean?
2.2. Why do you not insist that we need it for exploration as well as production?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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”
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?
2.10. Do you support the European Groundwater Daughter Directive which means that fracking companies must monitor and manage all fracking fluids?
2.11. Will you insist that green tanking / green completion to minimize methane emissions should be made mandatory?
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?
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?
3.2. Are you happy that new planning guidelines propose EIAs only in exceptional circumstances?
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?
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.
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)?
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?
4.2. What level of “community benefit” payment do you regard as adequate for development wells and what % of profit on production wells?
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?
4.4. Who is the “community” to whom any benefit will be paid?
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?
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?
5. Political Issues
5.1. Do you believe that shale gas extraction in the UK will bring down energy prices?
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?
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)?
5.4. If so, in your opinion how will support for shale gas allow us to meet this target?
5.5 Are you aware that Cuadrilla are obliged to relinquish 50% of their licence are before the end of this year?
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?
6.2. If so how do you believe measures can be put in place to protect shale gas installations against potential flood risk?
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?
7.1. Are you for or against the development of shale gas extraction at the level proposed in your constituency?
1. “In our licence alone we can supply a quarter of the UK’s gas demand” Mr Egan said.”
2. IOD “Getting Shale Gas Working” – P128
3. Adjournment debate – 24th October 2012
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”
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”
9. Letter to John Hayes MP from Francis Egan of Cuadrilla
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.