Frodsham Town Council have been engaging with their local community in a UEOG, or Unconventional Extraction of OIL and Gas group, to discuss fracking in the area over a period of approximately one year. Last Wednesday (05/07/17), the second of such meetings took place (initially put on hold by the much anticipated community survey results and further delayed by the snap general election). This time, however, the council had decided to invite representatives of INEOS shale, who currently hold the PEDL licence in the area, to present their case to the group. The presentation was given by Tom Pickering (operations director), with Gordon Grant and Ray (no surname given) from community liason/relations also present, though neither of the latter spoke or took direct part in the proceedings. Grant operated the slides for the presentation. Up until this session INEOS shale have only presented to the local councilors behind closed doors.
The meeting began at least 15 minutes late due to INEOS shale’s team delaying proceedings by their lack of punctuality. Between 40-50 members of the public were present, but it was noted that the turnout from Town Councilors was particularily low, only 3 out the 16 of those with full time positions attended! It is not yet clear as to why so few of them decided to attend but that question will be most certainly put to them at the next meeting. Considering it was the council members that asked INEOS shale to attend that evening, it appears rather unusual that such a small percentage actually made the effort to be there.
Pickering, looking uncomfortable, took to the front of room to present INEOS’ case. So followed the usual topics with which the industry uses to try persude our communities that it is all perfectly necessary and safe, that there is nothing to see here: ie. Supply and demand, imports, it’s cleaner and greener than coal etc….
He mentions the asset stripped equipment, recently loacted, in their Rocksavage site in Runcorn that INEOS bought and brought over from Poland. He states that INEOS shale have set up their ‘own contracting service business’……’so that in time we have the right equipment to available to us technically.’ The inference here is that they will be making this equipment (and potentially their own services) available for other companies to use.
Below is an account of the questions posed by the community and professionals that attended, together with INEOS’ responses:
The presentation ran overtime with the Chair of the Council urging Pickering to finish up which resulted in the final slides to be either rushed through or completely skipped. It was at the question and answer session, after the presentation, that things took on a livelier tone. The members of the community were somewhat unsettled by the late start and Pickering’s sluggish pace throughout. This delay put pressure on the time that could be allowed for any questions the community wished to ask, which many felt to be fortuitous to Pickering as the time ran over considerably.
Liz: ‘Given that there is a moratorium in Scotland, Wales and most of Europe and all the political parties, save the Conservatives, oppose fracking; do you not regard that the development that you have in store for us, as investment, is completely inappropriate?’
Response: Pickering completely evades the question, instead he quotes the amount of workers that INEOS shale currently employ. He says they have a responsibility to them and that their buisiness continues to function. He begins to waffle and says that they want to move away from the scaremongering and politics surrounding the industry and that the word ‘fracking’ is a horrible word. Question unanswered.
Steve: ‘A couple of years ago we had a cross party working group in Chester, which you were part of and Igas were part of. At that meeting it was said that if there was no social licence to drill you would happily walk away. Since then we have had numerous surveys in Mickle Trafford and around this area which regularily show that 70% plus, that fracking isn’t wanted. So at what stage are you going to be walking away’?
Response: Pickering refused to answer this question directly, instead stating the amount of private land deals that Igas have aquired in the area together with conducting a seismic survey. Steve re-emphasisd the lack of social licence particularily regarding the community surveys. Pickering said they will work towards gaining social licence but refused to comment on the community surveys. They have clearly done a complete U-turn in regards to their statement at the cross party working group.
Andrew Harrison, Professor at Salford University. (speaking independantly from the university)
He refers to a question he put to INEOS shale at a consultation set up by the previous MP, Graham Evans, in which he asked about methane leakage (methane being ‘a much more powerful climate change gas than carbon dioxide, burning it is a real problem’). INEOS’ response at the time was that they were unsure of the percentage rate but it would be much lower than the suggested 2.5% that Professor Harrison quoted to them. Since then Professor Harrison has reason to believe that the percentage rate is far greater at 10% and asked ‘Do you now know what leakage you figure you would have, on what basis would you question this 10%
Response: Pickering tries to avoid answering the question. He eventually refers to a Durham University study (Refine Project) into well leakage in the UK, a study which he admits was funded by INEOS shale and other industry connections with a vested interest. He still seems very unsure and goes off topic but eventually states that he ‘thinks’ it was 1%? (a fantastically low figure!)…… After this worryingly unclear answer Pickering began to babble for a few minutes, going completely off topic which created a considerable amount of aggitation from the audience, which called for him and the proceedings to be moved along. He was clearly stalling and unsure how to correctly respond to the question. The Chair of Frodsham Council eventually cut in to allow another question to be asked. By this time the meeting was already overunning.
Adrienne: It would appear that the communities in the East Midlands are not welcoming you over there and you are now going to the extent of bullying your way on to people’s land. ‘You are threatening legal action to the National Trust. Surely it’s their choice to allow you on their land or not….you should respect that, it is their property’ She continued to point out that the seismic testing can cause damage, and that many properties have been reported to have incurred damage as a result.
Response: Pickering’s response was particularily vague, again. He begins by saying; no one person should be able to stop something that is of wider advantage to the community and that they have made an obligation to the government to fulfil technical evaluation. He refers to incidences with willing participants but avoids the direct question of carrying out legal action against those that are not. He eventually quibbles about the reasons that the National Trust has refused them access (he says they have done so on the basis that it is fossil fuel, but a link to the NT at the end of the blog clearly states that they are far from happy with the practice of fracking in general), but admits that the Trust does not want any activity from the industry on their land. It is clear that INEOS shale have absolutely NO respect for those that choose to decline them access and that they will use all legal powers to force them to comply.
Pickering failed to respond to her query/question regarding the peer reviewed independant studies that fracked gas ‘is more harmful and produces more greenhouse gases and is worse for climate change… than burning coal.’ That INEOS say ‘local shale gas is better for the environment’ but they are ‘happy to import gas from America because it is cheaper.’ That this not about the environment, but cheap gas for the industry.
Councilor Jenny Kirk, a public health nurse, stated that her concerns were that the industry is self regulating; that there ‘won’t be independant inspectors who are looking at operational integrity, they will be people from within the industry.’
Response: Pickering concedes that the industry is ‘self regulating’ and that there are regulatory guidelines to follow, breaches could result in a fine. He recognises that this is a frequently raised question/concern which is a confidence issue. Voices from the community members that were present called out that this is NOT simply a confidance issue but a public health question! Pickering failed to answer it as such.
Charles Miller: A gentleman with 27 years of experience in the drilling and well industry stood before the group. He stated that there are a lot of concerns that INEOS shale haven’t addressed. Public liability, for example. He remarked that fracking is a new industry in the UK and we don’t have an established regulation in the UK and in regards to a small company like INEOS their ability to be able to cover public liability, should something go wrong, is questionable. ‘There will be serious problems in the stability, over time, in the geology’.
Response: INEOS carries public liability insurance, environmental liability insurance. However, the question posed by the gentleman was more about the long term problems and that some of the effects may not be evident until many years later (this could be true of geological, environmental and especially health impact issues). It is questionable as to wether INEOS shale will still be in existence to compensate the affected communities.
Hillary: A chartered landscape architect, practised in landscape and visual impact assesments, addressed the group. She stated her amusement at how the pictures on the slide presented the frac sites. She makes two points 1. ‘Public liability insurance does not bring fresh water when the water is contaminated.’ 2. She remarks that there is an ‘elephant in the room‘ that he had stated within the presentation that we need gas to produce the things we want and need. The members of the audience began to heckle Pickering regarding his perception of what INEOS shale regarded as need, others remarked on ‘INEOS and their waste mountain of plastics’. The clear solution being that we need to reduce our plastics production, not increase it, and therefore also reduce the need/reliance on gas greedy fracking companies such as INEOS shale.
No response was given as the Chair called an end to the meeting.
The council had said that they invited INEOS shale to provide ‘a balance’. However, many of the people that remained behind some time after to discuss the evening commented on the fact that Pickering had spent most of his efforts in evading answering the questions that he was confronted with and quite frankly wasted time by going off topic and not directly answering them. There was much padding out and time wasting which left people thinking that in no way had any of their questions been answered sufficiantly, nor had their fears or concerns been addressed in a proficient or convincing manner.
(Many thanks to Beth Barlow who created these knitted representatives of the community that were unable to make it to the meeting).
The Frack Dee coalition would like to extend a huge thank you to all those that attended the meeting and in particular to those that posed relevant and well considered questions to INEOS shale’s representatives. As a community we continue to stand strong, shoulder to shoulder, to resist the fracking industry in our towns and villages. The message is still clear. In the community survey Frodsham said NO to INEOS, as did their neighbours.
There is no social licence to frack!
Useful links to further reading:
The National Trust. Are We Fit To Frack?
INEOS will use legal powers to gain access to land. Drill or Drop:
Jim Ratcliffe, INEOS and the empire of trash. Feasta:
Frodsham community survey results:
Asset stripped fracking equipment found in Cheshire. Frack Off:
INEOS threatens to sue the National Trust:
Link to the Podcast of the meeting:
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