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Fracking, guinea pigs and hidden reports

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Talk Fracking, guinea pigs, no evacuation plan, legal letter, failures, public health, frackingAnd there is still no evacuation plan in place for residents close to the Preston New Road site.

Talk Fracking has issued a pre-action legal letter to the Secretary of State for Local Government for ‘clear failure to conduct a strategic environmental assessment’.

That is for:

Failure to adhere to existing Climate Change Act 2008 obligations to reduce greenhouse emissions;

Failure to consult on a fair basis; and

Failure to review three years of advanced scientific developments.

Talk Fracking, a campaign group led by Dame Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré, issued the pre-action legal letter to James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on 8 August 2018

The group, which is backed by Yoko Ono, Sir Paul McCartney and Lily Cole, are challenging the legality of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published on 24 July 2018, the last parliamentary day before Summer recess, after a consultation began on 5 March 2018 – because of the clear failure by the secretary of state for local government to conduct a strategic environmental assessment before issuing that revised National Planning Policy Framework.

Energy Minister Greg Clark MP issued the first permit to Cuadrilla to start fracking at a well in Lancashire immediately following the publication of the revised NPPF.

Fracking is expected to start in late August or early September 2018 at the Preston New Road site, between Blackpool and Preston.

According to Talk Fracking, rather than consult on a fair basis and conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment, Brokenshire ‘blindly incorporated the outdated and flawed Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) of the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd from 16 September 2015’.

According to Amber Rudd’s Written Ministerial Statement, the Minerals planning authorities should: ‘Recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, for the security of energy supplies and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy; and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction’.

But as Joe Corré said: “Mr Brokenshire had a duty to British voters to review all of the available scientific data available.

“There are now over 1,300 scientific, peer-reviewed papers evidencing harm from fracking. All were ignored.”

Amber Rudd’s statement has been proven “completely wrong on the energy security issue,” Corré continued.

“Fracking companies are in no way guaranteeing energy security from their activities – in fact the UK’s biggest fracker, INEOS, uses fracked gas imported from America to produce more and more disposable plastic. That’s the same plan for fracked gas from the UK.”

“Amber Rudd’s statement has also been proven totally wrong in terms of its claims about fracking’s role in a low-carbon economy, a requirement in the terms of our obligations to the Climate Change Act 2008.

“Fracking is, in fact, worse than coal in terms of emissions.”

A response to Talk Fracking’s letter is expected back from Brokenshire by 21 August 2018.

If this response unacceptable, it is anticipated that a legal action will be lodged in the Court before 4 September 2018, which falls within the 6-week deadline for challenges to the National Planning Policy Framework.

And following what is widely perceived to be the Conservative government’s hiding of a critical air pollution report on fracking for three years – the recently published Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) report ‘Potential Air Quality Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in the UK’ – two consultants of medicine have written an open letter to Claire Perry MP, who is Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, after she gave final permission to Cuadrilla, to hydraulically fracture at Preston New Road in Lancashire.

In their letter Dr Barbara Kneale, a consultant in Occupational Medicine, and Dr Francis Rugman, a retired consultant Haematologist, outline that the whole fracking process will use and release chemicals and substances that are hazardous to health and that toxic air pollutants will be created.

And as TalkFracking reported, Cuadrilla’s fracking site on Preston New Road also appears to be using local residents as guinea pigs in an experiment, with the letter saying that it will likely be:

“…a prospective observational study to monitor emissions of toxic chemicals, known to adversely impact human health.”

The two doctors talk about the abundance of research on health impacts from fracking, especially since the narrow-scoped 2014 Public Health England report on shale gas was published.

The government has shamefully confirmed that they will not update this very shallow report, even though hundreds of pages of peer-reviewed evidence is now available.

Minister Steve Brine rather weakly stated that: “Public Health England continues to review the evidence on the potential public health impacts of emissions associated with shale gas extraction and has not currently identified any significant evidence that would make it change its views stated in its 2014 Review.”

The two doctors also raised the alarming fact that there is – still – no evacuation plan in place for local residents close to the Preston New Road site.

This has been a contentious topic for a long time.

Repeated Freedom of Information (FoI) requests have been submitted to reveal that in fact, there is no protection for the community being forced to host fracking, beyond generic protocols:

“At Little Plumpton, no site-specific emergency evacuation plan has been described or published.

“Based on historical emergency evacuations in the USA and thermal modelling, people within low setback distances from fracking sites are potentially vulnerable to thermal injury during a well blowout, fire and/or explosion.

“According to air measurements and vapour dispersion modelling, the same populations are susceptible to carcinogenic benzene vapour and toxic hydrogen sulphide gas exposures above health-based risk levels.”

And Kneale and Rugman conclude by calling for an immediate moratorium until a “transparent review” can take place, evaluating all the evidence surrounding health, safety and environmental issues.

They also request that the 2014 Public Health England report on shale gas should be updated to consider all available evidence.

Closing their letter, the authors said: “Prohibiting the development of an industry that is potentially so harmful to the health of close residents, that has doubtful economic viability and runs counter to the direction of the necessary transition to renewable energy, should be regarded as a reasoned and sensible decision.”

You can read and download the open letter to Claire Petter MP letter here.

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