Some Success!

It now looks like the rush to get fracking has been slowed down. On 26 January the UK government accepted Labour proposals to tighten environmental regulations.

Significant regions of UK shale gas deposits have now been ruled out for exploitation. These include national parks and areas where drinking water is collected. One successful amendment to the bill means that potential fracking sites would be monitored for 12 months before any exploration takes place.

The change to trespass laws, which allow fracking under peoples’ homes without their permission, remains in the Bill. The Bill now goes to the House of Lords where further changes may be made.

French Fracking Ban Upheld


The Constititional Council has upheld a ban on hydraulic fracturing

The French ban on hydraulic fracturing has been upheld by the Constitutional Council following a legal challenge by energy company Schuepbach.

The following report was published by The Connexion:   The verdict comes as the European Commission said that future plans to exploit shale gas and oil reserves would require an environmental impact study, with French MEP Corrine Lepage saying: “For once, the general interest has won out.”

All moves to drill wells to explore for shale gas in France were halted after the Sarkozy government banned development in 2011 with the law against hydraulic fracturation, the only known method for extracting the gas.

Schuepbach challenged the withdrawal of drilling rights in the Ardèche, Gard, Hérault, Lozère and Aveyron as an “abuse” of the principle of precaution over the risk of environmental damage.

However, the government told the Conseil Constitutionnel the ban was not through precaution but prevention, aimed at preventing environmental problems as hydraulic fracturing carried pollution risks to underground aquifers.

Schuepbach said the ban was not being applied equally as hydraulic fracturing was still allowed for geothermal energy projects.

Fracking is considered dangerous because it uses millions of litres of water plus a cocktail of chemicals and sand to crack open the rock to let the gas escape. It is feared the chemicals can leach into water sources – and no chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing for geothermal energy.

Anti-shale gas protests are to be held in many French towns on October 19 as part of a worldwide anti-fracking day.

An oil industry newsletter has said Schuepbach is claiming €1billion in damages over the withdrawal of its drilling rights, claiming lost profits over the next 50 years – although no study has shown there are proven resources.

Europe’s move to require an environmental impact study for hydraulic fracturing projects comes as the European Parliament reviews legislation that was passed before the controversial technique became well established.

Chancellor Gives Tax Break to Fracking Companies

Chancellor gives huge amounts of our money to gas exploration companies

The Chancellor has announced enormous tax breaks for companies who want to increase the UK reliance on fossil fuels by fracking for shale gas.  The tax rate has been set at 30% which is far below the current top rate of 62% for new North Sea oil operations and up to 81% for the older offshore fields.

So far there has been little mention of regulation and control to ensure that chemicals used in the fracking process are disclosed or of assessment of the well integrity to ensure that boreholes are not prone to leaking.  The coalition Government has made no mention of any use of micro-seismic monitoring of potential drilling areas to determine the impact on local area.  As far as George Osborne is concerned it is a bonanza for his pals while he misleads the public into thinking that their gas prices will go down.

The truth is that the gas extracted will most likely be sold on the open world market and because of the costs involved in shale gas extraction in Britain compared with the United States, there will be no cheap gas for consumers in the UK, simply large profits for the fracking companies and energy companies at the tax payers expense.

No change there then!

See the letter from the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change where the six conditions set by the Labour Party for shale gas exploration are set out.

French PM Rejects Shale Gas


Prime minister rejects shale gas

July 12, 2013

PRIME Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has rejected a call for a rethink in the shale gas debate and said the government will not allow its exploitation in France.

He was speaking after Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg told a committee planning reforms to the Code Minier – which sets the laws on development of underground resources – that he would like to see a state-owned company involved in “ecological” exploitation of shale gas (gaz de schiste).

Mr Montebourg’s challenge to government policy came just a week after Delphine Batho was sacked as ecology minister for criticising a 7% cut in her budget.   He had said that such development would allow the country to cut its imports of petrol and gas.

However, the prime minister replied that the government had two main objectives in its energy policy: to cut energy consumption, and in particular fossil fuel consumption, and to change the balance of energy sources, by reducing nuclear power from 75% to 50% by encouraging a switch to renewable energy sources.

New Ecology Minister Philippe Martin said there was no such thing as “ecological” exploitation of shale gas and received support from Housing Minister Cécile Duflot, of the Ecology Party.

However, other leading Socialists also want a rethink on shale gas policy with Nord MP Christian Bataille – who co-authored a report in favour of starting exploitation – saying that shale gas could allow France to cut its trade deficit, with 85% of that being due to oil imports.

Reprinted from The Connexion


Letter to Caroline Flint MP

Copy of a letter from North West France branch of Labour International to Caroline Flint MP

Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP
Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary,
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

19 May 2013

Dear Caroline,


For some time the NW France Branch has been involved in the campaign against the so-called “Fracking” process for the extraction of Shale Gas, both here in France as well as in the UK. We made a submission to the DECC Inquiry in December 2012 and we await the outcome of their deliberations.

I would emphasise that we are not campaigning against Shale Gas per se, but the “Fracking” process which we believe carries unacceptable environmental risks. It appears to us that the risks are being overlooked in the rush to profit from as-yet unquantifiable quantities of gas. All the experts seem to agree, with the possible exception of the prospecting companies, that the amount of gas lying in the shale beds is unquantifiable at the moment and the amount recoverable is anyone’s guess. I am sure you will be aware of the moratorium put on Fracking by the French government, although the prospecting for Shale Gas continues under licence.

Although Fracking appears to be the sole method being used to extract Shale Gas, safer and more economical methods must be found and properly evaluated if the gas recovered is to be of significant benefit to the UK fuel demands in the future.

The Fracking process poses risks to the aquifers in respect of the chemical content of the liquids used in the process and the radiological markers that are used to measure drilling progress. Should any of these toxic compounds enter the water sources they could pose a significant risk to human health. There is also a risk of blow-out during the process which risks contaminating the atmosphere and surrounding land as has happened in the USA. I refer to the UK Environment Agency recommendations to the Government and also the report by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research (Manchester University).

The prospect of seismological events has been publicised in the national media and has been largely dealt with. However, it appears to us that controls on the use of the highly toxic and radioactive chemicals and also on the disposal of toxic waste from the drilling process are lax and largely unmonitored. In particular we are concerned at the re-cycling of the millions of gallons of polluted water that result from the process and at the disposal of radioactive waste.

We ask whether the Party has a defined policy on Fracking and, in particular, the controls to be put in place on the process and on amelioration of the environmental risks. Careful monitoring of environmental effects in and around the prospecting areas is certainly required and we believe the Party should have a sound position as the economic arguments in favour of Shale gas take a more prominent place.

We hope that you are able to give us reassurance on these issues.


Dick Smith
NW France Branch of Labour International

Rush to Start Fracking


Lord Browne is the most senior business advisor to the tory led coalition government and chairman of the UK’s only shale gas driller.  He said that “We will finance whatever it takes. If we succeed, it will be billions, over 10 years it will be billions of finance to provide”. This, if technical problems to recover shale gas are overcome, would translate into tens or hundreds of billions of profit for gas explorers for decades to come.

We would  argue that although it produces smaller amounts of carbon dioxide when burned than coal, its adoption on the scale that Browne wants would mean that the UK would not meet its targets on reducing greenhouse gases and it would distract from other investment needed in truly green technologies.  There is a growing body of evidence from the United States, where fracking is far more developed, that there are inherent and unacceptably high environmental and health risks associated with coalbed methane and shale gas extraction.

Drilling on a small scale in the UK has already given rise to small earth tremors.  Villagers in Singleton, Lancashire, were woken by small earthquakes in April and May 2011, caused by fracking by Lord Browne’s gas drilling company.

Shale gas, for all its associated environmental and health risks, is unlikely to arrive quickly enough, in sufficient volume, to drive down UK prices to below international levels.

“We don’t want British businesses and families to be left behind as gas prices tumble on the other side of the Atlantic,” Osborne said in his Autumn statement to parliament in December 2012.  Other countries in Europe do not share his view and are hesitant to endorse fracking because of the concerns that it pollutes water.  See this video which shows some of the problems associated with fracking by clicking this link.