In November 2014, 59 percent of voters in Denton backed the bill prohibiting fracking within city limits amid rising concerns that the oil-and-gas-extraction technique would cause serious harm to the environment. The Texas Oil & Gas Association and the Texas General Land Office sued the city in response.
On May 18, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed the House Bill 40 into law, making it the state’s prerogative to decide whether to allow #fracking in cities.
“The Denton City Council voted 6-1 to amend to repeal Initiative Ordinance No. 2014-01, known as the hydraulic fracturing ban. As this ban has been rendered unenforceable by the State of Texas in HB 40, it is in the overall interest of the Denton taxpayers to strategically repeal the ordinance,” a statement, published on the official website of the city of Denton, reads.
The City Council stressed that the decision was arrived at after taking into account all the residents’ concerns and the long-term interests of the city.
#AceWorldNews – OHIO – April 12 – (RT) – Ohio geologists have linked minor earthquakes in a rock formation underneath the Appalachians to Hydraulic fracturing, a first in the state. The finding has caused the state to offer new permit rules for some areas targeted for oil and gas development.
The state investigated five small quakes that occurred last month near Youngstown, finding the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process of injecting water and sand into the Utica Shale put pressure on a small fault line, State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers said. He added that the link was “probable,” according to AP http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ohio-regulators-link-seismic-activity-fracking
#AceWorldNews Ohio authorities have halted a fracking operation in following two quakes. Both the authorities and the operator say there is no evidence linking Hydraulic fracturing with the tremors, but in the past an Ohio well was closed for causing quakes.
The Ohio tremors were felt on Monday in Poland Township and the village of Lowellville near the Pennsylvania. The first 3.0 magnitude quake stroke at about 2:30am and was followed by a second 2.6 magnitude quake at 11:45am, the US Geological Survey reported.
Two smaller aftershocks were reported later in the day.
Following the quakes Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) ordered suspension of drilling operation at Carbon Limestone Landfill in Lowellville, local media reported. Texas-based Hilcorp Energy has about a dozen wells in the area and was performing horizontal drilling as part of fracking production of hydrocarbons.
“Out of an abundance of caution we notified the only oil and gas operator in the area, and ordered them to halt all operations until further assessment can take place,” Mark Bruce, ODNR public information officer, said in a statement. “ODNR is using all available resources to determine the exact circumstances surrounding this event and will take the appropriate actions necessary to protect public health and safety.”
RT News USA
The government sources say they are mulling over these amendments to the law to make it easier for companies to explore and extract shale gas, amid worries that landowners and other parties could hold up energy companies in costly and lengthy court proceedings, the Telegraph reports.
The plans are expected to be published in the coming months, and are likely to be the most controversial yet in Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans to push through #fracking regardless of the environmental cost.
Under the current laws, companies need permission from all the landowners beneath whose land they drill. As shale gas exploration often involves drilling down vertically and out horizontally for more than a mile, this can mean that several landowners are involved.
If permission is not given, then the energy company is committing trespass and the company would have to take the landowner to court, which would then rule if they should be awarded drilling rights and how much compensation should be paid to the landowner.
While compensation is often only a minimal amount, less than £100, companies fear that court proceedings could be costly and drawn out by years of appeals. They have been lobbying the government to change the law.
Unsurprisingly, given how close the government and the energy companies are on shale gas, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has confirmed they are looking at whether the current laws are “fit for purpose.”
Demonstrators hold placards in front of a police cordon outside the entrance to the IGas Energy exploratory gas drilling site at Barton Moss near Manchester in northern England January 13, 2014. (Reuters / Phil Noble)
Greenpeace has tried to use the existing law to encourage thousands of landowners in areas known to be rich in shale gas to decline their permission for fracking to take place. Landowners could also take out injunctions, which would present a further barrier to companies.
One option the government could take is to introduce a compulsory purchase regime, similar to what is already in place for companies needing to lay pipelines underground.
“All options are on the table. It would be difficult to implement a regime that removed any kind of compensation. You could change the rules so you have a de facto right, but then you have to pay. The compensation could be less than £100,” a Whitehall source said.
Even if the trespass law was changed, companies would still need to negotiate access rights for the drilling site, planning permission from the local council, and other permissions from the government and environmental regulators.
“Shale gas and oil operations that involve fracking in wells drilled over a mile down are highly unlikely to have any discernible impacts closer to the surface,” said a spokesman for the DECC.
But environmental groups, as well as many residents in areas which have been earmarked for fracking disagree. They argue that the health and environmental effects are very damaging and include earth tremors, water pollution and human exposure to highly toxic chemicals used in the process.
Fracking or hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water, sand and chemicals down a well at high pressure to fracture rocks and then extract the gas trapped within them.It has been linked to health and environmental damage in some US states where it is extensive.
A sign stands outside a protest camp at the entrance to the IGas Energy exploratory gas drilling site at Barton Moss near Manchester in northern England January 13, 2014.(Reuters / Phil Noble)
Ian Crane, a former oil executive, who is now a campaigner against fracking, explained to RT the extreme dangers that shale gas exploration poses to a densely populated country like the UK.
“We’ve seen the effects in places like Colorado and southern Queensland in Australia. When the population density of the UK is 20 times that of Colorado and 100 times that of Queensland, I would simply implore people to do a bit of research and look at the damage and the contamination that has been wreaked in these locations around the world,” he said.
He also pointed out that of the four wells drilled in the UK, seismic events have occurred at two of them, and there is a very real chance that people in areas where fracking is taking place will no longer have access to safe and clean water.
- Fracking could be allowed under homes without owners’ permission(telegraph.co.uk)
- UK Fracking could be allowed under people’s homes without their consent(EndtheLie.com)
- UK Fracking could be allowed under people’s homes without their consent(therebel.org)
The prime minister said English local authorities would receive all the business rates collected from shale gas schemes – rather than the usual 50%.
In a visit to a Lincolnshire fracking site, he predicted the process could support 74,000 jobs and reduce bills.
But Greenpeace accused ministers of trying to “bribe councils”.
Mr Cameron’s announcement on business rates came as French company Total confirmed plans to invest about £30m to help drill two exploratory wells in Lincolnshire. It is the first major energy firm to invest in fracking in the UK.
But the process to extract it – called fracking, which is short for “hydraulic fracturing” – has led to protests, with environmentalists fearing the technique could cause small earth tremors, water contamination and environmental damage.
On Monday protesters at the Barton Moss fracking facility in Greater Manchester climbed on to lorries entering the site.
But Mr Cameron argued that the UK had the “strongest environmental controls” and pledged: “Nothing would go ahead if there were environmental dangers.“
“Shale is important for our country,” he continued. “It could bring 74,000 jobs, over £3 billion of investment, give us cheaper energy for the future, and increase our energy security.
“I want us to get on board this change that is doing so much good and bringing so much benefit to North America. I want us to benefit from it here as well.”
Fracking involve’s drilling deep underground and releasing a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals to crack rocks and release gas stored inside.
Whitehall officials said the business rates commitment would mean councils keeping up to £1.7m extra a year from each fracking site.
Separately, the mining industry has pledged to give communities £100,000 for test drilling and a further 1% of the revenues if shale is discovered, they added.
Energy minister Michael Fallon said councils could benefit by up to “£10 million per well-head” if shale gas was successfully extracted in their communities, through the 1% levy on revenues.
“How fracking recovers natural gas from shale”
The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England, said the announcement was a “step in the right direction” but any packages had to “fairly remunerate” those affected.
This is a naked attempt by the government to bribe hard-pressed councils into accepting fracking in their area.”
According to Lawrence Carter of Greenpeace
“One percent of gross revenues distributed locally is not good enough; returns should be more in line with payments across the rest of the world and be set at 10%,” a spokesman said. “The community benefits of fracking should be enshrined in law, so companies cannot withdraw them to the detriment of local people.”
Responding to the LGA’s call for 10% of revenues, Mr Fallon said: “This is something obviously the industry will keep under review.”
For Labour, shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex said it was right for communities to share in the potential rewards from shale gas, but he called on the government to “get its priorities right”.
Friends of the Earth’s Jane Thomas argued that the new policy “highlights the depth of local opposition to fracking and the desperate lengths ministers are prepared to go to try to overcome it”.
‘New North Sea’
Lawrence Carter of Greenpeace added: “Having had their claims that fracking will bring down energy bills and create jobs thoroughly discredited, the government is now resorting to straight up bribery to sell their deeply unpopular fracking policy.”
The Institute of Directors welcomed the move on business rates, with chief economist James Sproule arguing: “Investment from Total is a vote of long-term confidence in the UK shale industry, and is a welcome sign that the government is creating the conditions necessary to maximise the potential benefits of a new domestic energy source.
UKIP energy spokesman Roger Helmer warned that “all the financial benefits [of fracking] could be swallowed up by bureaucracy” and urged the government to create a sovereign wealth fund so that fracking profits “would ensure financial security for future generations”.
- Prime Minister promises financial boost for ‘fracking’ councils(coventrytelegraph.net)
- Anti-fracking protests fail to halt interest in shale gas(theguardian.com)
- Cameron promises fracking windfall for councils(channel4.com)
- David Cameron promises fracking tax boost for councils willing to approve projects(independent.co.uk)
- Cameron promises tax boost for councils that approve fracking projects – The Independent(independent.co.uk)
- ‘We’re going all out for shale,’ admits David Cameron(theguardian.com)
This recent report from University of Missouri and U.S. Geological Survey researchers suggested that fracking may be responsible for elevated levels of hormonedisrupting chemicals found in some water.
The release of this report was followed by a rash of fear-mongering headlines like “Sex-change chemicals linked to fracking” (The Telegraph) and “Fracking chemicals could cause infertility, cancer and birth defects” (ABC 7 News).
But such coverage steamroll over many of the study’s crucial complexities.
In fact, there’s no evidence that exposure to fracking chemicals will change your sex or disrupt your sexual function or cause infertility, cancer, or birth defects.
The new study these stories were based on was published Dec. 16 in the journal Endocrinology. While it did find higher levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in water collected near the sites of fracking accidents, understanding what that means and whether you should be concerned requires a more nuanced understanding of both EDCs and fracking.
Endocrine disruptors: the basics
EDCs are substances that have the potential to affect the behavior of hormones like estrogen and insulin, and research in animals and in the lab suggest they may have a role in infertility, cancers, even obesity and diabetes. Fetuses, babies, and young children may be especially vulnerable. Some scientists also suspect that EDCs may have an effect on sexual development, though evidence of these effects in human populations is scant.
Researchers run into a big problem though when they try to link the presence of EDCs to illness: Such chemicals are known to be widespread in the environment and come from many different sources.
They’ve been in drinking water for more than a decade and are also in the air, our food, cosmetics, pesticides, and countless man-made materials, most famously in the common chemical BPA, which is found in many plastics, on store receipts, and in the lining of cans of food and soda. Even naturally occurring substances like some found in soy can disrupt the endocrine system.
The term EDC just stands for a general class of chemical: those that have the potential to interfere with our hormone-regulating (endocrine) system. They can mimic, block, or cause over- or under-production of certain hormones. But different chemicals will have different effects, which will vary by species, gender, age, and amount of exposure.
Crucially, the presence of an endocrine disruptor does not mean that it is doing damage, and little agreement about the levels at which EDCs may be safe in humans. One recent roundup of the research in Endocrine Reviews suggested that traditional methods for assessing chemical safety might not be applicable to EDCs.
On one hand, the Endocrine Society, an international professional group of hormone researchers and practicing endocrinologists, released a statement on EDCs last year concluding that, especially in fetuses and newborns, “very low-dose EDC exposures [could] have potent and irreversible effects.”
On the other, in a comprehensive report on endocrine disruptors, the European Food Safety Authority emphasizes that “for most toxic processes, it is generally assumed that there is a threshold of exposure below which no biologically significant effect will be induced.” And substances may have physiological effects on the endocrine system, the report notes, without provoking any adverse consequences.
In sum, the potential dangers of environmental EDCs are very complex. As the EPA notes in a primer on endocrine disruptors, “the relationship of human diseases of the endocrine system and exposure to environmental contaminants is poorly understood and scientifically controversial.”
The fracking question
What does this have to do with natural gas? Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly called “fracking,” is a process that shoots a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals deep into the ground to extract natural gas.
These chemicals are somewhat mysterious, and for years there have been anecdotal reports of miscarriages, headaches, nausea, tumors, and other health problems that sufferers attribute to fracking, but there is precious little data.
The Endocrinology study researchers wanted to see if they could offer more clues about fracking chemicals by finding out whether there were increased levels of EDCs in areas near fracking sites and spills.
The exact mixture injected into wells is kept secret by fracking companies, but an investigation by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce identified 750 of the chemicals used, which ranged from “harmless” (salt, citric acid), to “unexpected” (instant coffee), to “extremely toxic” (benzene, lead). The most widely used chemical was methanol, a toxic air pollutant.
Just because a chemical is used during the fracking process does not mean that it leaches into the water or the air. The potential of such contamination is a reasonable fear, noted in the House report — it’s even a documented problem — but it’s not a certainty. While a preliminary Department of Energy analysis has yet to determine that fracking-related contamination is a problem, much more research is needed.
One small study of a Colorado town associated #fracking with higher levels of toxic chemicals like benzene in the air. Another study in Pennsylvania suggested that home-owners living less than 1 kilometer from fracking sites are more likely to have drinking water that’s been contaminated by stray gases.
But even if toxic chemicals are detected, they might not reach levels high enough to harm humans. As NPR detailed in its 2012 series on fracking, “the mere presence of a chemical isn’t enough to show it caused a symptom.”
Are fracking chemicals messing with your hormones?
In short: We really don’t know, and anyone who claims to know for sure — either way — may have an agenda.
Theo Colborn, an anti-fracking activist and zoologist who pioneered research into endocrine disruption, published a recent study for which she sampled the air quality of a fracking-dense Colorado county and detected 30 suspected endocrine disruptors. But the design of that study meant that while it insinuated that fracking was the source of the EDCs, it could not actually prove any relationship between the chemicals and nearby fracking sites.
The new Endocrinology study also did not prove that fracking causes EDC contamination. But the researchers did find a strong association between fracking-dense areas and water with higher levels of EDCs.
To show this, they purchased twelve suspected EDCs known to be used in #fracking operations and ran a cell culture test to measure whether each chemical would either mimic or block the behavior of certain hormones. They confirmed that — in cells in the lab — all but one had some effect on estrogen or androgens like testosterone, which proved that they were indeed EDCs but not that they were harmful (or safe) to humans. These tests gave the researchers a blueprint of what kind of activity they were looking for in the fracking sites.
Then the researchers collected water samples from several sites in Garfield County, Colo., where fracking is widespread and a fracking accident had occurred in the past six years. (These can include things like fracking fluids spilling into a creek or a fracking wastewater tank leaking.) They also collected water samples from the Colorado River, where runoff from the region collects.
As a control, they collected water from sites in Garfield County where drilling was sparse and in (unfortunately faraway) Boone County, Mo., where drilling was absent.
Back in the lab, they didn’t identify any specific chemicals in the water, but they used the same cell culture test to measure the overall endocrine activity of the water samples. Eighty-nine percent of the samples — including the controls — showed at least some effect on hormone production, but the levels of activity varied widely, and endocrine activity was elevated across the board in the water from fracking-dense regions.
Anti-androgenic activity, which suppresses the functions of hormones like testosterone and was an observed effect of some of the tested fracking chemicals, was detected in samples from all but one of the fracking sites and none of the control sites. (The researchers suggest that the one fracked site without such activity may have been different because the fracking accident there involved chemicals spilling into a creek, perhaps carrying them away more quickly.)
Still, the study did not examine the health effects of fracking on humans directly. It did not investigate whether non-spill sites also contain elevated levels of EDCs. And sampling water from regions in two different states, from counties with very different population densities, may have confounded the results somewhat — although since the Missouri control county is more urban, EDCs from wastewater contamination and other sources may have actually been higher there than in a comparable rural region.
Unquestionably, this is the beginning of research into fracking and EDCs, not an open-and-shut conclusion.
“It is the first tiny little study in what needs to be a wealth of research attention focused on this issue,” study author Susan Nagel, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri School of Medicine at Columbia, Mo., told Business Insider.
So how did this study come to be?
It was a collaboration between an endocrinologist, a research toxicologist, a bio-statistician, and others. The authors, some of whom have a longstanding research interest in EDCs in the environment, suspected that fracking might be yet another a source of these increasingly ubiquitous chemicals.
The lead author, Christopher Kassotis, is a graduate student in biology funded in part by a $126,000 EPA grant “to determine the relationship between various hormonal activities in natural sources of water with hydraulic fracturing processes.” The results aim to “increase understanding of the potential hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing and provide a basis for regulatory agencies to develop science-based standards of safety and containment of waste from hydraulic fracturing processes.”
Key funding for the study was also provided by the Passport Foundation’s Science Innovation Fund, designed to provide support for projects “advancing the environmental health science needed to promulgate effective chemicals regulation [and] public health policies.” (Passport Foundation, the now-defunct philanthropy arm of Passport Capital, also made grants to organizations that either oppose fracking or support stricter regulations, including the Environmental Defence Fund, Earth Justice, the Environmental Working Group, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.)
Given this funding mix, it’s clear that while the science is solid and the findings are notable, there was probably an endgame in mind: more effective regulation around a potentially harmful but still largely mysterious process.
Energy in Depth, an oil-and-gas industry group that clearly has a horse in this race, quickly responded to the study, highlighting what they saw as several problems. They pointed out, for example, that the researchers can’t know for sure that all the EDCs they detected were from fracking, which is true, but they unfairly took issue with the fact that data was collected from fracking spill sites — such accidents are a pervasive problem, not an anomaly.
The bottom line
The upshot is this complicated tale: The Endocrinology study is a cause for concern, not alarm. It suggests scientists should do more research to investigate how fracking might be interfering with our sensitive endocrine system and that fracking accidents in particular may be a source of risk. But the only route to clear proof of harm or safety may be human tests that would be unethical and illegal.
In any case, fracking’s hormonal effects would likely be subtle, varied, and hard to track. With EDCs all around us, we can’t yet know how much fracking contributes to them.
So are the chemicals used in fracking really responsible for elevated levels of endocrine disruptors in the water? As Nagel told Business Insider, “it’s a hypothesis that we’re testing, not a proven phenomenon.”
- MU Researchers Find #Fracking Chemicals Disrupt Hormone Function(acenewsservices.com)
- Fracking Chemicals Linked to Birth Defects, Infertility(acenewsservices.com)
- Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Found At Fracking Sites Linked To Cancer, Infertility: Study(huffingtonpost.com)
- Chemicals from Fracking Could Cause Infertility(scienceworldreport.com)
- Chemicals Found In Water At Fracking Sites Linked To Infertility, Cancer(thinkprogress.org)
#AceHealthNews says that Endocrine-disrupting activity is linked to birth defects and infertility
University of Missouri researchers have found greater hormone-disrupting properties in water located near hydraulic fracturing drilling sites than in areas without drilling. The researchers also found that 11 chemicals commonly used in the controversial “#fracking” method of drilling for oil and natural gas are endocrine disruptors.
Endocrine disruptors interfere with the body’s endocrine system, which controls numerous body functions with hormones such as the female hormone estrogen and the male hormone androgen. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as those studied in the MU research, has been linked by other research to cancer, birth defects and infertility.
|Susan Nagel Phd|
“More than 700 chemicals are used in the #fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function,” said Susan Nagel, PhD, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at the MU School of Medicine. “With #fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.”
The study involved two parts. The research team performed laboratory tests of 12 suspected or known endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, and measured the chemicals’ ability to mimic or block the effects of the reproductive sex hormones estrogen and androgen. They found that 11 chemicals blocked estrogen hormones, 10 blocked androgen hormones and one mimicked estrogen.
The researchers also collected samples of ground and surface water from several sites, including:
- Accident sites in Garfield County, Colo., where hydraulic fracturing fluids had been spilled
- Nearby portions of the Colorado River, the major drainage source for the region
- Other parts of Garfield County, Colo., where there had been little drilling
- Parts of Boone County, Mo., which had experienced no natural gas drilling
The water samples from drilling sites demonstrated higher endocrine-disrupting activity that could interfere with the body’s response to androgen and estrogen hormones. Drilling site water samples had moderate-to-high levels of endocrine-disrupting activity, and samples from the Colorado River showed moderate levels. In comparison, the researchers measured low levels of endocrine-disrupting activity in the Garfield County, Colo., sites that experienced little drilling and the Boone County, Mo., sites with no drilling.
“#Fracking is exempt from federal regulations to protect water quality, but spills associated with natural gas drilling can contaminate surface, ground and drinking water,” Nagel said. “We found more endocrine-disrupting activity in the water close to drilling locations that had experienced spills than at control sites. This could raise the risk of reproductive, metabolic, neurological and other diseases, especially in children who are exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”
Courtesy of MU
- Study looks at drilling, hormone-disrupting chemicals (blogs.wvgazette.com)
- Fracking chemicals disrupt hormone function (eurekalert.org)
- Fracking Chemicals Linked to Birth Defects, Infertility (activistpost.com)
- New Study Links Fracking Water to Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals (davidjkatz.wordpress.com)
- Study Links Fracking Chemicals and Hormone Disruption (theepochtimes.com)
- Fracking chemicals disrupt hormone function (climate-connections.org)
#AceNewsServices says according to the latest from RT that Hydraulic fracturing may soon take place under thousands of homes across the United Kingdom without their owners’ knowledge. Based on a proposed law change the burden of notifying home-owners will be lifted from energy companies, the Guardian reports.
Planning Minister Nick Boles said a change in UK law will allow gas companies to put in drilling applications without notifying those in the area whose property could be affected, the Guardian reported. Companies will instead have to post notices in local newspapers and erect site displays in local parishes.
Many opposed to #fracking cite potential health risks, air pollution and water contamination, as well as possible earthquakes. Nevertheless, the government portrayed alerting all those possibly impacted by localized #fracking as too much of a burden for companies to weather.
It would require a “disproportionately large number of individuals and businesses” to receive notice, said Boles in a statement to MPs.
Hydraulic fracturing, or #fracking, is the highly controversial process of injecting water, sand and various chemicals into layers of rock in hopes of releasing oil and gas deep underground. Because it takes place far below ground, the gas companies themselves may not understand exactly where they are drilling.
“The associated underground extraction takes place very deep below the Earth’s surface, over a wide geographical area,” Boles said. “As a result, it is often not possible to identify the exact route of any lateral drilling.”
“Without the changes to the secondary legislation, the widely drawn area on planning applications for onshore oil and gas projects would require the notification of a disproportionately large number of individuals and businesses. This would be unnecessarily excessive when other forms of complimentary notification exist.”
Ministers have dismissed any safety or environmental concerns posed by #fracking, instead touting the economic benefits while saying any drilling will be done responsibly. Other MPs are nervous about the new edict, The Guardian reported, based on high-profile protests in areas where drilling has been proposed.
On Tuesday the Conservative-led government issued a 49-page energy roadmap outlining ways in which oil and natural gas, including shale deposits, could be exploited in the country.
Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change identified new areas across the UK thought to hold rich, untapped stores of shale gas, The Daily Telegraph reported. As part of a new initiative by Westminster, these areas may become subject to test drilling, which could pave the way for #fracking if large deposits of shale gas are found.
“The government is keen to explore the potential for shale gas in the UK which could bring major benefit in terms of growth, jobs and energy security,” British Energy Minister Michael Fallon said in a statement. “However we must develop shale responsibly, both for local communities and for the environment.”
In a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso made public on Tuesday, Prime Minister David Cameron warned that European Union regulations could stifle investment in Britain’s shale gas industry.
“I am not in favour of new legislation where the lengthy time frames and significant uncertainty involved are major causes for concern,” Cameron wrote in the letter dated December 4, Reuters reports. “The industry in the UK has told us that new EU legislation would immediately delay imminent investment.”
#Fracking has met widespread opposition in the UK, with local communities taking to the streets in protest. In the city of Salford, Greater Manchester, activists blocked access to a test drilling site on Monday, placing a 1.5-ton wind turbine blade in front of the Barton Moss facility in what they called a “symbolic” act of protest.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth called the government’s moves on #fracking objectionable given the drilling technique has been identified by officials as having “potentially significant local impacts.”
“People should be notified personally if firms want to drill or frack for oil and gas under their homes. Removing that right is a further blow to local communities who are rightly concerned about the impacts of #fracking,” he said. “Ministers should be strengthening rules to protect local people, not weakening them in yet another sop to an industry that wants to keep us hooked on dirty fossil fuels.”
A new report published in the latest edition of the journal Endocrinology shows a dozen chemicals used regularly in #fracking are suspected of being endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs — chemicals that can interfere with the human body’s endocrine functions and have been linked to heightened risks of cancer, low fertility rates and decreased sperm quality.
EDITOR: says so how can this situation have arisen and who really owns the land two metres below the surface? Well having done some recent research and this article it states as follows:
By John Kemp
In her capacity as the Duke of Lancaster, the Queen owns more than 50,000 acres and subsurface rights to tens of thousands more across northern England, the part of the country that has drawn the most interest from companies hunting for shale gas. #Fracking firms will have to pay to put wells on her property or to drill through the subsurface mineral layers that she owns.
Potential payments to the Duchy are just one example of a wider phenomenon. The prospect of widespread #fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has helped set off something of a rush among the owners of ancient mineral rights to register them ahead of an October 2013 deadline set by the Land Registration Act, in order to claim possible compensation.
THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER:
The Duchy of Lancaster, which dates back to the 14th century, is separate from the Crown Estate, historical land holdings and other royal possessions. Revenue from that property goes to the government in exchange for an annual payment to help cover the costs of running the monarchy.
The Duchy holds assets in trust to provide an income for the Queen and her successors as sovereign. In March 2012, it had assets valued at 405 million pounds ($653.5 million) and was providing an annual income of 13 million pounds, which the Queen uses to meet her private expenditure and official expenditure incurred as sovereign.
But the major part of its landholding, in terms of surface area, is held as rural estates spread across the counties of Lancashire (10,000 acres), Yorkshire (16,000 acres), other parts of northern England and the Midlands.
In addition, over the centuries when the Duchy sold off some of its holdings, it reserved ownership of the subsurface mineral rights. As a result, it also owns mineral rights beneath tens of thousands more acres across the north of England, even though the surface is now owned by others.
ANCIENT LORDS OF THE MANOR:
Mineral rights and royalties produced an income of just $270,000 in the year ended March 2012. However, like other major landowners, including the Church of England, the Duchy has been busy registering its historic ownership of these mineral rights ahead of the deadline set by the Land Registration Act.
“Mineral interests are a relatively small element of the Duchy portfolio, but windfall opportunities do emphasise the importance of protecting these interests,” the Duchy explained in its annual report.
“The Land Registration Act has necessitated mineral owners to register their titles with the Land Registry, and the Duchy has been doing this in respect of both its surface and mineral ownership.”
#Fracking has set off a modern land rush. According to the “Daily Telegraph” newspaper: “The Duke of Northumberland, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Lonsdale have all registered manorial rights. Ordinary people who live in manor houses or old rectories may also have ‘lordships of the manor’ and therefore own mineral rights in the area.” (“Lords of the manor to cash in on fracking” November 2012)
DRILLING AND ANCILLARY RIGHTS:
Like other private landowners, the Duchy of Lancaster does not own the oil and gas found under its estates or as a result of its reserved mineral rights.
In contrast to the United States, where oil and gas deposits are in private ownership and the owner receives royalties from #fracking firms for extracting them, in the United Kingdom petroleum resources are in state ownership.
Under the 1934 Petroleum Production Act, all oil and gas deposits are owned by the Queen in her official capacity as “the Crown”, which in practice means they are government property.
Section 1 of the Act states: “The property in petroleum existing in its natural condition in strata in Great Britain is hereby vested in His Majesty, and His Majesty shall have the exclusive right of searching and boring for and getting such petroleum”, which means oil and natural gas.
Licences to explore and exploit oil and gas resources onshore are granted by the government. But “the rights granted by the landward licences do not include any rights to access, and the licensees must also obtain any consent under current legislation, including planning permission,” according to the British Geological Survey.
So anyone wanting to get at the oil and gas must negotiate with the surface owner for permission to drill a well and build other facilities such as access roads and storage tanks. If the surface owner refuses, the driller must apply for a court order under the 1966 Mines Act to acquire the ancillary rights needed to get access to the oil and gas and pay what the court rules to be appropriate compensation.
As a major landowner in the north of England, the Duchy of Lancaster will be able to charge anyone who wants to drill on surface land it owns. Under a recent court ruling, however, it may also be able to charge anyone who wants to drill through the underground areas it owns, even if they build surface facilities on someone else’s land.
DEVIATED WELLS, SUBSURFACE OWNERS:
In 2009, in a case that pitted Star Energy against Bocardo, a company ultimately owned by well-known businessman Mohammed Al-Fayed, the Court of Appeal ruled that Star had to pay compensation for trespass for drilling a deviated (angled) oil well under Bocardo’s property, even though the well started on someone else’s land and was at least 800 feet below the surface when it entered the area under Bocardo’s land.
“I reach this conclusion with reluctance,” the judge explained. “The trespass is purely technical, because it did not interfere with Bocardo’s use or enjoyment of its land one iota. More over, Bocardo has lost no rights because it neither owned the oil that has been removed from strata within its land; nor did it have the right to search, bore for and get such petroleum. Those rights belonged exclusively to the Crown and its licensee (Star)”.
Nonetheless, even though Star possessed a licence, it still needed to negotiate Bocardo’s permission to drill through all the other layers and mineral’s Bocardo owned underneath its property or apply to court and pay compensation. Having failed to do either, Star was ordered to pay £1000.
But that was for using three pipelines beneath Bocardo’s land at depths between 800 and 2800 feet below the surface, and extending just 500-700 metres below Bocardo’s Oxted estate. Fracking will employ much longer horizontal wells and affect much bigger areas of the subsurface. The compensation required could be correspondingly larger.
Since the Duchy of Lancaster owns the mineral rights across large swathes of the north of England, frackers will have to negotiate appropriate payments to drill through all the strata it owns (including for example the coal deposits it has been busy registering).
In contrast to conventional oil and gas fields, which have a fairly limited impact on the surface and cover a restricted underground area, fracking involves drilling a much larger number of wells with horizontal sections extending thousands of feet. It has a very large footprint on both the surface and the subsurface, and a corresponding increase in compensation payments to a large number of land owners.
Revenues from #fracking are unlikely to put the Queen’s personal income on a par with the sultan of Brunei, and she should probably not starting ordering a new Royal Yacht, but they could make a small addition towards the cost of running her household.
Ace Related News:
- Fracking Chemicals Linked to Birth Defects, Infertility (acenewsservices.com)
- ‘Frack Master’ says UK shale gas market threatened by scaremongering (theguardian.com)
- Fracking may increase health risks, scientists warn (theguardian.com)
- Fracking Chemicals Linked to Birth Defects, Infertility (spiritandanimal.wordpress.com)
- Chemicals from Fracking Could Harm Hormone Functions (counselheal.com)
- Much Ado About Fracking (kurtlynch.wordpress.com)
- Fracking Chemicals Linked to Birth Defects, Infertility (b4inmain.wordpress.com)
The report published today (31 October) reviews the potential health impacts of shale gas extraction.
This review of the scientific literature focusses on the potential impact of chemicals and radioactive material from all stages of shale gas extraction, including the fracturing (fracking) of shale.
As there is no commercial shale gas extraction in the UK, the draft report looks at information from countries where it is taking place.
Dr John Harrison, Director of PHE’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, said:
The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated.
Where potential risks have been identified in other countries, the reported problems are typically due to operational failure.
Good on-site management and appropriate regulation of all aspects of exploratory drilling, gas capture as well as the use and storage of fracking fluid is essential to minimise the risks to the environment and health.
Most evidence from other countries suggests that any contamination of groundwater, if it occurs, is likely to be caused by leakage through the vertical borehole. Therefore good well construction and maintenance is essential to reduce the risks of ground water contamination.
Contamination of groundwater from the underground fracking process itself is unlikely because of the depth at which it occurs.
Dr Harrison said:
Professor John Newton, Chief Knowledge Officer at PHE, said:
The report makes a number of recommendations, including the need for environmental monitoring to provide a baseline ahead of shale gas extraction, so that any risks from the operation can be appropriately assessed.
Effective environmental monitoring in the vicinity of the extraction sites is also required during the development, production and post-production of shale gas wells.
In due course it will also be important to assess the broader public health impacts such as increased traffic, the impact of new infrastructure on the community and the effect of workers moving to fracking areas.
The draft report is being made available for comment for one month. PHEwill be pleased to be made aware of any peer-reviewed or published reports that are relevant to the findings or recommendations.
Notes to Editors
- Review of the potential public health impacts of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of shale gas extraction: Draft for Comment. See a copy of the draft report.
- Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. www.gov.uk/phe
- Shale gas: new fracking projects must pass environmental test, European Parliament says (sofiaglobe.com)
- Fracking alert: New York switches to shale gas (acenewsservices.com)
- Backing for fracking – George Osborne said he would “love” shale gas drilling to start in Britain (mirror.co.uk)
- Fracking benefits ‘outweigh any minimal impact’ (energylivenews.com)