• Gas Field Free Mendip

    General Election 8th June 2017 – Where do the four main parties stand on fracking?

    In our view the choice is clear if you want to prevent fracking anywhere in the UK.  Here’s some analysis of the detail on fracking and other environmental policies from THE GUARDIAN.1245

    Labour

    • bring in a Clean Air Act to deal with illegal air quality
    • safeguard habitats and species in the blue belts of seas and oceans
    • ban on fracking
    • set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes
    • prohibit neonicotinoids as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so
    • plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and better food management
    • ensure that 60% of the UK’s energy comes from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030
    • establish a science innovation fund, working with farmers and fisheries, that will include support for our small scale fishing

     

    Verdict:

    John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace: “Far stronger on vision than on policy detail. Ambitious targets for renewable energy and home insulation have huge potential to create jobs, cut emissions, and lower bills. Along with banning unpopular fracking, they indicate Labour are serious about their commitment to tackle climate change. The promise to retain our vital environmental safeguards after Brexit will be welcomed by many, as will the proposed Clean Air Act. The destination is clear: now Labour need to show us how they plan to get there.

    Dominic Hogg, chair of environmental consultants Eunomia: “Interesting commitments on low carbon energy and a statement to the effect that a Labour government is determined to lead, internationally, on climate change: the party would ban fracking, and recognises the economic potential of the low-carbon economy. Proposal to introduce a new Clean Air Act is not backed up with much detail where the pressing matter of air pollution is concerned, although there is a commitment to retrofit ‘thousands’ of diesel buses in the most polluted areas.

    On the natural environment, there is not much by way of discussion of the nature of farm support in a post-Brexit world: it is not really clear what the ‘science innovation fund, working with farmers and fisheries’ would aim to achieve. Says little about waste and resource use, though the strangely worded intention to introduce a deposit scheme is welcome. Despite the commitment to a fair taxation system, there is little to suggest that polluters will pay.”

    Liberal Democrats

    • 5p charge on disposable coffee cups to reduce waste
    • diesel scrappage scheme, and a ban on the sale of diesel cars and small vans in the UK by 2025.
    • extend ultra-low emission zones to 10 more towns and cities,
    • generate jobs and exports by supporting green industries that manufacture electric and low-emission vehicles,
    • Zero Carbon Britain Act to set new targets to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2040 and to zero by 2050
    • oppose fracking
    • suspend the use of neonicotinoids until proven their use does not harm bees or other pollinators
    • establish a statutory waste recycling target of 70% in England

     

    Verdict:

    John Sauven: “A number of strong proposals. Targeting diesel is the most effective way of tackling air pollution, but the party stops short of an actual phase-out plan. Their strong commitment to cutting carbon emissions is matched by good policies on renewable energy, warmer homes, and community run schemes. A robust recycling target is crucial to stop the mountain of plastic sliding into our oceans. But whether it’s waste or energy, setting targets is a lot easier than hitting them.”

    Dominic Hogg: Contains some of the most advanced thinking. It is the only manifesto that has much emphasis on making polluters pay, with commitments regarding waste, vehicles and disposable coffee cups.

    The emphasis on delivering on greenhouse gas emissions reduction is strong, with a range of measures proposed, including on buildings. Like the Labour party and the Greens, the Lib Dems would not support fracking. On air quality, the manifesto mentions reform of vehicle taxation and a scrappage scheme. It also envisages a ban on sales of diesel cars and small vans by 2025. Overall, the impression is that environmental issues run fairly prominently through the manifesto. There are also positive recommendations regarding the natural environment (and the Lib Dems win the battle of the tree-planters, going for one for every citizen over the next 10 years).

    The manifesto is the strongest of the main parties in the extent to which environmental issues, and the contribution to health and wellbeing, permeates the whole document.”

    Green Party

    • protect the natural world in the wake of the EU referendum by creating a new Environmental Protection Act and a new environmental regulator and court.
    • end the monopoly of the Big Six energy companies by creating democratic, locally owned alternative energy suppliers
    • end plastic waste by introducing a bottle deposit scheme to stop 16m plastic bottles ending up in the environment every day
    • a Clean Air Act, including a new diesel scrappage scheme, a levy on emissions-cheating car manufacturers and a strengthened Clean Air Zone network across the country.
    • End the reliance on fossil fuels with a ban on fracking and pledge to bring forward the coal phase out by two years to 2023.
    • Scrap plans for all new nuclear power stations, including Hinkley Point C, with an alternative strategy to “harness the dramatically falling costs of renewable energy”.

     

    Verdict:

    John Sauven: “Many solid ideas but no great surprises. Prioritising renewable energy over expensive nuclear and unproven fracking makes economic as well as environmental sense. The combination of a diesel scrappage scheme and more clean air zones offers a practical and fair way to tackle air pollution. Tackling plastic waste is rightly recognised as a priority, and bottle return schemes are a tried and tested solution to this growing problem. The Greens have done their homework, but they’ll have to persuade people they can deliver on their promises.”

    Dominic Hogg: “The Green party’s commitments are much as one might expect. The ban on fracking is as expected. Also, we would expect to see a corresponding emphasis on promoting renewables, given the Green party’s opposition to nuclear power, and its intentions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed levy on ‘cheating car manufacturers’ is interesting, but the detail is not available. The commitment to a deposit scheme is also interesting. The proposals for a new (presumably revised) Environmental Protection Act and a new environmental regulator and court do seem eye-catching, but the details of this are not yet clear.”

    Conservatives

    • develop the shale industry in Britain, allowing major fracking decisions to be made by a national planning body
    • aim to lead the world in electric vehicle technology and use
    •  aims for almost every car and van to be zero-emission by 2050 – will invest £600m by 2020 to help achieve it
    • support for off shore wind industry
    • invest in more low-emission buses
    • energy policy post Brexit: we will form our energy policy based not on the way energy is generated but on the ends we desire – reliable and affordable energy … meeting our global commitments on climate change
    • plant a million trees in towns and cities to improve air quality
    • post Brexit we will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the parliament
    • pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it – will produce a 25-year environment plan

     

    Verdict:

    John Sauven: “True mixed bag. Strong support for offshore wind can boost jobs, energy security, and trade opportunities, but the emphasis on fracking is a dangerous distraction. The commitment to lead on global climate action comes at the right time but needs to be demonstrated in practice. Aiming for every car and van to be zero-emission by 2050 is a good end goal, but we need some milestones along the way. The promise of leaving a better environment to our children tomorrow is worthless if we can’t stop them being harmed by air pollution today.

    Dominic Hogg:There’s no room for anything environmental in the five giant challenges that the Conservatives have identified in their manifesto. There’s also a contradiction apparent in the commitment to meet global commitments on climate change, and the determination to develop the shale gas industry (ie support fracking) in the UK on the basis that it ‘is cleaner than coal’, conveniently forgetting that coal is being phased out anyway, so the comparator is nonsense: the proposed changes to the Shale Wealth Fund will be seen by some as a means to bribe host communities. The commitment to an additional 1 million trees in towns and cities isn’t going to change the fact that the plan for air quality, released a few weeks ago, is woeful.

    There is nothing meaningful on waste. On the more positive side, the mention of a new agri-environmental scheme could be of interest, and the plan to expand Natural England’s provision of expertise to farmers feels like a welcome reversal.

    The emphasis on environmental matters is weak, and the danger is that environmental issues will continue to be pushed aside.”

     


    September 2016  – Fracking licences in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire ‘will not be used’

    Somerset coast still under threat from South Western Energy.

    FROM BBC NEWS – Licences to carry out fracking in parts of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, will not be used by a company they had been granted to.  South Western Energy said it had decided not to pursue licences which were awarded to explore for gas.

    A spokesman said it was because energy costs were currently low and future prices were uncertain.  The decision has been welcomed by environmental campaigners who said it was “brilliant news”.

    Gerwyn Williams from South Western Energy, based in Bridgend, said they had also decided to “relinquish large areas of existing licences in South Wales”. “The main reason is to minimise financial exposure during a period of low energy costs and uncertain future prices.

    ‘May re-apply’ “We have retained the more prospective areas in Wales, Dorset and Somerset.

    “If matters improve we may re-apply… for some of the areas.”

    Licences to explore for oil and gas, including fracking in various parts of the UK were offered to several companies by The Oil and Gas Authority last year.  However, whether exploration can actually go ahead is subject to local planning consent.

    Owen Adams, from the group Frack Off Our Forest, which had campaigned against the idea, said it was “brilliant news” and “a victory for people power”.

    “We have achieved a major goal,” he said.

    The Somerset coast areas under are shown below:

    Somerset coast fracking licence blocks

     


    Our region is under threat from Fracking with licences granted in Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire

    South West Fracking Licence Map

     

    The licences covering parts of Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire include some highly environmentally sensitive areas including Special Conservation Areas, Special Protection Areas, RAMSAR Sites and an AONB.

    Do you live in one of these licence areas?

    Click here to Download detailed maps of each local licence area shown above.

    Click here to Download completed government habitats assessments for each local licence area.

    Click here to Download the latest OGA map showing all current and potential UK licence blocks.

    If you would like to get involved with resisting this potentially damaging form of fossil fuel extraction taking place in your local area then here’s a list of groups operating in or very near the licence areas shown above:

    Forest of Dean – Frack off our Forest

    Somerset – Frack Free Somerset

    Exmoor, Quantocks, Sedgemoor – Frack Free EQS

    Banwell & Weston – Frack Free Banwell & Weston-Super-Mare

    Frome – Frome Anti-Fracking

    Wiltshire – Keep Wiltshire Frack Free

    Westbury – Frack Free Westbury

    Trowbridge – Trowbridge Area Frack Free

    Bradford on Avon – BoA Frack Free

    Devizes – Frack Free Devizes

    Box – Box Against Fracking

    Other local groups:

    Chew valley – Frack Free Chew Valley

    Midsomer Norton – Frack Free Somer Valley

    Bruton – Gas Field Free Bruton

    Yeovil – Frack Free Yeovil

    Mendip Hills – Gas Field Free Mendip

    Bristol – Frack Free Bristol


    June 2015 update – PEDL 227 Now relinquished by UK Methane

    We have confirmation that PEDL 227 which covers part of the Mendip Hills between Bath and Shepton Mallet has now been relinquished by the licence holder UK Methane.  This is excellent news for our area as it now means there are no active oil and gas companies seeking to explore possible reserves in Somerset! We are Frack Free!

    PEDL227 relinquished

    This follows the relinquishment last June of the 3 previously held licence areas in Somerset.  So for the time being the threat of immediate unconventional gas exploration has been removed.

    We feel this move by UK Methane is at least in part due to the amazing efforts of local people and groups to make Somerset an unwelcome place for oil and gas exploration, showing that any moves to explore in Somerset will be strongly resisted.

    A word of caution here though as we are soon expecting the government to announce the results of the 14th Onshore Oil and Gas Licencing Round, which could mean that another oil and gas company could have bid for any of the licence blocks in our area and attempt to commence exploration.

    Click Here to Download the latest map from the Oil and Gas Authority showing the UK areas currently under active licence (June 2015)

    Click Here to Download the DECC 14th Round Licence Area Offer Map (July 2014) showing all the licence blocks available to exploration companies.


    Candidates from North East Somerset and Wells constituencies taken on awareness tour of potential North Somerset Gasfield

    Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 12.24.06

    In early December we invited candidates from all political parties on a brief tour of the Mendip Hills and Somerset Coalfield, visiting stream sinks, resurgences and mines of PEDL 227 in particular the East Mendip region, believed to be the source of the water for Bath Hot Springs. The trip included a short visit to the magnificent Shatter Cave between Stoke St. Michael and Oakhill.

    The intention was to ensure that candidates were aware of issues particular to the cavernous, fractured geology of the Mendip plateau and Somerset Coalfield. In particular the possible dangers to our reservoirs and water supply if drilling were to take place amid the area’s’ countless underground streams.

    Read the full story here…


     

    TBTDFG Logo

    Documentary lifting the lid on fracking spin, investigating environmental and health issues associated with fracking in Australia, the US, and Lancashire and UK Methane’s plans to drill near drinking water sources in Somerset.


    Potential for 300 Coal Bed Methane wells across Mendip & Chew Valley

    Unconventional gas companies are interested in Coal Bed Methane (CBM) in Somerset because of the Westphalian Coal Measures associated with the Bristol‐Somerset Coalfield.

    The current licence holder (PEDL 227) is UK Methane which holds a 50% share of the licence with Shale Energy plc, although it is understood that full ownership may soon pass to UK Onshore Gas Ltd which intends to list on the London Stock Exchange in the near future.

    An “American style” gas revolution necessitates transformation of entire landscapes into gas fields which in parts of the Mendips and Chew Valley could mean about 300 wells for Coal Bed Methane alone (excluding shale gas) according to CBM specialists GeoMet UK in a full development scenario. This would herald whole‐scale industrialization of parts of the Mendips and Chew Valley.

    For much more info Click Here to Download a report by Frack Free Chew Valley reproduced from a Geomet report (2000), showing the potential for CBM in the Mendip and Chew Valley area.

    Below is an illustration of the distribution of wells across the Coalfield in a full development scenario.

    300 wells for the Mendips


    Why Fracking or Coal Bed Methane Exploration on the Mendips is High Risk

    There is no place safe for fracking, shale gas or coal bed methane exploration on the Mendips.

    The Mendip caves are among the biggest and most important cave areas in the South of England. The Mendip Caves are also the most intensively studied Karst (cave bearing limestone) area in the world.

    Fracking Caves and Hydrology 8 aThe caves act as a conduit for rain water which feed our springs, agricultural boreholes, rivers, reservoirs and the World Heritage Bath Hot Springs.

    Historical incidents of pollution have proven that the caves and water systems within them are highly susceptible to any contamination, which can be transported for miles from its original source via the underground waterways.

    Any pollution caused by radioactive waste water or toxic flowback water from drilling activities could have a devastating impact if it were to enter the mendip cave system, from either drilled boreholes or surface spills.

    Download our presentation which highlights the vulnerability of the Mendip cave system to pollution incidents.

    More information on the Mendip caves can be found at the Mendip Cave Registry & Archive.