Unfortunately they’re doing it wrong.
For once Residents Action on Fylde Fracking and I have something in common. Sort of.
Who is Halite? Once calling themselves Canatxx they are the people who want to store pressurised gas in salt caverns slap bang in the middle of a geologically unstable area, full of brine wells, a collapsed salt mine and geological faults, in my neck of the woods. The YouTube video I have linked to will explain why 40,000 local residents have been fighting for years to resist this insanity.
There are no weasel words like might or could or maybe. Brine wells at Preesall have collapsed in the past and one is in the process of collapsing. The depression in the ground is growing fast and an entire field has been lost to it already Another well is filled with God knows how many tons of mercury sludge courtesy of the now departed ICI. Just image what will happen to the water table if that bad boy collapsed. And Halite want to store pressurised gas right next to the brine well field. Let’s not forget the partially collapsed salt mine. And did I mention the natural faults that gas can migrate along? Well it needs saying over and over.
Anti-fracking campaigners have reacted with anger and frustration at a Government decision to allow a controversial gas storage facility on the Fylde Coast.
And I agree with their reaction. Three applications from Canatxx/Halite have been rejected by local government because of the real danger of catastrophe yet some cretin in central government has given the green light to this insanity.
Energy minister Lord Bourne has, on appeal, granted permission to Halite to create a huge underground gas store in salt caverns at Preesall despite three rejections of the plan and massive public opposition.
Now residents and campaigners opposing shale gas say that decision by the Department of Energy and Climate Change was undemocratic and bodes ill for their own battle against energy company Cuadrilla.
But this is where my strange comradeship with RAFF and their associate anti-fracking groups parts way. You see their “protest” appears to be purely selfish. They don’t seem to care about the real dangers of the Halite proposal. They only seem to care about how it will affect their own cause and how they can exploit it.
Two bids by Cuadrilla to test frack on the Fylde were rejected last month by Lancashire County Council, but the shale gas explorer could yet appeal to a Government inspector.
It’s not about Halite, you see. It’s about Cuadrilla and the appeal they will no doubt be submitting. A real danger has been hijacked to support an anti-capitalist cause that really would benefit all if fracking were permitted to go ahead. That really piddles me off.
Barbara Richardson, from the Roseacre Awareness Group, said: “We are appalled by this decision to overrule local democracy and fear that Westminster will try and intervene in the fracking debate too against the wishes of the people and elected representatives.
What Barbara doesn’t tell you is that Mike Hill, who was campaigning on an anti-fracking ticket, was wiped out during the GE by the Tory incumbent who I believe is actually pro fracking. It seems that democracy is something of a loose concept in Barbara’s world. At this point I will add that the proposed Roseacre site is highly problematical because access will be a nightmare and Barbara does have a point. However there is no such problem with the Plumpton proposal which I support and Barbara doesn’t. She is opposed to fracking absolutely.
“We elect local councillors (parish, borough and county) to represent us and this is democracy in action. Local people understand local issues and the will of the people.
Yeah, I saw how the craven sods at Lancashire County Council were cowed by a few tens of anti-fracking protestors and voted against the advice of their own legal department. Democracy my left nether cheek. Perhaps you think the 40,000 plus local residents fighting the Halite plans can be co-opted by proxy to your own cause, eh Barbara?
“To blatantly ignore this is sheer arrogance and a recipe for disaster. We will stand with the people of the Wyre.
That’ll be a “yes” then.
“They have spent years to successfully defeat this, with good grounds, and even had the support of the Planning Inspector as well as local councils. They must be absolutely devastated.
We are devastated and we are still fighting. But Barbara, where were you and your pals all those years we were fighting Canatxx? How come we get your support now?
“Fracking is an altogether different game as it could affect over 60 per cent of the UK, and should Westminster intervene again, I am sure it will have serious repercussions.”
Whereas gas storage is a dangerous game and has the real potential to affect more than 60% of the residents of Fleetwood, Knott End, Presall, Stalmine, Steynall and parts of Thornton if the storage caverns rupture following the collapse of a brine well (it has already happened in the US which is why storage of the type proposed for Preesall has been banned in the US on safety grounds), the gas escapes and finds an ignition source. All thanks to Westminster intervention.
All that seems to bother Barbara is the precedent set by overturning a decision made by local government.
Alan Tootill, from the Preston New Road Action Group, said: “This confirms our worst fears.
“This government has no concern for local democracy and local decision-making.
“Over 40,000 people objected to the Preesall applications and three times the plans were turned down at local level.
I didn’t hear your voice raised against the initial Canatxx/Halite proposals either Alan. I don’t recall you standing up at the many meetings and voicing your concern.
There is also a familiar name mentioned in dispatches. You’ll find her in the comments below the Mike Hill post.
Tina Rothery, from Residents Action of Fylde Fracking, said: “It is awful news not just for the people of Wyre but for the rights of local people anywhere in the UK.
“That central government can overrule the clear will of the people and their Council that has three times rejected this application, makes a mockery of our ‘democracy’.
“Many of us have been fighting to keep fracking out of Lancashire for nearly four years now and the recent support of Lancashire County Council was very welcome; with this announcement today though at the overturning of the decision on Halite, we are of course deeply concerned about what will happen next in this campaign as well.
See what I mean? They’ve tagged on their anti-fracking campaign to the Halite fight. I know Tina by sight having seen her on TV and in the papers several times but I don’t recall seeing her at the Stop Canatxx meetings either. All of a sudden the Canatxx/Halite cause has become the No Fracking cause. At least in the anti-fracking eyes.
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said: ‘This decision raises big questions about the Government’s commitment to local democracy because this facility was turned down several times before Westminster stepped in to make it happen.
Then maybe Friends of the Earth ought to hand back the millions in taxpayer money, whether taxpayers agreed with it or not, that has been handed to FoE by various governments over the years. It’s obviously a matter of principal after all. But I guess, like Barbara, your perception of democracy only goes so far, eh, Tony?
“This must not be repeated in order to force fracking on Lancashire after the county refused to swallow the hype from central Government and the fracking industry.”
“This must not be repeated in order to refuse fracking on Lancashire after the county swallowed the hype from minority anti-frackers and the Big Green industry.”
There, fixed it.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Bourne, who is the Minister responsible for energy planning consents, said the Halite plan was strategically important for the nation.
Yeah, because what the Scammell truck would a Professor of Law know about geological faults, collapsed mines. the unsuitability of layered salt beds, unsafe brine wells and other unimportant shit that affects the lives and safety of tens of thousands of locals? Oh and we’re considered an area of Special Scientific Interest too because of the rare fauna and flora living in and around Morecambe Bay which will be grossly affected by the brine outfall. Why, after so many years, has central government, after even that towering intellect, John Prescott, recognised the serious flaw in Canatxx/Halite’s planning applications, suddenly made this perverse decision? Well I have a theory.
Wyre has been a marginal seat for a long time. Since 1997 it has been tinkered with twice which gave us Hilton Dawson (Lab) a decent MP who worked hard for the constituency before resigning and returning home to his native Northumberland. Then came Ben Wallace (Con) who also fought hard on the Canatxx front and moved over to the newly created Wyre and Preston North in 2010. Despite Labour stacking the boundary decks in its favour we got Eric Ollerenshaw (Con) clinging to his seat by the skin of his marginal teeth, only ever rebelling (well abstaining really) against the Tory whip once but who still recognised the dangers posed by the gas storage proposal and added his effort to the fight against corporate venality and stupidity.
Then in May, 2015 we get Cat Smith (Lab) also on the slimmest of majorities, with her BA in sociology and gender studies who, while paying lip service to both the anti-Halite and anti-fracking camps, clearly hasn’t got a bloody clue what she’s talking about. Perhaps, once in a while, when she isn’t too busy identifying herself as a Christian, socialist, feminist, republican, trade unionist and LGBT, she’ll pick up and read The Idiot’s Guide to Wyre Estuary Geology so she doesn’t look a total fool and will finally be able to tell the difference between a landslide and a great big Scammell off sinkhole. Meanwhile we get the
standard leftie gobshite response to Lord Bourne’s decision by calling for the “launch of a new action” and “seeking urgent clarification” rather than going up to the idiot and hitting him with FACTS. But then she did previously work for Jezza Corbyn so she quite possibly has a good grounding in political stupid.
And my theory? Well Lord Bourne has nasty previous when it comes to the opposition. He plays very dirty tricks and then lies about what he’s done before being forced to come clean. Ask Rhodri Morgan. Lord Bourne got handed this particular chalice when it turned out that Amber Rudd’s brother , Roland, heads a lobbying company, Finsbury, that numbers Halite amongst its clients. Given Bourne’s scandalous history could the recently tinkered with constituency returning a Labour MP be an underlying reason for his perverse, against all common sense decision? I think we should be told.
Here’s the “offical” reason for the decision.
He said: “Investment in new energy infrastructure is essential if we are to keep the lights on and bills down.
“This is a major project which will benefit the local economy by creating jobs and stimulating businesses.
Yes, we’ve seen how central government keeps the bills down with bills hiked up to feed the heavily subsidised and deeply despised renewables monster. As for the local economy, destruction of the environment aside, there may be a temporary injection of jobs to construct the storage caverns and build a pipeline to connect with the main grid at Garstang. But honestly, long term, how many people will it take to press a button at the control station in order to release or store gas? Three hundred? Four hundred? Try a handful.
What is the impact of millions of gallons of concentrated brine that Halite propose to pump into the sea off Anchorsholme as they carve holes in the salt? What will happen if the geology ruptures a cavern and the project goes sky high tits up? The infrastructure to deal with an explosion doesn’t exist. There are mainly small villages and narrow country lanes in this part of the world. That is providing, of course that no structure damaged in the blast doesn’t block those narrow country lanes and blocks access to the grossly inadequate emergency services.
Oh and the storage capacity that Halite proposes will give a close to zero contribution to keeping the lights on. Selling the gas back to the grid at premium rates will keep bills down how? The man is a moral bankrupt and a weapons grade pudendum
“Gas is also the greenest fossil fuel and helps us lower our carbon emissions, which is important in the UK’s move to a cleaner energy future.”
I agree but what would be the point of pumping gas from underground only to pump it back underground? The only people to benefit from storage is Halite who will buy cheap and sell at a premium rate at great risk to the locals. Halite propose to do it here because back in their native US they would be given very short shrift. You see storing gas in layered salt, most particularly anywhere near a field of brine wells (we have more than a hundred of them), is banned because it is demonstrably unsafe and a threat to life. Is that what Bourne calls stimulating businesses?
And if he really believes that gas is the greenest fossil fuel will he be insisting that the Drax power station will be converted to gas instead of burning CO2 producing wood pellets from felled US forests?
No? Thought not.