Date published: 20 December 2018 – Rochdale Online
Frack Free Kirkholt and Balderstone
An anti-fracking campaign has been launched by local Liberal Democrats.
Lib Dem campaigns officer for Balderstone and Kirkholt, Mark Alcock, and the party launched the campaign – FRACK FREE Kirkholt, Balderstone and Rochdale – after becoming aware a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence had been granted.
Hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – is a process used to extract gas locked in rock formations thousands of metres below the Earth’s surface.
A mixture of chemicals, sand and water is injected deep underground at high pressure to fracture the rocks and release shale gas: this can happen anywhere in the licence area.
The controversial process has been linked to earthquakes, groundwater pollution, and gas and chemical leaks, amongst other detrimental effects, such as the wells used blighting the environment.
A Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) to explore the ‘SD81’ block of land under Whitworth, Norden, Heywood, Castleton and the majority of Rochdale, including Balderstone and Kirkholt,) was granted in September 2016.
PEDLs grant exclusivity to the licence owner – oil and gas exploration & production company Hutton Energy PLC Ltd, and their equity holders, Coronation (Oil and Gas) Ltd – to allow them to explore and extract hydrocarbons (including shale gas, shown in blue on the map) until 2049.
The licence itself does not grant automatic permission for investigative operations.
Planning permission and environmental permits must be given before any drilling, fracking or production can take place.
Mr Alcock said: “We can’t let the government and the fracking industry just walk into our area and start fracking with all the issues that causes.
“I have real concerns that fracking will have detrimental effects, but I’ve been accused of being a ‘nimby’ for opposing fracking in our area.”
He added: “Shale gas is neither needed nor wanted. The UK government’s commitment to go all out for shale gas and impose this on the people of Kirkholt, Balderstone and Rochdale is wrong and particularly to impose the risks on the people in our area, is nothing short of crazy.
“I believe that local people fighting fracking have well-founded concerns for our health and our local environment, based on evidence from countries like the US and Australia.
“The French and Bulgarian Governments and the US state of Vermont have banned it, the National Trust has a presumption against it on National Trust land, and the United Nations Environment Program says even if fracking is done properly, it may cause unavoidable environmental impacts.”
Leader of the Lib Dems, Councillor Andy Kelly has fully backed the local campaign, saying: “It’s just wrong that fracking is being imposed on our area without the public having a say in it.”
John Searle, Director of Economy at Rochdale Borough Council said: “In common with other Greater Manchester Councils, policy regarding the determination of planning applications for mineral or other exploration is set out within the Greater Manchester Minerals Plan and is not contained within the council’s own development plan.
“To date there have been no planning applications submitted for the purposes of fracking or exploratory drilling within the borough.
“However, any planning applications would be advertised widely and would be dealt with in accordance with relevant local and national planning policies applicable at that time.”
Councillor Kelly is also to ask the leader of Rochdale Borough Council, Allen Brett, what he thinks of a report that Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) is investing £1 billion in fracking and fossil fuel companies.
The GMPF is the UK’s biggest local authority pension fund and has over £1.2 billion directly invested in fossil fuel companies that engage in fracking, coal mining and oil and gas extraction.
The Fund’s annual report showed that they invested in Schlumberger Holdings, the company drilling for shale gas on behalf of Cuadrilla in Lancashire.
Councillor Kelly added: “I think this is unethical as the council should not be investing in these controversial industries: this could also put the council in conflict if it was to oppose any fracking applications that come forward for our area.
“You can’t be investing in fracking and opposing it at the same time.”
At Cuadrilla’s site on the Fylde coast, where fracking for shale started for the first time in seven years on 15 October, reports of over 30 earth tremors measuring up to 1.1 on the Richter scale occurred within the first 14 days.
On 11 December, nine tremors were detected at the same site within 90 minutes, with the largest tremor measuring a magnitude of 1.5, the largest detected at the site since monitoring began, according to the BGS database.
Addressing the tremors, a spokesperson for Cuadrilla said: “This occurred after hydraulic fracturing had finished for the day. According to recent research by the University of Liverpool, the impact [of the 1.5 tremor] would be like dropping a melon.
“Micro seismic events such as these result in tiny movements that are way below anything that would be felt at surface, much less cause any harm or damage. Without the sophisticated monitoring in place at Cuadrilla, they would not be detected.”
Cuadrilla paused and continued to monitor micro seismicity for at least the next 18 hours, in line with regulations. Well integrity was checked and verified.
Hutton Energy and the Greater Manchester Pensions Fund have been contacted for comment.