Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Govt.: All Your Base Are Belong To Cuadrilla

I complained to my MP Hazel Blears, as I find myself increasingly doing these days, and, as she usually does, she passed my concerns on to a minister in order to get me an answer. The latest one is a big cause for concern and it's something we really need to talk about: the right to own property is being taken away from us — by the Right.

Ms. Blears passed my last rant to Michael Fallon MP of the Dept. of Energy and Climate Change. Now you'd think that with a title like that he'd be more in favour of green solutions, but you'd be wrong. Oh no, he's a fracking fan, and this is what he has to say (irrelevant passages have been omitted):

"The principle of land ownership in the UK is that freehold land entitles the owner to rights at the surface and down to the centre of the earth. However, they do not own the rights to any petroleum within the land, as this is owned by the Crown and leased to operators via a licencing regime."

Got that? You own the land, if there's no oil in it, in which case the oil is owned by the Crown.

Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and oil is carried out at depth, generally over a mile down. At such depth, operations are highly unlikely to have any negative impacts closer to the surface. In order to reach oil and gas, a well might have to pass through land belonging to a number of owners. In order to pass through the land, an operator must obtain the landowner's permission to do so.

Okay, two things:

1. Earthquakes

One tremor of magnitude 2.3 on the Richter scale hit the area on April 1 followed by a second of magnitude 1.4 on May 27 - The Telegraph on fracking in Lancashire

Although fracturing-related earthquakes are chronic, they were thought to be minor. But new research is showing that they can be quite large and damaging. The focus of the study, a 5.7 magnitude quake near Prague, Oklahoma, damaged 14 homes and other structures in the area. - Earthworks: Fracking-related earthquakes

That's right, they can do actual structural damage if the fracking or disposal wells are in or near a fault line. Watch your home insurance go up if you live in Fylde. But that's not all...

2. Wastewater pollution

They're supposed to bury it miles underground, but it's got a nasty habit of creeping back up again.

The EPA recently concluded that fracking in Pavillion, Wyoming likely affected groundwater, linking fracking to groundwater contamination for the first time, and residents have been advised not to drink from their wells due to detected hydrocarbons. - Fracking Wars

The federal Environmental Protection Agency said the underground pipeline spilled about 24,000 barrels, or 1 million gallon, in North Dakota’s thriving oil and gas region. The water, which can be 10 times saltier than seawater and contains salt and fossil fuel condensates, was being piped away from fuel extraction sites for safe disposal. - Oil Price - Huge ND Wastewater Spill Prompts Calls For Fracking Regs

And our Glorious Leaders shrug it off with a smile and a pat on the head for yours truly. "Silly Wendy," they say, "it's miles underground. What harm can it do?"

I'm not in a rush to find out. Fallon continues,

Operators currently prefer to agree a right of access through individual negotiation with the landowner, and there is an existing legal route by which oil and gas operators can apply to the courts for access if the landowner refuses to grant permission. This court procedure means that landowners do not have the ability to ultimately block a development if the court rules against them. If an operator has secured all the other permits (planning permission, environmental permit etc.), we expect that a court would be very likely to grant access, given that the development is likely to be expedient in the national interest.

Oh 'eck. Did he really say this? Yes indeed, "You didn't actually think your freehold title deed means you actually own the land you bought or inherited, do you? Silly person! If the operator can convince us, and the court, that this is in the national interest, all your base are belong to Cuadrilla. The end. And there's nothing you can do about it, pleb."

Needless to say, people afraid of the pollution and other damage to their property are using the planning permission objections procedures and fighting the hell out of this in the courts despite our Glorious Leaders' enthusiasm for the alleged national interest (they mean, "We don't want to be sued under the ISDS provisions in TTIP."). The last paragraph chilled me to the bone:

What the Government is currently considering us whether these existing procedures are fit for purpose, given the potential costs, delays, and uncertainty involved for both operators and landowners. We have not yet made a decision on what actions we may take. If the Government decides that reforms are necessary then we would consult on any proposals.

Yeah, like they did in their last fracking consultation, which was three questions long and conflated dirty fracking with clean geothermal energy. That's their idea of consultation: a derisory sop that leaves us the option to take it or leave it. Well I'm not having it. Damn it, I believe in the rule of law, and this is not the rule of law, it's the rule of corporations, with the Government riding roughshod over the law, making a mockery of democracy.

If you are a homeowner living near locations where fracking is planned, please bear in mind that your title deeds don't entitle you to control what happens on or beneath your land. They're just paper. All your bases are belong to Cuadrilla. Now what are you going to do about it?

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