Fracking firm to start drilling for oil near Balcombe viaduct, Residents fear threat to drinking water supplies as Cuadrilla unveils 3,000ft exploratory oil drill

Reward fracking communities with extra police officers, says IGas by Emily Gosden, May 9, 2013, The Telegraph
Local communities should be won over to shale gas fracking by rewarding them with more teachers in primary schools and more police officers on the beat, the chief executive of explorer IGas has said. … Mr Austin also said that planning permission for conventional oil and gas drilling onshore in the UK had become more difficult due to the controversy around shale gas, which is extracted by fracking. … It has provoked fierce local opposition amid concerns about its environmental impact, the possibility of earth tremors and disruption caused by the operations.

EXCLUSIVE: Cuadrilla to drill exploration well at Balcombe by Mid Sussex Times, May 8, 2013

However, Cuadrilla, has given an “unequivocal assurance” to Balcombe Parish Council that it will not be using fracking at this stage. The latest development was revealed after a delegation from Balcombe Parish Council met with the chief executive of Cuadrilla Resources Ltd, Francis Egan, and Matt Lambert, its Government and Public Affairs director. The meeting, at Cuadrilla’s request, was held last Friday (May 3) at Mid Sussex District Council offices in Haywards Heath. … Cuadrilla now plans to open a dialogue with Balcombe residents and to write to every household. It says it wants to hold a drop-in session, possibly as soon as May 23, and to address some of the scare stories about fracking. Worries have emanated mainly from the USA where fracking for shale gas has released reserves that are now changing the US economy, with gas prices falling by 25 per cent, but where mining practice is less controlled. Some other countries around the world have brought in moratoria on the use of fracking until the implications of the process are more fully understood.

The company, which is already active at a number of sites in Lancashire, Holland and Poland, hopes to find oil in the micrite layer under Lower Stumble, and not gas in shale as has been said previously by various commentators. For the exploration it will drill down 3,000ft and then across horizontally for a further 2,000ft. The horizontal bore will be made at a depth of 2,500ft in a direction between west and northwest under land owned by Balcombe Estate, on whose land Lower Stumble lies. Samples of rock will be extracted with a 7.5 per cent to 15 per cent solution of hydrochloric acid being used to stimulate the rock. Cuadrilla says the solution is non-hazardous.

Cuadrilla is also proposing to drill down 200ft into the acquifer for what it describes as a small water monitoring well. This will be done any day now before the main exploratory drilling activities start in June and which will take a further eight weeks. The exploration process will necessitate about 60 HGV movements for delivery and removal of the rig, each taking one week, and about two a day while drilling is being carried out. The company G4S is going to operate security at the site on behalf of Cuadrilla. [Emphasis added]

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Failure to bring charges in Jimmy Mubenga case ‘perverse’, says peer, Former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham calls for inquest into death of detainee who was restrained on flight by Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, July 20, 2012,
G4S initially said Jimmy Mubenga, a 46-year-old being returned to Angola, had been taken ill on the flight. A former chief inspector of prisons has condemned the decision not to bring charges against three G4S guards over the death of a detainee as “perverse”, insisting a senior coroner should now oversee an inquest. … The Home Office and G4S initially said Mubenga, a 46-year-old being returned to Angola, had been taken ill on the flight on 12 October 2010. However, following an investigation by the Guardian, which tracked down witnesses who said the detainee had been complaining of difficulty breathing when he was being restrained by the guards, and shouting “they are going to kill me”, the guards were arrested and questioned on suspicion of manslaughter. “Passengers reported hearing Mr Mubenga cry out that he could not breathe and that the guards were killing him. There had been Home Office warnings to G4S in 2006 about the dangers of using [restraint techniques that might lead to] positional asphyxia.” The peer said there were parallels to be drawn with another case in which G4S staff restrained a person in their custody who died. “There had been stringent criticisms by the coroner in the case of Gareth Myatt, a 15-year-old who died in Rainsbrook secure training centre following the use of similar procedures for restraint by G4S guards,” he said. “He, too, had called out that he could not breathe before he died.”

Fracking firm to start drilling for oil near Balcombe viaduct by Bill Gardner, May 9, 2013, The Argus
Cuadrilla has announced plans to dig a fracking exploration well near the Balcombe aqueduct this summer. … Moves by the same company to exploit the unconventional fuel in Lancashire were put on hold after hydraulic fracturing caused two small earthquakes in 2011. However Cuadrilla, has assured Balcombe Parish Council that it will not be using fracking at this stage. Instead, the company plans to drill and take samples of the underground rock in a vertical well 3,000 feet deep. If oil or gas is discovered, it will only be allowed to flow “for a short time”, the company said. The work is expected to take no longer than four months, with planning permission set to expire in September. A report by Balcombe Parish Council said: “BPC asked for, and was given, an unequivocal assurance that current plans do not involve any fracking on the site.” The authority said it made it categorically clear to Cuadrilla that it was committed to opposing the use of fracking after a poll of village residents showed them to be overwhelmingly against the process.

If Cuadrilla finds oil or gas, a series of “extensive technical, environmental and public consultations” would take place before any further decisions are made. Vanessa Vine, a campaigner from Frack Free Sussex, said the company was “trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes”. She said: “We don’t want them anywhere near our village or anywhere else. If they find anything, they’ll frack it. They’re not just drilling for fun.” Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said: “Although this summer’s work will be unobtrusive, we’re fully aware that local people will have many questions about our plans and we’ll do our best to answer all of them. “During the coming months, we will discuss our plans with residents and they will be able to visit the site to see for themselves what our work involves.” [Emphasis added]

Fracking firm’s drilling plan unnerves West Sussex villagers, Residents fear threat to drinking water supplies as Cuadrilla unveils 3,000ft exploratory oil drill by Jennifer Rankin, May 9, 2013, The Guardian
The only company to have fracked for shale gas in the UK, Cuadrilla, is to drill for oil in a West Sussex village from next month. The energy firm has said the eight-week exploratory drill near Balcombe will not involve fracking, the process of blasting liquid into rock to free natural gas trapped inside, but nonetheless the planned 3,000ft well in the local woodland of Lower Stumble, near Ardingly reservoir, looks set to hit a wall of opposition in this Conservative heartland. “It seems such an inappropriate site – close to a water course, close to a viaduct, close to a railway and close to a rural road. What has it got going for it as an oil site?” asked Kevin Bottomley, a recently elected parish councillor. Sarah Hirst, another resident, said: “I’m really nervous about it. We already have a lot of traffic in the village and the roads are not big. The children all walk down here to school and it is already quite scary. I am trying not to be ‘not in my backyard’ but it could affect our drinking water and therefore I don’t think it should go ahead.”

A poll by Balcombe parish council last year found that 82% of those surveyed were opposed to fracking, fearing noisy trucks and water contamination. The “nimby”‘ charge is a sensitive issue for the local councillors. “There is going to be some industrialisation of our rural community, which we are unlikely to welcome. There are no benefits to the village and there are possible downsides,” said Rodney Saunders, vice-chair of the parish council. … Katy Dunn of the No Fracking in Balcombe campaign, is convinced Cuadrilla plans to start fracking. “They are a hydraulic fracturing company and you can’t get shale gas or oil out of shale rock without fracking,” she said, pointing to the company’s 2010 planning application that refers to “pumping water under pressure into the natural cracks of the shale formation”. Cuadrilla says that document is irrelevant, but has not ruled out a future application for fracking. The company insists its summer drill will be “unobtrusive” and has promised to discuss plans with residents and allow them to visit the site. A spokesman for the local Conservative MP, Francis Maude, said he was watching the issue carefully. “If Cuadrilla think they can just waltz into the village and do this they have another thing coming,” says Dunn. “People will take non-violent direct action,” she says, predicting a blockade at the site. Others sound a sceptical note. “That won’t happen. All that people do here is put up little signs saying ‘don’t frack here’. You won’t get people with placards, it is just not like that here,” says one villager, who declined to give her name as she worried about antagonising the anti-fracking groups. “It is too late to expect to stop oil drilling,” says parish councillor-elect Bottomley. “What I am hoping is that we can make sure we have some safeguards in place and actively police the conduct of the drilling companies.” [Emphasis added]

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CETA and fracking report makes an impact in Europe by Stuart Trew, May 9, 2013,

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