Local residents hit back at Cuadrilla fracking plans

Oil and gas company Cuadrilla felt the wrath of furious local residents at a public meeting to discuss its proposed plans to drill test for shale gas in the Home Counties.

During the meeting, held in West Sussex last week (January 11), Cuadrilla’s chief executive Mark Miller met with about 200 local residents and anti-fracking protestors to discuss plans for fracking work in the area.

This follows reports that Cuadrilla had been granted hydraulic fracturing licenses for sites in Surrey, Kent and Sussex, which Cuardilla confirmed to edieEnergy, although said it had no plans to carry out work in the “immediate future”.

Mr Miller, who attended the meeting to explain Cuadrilla’s plans to test for hydrocarbons under Sussex, met with stiff criticism from residents who argued that the controversial process, which involves forcing large volumes of chemical solution using a high pressure drilling technique into rocks to release oil or gas, can cause water supply contamination.

This is a view shared by former US Department for Environmental Conservation (DEC) environmental engineer Paul Hetzler, who also recently warned against fracking work near New York, saying it “will” cause water pollution.

Speaking in the meeting, Mr Miller said while water contamination has occurred in the US following fracking work that “drilling and fracturing for natural gas is safe, adding that if done correctly “environmental incidents are rare.

British Geological Survey professor Mike Stephenson, has also supported the claim, saying that most geologists consider it a “pretty safe activity” as the risks associated with it are low.

According to Mr Stephenson, the distance between groundwater supplies -around 40-50 metres below the surface – and the deep sources of gas in the shale a mile or two underground, made it unlikely methane would leak into water as a result of fracking.

“Most geologists are pretty convinced that it is extremely unlikely contamination would occur,” he added.

However, anti-fracking protestors have also argued that fracking can cause earthquakes, and Cuadrilla was forced to admit two minor tremors were caused as a result of its work in Blackpool last June.

Meanwhile, the Green Party has argued the Government should be working to encourage energy saving, rather than supporting processes such as fracking.

Green Part spokesperson on energy, cllr Andrew Cooper, said: “Saving energy in homes is much more important than risky industries like shale gas, and would create many more jobs.

“Our government talks about saving energy in homes, but then we drill when we should be reducing fossil fuels. Our government’s not so much green as it’s got the wrong priorities.”

A podcast of the meeting can be heard here.

Carys Matthews

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