MOTION: SHALE GAS FRACKING
Proposed by Councillor Mark Johnston
Seconded by Councillor Dave Mitchell
Council notes with concern that:
(1) Mining company Cuadrillo Resources is undertaking test drilling for shale gas deposits near Blackpool in Lancashire. They are using a technique called hydraulic fracturing; an American technology known as 'fracking', controversial because it involves drilling dozens of wells over a relatively small area and pumping hazardous chemicals underground at high pressures to fracture the rock and release the gas. Drilling was recently suspended following earthquakes on the Fylde coast.
(2) IGas Energy has licenses, over more than 700km2 between Manchester and the Mersey / Dee estuaries, to extract gas from onshore underground coal seams covering land from West Manchester to North Wales, including locations in Liverpool and Wirral. The company has estimated that 1.95 trillion cubic feet of shale gas may lie trapped under Wirral alone. A new licence round is planned by DECC this year.
(3) IGas has announced a framework agreement with Peel Environmental Ltd that gives access to coal bed methane production sites within Peel’s land holdings in the North West. As part of this agreement, Peel will give unlimited access to their entire land holdings in the North West of England for the purpose of identifying those sites suitable for IGas operations.
(4) In May, amid environmental concerns, the French Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion to ban hydraulic fracturing.
(5) There is a lack of understanding and evidence in relation to the environmental impact and safety of shale gas 'fracking'. There is also uncertainty concerning the adequacy of regulatory powers and oversight.
(6) The Co-operative commissioned study from the University of Manchester's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, 'Shale gas: a provisional assessment of climate change and environmental impacts' reported a number of conclusions in relation to the extraction and use of shale gas, including:
- A significant risk of ground and surface water contamination by the hazardous chemicals involved in extraction.
- The requirement for high volumes of water in shale gas extraction could put considerable pressure on local water supplies.
- The likelihood that close proximity of extraction sites to population centres would create additional pressure on scarce land-use resources through increased risk of intrusive noise pollution, truck movements and land use demands that could arise.
- The likelihood that exploitation of this additional fossil fuel resource will increase net carbon emissions.
- The risk that exploitation of shale gas will delay major investments in zero- and very low-carbon technologies.
(a) States its opposition to any application by IGas or other companies to carry out shale gas or coal gas methane testing or extraction in Wirral until such time as the Council is satisfied as to the safety of the process and that the risk of adverse environmental impacts have been fully addressed.
(b) Requests the appropriate chief officer prepare a report for the Planning Committee, the Economy and Regeneration and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committees to aid members in better understanding the council's responsibility and regulatory role in relation to gas exploration.
(c) Further requests the Economy and Regeneration OSC to include a study of the potential economic impacts of shale gas exploration and exploitation in Wirral in its workplan, including whether the impact of a proliferation of shale gas drilling on the Liverpool City Region will adversely impact on it becoming a leading area for the manufacture of low carbon technologies and development of a green economy.
Having applied the guillotine in accordance with Standing Order 7(8) the Council did not debate this matter.
Resolved (unanimously) – That the motion be approved.