Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Planning Breaches: Letter to Council

The reply to this letter is here.


To: Chief Executive
East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Dear Mr. Pearson,

We the undersigned request that as the responsible planning authority, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council immediately investigate the breaches of the planning conditions detailed in the Notice of Decision, report to the Planning Committee and in the meantime stop any test drilling at Crawberry Hill until -

i) Rathlin give proof that they are fully compliant with planning conditions and 
ii) A detailed monitoring regime and schedule of inspection visits by the ERYC, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency is agreed and published.
(References: Report to the Planning Committee ERYC 13th September 2012 Application for Construction of a temporary drilling site etc 12/02945/STPLF, and
Notice of Decision, Town and Country Planning Act, 1990,
Full Planning Permission for Rathlin Energy UK Ltd18th September 2012)

1.Background to the this request

Unconventional High Volume, High Pressure Hydraulic Fracturing known as Fracking

1.1 Fracking at Crawberry Hill

A specific condition of the planning permission was included following representations from local residents,
15.Hydraulic fracturing (also known as “hydro-fracking” or “fracking”) is expressly not permitted under the development hereby approved.The condition is imposed in the interests of groundwater protection and the broader protection of the amenities of residents. (NOD Condition 15)

However, in a later application to the Environment Agency submitted by Rathlin Energy UK Ltd on 16th January 2014 it is stated that as part of the test drilling Rathlin will
inject liquids into the well….. for “well stimulation” or “hydraulic fracturing” purposes..”  (Section 9.4.5 page 10)

In addition Rathlin state

The activity on site relates to the exploration for hydrocarbons from the Crawberry Hill 1 wellsite. Specifically, this will involve perforation of the existing well-casing to perform tests within the Bowland Shale, Namurian Sandstone and Kirkham Abbey formations. These tests may require the injection of water, some of which may return to the surface. (EA 9.2.1 page 8)

This is a reference to the exploratory hydraulic fracturing of the Bowland shales used elsewhere in the UK by companies such as Cuadrilla or I-gas who are open about their search for shale gas in the same Bowland shales.

Mr Ian Crane, with 20 years experience as a senior executive in the oil industry, is ready to give evidence that the Bowland shales are known to be “tight”. Like similar gas shales in the USA where fracking has been used extensively, gas can only be extracted by hydraulic fracturing for testing and production purposes.

Further understanding of Rathlin’s intentions may be gained from the current installation of fracking pumps at the West Newton test site.

In contrast to the statements by Rathlin as part of public consultation and subsequently, the papers submitted by Rathlin to the High Court hearing of 29th July 2014 included the lease agreement with Philip Ellerington which states
Rathlin has an option at any time to require the Second Claimanat to grant Rathlin a lease of Crawberry Hill in order to construct and operate a long term production facility at Crawberry Hill. The lease would be for a term of 25 years with an option to renew for a further 25 years.”(Witness statement of Tom Selkirk. 22/07/2014. Para.6. Page 2. Copy attached)

Rathlin are not currently testing, including the use of fracking, at Crawberry Hill but intend to do so now they have possession of the site. They are therefore not currently in breach of Condition 15 but are making preparation to do so.
Given the emerging data and analysis of long term serious health impacts from fracking in the USA and the detailed reports of the failure of hydraulic fracking at Preese Hall in 2011 we urge a review of the planning permission given to Rathlin because of the risks posed to residents of the East Riding and refer to our European Convention Human Right Article 8.

2. Groundwater Management

2.1 Breach of Planning Conditions 5.9 and 5.10

Condition 5.9. States
There shall be no discharge of foul or contaminated drainage from the site into either the ground water or any surface waters, whether direct or via soakaways.” ( NOD page3)

Condition 5.10. States
The drainage system of the bund shall be sealed with no discharge to any watercourse, land or underground strata. Associated pipework should be located above ground and protected from accidental damage. All filling points and tank overflow pipe outlets should be detailed to discharge into the bund.” (NOD page3)

The attached photograph shows there is no bund on the eastern boundary of the main drilling site so if we experience a severe weather event similar to recent storms in nearby Cottingham or Market Weighton there would be a high probability of run-off onto the pea and wheat crops in adjacent fields.(Attached A.0)

The photographs also show leakage from the storage tank used to receive surplus water from the drainage ditches on the drilling pad.(Attached 1-5) This leaks into a very small bund around the tank which does not meet the specification of 110% capacity of the tank.

While the current position is that rainwater is likely to be the main run-off, the concern must be that without full conformity with the planning permission and regular monitoring by the planning authority (ERYC) , the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water, the commencement of drilling and testing does pose significant risk to local crops and the aquifer.

The well testing will involve thousands of gallons of hydrochloric acid and other chemicals. Rathlin’s application to the Environment Agency acknowledges that drilling fluids and any water released from deep underground by drilling will be likely to contain Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMs) as well as solid radioactive scale from the equipment. It is an obvious risk if spills and leaks mean that rainwater can wash these contaminants onto farmland and into the aquifer.

(Such a spillage has already been reported to Birds Eye, the buyer of the peas harvested at West Newton. Philip Ellerington cites his contract with Birds Eye as the reason for urgent repossession of his land in his High Court witness statement dated 21/07/2014)

The Environment Agency, gave permission to Rathlin to drill at Crawberry Hill on 2nd May 2014.
These include a Permit (EPR/BB3000KC) for mining waste operations at the wellsite, namely the management of extractive waste from prospecting for mineral resources. The permit also allows flaring of waste gas arising from onshore oil and gas operations as Permit (PB3930DV) for disposal of radioactive waste.” (Tom Selkirk. Witness statement 22/07/2014 Para 28. Pages 8 and 9)

Further detail about waste is given in Rathlin’s application to the Environment Agency dated 16/01/2014.

9.2.1 How do you plan to accumulate radioactive waste?
The activity on site relates to the exploration for hydrocarbons from the Crawberry Hill 1 wellsite. Specifically, this will involve perforation of the existing well-casing to perform tests within the Bowland Shale, Namurian Sandstone and Kirkham Abbey formations. These tests may require the injection of water, some of which may return to the surface. Additionally, water naturally present in the target formation has the potential to flow to the surface. Contact with the target formations mean that waste (produced water) may contain low levels of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material(NORM) and so accumulation of radioactive waste is unavoidable. There is also potential for scales forming within associated pipe network. The waste produced waters arriving at the surface will be piped to a device which separate any hydrocarbons present from the produced waters. The produced waters will then be piped directly into, and accumulated in, dedicated storage tanks, from which they are removed by road at suitable intervals for disposal to an authorised waste disposal facility. Equipment found to be contaminated with scales will be removed from service and stored in a designated quarantine area to await removal from site ( following characterisation).

The application goes on to request a maximum storage period on site of 3 months while the waste is tested and further indicates a maximum volume of waste storage of 125 cubic metres.
(Crawberry Hill B9 Application Form 16/01/2014 9.2.2 and 9.2.3 page 8)
The volume of the current, leaking, storage tank for groundwater is 24 cubic metres so Rathlin are requesting 5 similar storage tanks for radioactive waste.

2.2 Lack of routine monitoring at Crawberry Hill

The Protectors at Crawberry received a letter from Martin Christmas of the Environment Agency (attached A.1 ) and Mr Crane replied on the 22nd June ( attached A.2 ).

On the weekend of 19th-20th July there was heavy rainfall. Mr Crane noted the water from the drainage ditch on the well site was up to the level of the overflow pipe. He opened the valve to drain some of the water in the ditch into the overflow tank. It quickly became apparent that the 24 cubic metre relief tank is not fit for purpose. The tank had a leak at the base of the tank (photos attached A.3- A.5 ) and at the seal between the overflow pipe and the tank.

Jon Mager contacted the Planning office on the 21st July to enquire about Crawberry Hill. He asked if the case office, Shirley Ross, had visited the drilling site recently. He was told that Mrs Ross was on leave and that the details of monitoring visits were kept by her.

The water was leaking straight onto the soil so Mr Crane shut off the overflow valve and tried to call Martin Christmas at the Environment Agency. Martin Christmas returned the call on the morning of Thursday 24th July (call recorded). Having explained the situation regarding leaks Mr Crane invited him to visit the Crawberry Hill site to conduct his own inspection; Martin Christmas advised that he wasn’t too concerned because it would only be rainwater.

On the 30th July Jon Mager contacted Mrs Ross to catch up on planning issues on her return from leave. Mrs Ross confirmed that she was responsible for monitoring but had not visited for some while.
Mr Mager then outlined the concerns about leaks; Mrs Ross replied that the Environment Agency carried out regular checks and was surprised to be told that this was not the case.

2.3 Summary

In summary Rathlin have not conformed to the strict conditions laid down to ensure that groundwater contamination is avoided. There is no established routine inspection of the ERYC or EA permissions to drill.
Paragraph 9.4.3 of the report to planning committee refers to the need “to protect the groundwater resource” (Page 347). Since 12th May 2014 the Protectors at Crawberry Hill have effectively protected the groundwater resource. Now that Rathlin have regained access to the site there is an immediate risk to the groundwater from drilling chemicals and radioactive waste unless the required safety precautions relating to groundwater leakage from the site are dealt with.
In addition monitoring arrangements are clearly not effective and not coordinated. This is why we request an agreement between East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency about the regularity of inspection visits and a published timetable. In addition, given the vulnerability of the aquifer we would also expect an undertaking to conduct unannounced inspections with full public reports of the findings to reassure residents.

3. Temporary Nature of the exploratory drilling in the Current Planning Permission

3.1 Temporary nature of exploratory drilling

There are numerous references to the temporary nature of the exploratory drilling at Crawberry Hill in the report to Planning Committee of 13th September 2012.
  1. The title of the report “Application for Construction of a temporary drilling site etc…” Page329
  2. Introduction –“a temporary well site” (Para 1.2 and 1.3 page 330)
  3. Case on behalf of the Applicant “proposing to construct a temporary well site” “The temporary development is required….”(Para 7.3 and 7.6 page 342)
  4. Recommendation. “The site preparation and construction, drilling and testing activities approved by this permission shall be carried out for a limited period of 24 months…
This condition is imposed because this is a temporary permission to allow a period of exploration and testing. (Para12.2 page 352)
  1. Reason for Decision “This development proposes a temporary well site for the purposes of testing for petroleum……”
The development is considered acceptable in landscape terms, subject to a temporary consent and full restoration of the site.” (Page 360)

Rathlin may argue that they presented their longer term objectives. In the Case on behalf of the Applicant planning officers state, “If however, commercial quantities of petroleum are present, then the applicant will suspend the well pending the outcome of a decision on a subsequent planning application for the production of petroleum.” ( Para 7.4, page 342)

It is clear that the full report did not acknowledge this because of the repeated reference to the temporary nature of the exploratory work and the special time limit of 24 months instead of the normal three years.

In any case elected members supported the recommendations and this is recorded in the Notice of Decision.

Reason for Decision “This development proposes a temporary well site for the purposes of testing for petroleum……”
The development is considered acceptable in landscape terms, subject to a temporary consent and full restoration of the site.” (NOD 18th September 2012. Page 9.)

3.2 Rathlin’s long term plans

A claim for possession of property was served on Protectors resident at the wooden construction on the access road to the drilling pad on Thursday 24th July 2014 following occupation by a number of people which started on 13th June 2014.
In the accompanying witness statement by Tom Selkirk, Country Manager for Rathlin, it is stated,
Rathlin has an option at any time to require the Second Claimant to grant Rathlin a lease of Crawberry Hill in order to construct and operate a long term production facility at Crawberry Hill. The lease would be for a term of 25 years with an option to renew for a further 25 years.” (Selkirk Para 9. Page 3)

The second claimant is Philip Ellerington, the landowner, who corroborates this statement in his witness statement.

3.3 Summary

This was the first time that Rathlin’s long term intentions and plans became public. The plan is consistent with the stated strategy of the Canadian parent company, Connaught Oil and Gas, which, in its website reported its licence to develop oil and gas resources in the Humber Basin, claiming that potential reserves could be similar to the North Sea.

Rathlin has never published the link between the “temporary, exploratory” drilling sites at West Newton and Crawberry Hill and the strategy for 50 years of gas production from these proposed “production” sites.
Had these facts been known at the time of initial public consultations it is certain that many more and detailed objections would have been raised by individuals and local town and parish councils.
This is why we are calling for a stop to the present planning permission which was based on a lack of full, relevant information.
Also, there can be no doubt that it is in the public interest for East Riding of Yorkshire Council to ensure full formal consultation before any decision about the extension of planning permission for a further 2 years.

4. Traffic Management

4.1 The Traffic Management Plan

Extensive consultation took place with the East Riding Traffic Management team, the local Police and Parish Councils about traffic to the drilling site. Local residents frequently drew attention to the need to avoid vehicle traffic through adjacent villages.

Rathlin provided a traffic management plan which achieved minimal impact on local roads and villages by ensuring that all traffic was directed to approach and leave the site by the route running east towards Killingwoldgraves roundabout on the A1079. To ensure this a sign was erected to indicate No Right Turn at the site exit.

This sign and the traffic management plan has been ignored by all tanker convoys visiting the site.
The No Right Turn sign has been removed by ERYC staff.
Two way traffic is in place on the road and it is therefore urgent to establish that the Traffic Management Plan is adhered to before deliveries to the site are resumed.

Development shall be carried out in accordance with the Approved Traffic Management Plan.” NOD 12.page5)

This requirement will become all the more important once large convoys of supply lorries and equipment bring drilling and equipment onto the site. It will be extremely important when tanks containing acids and other chemical travel to the site; similarly local residents will want reassurance about the safe arrangements for transport by large numbers of tankers with radioactive waste on board.

4.2 Summary

East Riding of Yorkshire Council must ensure that the agreed Traffic Management Plan is put in place before any resumption of activity on site by Rathlin.

Please acknowledge receipt ... but note that each of the signatories below wish to receive written confirmation of receipt and an urgent response from you.
Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

[12 residents from the surrounding area]

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