Tim Gavell looks at the impact shale gas drilling could have on jobs locally.
BUSINESS leaders and political figures will be watching closely to ensure the Fylde coast gets the full benefit of the Government’s decision to press on with shale gas drilling tests.
While some are cautious about the environmental impact and benefits the industry – led locally by Cuadrilla Resources – might bring, others are relishing the prospect of an economic boost.
Steve Pye (right) from the Federation of Small Businesses in Blackpool, welcomed the announcement and said it had enormous potential to help the Fylde’s economy – an opportunity which it must seize.
He said: “We need to get going on this as soon as possible. This is going to create an alternative industry to tourism for this part of the world. For every job the gas producers create, there will be a knock on effect of up to four other jobs in the supply chain and the service sector.
“It will attract highly educated and qualified people to the area with the resulting impact on spending power and upward pressure on house prices.
“Cuadrilla were talking to Blackpool and The Fylde College and UCLAN about potentially setting up courses to train workers in the sector and about making this part of the country a centre of excellence for training.”
Mr Pye (above) added that if the local authorities and business leaders got in gear there could be huge potential for the construction industry, conference centres, new housing and engineering.
Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council, said: “Following Mr Davey’s announcement we are confident the appropriate monitoring will be undertaken.
“With the decision relating only to the exploration and testing for shale gas, we will await with interest a final decision on what happens beyond that. Should fracking subsequently become an industry on the Fylde coast, we will be seeking to maximise benefits for our local communities, particularly employment.”
MP for Blackpool South Gordon Marsden, in a reference to the US gold rush of the nineteenth century, added: “I don’t think this decision will signal a new Klondike.”
He added that Cuadrilla had said many jobs would be created but they needed to back up those claims with evidence.
He said: “They need to show how it has created jobs elsewhere and they need to show Fylde people will have access to those jobs.”
Mr Marsden said he welcomed the setting up of the regulatory body and that it was vital the six conditions shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint MP demanded be in place before further exploration was allowed.
He said: “It must be safe and environmentally sound. Up until now it had not shown to be. The Government’s own climate change committee has effectively de-bunked the excessive and hyperbolic claims made about jobs and amount of gas production. The amount of recoverable gas will be much smaller than many of the claims made and it may not bring a large fall in energy bills for householders. What this country needs is a mixed solution of responses to our energy needs.”
Gareth Vickers asks protesters about the big announcement
PROTESTERS today said the green light for shale gas exploration was deeply disappointing – but warned it is not the end of their fight to see the process stopped.
Gayzer Frackman, of anti–fracking group Frack Free Fylde, said the “gloves are off” for campaigners, after Energy Secretary Ed Davey gave the green light to the process.
He added: “Since I started campaigning, there has been a smokescreen – we have never truly known who we are dealing with and where to challenge. Now we do know, the gloves are off.
“We have a body, in the form of the Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil, which we can confront. We know what we are up against. We will come together and challenge fracking in Fylde.
“We’ve got huge support on this from Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.”
Anti-fracking campaigners have previously raised concerns surrounding the integrity of the wells, water pollution and seismic activity which they claim has affected housing. They are also worried fracking could have an adverse impact on tourism.
Tina Rothery (above), spokesman for Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF), said protesters will fight in court if they must do to halt shale gas exploration
She added: “We do not consider the fight to be over. We are exploring every avenue. We are prepared to bring legal action and Friends of the Earth have a legal team who will work for us in fighting this.
“We are deeply disappointed by the decision.”
New controls to reduce the chance of seismic risks introduced by Mr Davey include a review before fracking begins to assess seismic risk and the existence of faults, a fracking plan submission to the Department for Energy and Climate Change showing how seismic risks will be addressed, seismic monitoring to be carried out before, during and after fracking and a new traffic light system to categorise seismic activity and direct appropriate responses.
A trigger mechanism will stop fracking operations in certain conditions.
Helen Rimmer, from Friends of the Earth, said: “We’re very concerned the Government are rushing ahead with this.
“We think the potential impact on climate change has not been investigated enough. We know communities on the Fylde are going to be fighting this and for us this isn’t the end, it’s the start.”
Chairman of Blackpool Green Party Philip Mitchell said the potential harm which could be caused to Fylde in the coming years was “unimaginable”.
He added: “There are growing concerns about the risks of fracking that make Ed Davey’s assurances on community and environmental safety sound hollow.
“Gas companies are now rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of getting their hands on gas by breaking up rock beneath our feet over an incredible depth of a mile. The impact that and the subsequent harmful waste products could have on our communities and countryside over the next few decades is unimaginable.”
July 2010 - Cuadrilla Resources begins tests at sites in Lancashire.
March 2011 - Shale gas drilling begins near Blackpool.
April 2011 - First tremor detected - 2.3 on Richter scale.
May 2011 - Second tremor detected - 1.5 on Richter scale. Drilling is suspended.
April 2012 - Report released which confirms that earth tremor was caused by fracking.
December 2012 - Chancellor George Osborne announces plans for tax breaks for shale gas companies.
December 2012 - Exploration given the go-ahead by Energy Secretary Ed Davey.