New concerns voiced at fracking meeting

Shale gas fracking expert Mike Hill (below) talks to the meeting at the United Reformed Church hall in St Annes.

Shale gas fracking expert Mike Hill (below) talks to the meeting at the United Reformed Church hall in St Annes.

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AN engineer who spent two years researching a controversial drilling technique says the method must be regulated to protect health and safety.

More than 90 people attended a meeting at St Annes United Reformed Church hall as Michael Hill, a former advisor to Fylde Council, warned against the dangers.

Shale gas fracking expert Mike Hill.

Shale gas fracking expert Mike Hill.

The technique involves drilling thousands of metres into the earth to shoot water and chemicals underground and extract gas from cracking rock – a process known as fracking.

But Mr Hill, who is also a resident in St Annes, says the authorities are not regulating wells on the Fylde coast and the public’s health is being put at risk.

The father-of-two formed his own group to inspect, test and verify Cuadrilla – the company behind the site on Anna’s Road, Westby – because he says it is not being checked as rigorously as it should be.

He said: “We have got to suffer for the benefit of energy security in the UK and for a huge revenue to the Government. If Cuadrilla is planning on staying here they have to get their money back somehow (by drilling).

“But without the correct regulations we will be in serious trouble on the Fylde coast.”

The campaigner has met with the Government, Environment Agency and British Geological Survey over the last two years.

He is now calling for councillors to ensure Cuadrilla is carrying out a robust inspection regime maintained by random site visits.

This includes monitoring the amount of dangerous gas leaking out of the well and the storage and disposal of the chemicals produced by fracking.

Mr Hill also highlighted the dangers of flaring – the process where gas is ignited in a chimney as it leaves the well.

He added: “What I want is to check that when Cuadrilla say they are going to do X, Y and Z, they do X, Y and Z.

“All of the checks should be taking place to make sure they have good well integrity.”

Mr Hill also listened to the audience’s concerns.

Ron Marsham, from St Annes, said: “I have serious worries about the pollution which comes from them. I would be very unhappy about flares being set up but it’s unavoidable.”

John Wareing, from Anchorsholme, added: “We are all governed by Lancashire County Council and they should have given us a referendum on this.

“There are a million people who live in this area and close by and it appears there has been a total disregard for our views.”

Julie Daniels, of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF), added: “This information makes people nervous and I want to know why there is no onshore regulation.

“Regulation would be a viable step but going without it isn’t right for the residents of Lancashire.”

Cuadrilla has repeatedly maintained it will adhere to all regulation and monitoring and says its drilling and extraction techniques met the highest safety standards.

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