Fylde MP speaks out against appeal to raise frack tremor safety limit

Fylde MP Mark Menzies
Fylde MP Mark Menzies

Fylde MP Mark Menzies has said that there should be no change to the so-called traffic light system to protect against earth tremors caused by fracking.

He was speaking in a House of Commons debate called by him over the Government’s plans to fast track exploratory drilling of shale gas wells.

His comments came as national newspapers carried stories saying that Cuadrilla, the firm which is test fracking at Preston New Road near Little Plumpton, has called for the safety limit of 0.5 ML to be raised to 2ML (local magnitude).

The the Oil and Gas Authority’s traffic light system designates a red event, where fracking must stop for 18 hours, as being when there is a tremor of more than 0.5ML.

A total of 32 micro-seismic events have so far been recorded since Cuadrilla started fracking with the largest being of 1.1ML.

The British Geological Survey has reported that the 1.1ML incident had been felt by a resident locally. Its report states that the person was in a caravan at Maple Farm. Maple farm is the base for opposition to fracking in the area.

Cuadrilla’s chief executive Francis Egan has been reported to have said that the strict limits are making it extremely challenging for the industry, which could be in danger of being “choked” before any gas is produced.

Cuadrilla has said: "The authors of the report (The Oil and Gas Authority) upon which the current seismic traffic light system is based were clear that the threshold value of 0.5-magnitude could be adjusted upwards over time."

The report does indeed say: "This level may be adjusted upward if actual experience shows this can be done without compromising the effectiveness of the controls."

Minister Claire Perry said in response to an MP’s question in the House on October 16: “I can absolutely confirm that I am not considering weakening the monitoring controls on seismicity.”

A spokesman from The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that had not changed.

Mr Menzies said in the debate: "We have seen seismic events triggered at Preston New Road in recent days. Four of those events have been classed as red events, and have led to a cessation in activity.

"I put it to the Minister that for six years, the industry was not approaching me or anyone else to say that the threshold was far too low, but we now hear calls that a seismic event should need to be a 1.5 or a 2 to trigger a red event. I am sorry, but that ship has sailed.

"The industry had six years to make the case for that, and no case was made."

Many people including Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden have expressed concern about the number of micro-seismic events since fracking started just over two weeks ago with calls for fracking to be halted.

He too spoke in the debate expressing concerns that if planning permission for shale gas drilling was to be made a permitted development, it would mean decisions based on such things as local traffic management would be taken out of local people's hands. He said it was regrettable that the Minister had not taken the trouble to come to Lancashire to see the issues for herself.

Today, Fleetwood MP Cat Smith has written to Claire Perry to put a stop to fracking after receiving representations from worried constituents.