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Call for human rights assessments of fracking

An article* published in the International Journal of Human Rights calls for human rights impact assessments of fracking proposals.

The article, written by a team from the Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study, University of London, is titled Extreme energy, ‘fracking’ and human rights: a new field for human rights impact assessments

The article explores the potential human rights impacts of the ‘extreme energy’ process, specifically focussing on the production of shale gas, coal-bed methane and ‘tight oil’, known colloquially as ‘fracking’.

The article locates the discussion within a broader context of resource depletion, the ‘limits to growth’ and the process of extreme energy itself.

Utilising recent secondary data from the United States and Australia, combined with the preliminary findings of our ethnographic fieldwork in the United Kingdom, the article outlines a prima facie case for investigating ‘fracking’ development through a human rights lens.

Based on considerable emerging evidence the authors argue that ‘fracking’ development poses a significant risk to a range of key human rights and should thus form the subject of a multitude of comprehensive, interdisciplinary human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) as a matter of urgency.

Finally, given the close relationships between government and extractive industries, we argue that these impact assessments must do more than bolster corporate responsibility statements and should be truly independent of either government or industry influence.


*Damien Short, Jessica Elliot, Kadin Norder, Edward Lloyd-Davies & Joanna Morley (2015): Extreme energy, ‘fracking’ and human rights: a new field for human rights impact assessments?, The International Journal of Human Rights, DOI: 10.1080/13642987.2015.1019219

Read the article online:

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Horse Hill latest

The latest press release from UK Oil & Gas Investments gives a new estimate for the volume of oil in the Upper Portland Sandstone conventional reservoir in the Horse Hill area of around 21 million barrels.

It also says that Horse Hill Developments Ltd is proceeding with applying for the relevant permissions. The press release, dated 11 May 2015, says, “Subject to approval by the relevant authorities, the Company intends to flow test this conventional sandstone zone as part of a wider test programme of the HH-1 well later in 2015. A successful test would be followed by a full technical resource assessment, and the identification of potentially recoverable resource volumes.

“Subject to these results, the Company is informed that the operator, Horse Hill Developments Ltd, intends to engage with the Oil and Gas Authority (“OGA”) and other regulators, and seek to move the PEDL137 licence into the Production Period as soon as practicable, via submission of a Field Development Plan to the OGA. The PEDL137 licence is currently in the exploration phase and expires on 30 September 2015. HHDL has applied for a one-year extension of the exploration phase to 30 September 2016.”

Read the press release:

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Two chances to speak up for the climate

Campaigners from Surrey will be at both events, please join us!

RTP_Didcot-flyer-2015Reclaim the Power –
Oxfordshire, 29 May – 2 June

No Dash for Gas is holding an international weekend of climate action, near Didcot gas-fired power station in Oxfordshire, to take creative direct action against the fossil fuel industry and build the movement for energy democracy.

The weekend includes workshops, training, and a day of mass action against the fossil fuel industry on Monday 1 June.



More details on Reclaim the Power on









cclogoSpeak Up For The Love Of…
Westminster, London, 17 June

The Climate Coalition is coordinating a mass lobby of parliament on 17 June. The idea is that 10,000 people will meet with our MPs in the streets around Parliament, all at the same time, and urge them to protect all the things we love that are threatened by climate change.

The event will have a festival feel, with music, entertainers and art installations and aims to engage a wide cross section of people through the Coalition’s 100 member organisations.

More details on Speak Up for the Love of on the Friends of the Earth website




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General election result: what does it mean for fracking?

Anti-fracking campaigners are dismayed at the re-election of the Conservative Government – and the reappointment of George Osborne to his old job as Chancellor of the Exchequer (with the additional role of First Secretary of State).

The Conservative’s election manifesto said, “We will continue to support the safe development of shale gas, and ensure that local communities share the proceeds through generous community benefit packages.”

And a letter George Osborne sent to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs last September shows how keen he is to fast-track shale gas drilling. The letter urged ministers to make dozens of interventions to speed the process up. Read Osborne’s letter and recommendations on the Guardian website.

New Energy and Climate Minister

Campaigners have expressed qualified relief that the post of Energy and Climate Minister went to Amber Rudd. She is at least convinced of the threat of human-made climate change, unlike some of the senior Tories.

But the Global Warming Policy Forum website says that Ms Rudd is in favour of fracking and quotes here as saying, “I think fracking is a positive thing to have in the UK, as long as we can do it extremely safely and reassure communities that that’s the case, and I think we can.”

Campaigners have a job on our hands persuading Ms Rudd that shale gas is a red herring – we need to focus all our efforts on reducing energy demand and providing people with locally-owned, sustainable energy harnessed from the sun, sea and wind.

Anti-fracking MPs

Not all MPs share Osborne’s and Rudd’s acceptance of fracking and many voted for a fracking moratorium earlier this year. Read this summary by Ruth Hayhurst of which of these MPs kept and which lost their seats

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Oil company backtracks on wild Weald claims

Last month an announcement by UKOG – the company which has drilled at Horse Hill near Horley – that there could be up to 100 billion barrels of oil under the Weald Basin caused a media frenzy.

See the last two posts on this blog for some examples of starry-eyed reports which portrayed Horley as the new Dallas.

Less widely reported was the follow-up statement a week later that UKOG actually didn’t know how much oil there was in the 55 square miles it is licensed to explore – let alone the wider Weald basin (estimated approx. 1,100 square miles).

In a ‘Clarification’ statement issued on 15 April, UKOG backtracked admitted that: “The OIP [oil in place] hydrocarbon volumes estimated should not be considered as either contingent or prospective resources or reserves.”

And it said: “The Company has not undertaken work outside of its licence areas sufficient to comment on the possible OIP in either the approximate 1,100 square miles or the whole of the Weald Basin.”

Friends of the Earth South East campaigner Brenda Pollack said: “UKOG has backtracked on the wild claims it made and admitted that it has no idea how much oil is under the Sussex Weald.

“This is yet another example of the potential for shale oil and gas being over-hyped by an industry desperate to start pumping profits with little concern for residents or the climate.”

Read more:

UKOG’s Clarification of Press Comment in relation to 9 April Announcement 

Media coverage:

Drill or Drop website: UK Oil & Gas clarification – “we don’t know how much oil is in the Weald”

Proactive Investors website: Oil & Gas backtracks on Horse Hill oil find claims

West Sussex County Times: Oil company ‘not undertaken work’ to verify 100bn barrel estimate


Massive Gatwick oil find – a reality check

“On 10th April it was widely reported that a small oil company claims to have found up to 100 billion barrels of oil below the Weald region of southern England.  They estimate that up to 15 billion barrels is recoverable, about as much as Brazil’s proved reserves. They base this on a single drill site with no flow measurements. For anyone who knows anything at all about geology, this is beyond ludicrous.”

Earth scientist and and renewable energy entrepreneur Dr Jeremy Leggett pours cold water on the ‘Gatwick oil boom’ – and points out that that no major oil and gas company has a significant investment in UK shale – in this blog post


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Black Gold in the Weald – UKOG’s Alarming Discovery

The promise of black gold beneath the Weald has been one of today’s big stories in the national media.

UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG) has announced that it estimates there to be up to 100 billion barrels of extractable oil since completing exploratory drilling at the Horse Hill site.

This significant find will supposedly be obtainable from conventional methods of extraction. The fact that this is “tight” oil, which will more than likely require stimulation from hydraulic fracturing seems to be something the mainstream press isn’t questioning.

UKOG claims in a BBC article that the oil at Horse Hill is in rocks that are naturally fractured, giving “strong encouragement that these reservoirs can be successfully produced using conventional horizontal drilling and completion techniques”. The Beeb is evidently happy to publish an oxymoron (horizontal drilling) as truth.

Rob Basto a local resident and key Frack Free Surrey member has been facing the media today and reminding them that the depth of this resource means that it lies in layers “where you would need to use fracking, which is a much more dangerous process”.

Another voice of reason and sense amidst talk of a bonanza comes from Keith Taylor, Green MEP for south-east England, who sees this discovery as providing “the perfect opportunity for us to have an important national debate about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. The scientific consensus on climate change has never been greater and we have been told that the only way we have a chance of averting catastrophe is by leaving large reserves of oil in the ground”.

In the coming weeks, as we are swept in election fever and the media will almost certainly avert its gaze from this issue, it will be important to keep a close eye on the developments at the Horse Hill site. Fortunately, Rob and other members of Frack Free Surrey are ready to scrutinise and counter UKOG’s rhetoric. Such willingness to stand up for our countryside and against the fossil fuel industry will be vital.


Read more:

Horse Hill: Is the Kimmeridge a game changer?

On Monday 2 February, David Lenigas, Chairman of Horse Hill Developments Ltd, and the UKOG CEO/geologist made a presentation to an investment club in London.

The geologist spoke about the results from Horse Hill, and about the prospects for oil exploration from the M25 to the Isle of Wight.

The talk was filmed and you can watch it on Youtube:


Press release from the Select Committee Media Officer, Energy and Climate Change, Environmental Audit, EFRA, Science & Technology, House of Commons


Shale fracking should be put on hold in the UK because it is incompatible with our climate change targets and could pose significant localised environmental risks to public health. That is the conclusion of MPs on the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee who will attempt to amend the Government’s Infrastructure Bill in Parliament today.

Committee Chair Joan Walley MP:
“Ultimately fracking cannot be compatible with our long-term commitments to cut climate changing emissions unless full-scale carbon capture and storage technology is rolled out rapidly, which currently looks unlikely. There are also huge uncertainties around the impact that fracking could have on water supplies, air quality and public health.” 
“We cannot allow Britain’s national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty to be developed into oil and gas fields. Even if a national moratorium on shale drilling in the UK is not accepted there should be an outright ban on fracking in such special sites.” 
“The Government is trying to rush through changes to the trespass laws that would allow companies to frack under people’s homes without permission. This is profoundly undemocratic and Parliament should protect the rights of citizens by throwing these changes out when they are debated later today.”
The report warns that only a very small fraction of our shale reserves can be safely burned if we are to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees. And that considerable uncertainties remain about the hazards fracking poses to groundwater quality, air quality, health and biodiversity. It points out that continually tightening carbon budgets under the Climate Change Act will have significantly curtailed the scope for fossil fuel energy by the time shale gas is likely to be commercially viable on a large scale.
Infrastructure Bill
The Committee is also calling for other changes to the Infrastructure Bill. Proposed changes to trespass law that would grant companies automatic right of access to land at depth should be removed from the Bill because they seriously undermine citizens’ rights and are not supported by the public. Fracking should also be prohibited outright in nationally important areas such as National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, SSIs, ancient woodland.
The Committee is also insisting that:
•                    Licences and permits must not be issued if commercial operators cannot demonstrate sufficient resources and insurances to cover full liability in event of pollution incidents.
•                    Venting of methane emissions is unacceptable. Full containment of methane must be mandated in all fracking permits and permissions.
•                    To protect groundwater a minimum separation distance – between the shales being fracked and underground aquifers – should be defined and mandated.
Monitoring and transparency
Current plans to allow fracking companies to handle the safety monitoring for fracking wells are also unacceptable, the report concludes. Independent monitoring must be conducted to ensure the public can have confidence in the results. Regulators must also conduct regular unannounced spot checks and audits of all fracking sites, and facilitate clear and accessible public disclosure of all monitoring data. Companies must be made to disclose – in an accessible way – all of the chemicals used in shale gas exploration and production, and the potential risks they pose. It is unacceptable that there are currently no monitoring requirements for decommissioned or abandoned wells.
Eight MPs on the Committee have put forward an amendment to introduce a moratoriums, linked to the Bill’s clauses aimed at setting a strategy to maximise fossil fuel extraction [Amendments 68 and 69 at]
Some MPs have also used the opportunity to also put down amendments to give the Strategic Highways Company an explicit legal duty to address air pollution in its work, to reflect a recommendation in another of the Committee’s reports — Action on Air Quality [Amendment 70 at ].]
The Infrastructure Bill11 includes provisions for the Government to produce a strategy for “maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum” (which includes oil and gas). It also includes provisions “to introduce a right to use deep-level land” for “petroleum or deep geothermal energy”, including fracking, which will ease the planning difficulties that energy companies would otherwise face in getting access rights to shale deposits under landowners’ properties. At present, a drilling company must reach agreement with each landowner to obtain rights of access. The new provisions follow a Government consultation in 2014 on its Proposal for Underground Access for the Extraction of Gas, Oil or Geothermal Energy. That consultation included a voluntary community payment of £20,000 for each horizontal well, previously agreed with the industry, and the Bill includes provisions allowing the Government to impose such community payments (paragraph 5).
Nicholas Davies | Select Committee Media Officer
Energy and Climate Change | Environmental Audit | EFRA | Science & Technology
House of Commons

The Frack Stops Here: free travel from Surrey

On Wednesday and Thursday 28 and 29 January, Lancashire County Council will be deciding whether or not to approve two of the biggest fracking tests ever contemplated in the UK.

If allowed to happen, each site would have four horizontal wells, producing tens of millions of gallons and radioactive and toxic waste and opening the door to thousands more wells to be drilled across Lancashire and the rest of the UK.

On both days, concerned communities from around the UK will travel to Lancashire County Hall in Preston for a peaceful show of solidarity and resistance.

This is a  great chance to showcase the strength and solidarity of the of the UK anti-fracking movement.

We have been able to arrange free coach travel from Surrey, leaving on Tuesday 27 January.  The Big Lemon Bus will pick up at 5pm at Guildford railway station and 6pm at Heathrow Terminal 5 (pick up/drop off point).

It will return on the evening of January 28th, dropping off at the same two points around 10-11pm.

Places are limited so please RSVP to


Read more: