Fears of noise pollution, water contamination and even potential earthquakes were all aired at a contentious 2-day hearing this week. Would councillors eventually approved fracking to take place in North Yorkshire?
Tests for shale gas can now take place in the village of Kirby Misperton, Ryedale, after councillors in a majority vote (7-4) gave the go-ahead to UK firm Third Energy. The decision was greeted with boos and jeers from anti-fracking campaigners outside County Hall in Northallerton, where evidence was being given.
It now paves the way for the first fracking test in Britain since 2011, when tests on the Fylde coast were found to have been the probable cause of minor earthquakes in the area. Since then, two high-profile applications to frack in Lancashire have been rejected by councillors and are the subject of appeals.
Opposition to Fracking
Opponents fear fracking – in which chemical-filled liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture rock and release gas – can cause problems including water contamination, earthquakes and traffic and noise pollution.
North Yorkshire County Council received 4,375 objections and just 36 letters in support of Third Energy’s plans to frack for shale gas at its existing well in Kirby Misperton. The council’s own officials backed the proposal earlier this month and the planning committee formally gave it the go-ahead.
Noise Pollution from Fracking
Third Energy enlisted a series of executives and experts to counter concerns surrounding noise pollution, water pollution and even potential earthquakes arguing there would be “no significant disturbance from noise” and that the risks to water contamination were “virtually zero”.
Third Energy’s commercial director, Ian Gair, said he had not been planning to speak but felt compelled to counter the “what I can only call performances” from anti-fracking campaigners.
Shaun Zablocki, the company’s Operations Support Manager and a self-described “Scarborough lad”, attacked the “outrageous statements” and “glaring inaccuracy” of some of the anti-fracking objectors. “It is hard to understand their motives as being anything other than disingenuous and attempts to mislead the committee,” he said.
In a press conference after the vote, Third Energy’s chief executive, Rasik Valand said his “overwhelming reaction” was relief. “It’s been a long journey for us. We started this journey when we drilled a well two years ago.”
The Future for Fracking
Valand said he did not see the decision as setting a precedent that could open the door for fracking across Britain, but said further tests would now need to be carried out.
Earlier, independent councillor John Blackie said that local tourism and agriculture would be put in peril by approving the plan. He added it could lead to fracking in Ryedale “forever” and that other gas firms would follow Third Energy’s lead.
We’ll be following this story and the potential for noise pollution as it develops.