Ineos Shale seeks new Drill Permit in Yorkshire
After winning its appeal against a decision by the Rotherham Council in Yorkshire to deny the company permission for test drilling at a greenbelt site in Harthill, Ineos Shale has submitted a second planning application. The new application is for a drill site at nearby Woodsetts, where the council has also refused drilling permission.
The UK subsidiary of the Swiss-headquartered chemical producer said it has done additional survey work and can disprove claims put forward by the council on its first application, namely that the subsequent project does not meet ecological standards and also would present hurdles to highway safety.
Like the previous permit, which Ineos has now secured, the new application would provide temporary permission for drilling activity for a maximum of five years. The work would involve months of investigation surveys at various sites as well as site preparation, followed by a period of drilling, coring and testing.
Ineos argues that the activity would be small scale, have no significant impact and would take place on agricultural land with “little ecological value.” The second site, however, takes in a Site of Special Scientific Interest – protected by law to conserve wildlife or geology – in addition to a golf course. Ineos said the golf course, would be restored after drilling has been completed.
Planning consultants who submitted the application on the company’s behalf said it is a re-submission of the rejected application. They insist that the national planning Inspector who overruled the decision “clearly made his decision based on the technical evidence” and that the points raised by local planning officials “were not supported by evidence of any harm.”
The resubmission on the same basis allows the opportunity to “rectify the Council’s decision” and avoid the potential for a second appeal with its associated costs, the consultants said, adding that, “we consider that the ecology reason put forward can no longer be substantiated.”
According to Drill or Drop, a website that monitors the shale industry, Rotherham’s rejection of the Ineos plans was the seventh this year by councils across the Midlands and the north of England. Before the decision against the chemical company was overturned, the only green light had been given for another drllling company, Cuadrilla, to test oil flows in West Sussex in southern England.
Along with planning delays, the UK shale gas industry is chafing at new requirements that require a check of potential drillers’ economic potency. The industry complains that it now takes 58 weeks on average to get a planning decision on the drilling of a vertical well for exploration, compared with 13 weeks five years ago.
Ineos is leveraging the fast-track powers created by the British government in 2015 to kick-start the country’s nascent shale gas industry. These allow national planning inspectors to bypass local councils that fail to make a decision within the mandated 16-week timeframe and in some cases override decisions.
The shale gas industry meanwhile has been condemned by an international tribunal for harming humanity, violating human rights and damaging nature. The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal established in Italy in 1979 to defend human rights has accused drilling companies and governments of failing in their duties to protect the environment.
“The processes of fracking contribute substantially to anthropogenic harm, including climate change and global warming, and involve massive violations of a range of substantive and procedural human rights and the rights of nature,” the tribunal said.
Along with environmental NGOs, two professors from the University of Stirling in Scotland have given the tribunal evidence of the dangers of fracking. “The arguments of the UK industry about the alleged safety of fracking do not stand up to scrutiny,” one said, while the other, accused the industry of a “moral and legal failure.”