From a Manchester Friends of the Earth press release –
Fracking company IGas should be forced to stop drilling whilst they seek new environmental permits, say campaigners
A Salford resident living close to Barton Moss – the centre of anti-fracking protests in recent months – is preparing to launch a judicial review against the decision to allow IGas to drill without obtaining the correct permits for dealing with toxic extractive materials.
In a Pre-Action letter to the Environment Agency and copied to IGas, dated 20th January 2014, legal representatives for the claimant Helen Chuntso have argued that IGas is required to have a Mining Waste Permit under the EU Mining Waste Directive which is enshrined in UK law.
The letter states: “Our client believes that the Environment Agency misdirected itself in law in deciding that Island Gas does not require a permit to operate a waste facility as part of its operations at the Irlam Well Site.”
IGas have responded saying that they believe their activities to be lawful and will not cease drilling.
The Environment Agency has until Monday 3rd February 2014 to respond.
Helen Chuntso, a local mother and former radiation safety worker, said, “The ‘robust regulatory regime’ the government talk about is merely alliteration – it has no basis in reality as toxic waste will be stored in high-sided tanks – before transporting it out through our communities – which in our view is a breach of the law.”
Friends of the Earth’s legal advisor Jake White, who is acting on behalf of Ms Chuntso, said
“From Balcombe to Barton Moss we have seen consistent problems in the regulation of the unconventional gas industry. We are concerned that IGas is drilling without the correct permit and that environmental risk has not been properly considered.
“The regulators are already struggling and this will only get worse as new sites come into operation after David Cameron opens up more of the country to fracking.
“Ministers should be developing the UK’s huge renewable potential, instead of keeping us hooked on dirty fossil fuels that expose communities to high environmental risk.”
Article 1 of the Directive states that the Directive contains “measures, procedures and guidance to
prevent or reduce as far as possible any adverse effects on the environment, in particular water, air, soil, fauna and flora and landscape…brought about as a result of the management of waste from the extractive industries”.
Article 4(1) sets out “general requirements” on Member States. This provision requires Member States to take “the necessary measures to ensure that extractive waste is managed without endangering human health and without using processes or methods which could harm the environment, and in particular without risk to water, air, soil and fauna and flora”.
Igas applied to the Environment Agency on 16 September 2013 for a mining waste permit in relation to the Site. Its Waste Management Plan made clear that it will generate and store hazardous extractive wastes at the site. These will be stored temporarily on-site in “steel mud tanks” and “high sided bulk trailers”.
The Environment Agency issued a Permit to Igas on 20 November, but the Permit makes clear that it does not give Igas permission to operate a waste facility there ie: it does not cover accumulation and storage of hazardous waste.
Friends of the Earth believes that as a result the obligations which apply are much less onerous on the operator and the EA; they are arguably cheaper for the operator (for example no duty to provide a financial guarantee); and give the local community less comfort that impacts have been properly evaluated and will be monitored and reported on during operations. A permit for a mining waste facility would have meant the following conditions would have to be met:
– Financial guarantee to be provided by the operator to cover the cost of meeting its obligations under the permit;
– Operator to explore alternative locations for the site;
– Facility must be suitably located, constructed, monitored and inspected (taking account of impacts);
– Land must be rehabilitated;
– Operator must report to EA at least once a year;
– Obligations regarding closure and after closure of the site;
– EA must inspect the site “at regular intervals”.