Villagers in an area targeted by energy companies are invited to a fact-finding session with regulators and agencies but anti-fracking protesters are promising a demonstration outside.
Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting at Mickle Trafford Village Hall, A56 Warrington Road, between 2-7.30pm on Thursday, July 21.
The Environment Agency (EA), Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Public Health England and the Oil and Gas Authority will be present to explain how the oil and gas industry is regulated and how the environment and people’s health are protected.
But anti-fracking Labour borough Cllr Matt Bryan, who helped the successful community fight against IGas plans for a coalbed methane test drill site at Duttons Lane, Upton, described the event as ‘a PR exercise’ and promised a demonstration.
He said the experience of an all-party working group organised by Cheshire West and Chester Council was that the EA and HSE were unable to offer all the necessary reassurances.
“They still don’t have the answers and there are a lot more questions as the regulatory regime has been relaxed since then,” explained the councillor, who said underfunding of the EA had been evident during failures over flooding events in the UK.
Cllr Bryan claimed the Oil and Gas Authority was financed by the industry to ‘make it easier for these companies to get within our communities’. And while Public Health England was ‘reputable to a degree’ it was ‘not independent’ of government.
A press release about the event states: “As regulators and agencies involved in assessing the impacts of the oil and gas industry, our role is to help ensure that any exploration and development, including fracking operations, is done in a way that protects people and the environment.
“Local communities rightly look to us to provide information on how health and environmental risks are being controlled and managed properly, and to hold oil and gas operators to account.
“This session will be a great opportunity for us to meet with local people, explain our respective roles and discuss some of the key issues before sites are identified for development.”
A survey is to be carried out in Mickle Trafford by anti-fracking campaigners to gauge the public mood.
This followed a professionally conducted survey in a neighbouring village by Frack Free Guilden Sutton which found more than 76% of all respondents thought fracking was a bad idea. Only 9% felt it was a good idea.