Can fracking for underground shale gas be done safely?
That was the question on the minds of people who attended a fact-finding session organised by industry regulators at Mickle Trafford Village Hall where anti-fracking protesters held a peaceful ‘hoot and toot’ demonstration outside.
Around 70 residents attended last Thursday's (July 21) event where experts from the Environment Agency (EA), Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Public Health England and the Oil and Gas Authority were on hand to answer questions.
But anti-frackers and industry regulators could not agree on whether the fracking industry can be managed safely.
Prompting the event is the fact potential fracking sites have been identified at nearby Barrow and Bridge Trafford where a protest camp has sprung up alongside the A56 although no applications have so far been lodged.
Steve Allman, from Frack Free Mickle Trafford, said: “We are very concerned about the issue of fracking in Mickle Trafford. We know there has been a field purchased on the outskirts of the village and we are concerned that planning applications will be made to allow test drilling and possibly fracking.
“We are here today to raise people’s awareness of what is happening and to answer questions of our own and generally keep people informed.”
Steve, who lives in Mickle Trafford, added: “The regulators are here to say their stance on how they would regulate the industry. Obviously it’s an industry we don’t want and from all the work that we have done we know that fracking is not a safe industry and we don’t accept it can be regulated into safety.”
Tony Poole, of the Environment Agency, said he had no prior knowledge of what may or may not be coming down the tracks in terms of fracking or coalbed methane extraction. Chester people had attended a similar session in Knutsford and requested an engagement meeting because of local concerns.
He commented: “It’s about explaining what we do in terms of regulation with each regulator explaining what their duties are and how they regulate the industry and coming along to listen to people’s concerns so they can ask questions about what we do.”
With respect to residents’ fears, he said there had been comments around the risk to the water supply, the waste produced, well emissions, climate change and the potential for earthquakes.
Stressing fracking can be done with minimal risk, he continued: “As an agency, we believe if it’s done how the permit is set out – if we regulate it – we wouldn’t issue permits if we didn’t think it could be done safely.”
Anti-fracking campaigners are to carry out a survey in Mickle Trafford 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.