Green Cllr Jonathan Essex calls for earthquake inquiry to be reopened

Green Councillor Jonathan Essex presented evidence about the Surrey earthquakes to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Impact of Shale Gas – a group of MPs with an interest in in shale gas exploration and extraction in the UK and abroad – yesterday.

There have been 28 quakes in Surrey since 1 April 2018, in an area where none had been previously recorded. The epicentre is on a fault only three kilometres from the active drill site at Horse Hill.

Cllr Essex submitted a catalogue of reports from residents, compiled by parish councillor and Green activist Lisa Scott, including

  • “A solid shake and a thump, with the second one lasting 4-5 seconds and it felt like it swayed the house sideways.”
  • “03.42am. Huge bang, windows shaking, doors rattling, whole house vibrating …”

He said thousands of pounds of damage has been caused.

Traffic light system

The APPG is reviewing the Traffic Light System which controls the response to earthquakes caused by fracking in the north of England. Any quake over 0.5 on the Richter scale leads to a suspension of fracking activity. However it doesn’t apply to other controversial methods of oil and gas drilling, such as the acid stimulation methods used in the South East.

Both Cllr Essex and James Knapp from the Weald Action Group called for a new, independently chaired, inquiry into the Surrey quakes.  A meeting organised by the Government’s Oil and Gas Authority last October to examine the cause of the earthquakes had not taken into account the activities taking place at nearby Horse Hill.

Scared and angry local residents

Cllr Essex said: “There are scared and angry local residents who feel powerless, let down by inadequate regulation. Instead of relaxing the Traffic Light System as proposed by Cuadrilla, the Traffic Light System for induced seismicity should be extended so that as well as hydraulic fracturing it covers other operations which might cause quakes, including acidisation, water re-injection and pressure release”.

James Knapp criticised the role of the Oil and Gas Authority as both promoter of the fossil fuel industry and its regulator. He said: “Our view is that if earthquakes can be stopped they should be, therefore the Traffic Light System should be applied nationally so its protection is available when unexplained earthquakes occur near drilling sites”.

The Chair of the APPG, Conservative MP Lee Rowley, said the regulatory system for oil and gas “is called gold standard but it’s more like ‘marking your own homework’” as much of the regulation relies on the oil companies to fill out paperwork.

Cllr Essex said: “there’s a complete breakdown in public trust”.

Read more about the meeting on the Brockham Oil Watch website

Read more about the failures of oil and gas regulation in ‘Far from Gold Standard’, a report by Keith Taylor MEP




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