Thinking Anglicans

Blackburn Diocese asks questions about fracking

Updated again Tuesday

There have been numerous press reports about a leaflet that the Diocese of Blackburn produced which deals with the moral issues related to shale gas drilling techniques. The first such drilling attempts were made in that diocese.

The leaflet that these stories refer to is here. And there is more detailed material on the Blackburn website.

David Pocklington has written a helpful article: Fracking, the Facts and the Church. In this he criticises the leaflet:

…Viewed in its pastoral context, the leaflet provides a good overview of this emerging technology. However, its portrayal of some of the alleged environmental concerns does not stand close scrutiny, and the use of emotive terms such as “toxic cocktail” (in relation to water usage and contamination) strays from its desired impartiality…

More recently, the Telegraph has published a rather misleading story: Church of England in ‘fracking land-grab’ (note the use of scare quotes)

The Church Commissioners website contains a detailed explanation of the Mineral registration programme.

Updates

The Church Commissioners issued this: Clarification on suggested links with hydraulic fracturing or ” fracking”

It is factually incorrect to link the Mineral Registration Programme with fracking. The Church Commissioners are registering their mineral interests in line with the Land Registry requirements, as any responsible landowner is doing before the end of October deadline. This work started in 2004. This does not create any new interests or rights and is confined to properly registering what the Commissioners have in most cases owned for many years, and in some cases for centuries. There is absolutely no link with fracking.

We would make clear that this is just a registration and protection exercise to protect existing rights and interests made vulnerable by the change in the law. There are no particular plans to mine under any property. The focus is registration and protection

The Archbishop’s Council has issued this press release.

Statement from the Church of England on ‘Fracking’

The Chair of the Church of England’s group on Mission and Public Affairs Philip Fletcher has today (16th August 2013) issued the following statement placing recent media reports in context:

“The Church of England has no official policy either for or against hydraulic fracturing (known as ‘fracking’). However there is a danger of viewing fracking through a single issue lens and ignoring the wider considerations.

“There are a number of balancing considerations which need to be taken into account when coming to a view. Fuel poverty is an increasingly urgent issue for many in society – the impact on energy bills is felt most by the least well off. Blanket opposition to further exploration for new sources of fuel fails to take into account those who suffer most when resources are scarce.

“I would want to emphasise along with all those that care for the environment the importance of proper controls in relation to any form of fracking – we do not want cowboys and cavaliers digging up the land in a free for all exploitation. However as the Royal Academy of Engineering concluded recently in a review on fracking, this is a procedure which “can be managed effectively in the UK as long as operational best practices are implemented and robustly enforced through regulation”.

“There are issues and risks. The answer to those is to treat them seriously and to minimise them. There are examples of how this can be done in other areas. The oil well operating at Furzey Island, adjacent to Brownsea Island, demonstrates that oil production in a deeply sensitive area can continue for decades without endangering the environment.

“Clearly all carbon based fuels contribute to global warming and are less than ideal in terms of climate change. However, it should also be recognised that gas is less damaging than coal and to preclude properly managed technical development is to risk denying ourselves more important, less polluting and less costly options than the energy sources on which we currently rely.

“Fuel poverty, the creation of jobs, energy self-sufficiency and the development of technology that may reduce the impact of more polluting fuels are just some of the factors which need to be taken into account in any debate alongside the concern we all have about the impact of fossil fuels upon climate change.”

There are notes to the press release below the fold.

Notes

This follows two other church related statements on fracking which are in the public domain.

The first was from the Diocese of Blackburn, the other is from the Bishop of Chichester.

As with much of wider society the Church will continue debating the issue around fracking, seeking to balance theological, economic, environmental and societal issues.

Whilst individuals, communities and groups, both inside the church and in wider society may emphasise particular approaches or concerns there is as yet no official policy on fracking from the Church of England, with discussion expected to continue in various forms including the Ethical investment Advisory Group of the Church commissioners and the Mission and Public Affairs Group.

Mineral Rights

The Land Registration Act 2002 “LRA 2002” introduced far reaching changes to English property law.

One of the effects of these changes for the Church Commissioners was that certain historical rights and interests in mines and minerals owned in most cases for many years and in some cases for centuries might have been lost if not registered or otherwise protected within a strict timeframe.

Since 2004 the Church Commissioners have been working to register their mineral interests in line with the Government’s Land Registry requirements, as any responsible landowner is doing before the end of the October 2013deadline. This does not create any new interests or rights and is confined to properly registering what the Commissioners have in most cases owned for many years, and in some cases for centuries.

Consequently this is simply an exercise to protect existing rights and interests made vulnerable by the change in the law. There are no particular plans to mine under any property. The focus is registration and protection.

There is absolutely no link with fracking.

Home owners have been receiving notices from the Land registry since 2008 but the deadline for registration expires in October 2013 and so an increased number of these notices have been sent over the past months. The conflation of these letters with the issue of fracking has been led by the media rather than by fact.

The registration programme does not create any new rights or interests. This is therefore all about properly registering and protecting existing interests so that all parties can see and understand who owns what. These interests do not include ownership of coal or petroleum, both of which were nationalised, nor gold and silver, which belong to the Crown.

Further detail can be found on the Church of England website.

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Labarum
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Labarum

From The Times 15 August

Let’s shatter these five myths about fracking
By Matt Ridley

“Here are five things they keep saying that are simply false. First, that shale gas production has polluted aquifers in America. Second, that it releases more methane than other forms of gas production. Third, that it uses a worryingly large amount of water. Fourth, that it uses hundreds of toxic chemicals. Fifth, that it causes damaging earthquakes. None is true.”

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article3843114.ece

If you have a subscription.

stanley
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There’s an informative article in last week’s New Scientist. The church sometimes gives the impression that it is contra mundum and aims for nothing other than to preserve the status quo in every respect. Galileo again. If we are to use our God-given intellects, then let the engineers continue their work and monitor it. I wonder if the church has invested in fracking companies.

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

This is the Matt Ridley who was chairman of Northern Rock when it went bust, surely not the ideal person to be lecturing us on risk management.

Simon

Michael Roberts
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Michael Roberts

As a retired incumbent from Blackburn who is a geologist and worked in the mining industry, I am concerned about inaccuracies on both sides on fracking. Overstated allegations on toxic cocktails, water pollution and environmental damage do not help and put the church in a bad light.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Fracking has indeed polluted the water in some places of the US. There is a town in Colorado, my state, where some of the people can actually light the water coming out of their faucets. Yes, the water catches fire and burns like a flambé. There are people who work in the fracking industry who admit that pollution of the water table is an “unfortunate and unavoidable” by product. I’m sure there are responsible ways to frack, and irresponsible. But right now we’re having a hard time as citizens getting good information, and we’re having a hard time getting our… Read more »

Matt
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Matt

@SImon

It’s the Matt Ridley making a series of arguments you seem to have ducked from countering, in favour of a bit of mudslinging.

How these Christians etc…

Matt
Guest
Matt

> There is a town in Colorado, my state, where some of the people can actually light the water coming out of their faucets. Yes, the water catches fire and burns like a flambé.

This is a fake claim which has been debunked many times.

For example, here:
http://cogcc.state.co.us/Announcements/Hot_Topics/Hydraulic_Fracturing/GASLAND%20DOC.pdf

Gasland, and the hoaxed included therein, has a lot to answer for.

I’ll leave aside the entirely different regulatory setup in the UK which doesn’t allow such claims to be directly transferre.