Letter from local resident to Mark Menzies re “Local Benefits”

This letter was sent today to our local MP in the Fylde, Mark Menzies

We will let you know how he replies:

Dear Mark

Would you be kind enough to respond formally to this email?

A lot has been made of the community benefits package announced for fracking, but to the layman there are many grey areas here. Can I ask you as my MP, and a politician experienced in the ways of the DECC to clarify a few things for me please?

As far as I can ascertain the published detail so far consists of a statement from UKOOG stating that fracking companies will

Provide benefits to local communities at the exploration/appraisal stage of £100,000 per well site where hydraulic fracturing takes place;
Provide a share of proceeds at production stage of 1% of revenues, allocated approximately 2/3rd to the local community and 1/3rd at the county level;

The first thing that requires clarification is what is meant by a “local community”. This must have been defined before these proposals were published, so would you kindly let us know how the DECC and UKOOG are defining this term.

Secondly can you confirm that the £100,000 benefit will apply retrospectively so that the local communities affected by both by the fracking at Preese Hall and the disruption and damage caused by the geophysical survey can feel they have been in some way compensated. It would clearly be unfair for them to miss out and the industry does need to establish its bona fides.

Thirdly can you please confirm how “hydraulic fracturing” will be defined in terms of the payment of these benefits. It seems that Cuadrilla are already proposing “acid fracks” down South and “mini fracks” at Banks which might allow them to avoid paying these benefits. It may be that they fully intend to pay the benefits, but we do need confirmation. If the scheme is to have any credibility we must ensure that any presumptions around the definition work in favour of local communities and not the fracking companies.

Fourthly the 1% of revenues will be paid 1/3rd at County level. This begs two questions – firstly does this mean that they will be paid to Lancashire County Council and secondly what safeguards will be in place to ensure that benefits are used for the areas negatively impacted by fracking and not on schemes like putting up 20 MPH signs.

Finally I note that you have called for a “gold standard of regulation on shale gas operations before any potential move to the extraction phase”. Self-evidently this regulation is also required for the exploration phase. What reassurance an you give to constituents that you will be insisting on this protection before exploration is allowed to recommence.

and a supplementary email with a rather important point was sent later on:

Dear Mark

Further to my email this morning I would like to make the supplementary point that any payment of a “benefit” to Lancashire County Council, who are also the relevant planning authority, would have to create a clear conflict of interest.

Would you please clarify your position on this point when replying to my previous email.

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