So why have Cuadrilla suddenly decided on doing EIAs?

Cuadrilla have not been noted for their commitment to Environmental Impact Assessments. They have built fracking wells with pads that are marginally smaller than the size which would have required mandatory EIAs’ and, as we reported here, , they have applied, in their EIA scoping documents submitted to LCC, to have very significant areas excluded from the EIA which they will have to undertake for Anna’s Road. These were:

  • Socio Economic Impacts;
  • Landscape and visual assessment;
  • Noise;
  • Traffic;
  • Archaeology;
  • Climate change;
  • Agricultural considerations.

All of a sudden though we are being asked to believe that Francis Egan is deeply committed to the idea that EIA’s are the best thing since sliced bread

He tells us that

“Cuadrilla proposes to broaden and deepen the scope of both community consultation and environment risk assessment by completing a full EIA for each exploration well site where we seek planning consent for drilling, hydraulic fracturing and flow testing.”

and, showing an amazing amount of brass neck, that

“Maybe our competitors will give us a bit of grief for setting the bar so high”

(But maybe a bit higher than you really wanted I suspect Francis if your scoping document is anything to go by?)

Now, they had been waiting rather impatiently for nearly 2 years for the unofficial ban on fracking to be lifted. They messed up their drilling at Anna’s road and wasted 3 more months. They expect us to believe that they are prepared to voluntarily go for another year without seeing a penny returned on their already massive investment just because they have suddenly converted to the idea of doing proper EIAs? Really?

Can we expect Mr Egan to be writing to LCC withdrawing that list of desired exclusions to prove that Cuadrilla really “are determined to spare no effort in meeting our exploration targets in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner.”

…. or is there something else behind all this?

Are Cuadrilla perhaps wary of having planning permission refused by LCC.

By waiting for a while perhaps the provisions suggested in the new Growth and Infrastructure Bill will mean that the decision is no longer in the hands of the unpredictable LCC, but can be taken by altogether more reliable and amenable Central government departments.

Another suggestion is that Cuadrilla may now have secured long term funding from a major investor and can now afford to play a long game in search of a European-wide prize. Such a major investor (it might for example be Centrica whose interest was reported in the FT) might be unwilling to risk (further?) reputational damage and so is perhaps insisting that this is is done “properly”. After all some of the big boys like BP are already in deep enough PR mire after events like Deepwater Horizon. Taking this a bit further is this new stance in fact suggestive of a major player who thinks a ‘best practice’ example here in the UK might wedge open the other European Union nations’ resistance to fracking (the long game once again, which even Lord Browne’s supposedly infinitely deep pockets can’t fund) whilst Cuadrilla continue to be the front to take the bullets until such time as the community can be assuaged/ bought off/ ‘fractured’ to a market-acceptable level?

It is inconceivable that a company in Cuadrilla’s financial position would voluntarily delay for a year just to get an EIA done. There is more to this than meets the eye, and these are just two possible explanations. Any other ideas? Let us know!

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