This week, officials recorded five minor earthquakes near to a fracking site. But perhaps just as concerning is the response of the company doing fracking there. Because it told The Canary the earthquakes show its equipment works to the “highest standard”.
Preston New Road, near the village of Little Plumpton, is at the centre of a row over fracking. Cuadrilla has permission to drill the site for shale gas, which has pitted it against local people. In July, the government officially gave Cuadrilla the go-ahead to start extracting shale gas. The decision was met by more protests from locals. Then, after a court case, bad weather and protests stopped it, Cuadrilla finally began work on Monday 15 October.
But no sooner than Cuadrilla started work, earthquakes began. The British Geological Survey has so far recorded five tremors near to the Preston New Road site since Thursday 18 October. The strongest of these was a magnitude of 0.3.
Now, a 0.3 magnitude earthquake is very minor. But it’s the implications of these small tremors which has campaigners and scientists worried.
For example, researchers from Stanford University in the US have already warned of the risks; noting that small earthquakes “may be early indicators of bigger tremors to come”. They say that the process of fracking could destabilise faults that already exist underground, causing larger tremors. Their research also showed that earthquakes continued at fracking sites after the operations had stopped.
Also, as The Canary previously reported, a former UK government adviser went even further. Emeritus professor in applied and environmental geophysics, Peter Styles, called out the entire fracking industry. He questioned its ability to accurately map potential earthquake-causing fault lines on every site in the UK. Styles said:
Unfortunately the physics of it means you cannot see those faults with the (survey) waves that you put into the earth. To date it does not appear that any proper industry or government due diligence has taken place with regards to the fault lines mapped.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
Meanwhile, the fracking firm at the centre of this is dogmatic, to say the least. A spokesperson for Cuadrilla told The Canary:
Three microseismic events were detected yesterday by the highly sensitive Traffic Light System Cuadrilla has installed around the Preston New Road site and were very far below levels that could be felt at surface. The recordings from these seismometers are shared with the British Geological Survey to help them reassure the public that operations are continuing safely as planned.
We take the monitoring and regulation of seismicity seriously, with daily reports sent to the regulators. The microseismic events recorded were extremely low and well within the Green Light threshold and confirm that the monitoring system is working to the highest standard.
But campaigners have hit back. Claire Stephenson from Frack Free Lancashire told The Canary:
The very fact that Cuadrilla have only just started their fracking operations and seismic events are being experienced, is highly worrying.
The Fylde Coast is heavily faulted, geologically, so it is unsurprising that seismic activity has been induced.
But the surprising factor is that this is well known and yet this industry can still proceed in a densely populated area as an experiment. We are once again, guinea pigs for an inexperienced, incompetent industry.
Cuadrilla’s response is quite staggering. Not only does it take the credit for reporting the earthquakes, but it says they show how well its systems work. It is ignoring the growing evidence that smaller tremors could well be a sign of bigger things to come. But this arrogant response is sadly what many now expect from Cuadrilla and its dirty industry.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?