FoE | Fighting air pollution in the North East – a clean air campaign

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03 August 2016

Fighting air pollution in the North East – a clean air campaign

Angela Needham, a Friends of the Earth activist from Hull, shares her recent experiences of campaigning against air pollution with Neil Baird.

I read somewhere you don’t like going to London because of the pollution.

Yes, I have COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder]. And I have it, because of the same reason as 90% of people who have it, because I used to smoke. I fully recognise that I did it to myself!

I know when the air is polluted because I have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). I don’t go to London if I can help it because it takes me a week to recover.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other factors that can aggravate it. If I go to London and walk around, I notice that my breathing deteriorates for about a week afterwards.

Can you tell me about the air pollution work you’ve been doing?

We were approached as Hull Friends of the Earth some months back asking if we would pilot some of their [Friends of the Earth] ideas around air pollution. We tried a survey [to find out people’s views on air pollution], and we have also put up tubes that test for air pollution around the city.

We did the survey at an event where most people there were broadly part of the green movement so it wasn’t exactly a cross section of the Hull population. We did it again in the city centre, so we would be talking to whoever happened to be passing by.

There wasn’t a lot of difference in what was said actually. We received a lot of engagement with the question which asked: “Who gets the most polluted air? The cyclist, the motor cyclist, the car driver, the passenger in car, on a bus or on foot.”

Most people said the cyclist. But in most circumstances, the answer is the car driver. And when we told people that, we got quite a lot of surprised reactions. Two people actually said: “Maybe I’ll drive less.” That doesn’t mean they will, but it does mean it’s something the public should be more educated about.

What about the air pollution in Hull?

There is only one place in Hull which is recognised as illegal, from an air pollution EU law point of view. And it is recognised as such by the city and is being worked on. But at the moment it’s still pretty bad.

I haven’t put an air pollution monitor up here [by the Humber] and looking around it seems like the local authority hasn’t got one here either, but the air must be fairly good.

The city has loads of air pollution monitoring devices all over the city and the results are all obtainable online.

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Angela by the Humber. There are now air pollution monitoring devices across Hull. © Neil Baird
Where does Hull actually measure up with regards to the legality?

There are 40 cities on the list. We’re in the 40, but fairly low down. We’re not in the top 20, like Leeds is for instance. But obviously we need to get out of it.

When we talk to people in the city centre about air pollution, most of them said they thought the air was good in Hull, some of them thought it was unusually good in the city.

Interestingly, you talk about air pollution, and people don’t hear the word “air”. Their biggest concerns are always litter and dogs fouling. With air pollution, they can’t see it. They might smell it, and taste it after a while, but they don’t see it.

I grew up in Birmingham and we saw air pollution or “smog”. You couldn’t walk in it. I knew a lady who got lost walking between her front door and the shops. Then we had the Clean Air Act. And my goodness gracious me, it worked.

What can the city do?

They are encouraging bus transport. The buses are being replaced and moved towards lower emission buses. They can look at where cars are allowed to go and control which areas are used. On the city’s plan there are all sorts of things being considered: Car sharing, raising awareness in schools, etc.

We’ve been in touch with the local authority who are tremendously enthusiastic.

There is an 84-page document available online, which discusses in detail all the things that can theoretically be done, and their likely cost effectiveness. They seem to be very willing for us to be involved. But in the end we are in one of the 40 worst cities for those particulates, and that is from diesel.

I remember back in the 90s driving a diesel car because everybody was telling me “get away from petrol”, so I did. Now I’m told, “don’t drive a diesel car, because of the particulates. Drive an electric car…” I would love to if somebody gave me the money to buy one!

Trying to discourage diesel is something the local authority could do more about. Hull Friends of the Earth could try and raise awareness because it is mainly freight that is the big problem. How much can we influence that unless the government itself were to bring in further laws which forced the big business to change things?

What are your hopes?

I believe that we have to do everything we can, just because we have to do everything we can. Not out of any kind of nobility, but just that there is something there, so you deal with it.

We’re gradually picking our way around, making it a little bit better here and there. Maybe we can get the cities’ air where it should be.

Do you have a message to people to help them understand what they can do?

Have the courage to be who you want to be, and if that means sticking your head above the parapet, doing it differently, or people not understanding you, try not to let that be a problem.

Find like-minded people. Friends of the Earth may well help you find like-minded people. Their website will take you to your nearest local group and tell you what’s happening.

Get a FoE Clear Air Kit –

 

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The latest batch of Clean Air Kits has been snapped up. but FoE will let you know as soon as more become available, if you register your interest.

Further Reading
GuardianEastbourne a surprise name among UK’s most polluted towns and cities [12 May 2016]

WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database [update 2016]

Download WHO Ambient (outdoor) air pollution database, by country and city

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38 Degrees | Fracking – Please speak out against this attack on local democracy

I have just received a number of e-mails from local residents on the issue of fracking organised by 38 Degress.

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Please will you speak out against government plans to remove local councils’ right to stop fracking in their community?

The Government want to roll out a huge fracking industry in the UK over the next decade. And to do so, they want to change the law so local communities and councils won’t have the power to block fracking applications.

This is a huge attack on local democracy. Please will you do all in your power to stand out against these plans? Please will you write to Liz Truss, the Environment Secretary; Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary; and Greg Clark, the Communities Secretary, to call on them not to go ahead with these undemocratic plans?

Thanks

This is my response:

Thank you for asking me to speak out against government plans to remove local councils’ right to stop fracking in their community as part of the 38 Degrees campaign.

I find it inexcusable that the Tory Government are looking to change planning policy to prevent local people having  a say on the decisions that will affect their lives, countryside and environment.

If this goes ahead, I am concerned this will set a precedent for the Government running roughshod over local democracy on any decisions.

Just over a year ago, there was a debate in the House of Commons on fracking  during the Third Reading of the Infrastructure Bill  [see Hansard 26 January 2015]. The Bill received Royal Assent on 12 February and is now an Act of Parliament]

Although I was upset that they didn’t support a full moratorium, I was pleased that Labour MPs backed a ban on fracking all national parks and sites of scientific interest

Guardian Tories forced into U-turn on fast-track fracking after accepting Labour plans [26 January 2015]

Yet in December last year, the Government reversed this decision by sneaking new plans to allow fracking in national parking through the back door of Parliament after giving no time for Commons debate. As a result , the new rules allow fracking 1,200 metres below national parks and SSIs, as long as drilling takes place from outside protected areas.

Guardian Fracking under national parks approved by MPs amid acrimony [16 December 2015]

Here in Exeter [and indeed in the wider Devon area] we are lucky, as the geological make-up of the area makes it very unlikely that there will beany extraction of shale gas by fracking.

However, there is the wider threat that Devon might become a dumping ground for the toxic waste from fracking.

I have looked at the evidence of the environmental damage and pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing, and as a result  I am completely opposed to fracking.

The further extraction of hard-to-reach fossil fuels is not compatible with the UK’s national and international commitments and I believe that more should be done to increase the country’s renewable energy production.

This is of key importance here in the South West where there is enough renewable power to transform the area – reports have shown that the region has the renewable energy resources to meet more than 100% of its total energy needs.

I will continue to support the campaigns of Frack Free Devon.

Please feel free to contact me on this matter in the future.

Paul

Cllr Paul Bull
Labour and Cooperative Councillor for Cowick
Member Champion for Community Engagement

PS You can download a copy of Friends of the Earth’s Stop Fracking Action Pack here

Fracking in the Infrastructure Bill 2015

On Monday 26 January 2015, the Commons Environmental Audit Committee published Environmental risks of frackingwhich concluded that shale fracking should be put on hold in the UK because it is incompatible with our climate change targets and could pose significant localised environmental risks to public health.

The Committee proposed some amendments to introduce a moratorium, linked to the Bill’s clauses aimed at setting a strategy to maximise fossil fuel extraction – see NC 68  and NC 69 in Notice of Amendments [up to 22 January 2015.

FoE Press Release: Members of powerful committee of MPs call for fracking moratorium [22 January 2015]

Later that day, the House of Commons spent a very short time debating amendments the Infrastructure Bill 2015 [Hansard 26 Jan 2015 : Column 574].

In my view, too little time was allocated to the debate – particular when it’s being considered that we are currently seeing a zombie Parliament [ BBC Wales Has Westminster become a zombie parliament? 29 Jan 2015].

Like many people, I was disappointed and confused by some of the Divisions on that day:

Division 137:
Infrastructure Bill — NC 01  — Environmental Permits for Hydraulic Fracturing Activities
Ayes: 223; Noes: 319 – Question accordingly negatived
Had it not been rejected this amendment would have introduced a provision explicitly requiring an environmental permit for hydraulic fracturing activities (otherwise known as “fracking”).

Division 138:
Infrastructure Bill — NC 02  — Shale Gas Extraction in Scotland — Devolution of Regulation to Scottish Parliament
Ayes: 231; Noes: 324 – Question accordingly negatived
Had it not been rejected this clause would have added the regulation of shale gas extraction in Scotland to a list of exceptions to the list of powers relating to oil and gas in Scotland “reserved” by the UK Parliament.

Division 139:
Infrastructure Bill — NC 09  — Moratorium on Onshore Unconventional Petroleum — Review Impacts of Exploitation
Ayes: 308; Noes: 54 – Question accordingly negatived
Had it not been rejected this amendment would have banbed the exploitation of unconventional petroleum (including “fracking”) for at least 18 months and not to require a review of the impact of such exploitation on climate change, the environment, the economy, and health and safety be carried out and published.

Labour’s NC 19 amendment was passed without going to Division because earlier in the debate Energy Minister Amber Rudd accepted the amendment:
“It is this Government’s view that we will accept new clause 19 here,” she said. “But we plan on looking to amend it in the Other Place to replace provision G on the depth with a view to put back the depth at the appropriate level for proper development.”

FoE Press Release: Public pressure forces Government retreat on fracking [26 January 2015]

EDIE.net: Infrastructure Bill: What it means and what they said [27 January 2015]

I asked Ben Bradshaw for some clarifications on the debate.

It seems that I wasn’t alone, and this is the composite letter I received.

Thank you for contacting me recently about shale gas extraction and the debate and votes on the issue on Monday January 26th during the final (Report) stages of the Government’s Infrastructure Bill. A number of constituents wrote to me about a number of the different amendments (New Clauses). I shall deal with them all.

Firstly, as you are probably aware, if you have studied this issue closely, there is no shale gas near Exeter. I’m attaching  [DECC’s The Unconventional Hydrocarbons Resources of Britain’s Onshore Basins – Shale Gas 2013, which contains ] a map of the distribution of shale gas in the UK, in case you haven’t seen it.

Shale gas distribution
Shale gas distribution

However, as far as those parts of the UK are concerned where there is shale gas, I am delighted that, faced with a Parliamentary defeat, the Government did a complete U-turn and accepted all of Labour’s demands in full. These were contained in New Clause 19, which prevents all shale gas development in the UK unless and until a series of stringent conditions are met.

These conditions and protections have been developed by Labour contained working with organisations including the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and the Local Government Association and drawing on work by Royal Academy of Engineering and other bodies. They:

  1. Prohibit shale gas extraction in groundwater protection zones.
  2. Require shale gas operators to individually notify residents of activity, rather than publishing a generic notice.
  3. Put the payment of community benefit onto a statutory footing.
  4. Introduce a presumption against development in Protected Areas.
  5. Prohibit the use of “any substance” in the frack fluid, as in current legislation.
  6. Ensure that decommissioned land is returned to a state required by the planning authority.
  7. Place an obligation on operators to monitor and report fugitive emissions.
  8. Empower local planning authorities to consider the cumulative impact of multiple developments in their area.
  9. Ensure that there is independent inspection of well integrity.
  10. Require 12 months of baseline assessments.
  11. Require all shale gas sites to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments
  12. Make water companies statutory consultees in the planning process.
  13. Extend the depth at which fracking could take place from 300m to 1000m.

Some of you wrote to me about New Clause 68 – tabled by my Labour colleague, Joan Walley, who chairs the Environment Audit Committee. Her committee published a report on shale gas extraction on the day of the debate. Joan did not push her New Clause to a vote, but Labour’s New Clause 19 delivers in practice everything that was contained in New Clause 68.

New Clause 51 on trespass, was not selected for debate and vote by the Speaker. We believe New Clause 19 deals with the concerns that motivated this New Clause in a more effective way.

Labour abstained on New Clause 9 because we considered it weaker than New Clause 19. New Clause 9 simply called for an 18 to 30 month moratorium during a “review”, with no conditionality attached as to what would happen after that and would have delivered no improvement at all in the regulatory framework.

Labour has always said that shale gas extraction should not happen unless we have a system of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection. This Government has consistently ignored people’s genuine and legitimate environmental concerns.

I’m extremely grateful to you and my other constituents who have contacted me about this issue and helped us keep the pressure on the Government.

The main danger now is that if the Tories win the election they will scrap all these safeguards. The only thing that can ensure this doesn’t happen and our environment remains protected will be the election of a Labour Government on May 7th.

Finally, it goes without saying that UK energy policy needs a massive shift towards low and zero carbon generation. I have been dismayed by the decline in the growth of the renewables sector under this Government. Labour is committed to revitalising the renewables sector and to a binding carbon reduction target by 2030.

I hope this is helpful, but if you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get back in touch.

With very best wishes,

Ben Bradshaw

Notes
New Clause 68:
Joan Walley, Mark Lazarowicz, Caroline Lucas, Dr Matthew Offord, Mrs Caroline Spelman, Dr Alan Whitehead, Zac Goldsmith, Katy Clark,  Martin Caton, Dr Julian Hupper

Clause 37, page 39, line 17, leave out “the objective of maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum, in particular through” and insert “not the objective of maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum but ensuring that fossil fuelemissions are limited to the carbon budgets advised by the Committee on Climate Change and introducing a moratorium on the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas deposits in order to reduce the risk of carbon budgets being breached, in particular through—”

Member’s explanatory statement:
This reflects the conclusions from an inquiry into the Environmental risks of fracking by the Environmental Audit Committee, whose report is published on 26 January (Eighth Report, HC 856).

New Clause 69:
Joan Walley, Mark Lazarowicz, Caroline Lucas, Dr Matthew Offord, Mrs Caroline Spelman, Dr Alan Whitehead, Zac Goldsmith, Katy Clark,  Martin Caton, Dr Julian Hupper

Title, line 10, leave out “to make provision about maximising economic recovery of petroleum in the United Kingdom;”

Member’s explanatory statement:
This reflects the conclusions from an inquiry into the Environmental risks of fracking by the Environmental Audit Committee, whose report is published on 26 January (Eighth Report, HC 856).

My response to Greenpeace UK’s Say No To Fracking letters

Many residents have been using this template letter from Greenpeace to contact me about their concerns about the serious issue of fracking

I’m very concerned about the prospect of fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – in our area.

Fracking has been practiced in the US for some time and has been linked to contamination of water supplies and
atmospheric pollution, as well as increased traffic to construction sites. The government has promised lower energy bills if gas and oil from fracking is produced, but even the fracking companies admit this is unlikely to happen. The government should, instead, be concentrating on sustainable energy sources rather than this appalling method of extracting short-term energy supplies.

I would like to know if any companies are planning to carry out fracking in Devon and whether any relevant licences havebeen sold. If so, I would be grateful if you could let me know your position on the matter and what steps I can take to register my objections.

If there are no current plans or licences, I would be grateful if you could keep me informed of any future developments.

Sincerely,

Here is my response to this e-mail:

Thank you for your email as part of Greenpeace’s campaign Say No To Fracking to defend neighbourhoods from fracking.

Like you I have serious concerns about the practice as it is linked to contaminations of water supplies, increased air pollution, and even small earthquakes. I think that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas is a retrograde step as it will boost carbon dioxide emissions and should not divert attention and funding from sustainable energy business growth.

recent report in New Scientist (7 August 2013) suggests that fracking for shale gas and oil, rather than stemming “global warming, could actually accelerate climate change by releasing methane – a more potent ‘greenhouse gas” than carbon dioxide – into the atmosphere

I am concerned about fracking and am aware of the key messages published by UK Extreme Energy in July 2013.

They also publish a very useful set of briefing notes which you might you might find useful.

I have been in contact with officers at Exeter City Council and they have confirmed that there have not been any applications for licences for any form of shale gas or oil exploration within the boundaries of Exeter.

Also, to the best of my knowledge there have not been any applications within the county. The geology of Devon makes it unlikely that there is any prospect of there being any oil or gas reserves.

I have asked the officers to keep me informed of any change to this situation, and you could join me in subscribing the to Frack Off
e-newsletter for updates.

Friends of the Earth are also running a campaign against fracking – more from their campaign hub.

Thank you for your interest in this subject and I will endeavour to keep you informed if the situation changes

Regards

Paul

UPDATE 20/08/13
The Guardian carries this his is a useful and fairly balanced summary of the issue:
Fracks and figures: the big questions about fracking

It does concern me that the Tories and their allies are so hellbent on introducing th at any cost…

St James Ward | About me

This is the introductory message from me in the spring newsletter to residents in the St James ward.

“I was born in Plymouth, but moved away to go to Salford University in 1974. That was the start of 30 years in exile.

“It was while at University that my career path changed. I left Plymouth planning to be a research biologist but somehow became sidetracked. I now have a career as a freelance theatre sound designer and sound engineer for a wide variety of musical styles.

“If I ever had any definite career plans, it was to return to the South-West at a stage where I would never have to leave the area again. Well, that became reality when I moved to Exeter with my wife, Rachel, in 2004.

“Exeter was a city I never really visited when I was growing up (except for visiting the judo club next to St James’ Park for area championships – now the site of the important Fountain Centre). Arriving here I was struck by what an amazing city it is. And that has continued to be, especially when I realise that I can easily walk for home to the centre, enjoy the newly developed Princesshay development, and experience the unique delights of this glorious city.

“What do I stand for and what do I believe in? I am committed to promoting the causes of the co-operative movement and mutual dependency, such as the Exeter Credit Union. In addition, I am an active member of the Friends of the Earth “Campaign Express” awareness strategy and a supporter of Greenpeace.

“I would like to think that the challenge facing not just St James’ but Exeter as a whole is we should deliver services not solely by meeting targets but by involving citizens as active partners and using their energies to improve their neighbourhoods.

“As a sound engineer I spend my working life actively listening. If elected, I would be a councillor that actively listens to what you have to say. Help me be that listening voice”