Letters: Dangerous gas but safe water?

These letters were published in the Friday 20th December edition of the Independent

The Government wants half of inhabited Britain opened up to possible fracking. The cash registers at the Treasury are deafening. Protesters are to be bought off. The visual and environmental impact of fracking wells and their essential ancillary installations and access roads will be far greater than that of onshore wind turbines which so upset many local communities.

What we are not being told is that fugitive methane gas, 86 times more dangerous a greenhouse gas than CO2, leaks from fracking wells. The Pennsylvania Department for Environmental Protection found that, of the 3,391 fracking wells drilled in the state as recently as 2010-2011, 6.2 per cent have already failed methane migration rules. Failure rates increase as wells age. Seven eastern US States are so concerned at this development that they are initiating court action to require the US Environmental Protection Agency to remedy its failure under the Clean Air Act.

We are repeatedly reminded by MPs that the UK is the only nation to enshrine in law its obligations in the Climate Change Act.

Canon Christopher Hall, Banbury, Oxfordshire


I am writing to ensure the correct facts are known following recent coverage of research by the University of Missouri into fluids used in fracking in the United States. There has been some criticism in the US of the methodology used by the study’s author. However, I would like to highlight how companies in the UK using hydraulic fracturing will act to prevent any problems arising from chemical usage and flowback water.

In the UK, any fracturing fluid composition has to be reviewed and approved by the Environment Agency, and the shale gas exploration companies will publish details of fluids used and their composition. For instance, mains water and sand make up 99.95 per cent of the fracturing fluid for Cuadrilla’s proposed tests in the Bowland Basin. Around 0.04 per cent is a friction reducer called polyacrylamide, commonly used in facial cream and contact lenses. This fluid is non-hazardous to groundwater.

Between 20 and 40 per cent of the water used during fracking flows back to the surface within the first few weeks of production. All the water recovered following hydraulic fracturing will be stored in fully enclosed steel tanks until disposal, when an Environment Agency-approved disposal company will remove all water for testing and treatment at a licensed waste water plant. Flowback water is classified as a non-hazardous waste.

The UK onshore oil and gas industry is one of the most heavily regulated in the world; our operators have to comply with 14 European Union directives and require up to nine permits to operate. What happens in other countries is not always applicable in the UK, and we have to be exceptionally careful when trying to make those comparisons.

Ken Cronin, CEO, UK Onshore Operators Group,  London EC2


As I read your report on possible fracking in Britain (18 December), I remembered the comments made at a recent reading by the Canadian poet Karen Solie, a farmer’s daughter. She remarked that fracking had ensured a guaranteed income for some Canadian farmers. It had also guaranteed that they could no longer drink their local water.

Alison Brackenbury, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire


Not too generous with information

I want to congratulate Chris Atkins (“How I turned into the comedy establishment’s most hated man”, 14 December). But I’m not in the least surprised that he hit a brick wall.

I wrote several letters to Comic Relief in an attempt to dig out the facts about the distribution of the funds that the public donate – but more importantly, how much of this cash is actually given out. My main points were never answered.

Just as celebrities are happy to use the BBC as a conduit for no-cost advertising – underwritten by the licence-fee payers – they are also happy to use any charity for exactly the same purpose.

Ray J Howes, Weymouth, Dorset


All credit to film-maker Chris Atkins in exposing the questionable investment decisions of Children in Need. Members of the public who donate to this and other charities have a right to know where their money is being invested.

Children in Need has not shown itself in a good light in the way it has over-reacted to these revelations or its non-cooperation with Panorama prior to the making of the programme about their investments. 

Charities should not be above criticism and scrutiny if they are to maintain the public’s trust and support.

Liam McParland, Huddersfield


Victims of the  season of excess

This year the Government vetoed raising the cost of alcohol by either imposing a minimum price or by increasing the tax. In the 18th century, when gin was tuppence a pint, thousands of people drank themselves to oblivion, causing great harm to themselves and others. The problem almost disappeared when the price of gin was raised.

Last December I was admitted with pneumonia, as an emergency, to a central London hospital. Christmas day was on a Tuesday, and most people’s last working day was Friday 21 December.

I was in the women’s acute medical admissions ward. On that Friday the entire ward was cleared by moving patients elsewhere, to make space for the people who had drunk themselves seriously ill. I was to be sent to a gynaecology ward. I didn’t want to be moved and said so. The nurses told me I could stay if I wanted, but advised me that I wouldn’t like it. I took their advice.

Many of the drunks probably thought, afterwards, that it was a bit of a lark. It wasn’t. It cost the NHS a huge amount of money. It meant that doctors in accident and emergency departments had precious little time to devote to seriously ill people with unavoidable conditions. It also meant that people with acute illnesses had long waits where they were deprived of the attention they should have had.

Caroline Richmond, London N12


No, Jenny Sykes (letter, 19 December), you are not the only one who really enjoys receiving Christmas newsletters. If someone has taken the time to send you a card, why not read their letter too and see what is going on in their life? Happy Christmas, everyone.

Linda Dickins, Wimborne, Dorset


Sainsbury’s Christmas gift guide includes, “For Her”, a pudding bowl. Any husband tempted to follow their suggestion should be warned that coroners can still return a verdict of justifiable homicide.

Martin Stallion, Braintree, Essex


A policy to keep families apart

Once again the Government wishes families to spend as little time together as possible. Liz Truss, the minister for education and childcare, announced her desire for schools to open 8am-6pm for the convenience of both working parents.

The modern living arrangements that she speaks of do not take into account the never-changing requirement of children for consistent loving care during their early years. Nor does it consider the desire for some families to work less or for one parent not to work at all for a short time while their children are young.

Mrs Truss expects children to have a longer working day than their parents, and as little opportunity for interaction with them as possible. Children are expected to cope with a reduced chance of chatting about their day’s joys and achievements or for parents to notice and nip in the bud a worry the child is developing.

The childcare required has not only a financial cost but also a social cost to the next generation. Reform taxation to reflect dependants, and let people make their own choices regarding work, home life and childcare with their own money. Family life is too precious to meddle with in this way.

Imogen Thompson, Stockport


Unscripted drama at the National Theatre

I read your article on mishaps at the National Theatre (12 December) hoping to find mention of an aborted performance of Pinter’s No Man’s Land in February 1977 at the Lyttelton.

It was my last evening in London before heading off to a new job abroad. The first half of the play had me intrigued if slightly baffled, though in awe of the presence on stage of Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud.

After the interval the lights went down and the safety curtain started to open. It rapidly became apparent that there was a problem with the curtain. It stuck firmly, only slightly open. All we could see were Sir Ralph’s slippers as he sat waiting to resume.

After a few jerky curtain movements over several minutes the lights went up and a red-faced manager appeared. He announced that despite spending many millions on the new theatre there was no way to open the jammed curtain.

We had to go home, but were promised tickets for another performance. As I was off to start my new role overseas I never got to see the rest of this famous production.

Andrew Jackson, Hertford