Question 1The purpose of this guidance is to signpost the reader to the appropriate regulatory regimes for onshore oil and gas exploration and extraction. Do you feel the document fulfils this purpose?


Please explain your answer.

1. Given the firm and I must believe sincere commitments to significantly reduce emissions given by Mr Cameron at the COP21 last November; given the vastly expensive stress extreme and chaotic weather patterns, driven by global warming, are already putting on the agricultural, wildlife and human environments in England; and given our alarming knowledge that this chaos is not reversible, unless we can achieve significantly negative emissions (which is not likely), the guidance the Environment Agency gives on the appropriate regimes for oil and gas exploration should be a warning that the presumption, for all applications for energy-extraction development except for renewables (solar, wind etc), is that they will be refused. There is a very strong case to be made for renwable energy exploration and extraction throughout England. There is no regulatory regime that makes new onshore oil and gas exploration and extraction safe, economically viable; or in any way desirable.

2. Guidance on HVHF (High Volume Hydraulic Fracking) should be even more strongly worded. There should be warning that any application for HVHF exploration will be considered as an application for extraction (UNESCO: Virunga "Exploration is a clear intent to extract"), and environmental hazards, including hazards to public health, hazards to drinking water, hazards from toxic waste, damage to landscape, livestock, agriculture and wildlife, damage to land and property values, will be measured in terms of the maximum number of wells assessed by the EA as required for commercial extraction. The Environment Agency's regulatory regime should thus amount to an outright ban, and this should be your guidance to applicants .I see you are not afraid to state that an outright ban on dangerous operations will be applied (p34ff). In HVHF, one exploration well translates to several thousand short lived extraction wells. This is indefensible in environmental terms, anywhere in this small crowded country.
3. You state in your preamble to this Oil and Gas Sector Guidance document that "Acting to reduce climate change and helping people and wildlife adapt to its consequences are at the heart of all that we do" . I assume you are not actually delusional, so please consider this statement when revising your guidance. Fossil fuel (including coal bed methane) now needs to Stay In The Ground. I assume you can count, so I won't trouble to explain why England's exploitation of fracked shale gas cannot be designated as a "bridging fuel", or in any way a contribution to the reduction of global emissions. It is the duty of the Environment Agency to make this point clear to any applicant for onshore oil and gas exploration and extraction, when you are politely turning them down.

Question 2Does the guidance clearly outline the permits that are needed for onshore oil and gas?


Please explain your answer.

1. You are not entirely to blame for this inadequacy. It would be difficult to explain a regulatory regime based on the current government guidelines, assuming that the confusion is not in fact deliberate. Why is extraction by HVHF now to be permitted 1,200 metres under our National Parks,Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites, but at depths of 1000 metres under SSSIs? Why is the depth of fracking operations under these protected sites enshrined in legislation, whereas the ban on surface installations (involving, see above, thousands of unsightly and noxious wells) is only a "condition" or a "policy statement". Hopeful applicants might be excused for thinking that permits for extreme energy extraction via surface installations are in fact available in the National Parks etc; or will be available soon.
2. Specifically, the state of play on "reinjected" fluids is unclear. Does the new wording on reinjection of fluid waste ("will be considered as a waste facility") imply that the EA now intends to allow reinjection as a final disposal, which was prohibited in the 2013 guidance. & if so, what has changed? It can't be the chemistry. See link below for details of the environmental dangers.

Question 3Does the guidance clearly outline the other permissions that are needed for onshore oil and gas?


Please explain your answer.
I'm not sure what this question means. Permissions that would be outside the remit of the EA? I didn't see any mention in your guidance of issues around massive increases in traffic in small villages, or HGV traffic damage to rural road networks, two concerns that have proved of high public interest. Reference to public health was also cursory, which is surprising, since in areas where extreme energy extraction is proposed, local people are likely to be acutely aware of, and well-informed about, the alarming, long-term and short-term costs to human health and the health of livestock, in the neighbourhood of such installations in the USA. Possibly you should have given more detail here?

Question 4Is there anything missing that you feel should be included in the guidance?


Please explain your answer.

1. I think I've already detailed the warnings that are missing, and the conditions that are unclear or contradictory. It's as if the EA knows that renewable energy is the way forward, and extreme energy extraction is never safe for the environment, and should always be banned, but has been forbidden to say so! When an applicant is proposing exploration and extraction of shale gas by HVHF, involving several thousand short lived noxious wells in a rural or semi-suburban area, the caveat that "You will also need to demonstrate that the impact of your installation on the environment is not significant", is either superfluous (just say no!); or incomprehensible.

2. Specifically, on the issue of compliance (p48), when would "enforcement action" be applied, and what exactly is enforcement action? Legend has it that there was no visit or inspection by the Environment Agency, for the whole term of Cuadrilla's exploration operations in Balcombe, West Sussex, and it is a matter of record that Cuadrilla failed to apply for several necessary permits, but no penalties seem to have been imposed.

Question 5Please tell us if you have any other views or comments on the guidance that have not been covered by previous questions.

I know that you are in a hard place. I believe at least some of you people may have expected a far different regime when you decided to work for the EA, and you may be trying your best, under horrible constraints. To an extent, I sincerely pity you.