Friday, 18 April 2014

Green Party Urgent Action to Tackle Kent's "Killer Pollution"

Kent Greens are  calling on KCC to take urgent action to tackle the county’s “killer pollution” problem.

According to a major report published  by Public Health England (PHE) last week, 25,000 people, aged 25 or over, died from  cardiovascular and respiratory causes  linked to long-term exposure to air pollution in 2010 (1). Kent has the highest rate of air pollution related deaths in South East England at 745. Neighbouring Surrey had 527 deaths, East Sussex 294, West Sussex 429, and Hampshire 294(2).

Out of the 12 Kent District Councils, Thanet had  90 air pollution related deaths, the largest number in the county. Canterbury was in second place at 81. The lowest numbers of air pollution related deaths  were in Ashford with 50 and Tunbridge Wells with 46 (3).

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver,  said “Too many people are dying prematurely because of airborne pollution produced by  cars and industry. This pollution is also a cause of respiratory illness amongst children and young people and is a major contributor to climate change. KCC needs to urgently review this unacceptable situation and review and strengthen its strategies to reduce airborne pollution and premature deaths across the county”.

“Thanet and the other Kent councils should all  be investing more money in the development of better cycling facilities, the promotion of walking and the improvement and expansion of affordable public transport. There should also be an major increase in roadside vehicle emission testing to catch and fine  polluters”.
The PHE research  was published several days after a report commissioned by Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, revealed that almost  42,000 Kent school students attend schools located within 150 metres of busy roads (roads with more than 10,000 vehicle movements per day), placing  their cardiovascular and respiratory health at  high levels of risk (4).

Ends
Notes

Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England April 2014. http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141074607
See above report
Figures extracted from 1.Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England April 2014.



District Attributable  deaths

Ashford 50

Canterbury 81

Dartford 54

Dover 61

Gravesham 52

Maidstone 75

Sevenoaks 57

Shepway 58

Swale  68

Thanet 90

Tonbridge and Malling 53

Tunbridge Wells 46

TOTAL 745

 Keith launches air pollution report in Canterbury http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/2014/04/09/keith-launches-air-pollution-report-in-canterbury/

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Pathetic: New data shows KCC has done nothing to increase cycling

Pathetic, is how the Kent's Green County Councillor has described cycling to work rates across the country. Figures released last week[1] show that cycling to work has fallen in every area of Kent since 2001.

Martin Whybrow, Green Party Kent County Councillor for Hythe, said : "The proportion of people cycling to work has fallen by a fifth over the past 10 years, from a previously paltry 2.0% to a pathetic 1.6% in Kent. This contrasts with rises in London of up to 7.6%.

"Furthermore, cycling to work has fallen in every area across Kent which simply shows that Kent County Council has done nothing to promote one of the most sustainable forms of transport.

"With air pollution at dangerous levels in the county, including a smog this month which prompted warnings for people to stay indoors, real action is urgently needed to increase cycling across the county."

Far from meeting road casualty targets, the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured on Kent's roads has been increasing of late[2].

"This is an extremely car-centric council that gives scant consideration to cycling. There is no concerted effort to improve safety and thereby encourage more cycling," concludes Cllr Whybrow.

1. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-353510

Monday, 3 March 2014

Kent Greens Call for Abolition of County Council

The Green Party is calling for the abolition of Kent County Council and its replacement by six unitary councils based on the following groupings.

    Thanet and  Dover (population 245,500)
    Canterbury and Swale (population 287,000)
    Shepway and Ashford (population 226,000)
    Maidstone Tonbridge and  Malling (population 289,000)
    Dartford and Gravesham (population 199,000)
    Sevenoaks, and Tunbridge Wells (population 230,000)

Existing Medway unitary council with a population 264,000 will remain unchanged.

 The new unitary authorities  would provide education, social care, highways, planning, housing, refuse collection and many other services to populations of between 200,000 – 300,000 people.

Chair of Kent Green Party and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone and the Weald, Stuart Jeffrey said “the existing county council is too large and unwieldy. It lacks any real connection and accountability to the people it serves. Local government should, by definition, be based as close to its electors as possible, rather than being inaccessible to most of Kent’s residents.

Smaller unitary councils will bring together areas  of  Kent which are already closely  connected and share many common issues. They will also bring together residents, staff and politicians with an expert understanding of the areas covered by the new councils. This would place them in a stronger  position to develop  more effective policies and strategies than the current Maidstone based system”.

Green Party Thanet District Councillor Ian Driver said, “In  East Kent many of the District Councils are already working closely together. They have  successfully  shared Housing, Human Resources, IT,  Revenues, Benefits and  Audit services for several years, so why not include KCC services as well?

I believe that the new unitary councils should be elected by proportional representation so that smaller parties and independent candidates can  be represented giving a more balanced and inclusive approach to decision making. The new councils should be managed by committee systems to prevent power being concentrated into the hands of a tiny handful of cabinet members and they should be underpinned and supported by a strong system of parish and town councils which will ensure community accountability”.

The establishment of unitary authorities will form part of the Kent Green Party’s manifesto for the 2015 council elections.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Kent Greens Condem Fracking Bribery

Today’s Government announcement allowing local councils to retain 100% of business rates paid by fracking site operators, alongside industry proposals to pay local communities £100,000 lump sums and 1% of revenues for each  drilling rig (1), have been condemned by the Kent Green Party as “fracking bribery”.

Green Party Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate for Thanet South, Ian Driver, said: “The Government is preparing to hand out cash sweeteners and inducements in advance of the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licensing (PEDL) round, taking place later this year.”

In Kent only two sites, one to the west and one to the east of the county, are currently licensed for oil and gas exploration. But Driver warns that maps produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (2) show that “every last square inch of Kent’s land will be brought under the PEDL licensing scheme”,  allowing companies such as Cuadrilla,  notorious for its Balcombe drilling site, to purchase exploration rights anywhere in the county, providing they have the permission of the landowner.”

The Government predicts a strong interest in the licence sales, especially in the South East. In a recent interview with the Telegraph, Sevenoaks MP and Minister of State for Energy, Michael Fallon, said that significant reserves of shale gas are likely to be found “right across the South. We’re talking about Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, into Kent” and that “households right across the South should prepare for gas fracking to begin in their areas (3)”.

Government reassurances that, if properly regulated, controversial fracking techniques can be carried out without danger are hotly disputed by Driver, who said: “There is strong and compelling evidence emerging from countries such as the USA and Australia, where fracking has been taking place for some time, that such procedures can never be carried out safely.

“Even the Government’s own Environmental Assessment highlights the dangers of  fracking, including the astronomical demand for billions of cubic metres of water, much of which will become polluted by the extraction process, the danger to underground drinking water supplies (especially in Kent where 70% of drinking water comes from underground sources),  the huge number of  additional vehicle movements and congestion in the countryside, where many drilling rigs will be located, and the noise and atmospheric pollution associated with this process (4).”

Despite the large financial incentives, Driver predicts strong opposition to the expansion of gas exploration and extraction in Kent. “In East Kent, exploration company Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd was recently forced, by overwhelming public opposition, to withdraw three planning applications for exploratory drilling at Guston, Shepherdswell and Tilmanstone (5). Planning authority Kent County Council was inundated by hundreds of objections from local residents and all four Parish Councils covering the proposed drilling sites voted to oppose the plans.

“I expect to see many more examples of people power and community opposition developing across Kent and the rest of south-east England as the new licences are sold and planning applications to drill are submitted. Whatever the Government might say, and no matter how much they try to bribe local communities, most people don’t want their villages and towns disrupted and devastated by fracking, or the security of their water supplies put at risk. It’s too high a price to pay.

“The Green Party is the only national political party to oppose the extraction of shale and coal bed methane gas and the use of fracking processes. We will work with local communities across Kent to fight plans for drilling for gas.”

Kent Greens Councillors for Sale at £99.99

During a week in which a poll revealed 46% of voters believe MPs are “on the take” (1), the Kent Green Party has accused the county’s councillors of “pimping out their services and influence for £99.99 a go”.

This hard-hitting allegation follows the adoption, by KCC, the 12 District and many of the county’s 315 Town and Parish Councils, of the so-called Kent Code of Conduct for Members (2).

The Code, which replaces rules set by the now defunct Standards Board for England, regulates the ethical behaviour of most of Kent’s 2,500(3) plus councillors. Amongst other things, it allows them to accept gifts and hospitality up to the value of £100 without any need to make a declaration (4). This is a 400% increase on the Standards Board for England previous declaration limit of £25 for gifts and hospitality.

Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, who voted against Thanet Council’s decision to adopt the controversial gifts and hospitality rules said: “It’s morally wrong for County, District, Town or Parish Councillors to accept any form of payment or gift from constituents, businesses, lobbyists, or any other organisation. Permitting councillors to accept treats of up to £99.99 without any declaration sends out all the wrong messages. It’s like saying that Kent’s Councillors are free to pimp out their services and influence for £99.99 a go without anyone finding out. This ill-conceived Code is a charter for corruption which reinforces the impression that politicians have their snouts in the trough. It brings local government into serious disrepute.”

Driver’s views  are supported by the world’s leading anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, which in a recent report entitled “Corruption in UK Local Government: The Mounting Risks” said that “. . . without transparency about gifts and hospitality, there can be no serious scrutiny of an important channel through which individuals or interest groups might seek to corruptly influence members (5).”

Said Driver “I call on the County, District, Town and Parish Councils to review their Codes of Conduct and introduce changes which prohibit councillors from receiving any gifts or hospitality from constituents, lobbyists or any other organisations. I encourage the people of Kent to lobby their Councillors to put an end to this charter for corruption.”

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Kent Greens Call Rethink on KCC Freedom Pass Changes

The Kent Green Party has called on KCC to rethink its plans to place a cap on the value of its young person’s Freedom Pass.  

In a report to be presented at Friday’s (13th December) Environment, Highways and Waste Cabinet Committee meeting (1), it is proposed to limit the 11-16 year old Freedom Pass to journeys up to the value £350. The current Freedom Pass allows unlimited journeys within Kent.

The report also proposes the introduction of a new Freedom Pass for 16–20 year olds which will be limited to journeys up to the value of £250. Both passes will cost £100 to buy and when the limit is exhausted young people or their parents will have to top up the card by purchasing extra credit.

The changes hope to save £7 million as part of KCC’s drive to reduce its costs by £239 million over the next four years.

Kent Green Party believes that such a drastic reduction in help for youngsters travelling to and from school and college is short-sighted, adding more traffic, noise and congestion on Kent’s roads, and causing potential hardship for many families. It would like to see a more generous scheme, financed by cuts to other areas, such as new road building, a phased approach to the changes, and greater weighting than at present to aid those who most need help.

Green Party County Councillor Martin Whybrow said: “I fully understand that KCC is under enormous budget constraints as a result of central government cuts and that the attractiveness of the existing Freedom Pass means it is extremely expensive for KCC. However, the proposed changes are a massive hit for Kent’s youngsters and their families. They particularly discriminate against young people in rural areas who have to make longer journeys to school or college. Their credit will be used up much sooner than young people living in urban areas of Kent and their parents may have to find up to another £300 or £400 per year to pay for the additional credit.

“It will also be another significant setback for Kent’s poorest residents, already under great pressure from the government’s attack on benefits. Some of our towns such as Canterbury, Dartford, Dover, Folkestone, Margate and Ramsgate have rates of child poverty of 20% and above (2). Forcing already hard pushed parents to pay additional travel costs will make their financial situation even worse.

“We already know from a report on the impact of welfare benefit changes in Kent, which was suppressed by KCC leader, Paul Carter, last week, that a growing number of Kent families are struggling to make ends meet. Forcing many of these families to pay out additional school and college costs will cause incredible hardship for these families (3).”

Ends

Friday, 29 November 2013

Kent Greens Energy Profits Immoral In Face of Rising Winter Deaths

Kent  Greens have blasted as “immoral” the massive 77% increase in the domestic profit rate of the Big Six energy companies (1) whilst excess winter deaths rose to 31,000 – a staggering 29% more than the previous year (2).

Kent Green Party Chair and European Parliamentary Candidate, Stuart Jeffrey, said: “It’s immoral for energy companies to be increasing profit margins by such high rates when thousands of people across the country are needlessly dying each winter because they cannot afford to keep warm.

“Instead of talking about getting rid of the ‘green crap’, as Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly called fuel bill environmental levies, the Government should be rolling out a major programme of home insulation and energy efficiency focused on those most likely to be facing fuel poverty, or with medical conditions placing them at risk of  cold-related death. There must also be an independent public enquiry into the vast profits made by the energy companies and steps taken to ensure that a greater portion is re-invested in ensuring that fuel poverty and excess winter deaths become a thing of the past.”
Latest figures show that there were 630 excess winter deaths in Kent during the winter of 2011-12. The highest number of deaths was in Canterbury with 120, followed by Thanet with 90. The lowest rates were in Dartford, Dover, Gravesham and Maidstone, where 30 deaths per district were recorded (3).
According to Government research, 53,272 Kent households (an average of 9% of total households) are in fuel poverty (4). In some areas of Kent the number of households in poverty is much higher than the county average. In Canterbury, Thanet, Swale and Dover fuel poverty rates of between 17-22% are concentrated in some of the most deprived wards (5).
“With wages and benefits frozen or reducing in value, and energy price rises many times greater than inflation, thousands of Kent people will find themselves in fuel poverty with many having to make the choice between eating and heating,” said Green Party Thanet Councillor, Ian Driver.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Almost 7,000 Kent Households Fall Victim to Bedroom Tax

6,921 households in Kent have had their housing benefits cut as a result of the Government’s bedroom tax according to figures released by the Department for  Work and Pensions (1).

The figures, which cover the period April until August 2013, are the first to identify how many households have lost housing benefit payments since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 2013.

In August, the most recent period for which figures are available, 788 people living in Swale lost an average of £900 per year in housing benefit, making it the worst affected district in Kent.

The least badly affected district is Dartford, where 365 people have lost an average of £894 per year in benefits.

An estimated £6 million will have been slashed from Kent’s housing benefit payments by the end of the first year of the bedroom tax. The average loss per Kent affected household has been calculated to be a staggering £868 per year.

Kent Green Party Chairman and European Parliamentary Candidate, Stuart Jeffrey  said: “The bedroom tax is having a major impact on the most vulnerable and low-paid people in Kent. There are simply not enough smaller rented properties to move into, so people already living on a low income are being forced to cut back even further on essentials such as food, heating and clothing. This ill-conceived policy will force thousands of families in Kent into poverty.”

Evidence is now beginning to emerge that many households caught by the bedroom tax are falling into rent arrears. A survey carried out by the National Housing Federation estimates that more than 50% of housing association tenants who are affected by the bedroom tax have fallen behind with rent since the introduction of this policy (2).

The Green Party opposes the Bedroom Tax. It is unfair and targets some of the most vulnerable and deprived  people in society. The Party calls upon Kent Councils not to evict anyone falling into rent arrears as a consequence of the bedroom tax. The Green Party, alongside many charities, disabled groups and trade unions is campaigning for the  immediate abolition of the bedroom tax.   




Local authority

Households hit by bedroom tax

Average amount lost per year

Ashford

604

£807.76

Canterbury

534

£829.66

Dartford

365

£894.33

Dover

621

£750.90

Gravesham

712

£812.32

Maidstone

636

£904.89

Sevenoaks

480

£976.35

Swale

788

£899.77

Shepway

453

£775.12

Tonbridge and Malling

660

£1,013.02

Tunbridge Wells

458

£986.07

Thanet

610

£770.84


6,921

av loss  = £868




Monday, 18 November 2013

Kent Greens Warn of Fracking Frenzy

Kent should ready itself for New Year “fracking frenzy”, warns Thanet Green Party councillor, Ian Driver.

According to Driver, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will be selling off  Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) early next year, covering those areas of Kent not already subject to licensing (1).

A map produced by DECC shows that licences covering more than four fifths of Kent will be up for grabs (2). It is expected that companies such as Cuadrilla, notorious for its Balcombe drilling site, will be amongst those seeking rights to explore for shale and coal bed methane gas beneath the county’s countryside.

Said Driver: “The sale of the licences will coincide with the publication of a report by the British Geological Survey (BGS) which will quantify the amount of shale and coal bed methane gas in Kent. The fieldwork for this report is already underway (3) and if, as many people predict, large reserves of gas are identified, the licences will be snapped up like hotcakes and Kent will see fracking frenzy.”

Driver’s views are echoed by Sevenoaks MP and Minister of State for Energy, Michael Fallon, who in an interview with the Daily Telegraph last week said that significant reserves of shale gas are likely to be found “right across the South – we’re talking about Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, into Kent” and that “households right across the South should prepare for gas fracking to begin in their areas (3).

Driver predicts powerful opposition to gas exploration and extraction. “In East Kent, Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd was recently forced, by overwhelming public opposition, to withdraw three planning applications for exploratory drilling at Guston, Shepherds Well and Tilmanstone. Planning authority, Kent County Council, was inundated by hundreds of objections from local residents, all four parish councils covering the proposed drilling sites voted to oppose the plans and the Environment Agency, CPRE-Protect Kent and Dover MP Charlie Elphicke also objected to the plans.

“I expect to see many more examples of people power and community opposition developing across Kent and the rest of South East England, as the new licences are sold and planning applications to drill are submitted. Whatever the Government might say, people don’t want their villages and towns torn up and disrupted by teams of modern day Yukon-style prospectors. Also compelling evidence continues to emerge that fracking and exploratory drilling can pollute water supplies, destroy our countryside, and poison the atmosphere. The Green Party is the only national political party to oppose the extraction of shale and coal bed methane gas and the use of fracking processes. We will work with local communities across Kent and the rest of the country to oppose the drillers and prevent their dangerous and damaging activities”.



    The opening of the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round has been confirmed to be taking place in the first half of 2014.

See https://www.gov.uk/oil-and-gas-licensing-rounds

    The DECC map of the new licence areas (shown in light blue) is attached as a separate document to this e-mail.
    See e-mail from Dr Phil Richards BGS

Dear Councillor Driver, BGS is currently conducting a geological review of the shale oil and shale gas resource potential of the Weald area on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. We are not conducting any CBM investigations in that area. Work has only just started, and will take many months yet. DECC will publish the report when it is finished, probably sometime next year. I understand that Thanet is beyond the area of study.

Dr Phil Richards, Manager, Hydrocarbons ,British Geological Survey, Murchison House

West Mains Rd Edinburgh, EH9 3LA



    Interview with Michael Fallon MP, The Daily Telegraph, 8th November.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/fracking/10437394/Fracking-is-safe...-and-its-coming-soon.html

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Kent Greens Welcome Withdrawal of Gas Drilling Applications

Kent Green Party has welcomed the decision of Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd to withdraw its planning applications for exploratory gas drilling at Guston, Shepherdswell and Tilmanstone in East Kent(1).

Thanet Green Party Councillor, and member of campaign group East Kent Against Fracking, Ian Driver, said: “The applications have been withdrawn because of overwhelming opposition. Four Parish Councils have voted against the drilling. The Environment Agency, countryside charity CPRE-Protect Kent and Dover MP Charlie Elphicke have all raised serious doubts about the plans.  But most importantly local communities near to the drilling sites have organised their own campaign groups which have raised awareness about the dangers of the plans and encouraged people to object.  Kent County Council has now received literally hundreds of objections from local residents. This fantastic example of people power has been the decisive factor in forcing Coastal Oil and Gas to withdraw.”

But Driver warned against complacency. “It is very likely that Coastal Oil and Gas will re-submit applications in 2014 which will attempt to address the issues raised by the objections. So people need to be ready to resume opposition and get back on the campaign trail. The Green Party is the only national political party to oppose the extraction of shale and coal bed methane gas and associated fracking processes. We will have parliamentary and local council candidates in place by then, who will work tirelessly with local residents to oppose drilling for gas in East Kent.”

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Kent Greens Welcome Environment Agency Opposition To Gas Drilling

The Kent Green Party has welcomed the Environment Agency’s objections to planning applications for exploratory drilling for shale and coal bed methane gas at Guston, Tilmanstone and Shepherdswell, which could lead to the use of fracking techniques in East Kent.

The applications submitted by Coastal and Oil and Gas Ltd were due to be decided by Kent County Council in December but, following the intervention of the Environment Agency, it is extremely unlikely that decisions will be made until 2014.

The Environment Agency’s objections focus on the possibility that drilling operations may pollute the chalk aquifers which provide drinking water for thousands of homes in Kent (1). Despite warning Coastal Oil and Gas of their concerns during pre-application discussions, the Environment Agency has criticised the company for failing to explain what steps it will take to eliminate the risk of water pollution.

Thanet Green Party Councillor and anti-fracking campaigner, Ian Driver, said: “Ever since these applications were submitted we have warned about the danger to the water supply. The Environment Agency’s objections support our concerns and demonstrate that exploratory drilling for shale and coal bed methane  gas is incredibly dangerous and should not be allowed.”

Ashford Green Parliamentary Candidate, Mandy Rossi, said: “Many Ashford residents have water piped from the aquifers of East Kent and I will be objecting to KCC about these applications. There is no safe way of exploring for, or extracting coal or shale bed methane gas. The risks to water supplies and the environment are simply too high.”

The Green Party is the only party to oppose the exploration and extraction of coal and shale bed methane gas and the associated use of fracking techniques to aid extraction.

Ends

FURTHER INFORMATION:  Ian Driver, Tel: 07866 588766

Promoted by Stuart Jeffery for Kent Green Party, 82 Buckland Road, Maidstone ME16 0SD

KENT GREEN NEWS, free ezine, is available by subscription at www.kentgreenparty.org

Notes


1. Link to Environment Agency Letters

http://www.kent.gov.uk/environment_and_planning/planning_in_kent/planning_applications/latest_news.aspx

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Exposed: KCC's £153m investment in fracking

Kent Greens have exposed Kent County Council's conflict of interest in shale gas exploration and on the day that a public meeting is being held on local shale exploration in Kent, the Greens have called for the council to hand over its decisions on all applications to local referenda. The Green Party have discovered that KCC holds £153 million of shares in companies actively or wholly involved in extracting shale oil and gas.  The Green Party remains the only party opposed to fracking.

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party and European Parliamentary Candidate: "We are calling for the decision making on fracking applications to be taken out of the hands of Kent County Council. They have a huge conflict of interest which may explain some of the reason that they are so intent on destroying our environment. They cannot be trusted to make unbiased decisions and therefore they should be stripped of this power. Until fracking is banned in this country, we want decisions on fracking to be made directly by local people.

"Kent County Council's huge investments in these eight companies that are exploiting and polluting the environment demonstrates how unfit the Conservative County Councillors are to lead Kent.

"Fracking has no place in an ecologically sustainable world. Instead, energy companies should be putting their money into renewable resources - resources that won't run out and that don't pollute."


Notes

1. £7m invested in EOG which proudly declares that: "EOG outproduces other horizontal shale oil producers by 2:1" http://www.eogresources.com/investors/annreport.html
2. 9m invested in the Wood Group: "Wood Group's activities to support oil & gas production from shale fields in the US are growing, with annualized revenue totaling approximately $500 million" http://www.woodgroup.com/news-events/news-releases/pages/1851669.aspx
3. £16m in BHP Billiton: "Our production volumes increased 40 percent over the prior year driven by the acquisition, successful integration and continued development of our Onshore US shale assets." http://www.bhpbilliton.com/home/businesses/petroleum_potash/Documents/20120101_PetroleumPotash_Petroleum_AnnualReview2012.pdf
4. £12m invested in Centrica, a company that has a 25% stake in the Bowland Shale in Lancashire: "This transaction presents an attractive opportunity for Centrica to explore the potential and commercial viability of natural gas from shale in the UK" http://www.centrica.com/index.asp?pageid=29&newsid=2778
5. £10m invested in Total: "Unconventional gas is a major strategic challenge for the future of the natural gas industry." http://total.com/en/energies-expertise/oil-gas/exploration-production/strategic-sectors/unconventional-gas/shale-gas-1/international-deployment/europe
6. £15m invested in BP AMOCO: "Natural gas, including gas from unconventional reservoirs, has an increasingly important role in meeting the world’s growing energy needs." http://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/pdf/investors/6423_BP_Unconventional_Gas.pdf
7. £27m in ROYAL DUTCH SHELL: "Abundant global supplies of natural gas and oil lie locked tightly in rock formations such as tight sandstone and shale. Shell is using advanced, proven technologies – including hydraulic fracturing – and follows global operating principles to unlock these resources safely and responsibly." http://www.shell.com/global/future-energy/natural-gas/gas/shell-operating-principles.html
8. £31m in BG Group: "BG Group explores for and produces unconventional gas in two regions: coal seam gas in Australia; and shale gas in the USA." http://www.bg-group-ara.com/pdf/bg-ar-2012-full-report.pdf
9.  East Kent Against Fracking meeting 16th Oct 7.30pm Dover http://eastkentagainstfracking.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/fracking-in-garden-of-england-meeting.html

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Green MEP Votes to Tighten Fracking Rules

Kent Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor voted today (9 October) to bring hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for unconventional hydrocarbons within the scope of the European Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.

This major change to European environmental protection rules was passed by 322 votes to 311. Once enacted in 6-12 months’ time, the impact of fracking operations on the environment will have to be thoroughly and independently evaluated by qualified experts before permission to begin drilling is granted. The changes also require that local people are provided with more information about fracking applications in their neighbourhood and that public consultation about these applications will have to be strengthened (1)

Keith Taylor said “I’m convinced that an EU-wide fracking ban is needed, but in the meantime, requiring a full environmental impact assessment on every shale gas or oil project is an important safeguard to determine the risks associated with fracking. Taking baseline environmental readings in advance of drilling will also enable effective monitoring of operations".

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, who is campaigning with East Kent Against  Fracking to oppose exploratory drilling for coal and shale bed methane gas at Guston, Shepherdswell, Tilmanstone and Woodnesborough,  said “I’m  delighted by the news. The new rules will give more power and influence to local communities who, more often than not, are forced to oppose big drilling companies with one hand tied behind their back and without any proper advice or information from council  planners”.

The Kent Green Party is supporting a major public meeting Fracking in the Garden of England? What you should know on Wednesday, 16th October, 7.30pm-9.30pm, Connaught Hall, Dover Town Hall, Maison Dieu House, Biggin St, Dover CT16 1DL.

Ends



FURTHER INFORMATION: Ian Driver, County Press Officer, Kent Green Party: Tel: 07866 588766, or Keith Taylor MEP on 0207 250 8415

Promoted by Stuart Jeffery for Kent Green Party, 82 Buckland Road, Maidstone ME16 0SD

KENT GREEN NEWS, free ezine, is available by subscription at www.kentgreenparty.org

 Notes

(1)            See European Parliament press release

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/content/20131004IPR21541/html/Shale-gas-new-fracking-projects-must-pass-environmental-test

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

KCC Tobacco Stance Morally Indefensible

Following revelations about KCC’s investments in the tobacco industry (1) and threats to discipline one of its senior public health managers for speaking out about this (2), Kent Green Party has attacked the County Council for its “morally indefensible” stance on smoking.

Green Party County Councillor Martin Whybrow  said: “When KCC became responsible for promoting public health in the county in April 2013, one of the first things it did was to make tackling smoking a top priority (3). But, having declared war on smoking, the Council continued to fund this deadly business by investing over £18million of its pension fund in cigarette giant Imperial Tobacco!

 “I believe it is morally indefensible for KCC  to campaign to reduce smoking and smoking related deaths whilst simultaneously giving massive financial support to companies responsible for killing 2,390 people from Kent in the past year (4). This cannot be justified and I will be working to ensure that it stops.”

He went on to say: “I am extremely concerned about KCC’s threat to discipline Dr Marion Gibbon, a senior public health manager, for speaking out about the Council’s investment in tobacco. In my opinion, Dr Gibbon did the right thing and should not be punished. The Faculty of Public Health have affirmed Dr Gibbon’s professional right to speak out and have rightly condemned KCC for their outrageous efforts to gag and intimidate her”(5).

“I will be writing to Professor John Ashton, President of the Faculty of Public Health, to seek his guidance on the ethical position of public health organisations investing in the tobacco industry (6). This is a subject which has major national implications now that local authorities have taken on responsibilities for public health following the Government’s abolition of the Primary Health Care Trusts earlier this year.”

Ends

FURTHER INFORMATION: Ian Driver, County Press Officer, Kent Green Party: Tel: 07866 588766, or Councillor Martin Whybrow on 07787 124794

Promoted by Stuart Jeffery for Kent Green Party, 82 Buckland Road, Maidstone ME16 0SD

KENT GREEN NEWS, free ezine, is available by subscription at www.kentgreenparty.org

Notes

(1) A Green Party Freedom of Information request reveals that the  KCC Pension Fund has invested £18,302,329 in Imperial Tobacco.

(2)  See http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/smoking-interview-6518/

(3)  See Kent County Council Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy

https://shareweb.kent.gov.uk/Documents/council-and-democracy/policies-procedures-and-plans/priorities/Health%20and%20Wellbeing%20Strategy.pdf

(4)  See Kent Health Profile 2013

http://www.apho.org.uk/resource/view.aspx?RID=50215&SEARCH=kent&SPEAR=

(5)  Statement of the Faculty of Public Health

The Faculty of Public Health today (25 September) reaffirmed its support for public health professionals who need to speak out about matters that affect the protection of the public’s health.
Professor John Ashton, President of the Faculty of Public Health, said: “It has long been FPH’s position that councils should not invest pension funds in tobacco companies. Tobacco is the only legal substance which kills half its customers when it used as intended. Councils have other industries they can invest in, and they cannot abdicate responsibility for what happens to public funds. Councils are responsible for the decisions that pension fund managers make on their behalf.
“We have seen with tragedies in hospitals and social services what happens when public sector workers are afraid to speak out about risks of harm. We need everyone in local authorities to work together so that public health professionals’ expertise is respected, particularly when it challenges the status quo. Otherwise, we risk creating a climate of fear that could do serious harm to people’s health.”

(6) Text of Councillor Whybrow’s letter to President of the Faculty of Public Health

Dear Professor Ashton

I am a Kent County Councillor and am writing to express my support for your statement of 25th September regarding the right of public health professionals to be able to speak out about issues of concern.

I believe that it was absolutely correct for the Kent County Council Public Health manager, Dr Gibbon, to comment about the unacceptable situation whereby KCC was investing heavily in tobacco companies whilst at the same time being charged with promoting the health of the public of Kent.

Last year 2,390 Kent residents died of smoking related illness. Last year Kent County Council’s Pension Fund invested £18.3 million in one of the companies responsible for many of these deaths.

Bearing in mind the fact that public health functions have, following the abolition of the Primary Care Trusts, now been transferred to local authorities I wondered if the Faculty of Public Health will now be contacting the Chief Executives and Political Leaders of these organisations to advise them of the necessity to demonstrate their commitment to public health by adopting a more ethical approach to their investments.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Martin Whybrow

Green Party, Kent County Council

Monday, 9 September 2013

East Kent Next Balcombe?

Kent Green Party and campaign group East Kent Against Fracking have joined forces to oppose planning applications for methane gas exploration in the former Kent coalfield.

The applications, submitted to KCC by Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd, are for exploratory drilling at Shepherdswell, Tilmanstone and Guston (1), within the area of the Kentish Stour aquifer.

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, said: “We totally oppose these plans. Exploratory drilling, possibly leading to full-blown fracking (2), is a serious threat to the Kentish Stour Aquifer, which supplies water to tens-of- thousands of homes in Ashford, Dover, Deal, Canterbury and Thanet (3).

“The Environment Agency is concerned about the sustainability and security of the Kentish Stour Aquifer (4) and countryside charity CPRE Protect Kent has warned that gas extraction from this area could result in the irreversible contamination of a major water supply source (5). Should exploration lead to gas extraction, we will also face the dangers of subsidence and  earth tremors, in an area already prone to seismic disturbances, the destruction of our countryside and atmospheric pollution, which has seriously affected human and animal health in Pennsylvania where this process has been allowed (6)”.

Green Party County Councillor, Martin Whybrow, said: “I am disappointed by KCC’s plans to rush through these applications (7). There are very complex associated issues. People, including KCC's own councillors and officers, need time to find out more, as reflected in some of the early optimistic and naive pronouncements from KCC. We will be working with East Kent Against Fracking to organise public meetings across East Kent to discuss and set out the issues and to mobilise opposition to the applications”.

To find out more about the public meetings visit our website  http://www.kentgreenparty.org/  where will post dates, times and locations once finalised.

“If these applications are approved it’s highly likely that East Kent could become the next Balcombe, with residents understandably resisting this risky form of drilling.”

Ends

FURTHER INFORMATION: Ian Driver, County Press Officer, Kent Green Party: Tel: 07866 588766.

Promoted by Stuart Jeffery for Kent Green Party, 82 Buckland Road, Maidstone ME16 0SD

KENT GREEN NEWS, free ezine, is available by subscription at www.kentgreenparty.org

Notes

(1)   The planning applications can be seen at

http://host1.atriumsoft.com/ePlanningOPSkent/loadFullDetails.do?aplId=53907

http://host1.atriumsoft.com/ePlanningOPSkent/loadFullDetails.do?aplId=53927

http://host1.atriumsoft.com/ePlanningOPSkent/loadFullDetails.do?aplId=53947

Coastal Oil and Gas already has KCC planning permission to conduct exploratory gas drilling at Woodnesborough nr. Sandwich (see http://host1.atriumsoft.com/ePlanningOPSkent/loadFullDetails.do?aplId=34407)

The granting of the 3 applications would mean that Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd could conduct exploratory drilling from 4 locations in the former Kent coalfield.

Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd is a 50% partner with Australian energy company Eden Energy; see http://www.edenenergy.com.au/wales.html

(2)   The extraction of coal-bed methane gas often involves the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of the coal seam. See article on World Coal Association website  http://www.worldcoal.org/coal/coal-seam-methane/coal-bed-methane/

(3)   See East Kent Stour Chalk Groundwater Final Report, The Environment Agency 2008 (attached to this e-mail)

(4)   See East Kent Stour Chalk Groundwater Final Report, The Environment Agency 2008 (attached to this e-mail)

(5)   See CRPE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) Briefing Note: Shale Gas Recovery (attached to this e-mail). For further information about this briefing note contact Graham Warren, Chair of CPRE - Protect Kent Environment Group on :01233 612 265

(6)   http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/

(7)   See planning applications pages listed in (1) above, which show target decision date as 15 November 2013

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Farage Fracks Himself in Foot

UKIP Leader, Nigel Farage, has been described by  Kent Green Party as “dangerously ignorant” following his comments about fracking made whilst visiting Dover and Deal. According to reports Farage described fracking as a “God given opportunity” and “gift horse” (1) for the people of Kent.

Green Party spokesperson, Councillor Ian Driver said “Evidence is mounting that shale and coal bed methane gas extraction methods are extremely damaging. They deplete and pollute ground water supplies, increase greenhouse gas levels, cause earth tremors and destroy natural habitats”.

“In Kent 75% of our water comes from underground aquifers already under stress because of years of over extraction and pollution (2). Yet the latest applications to Kent County Council for exploratory drilling for shale and coal bed methane gas are located right on top of the East Kent Stour aquifer which supplies water for half-a-million people in the Ashford, Canterbury  Dover, Deal, and Thanet areas”(3).

“For Farage to describe a threat to the water security of one third of Kent’s population as a God-given gift-horse, suggests that he is a dangerously ignorant person who is out of touch with growing public concerns”.

“Kent Green Party is opposed to fracking. Instead of depending on fossil fuels, we propose major investments in developing new renewable energy sources” (4).

"We will work closely with campaign groups across Kent to stop damaging gas extraction.  This will include taking peaceful direct action like Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, who was recently arrested at the Balcombe anti-fracking protest."



NOTES

(1)   http://www.kentonline.co.uk/east_kent_mercury/news/farage-fracking-5201/

(2)   The State of Water in Kent, Environment Agency 2012 and  East Kent Stour Groundwater Body Report, Environment Agency 2008

(3)   The applications have been made by Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd for exploratory drilling at Tilmanstone, Shepherdswell and Guston

(4)   Green Party Energy Policy http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/en