Top image is Copeland Search area for Consideration for Geological Disposal Facility
Bottom image is West Cumbria Mining licence application areas for under the Irish Sea – the black bits are known land and sea coal reserves. Details of the latest applications from the developers are being withheld from public view.
Thank you so much to everyone for donating to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign. Further Donations mean that we will be able to continue to have the expert advice of lawyers Leigh Day to call upon.
The Coal Authority are refusing to give the public sight of the latest licence applications from West Cumbria Mining despite our repeated calls for them to do so
At Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole’s request Tim Farron MP has sent a letter to the Coal Authority urging them to at least ensure the Planning Inspector at the forthcoming Inquiry has sight of the licences.
The inquiry is, I believe, flawed in many other respects. Not least because the County Council have now withdrawn their planning approval for the mine. We wonder if there are any other cases of a public inquiry having been held into an approval decision that no longer stands? The Coal boss Mark Kirkbride has been appointed to advise the government on “Delivery” of a deep geological nuclear dump for the UK’s heat generating nuclear wastes. NO-one in their right mind would think of burying heat generating nuclear waste in or under a coal mine however, the proposed coal mine is slap bang in the middle of the subsea “search area” for a GDF.
The coal mine development will now be ultimately decided upon by government – the same government who have appointed the coal boss to advise them on nuclear dump plans. Crazy creepy or what?
It is remarkable to put it mildly that non of this blatant cronyism has been reported in the media or raised any NGO eyebrows given the huge public interest in this coal mine (the public interest is largely thanks to the help of all who have donated to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole).
I have copied our latest press release, (ignored by the press) to the Society of Editors to ask if there is a reason for the silence – maybe it just isn’t newsworthy? (!!)
With all best wishes
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
Our associated campaign Lakes Against Nuclear Dump can be seen here https://www.lakesagainstnucleardump.com/
sent by email 5th July
Dear Society of Editors,
We have been directed to you following a FOI to the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee following the worrying lack of reporting on the appointment of the CEO of Cumbria Coal mine to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. There has been acres of press on the climate impacts of the Cumbria Coal Mine in contrast to nothing (apart from in the Isle of Man) on the cronyism surrounding the appointment of the coal boss Mark Kirkbride to CoRWM.
Our latest press release to national and local press is below. So far we have had no response. If this has not got a DA notice on it then we wonder why the silence on this serious issue.
If you can shed any light on why there appears to be a media black out we would be very grateful.
with kind regards
Marianne Birkby on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland
FOI to MOD
Press Notice sent out today…
CUMBRIA COAL MINE’S LICENCE APPLICATIONS SHROUDED IN “ALICE IN WONDERLAND” SECRECY.
In a letter sent to the Coal Authority today, the nuclear safety campaigners who were the first to raise opposition to the Cumbrian Coal Mine back in 2017, say that the forthcoming Public Inquiry would be “invalid and an entirely profligate waste of public money”. This is, they say, because “Cumbria County Council has now withdrawn its planning approval for the mine and the latest Cumbrian coal mine licence applications are shrouded in secrecy”
The controversial coal mine developers, West Cumbria Mining (WCM), have applied for two new applications which Radiation Free Lakeland (RaFL) have repeatedly asked for sight of under Freedom of Information. The Coal Authority have replied to the campaign group saying that: “the Operator (WCM) does not give permission to have their applications disclosed…for the reasons (of operator confidentiality) set out in the public interest test.”
Another twist in the long held opposition to the mine by nuclear campaigners is that the CEO of the coal mine, Mark Kirkbride was appointed in 2019 (in the days following the County Council’s coal mine approval) to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. CoRWM are the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy appointed body who advise government on ‘Delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility” for high level nuclear wastes. RaFL have long argued that the coal mine is primarily a “Trojan Horse to embed the infrastructure in Cumbria for a deep nuclear dump.”
Marianne Birkby, the founder of Radiation Free Lakeland who set in motion a Judicial Review against the coal mine with environmental lawyers Leigh Day, has said: “For the Coal Authority to say that it is in the public interest to protect the wishes of the developer in non-disclosure is very Alice in Wonderland like. Disclosure of Information regarding developments which would produce emissions is a legal obligation. Emissions in the case of this uniquely dangerous coal mine would include not only CO2, and methane (the developer’s exploratory boreholes have already accidentally hit a methane pocket a few miles from Sellafield under the Irish Sea’) but also radioactive emissions from resuspension of 70 years worth of Sellafield’s wastes resulting from the “likely subsidence” of the Irish Sea bed. There is also the possibility of seismic damage to Sellafield’s infrastructure. A haiirline crack which would be of negligible damage anywhere else, could be catastrophic at Sellafield, the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site.”
The campaign group’s letter to the Coal Authority today concludes that ” disclosure of the licence applications would be the right thing to do, both from a legal aspect and from the Coal Authority’s stated ideals of public interest, openess, transparency and safeguarding”.
LETTER TO COAL AUTHORITY SEE BELOW
Radiation Free Lakeland are running two major campaigns:
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/
Lakes Against Nuclear Dump https://www.lakesagainstnucleardump.com/
RADIATION FREE LAKELAND blog https://mariannewildart.wordpress.com/
Cumbrian Campaign Group granted permission for Judicial Review of County Council’s Approval of Coal Mine https://www.leighday.co.uk/latest-updates/news/2020-news/cumbrian-campaign-group-granted-permission-for-judicial-review-of-county-councils-approval-of-coal-mine/
KIRKBRIDE COSTINGS FOR GDF HOLE – pg 233 onwards https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/182559187/FULL_TEXT.PDF
LETTER SENT TODAY TO THE COAL AUTHORITY
‐‐‐‐‐‐‐ Original Message ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐
On Monday, July 5th, 2021 at 8:44 AM, Wastwater wrote:
Thank you for your email explaining the Coal Authority’s reasoning as to why they will not disclose West Cumbria Mining’s new applications to extend/vary their original 2013/14 licences. It is of huge concern that the Coal Authority is deferring to the developer Mark Kirkbride of West Cumbria Mining in non-disclosure. How can the public inquiry due to start in September be valid when the public and the Inspector have not had sight of the developer’s plans? Our MP Tim Farron has written to BEIS, asking that the Planning Inquiry Inspector should have full sight of West Cumbria Mining’s latest licence applications.
There are serious concerns too about the blatant cronyism between the controversial Government policy for “Delivery” of a Geological Disposal Facility for nuclear wastes and Mark Kirkbride CEO of West Cumbria Mining. Kirkbride has been appointed by BEIS to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management and has delivered initial costing estimates to government for mining a deep geological disposal facility for heat generating nuclear wastes within the same “search” area as his coal mine (Kirkbride Costing for opening coal mine = £160M / Kirkbride Cost estimate for opening a GDF = £1.7 Billion ‘just for the hole’ using same suppliers as the coal mine)
For the Coal Authority to say that it is in the public interest to protect the wishes of the developer in non-disclosure is very Alice in Wonderland like. Disclosure of Information regarding developments which would produce emissions is a legal obligation. We note the following in relation to release of information to the public about developments which would produce emissions:
“How is information relating to emissions treated differently? – regulation 12(9)
The Regulations stress transparency and openness in relation to information about emissions. They provide a greater right of access to information about emissions – regulation 12(9) removes the right to rely on certain exceptions if someone requests information is on emissions.
When requested information is on emissions, you cannot rely on the exceptions at:
- regulation 12(5)(d) – confidentiality of the proceedings of a public authority
- regulation 12(5)(e) – confidentiality of commercial or industrial information
- regulation 12(5)(f) – interests of the person who provided the information
- regulation 12(5)(g) – protection of the environment to which the information relates.
Emissions in the case of this uniquely dangerous coal mine would include not only CO2, and methane (the developer’s exploratory boreholes have already accidentally hit a methane pocket a few miles from Sellafield under the Irish Sea’) but also radioactive emissions from resuspension of 70 years worth of Sellafield’s radioactive waste discharge in the “likely subsidence” (say WCM) of the Irish Sea bed. There is also the possibility of seismic damage to Sellafield’s infrastructure – a hairline crack of negligible damage anywhere else could be catastrophic at Sellafield. A “negligible” risk of seismic damage is too much in this vicinity.
We believe that disclosure of the licence applications would be the right thing to do both from a legal aspect and from the Coal Authority’s ideals of public interest, openess, transparency and safeguarding.
We ask the Coal Authority again for full sight of West Cumbria Mining’s latest licence applications with reference to the following:
“There is a presumption in favour of disclosure. The public authority must weigh the public interest arguments for maintaining the exception in regulation 12(5)(b) against those for disclosure. General principles of regulation 12(5)(b) 5. Under EIR regulation 5(1), public authorities are under a duty to make available environmental information that has been requested. Regulations 12(4) and 12(5) provide exceptions to this duty. 6. The exceptions under regulation 12(5) allow a public authority to refuse to disclose environmental information where “its disclosure would adversely affect” the interests listed in each exception. 7. The public authority must apply a presumption in favour of disclosure, both in engaging the exception and in carrying out the public interest test. https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1625/course_of_justice_and_inquiries_exception_eir_guidance.pdf “
CONCLUSIONS AND ACTIONS
- All the information within WCM’s latest licence applications should be made available in the public interest (financial information could be redacted).
- MP Tim Farron has at our request written to the Secretary of State for BEIS to ask that the latest full licence applications are made available to the Inspector in the forthcoming Planning Inquiry into the coal mine .
- Without full sight of the latest licence applications to the Coal Authority from the developer, – the public and the Planning Inquiry cannot make independent judgements on the severity of the likely emissions. Emissions include CO2, Methane and Radioactive Emissions from Sellafield’s nuclear wastes which are now largely sitting in the seabed but would be resuspended with “likely subsidence” of the Sellafield Mud Patch.
- Sellafield’s infrastructure just five miles away is at serious risk from this coal mine notwithstanding the nonchalance of the Office for Nuclear Regulation. On the Sellafield site, the Magnox Swarf Silo for example has unknown leaks from unknown cracks in the concrete containment which is partly beneath ground. Sellafield have last month asked for help in finding and mitigating the leak of 550 gallons per day of radioactive liquor into groundwater beneath the site from unknown cracks. Fracking was halted because of earthquake risk and yet the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering have stated that coal mining induced earthquakes are of a magnitude greater than fracking : “Seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing is likely to be of smaller magnitude than the UK’s largest natural seismic events and those induced by coal mining”.
- Without full disclosure of the latest licence applications the forthcoming coal mine planning inquiry is, we believe, invalid and an entirely profligate use of public money, especially as Cumbria County Council has now withdrawn its planning approval for the mine.
- Withdrawal of planning approval for the coal mine from the local planning authority, Cumbria County Council should be honoured by the Coal Authority and BEIS.
- In all conscience the Coal Authority and BEIS should act to ensure that the coal mine plan is scrapped with immediate effect. This would avoid the profligate expense of a worse than useless Public Inquiry whose findings (in any event) would be null and void given the lack of social and legal licence from the Local Planning Authority and the non-disclosure of West Cumbria Mining’s latest licence applications.
- We are asking the Coal Authority one more time for sight of West Cumbria Mining’s latest licence applications before escalating this as a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner.
Marianne Birkby on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole
Lakes Against Nuclear Dump
Copied to BEIS, Tim Farron MP, Planning Inspectorate
Office for Nuclear Regulation replies to Radiation Free Lakeland “just plain wrong” https://mariannewildart.wordpress.com/2021/05/06/risk-to-sellafield-from-the-coal-mine-is-extremely-low-say-the-office-for-nuclear-regulation-as-another-pig-flies-by/
Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report on Fracking. Coal Mining induced earthquake “of a magnitude greater” than fracking https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/shale-gas-extraction/report/
Negligible Risk of Induced Seismicity near Sellafield is too much. “An interactive workshop on Tuesday, May 25 2021…Sellafield are seeking ideas, innovations and technologies capable of game changing solutions to prevent or minimise leaks from Magnox Swarf Silo Storage. Current leak rates are around 1.5 – 2.5 m3/d and Sellafield want to reduce these as much as possible.The concrete silos, built in three stages between 1962-1982, contain magnesium cladding, or swarf, stripped from Magnox fuel prior to reprocessing. The swarf is stored underwater in the silos but, over time, the stored contents corrode, releasing heat and hydrogen…”
Evidence Sent to the Cumbrian Coal Mine Public Inquiry from Radiation Free Lakeland – including water impacts of the proposed coal mine. Cumbria’s drinking water includes that drawn from boreholes by United Utilities at South Egremont, just a mile from the already leaking Magnox Swarf Silo. Sellafield needs top quality water for many nuclear processes and takes R1 (top quality) water from Wastwater. https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/2021/05/02/evidence-sent-to-the-public-inquiry-please-send-your-own-in-before-may-6th/
Letter from the Coal Authority to Radiation Free Lakeland
10 May 2021
Dear Ms Birkby
Reference: FOI 04-2021
Request for Internal Review under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
I write in connection with your request for an Internal Review, which was received by The Coal Authority on 9 April 2021.
An independent review has now taken place with regard to your original Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) request and response, our reference FOI 71-2020. The review has considered the reasons stated in your appeal and the legislative compliance under the Act.
My findings are as follows:
Your Freedom of Information Act request was received on 4 March 2021 and following our extension of the deadline to consider a public interest test we responded to you on 7 April 2021, complying with the legislative response requirements.
I have considered your arguments in the application of exemptions Section 43(2) Commercial Interests and Section 44(1)(a) Prohibition on disclosure relying upon Section 59(1)(a)(b) of the Coal Industry Act 1994.
The Coal Authority is still determining the two applications and following a request to the Operator as to whether they would assist in any disclosure requirements the Operator does not give permission to have their applications disclosed.
I am in agreement with the application of exemption Section 43(2) for the reasons set out in the public interest test. The commercial interests of the operator must also be considered.
In conclusion, I uphold the decision of the response dated 7 April 2021 not to disclose the West Cumbria Mining Ltd applications for a variation to existing Conditional Licences UND/0177/N and UND/0184/N.
Request for disclosure under Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)
On 13 April 2021, the Coal Authority received your request that the West Cumbria Mining Ltd applications’ for a variation to existing Conditional Licences UND/0177/N and UND/0184/N be considered for disclosure under Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR).
The Coal Authority has considered whether the public interest favours disclosure or whether it favours maintenance of the relevant exception. When considering this exception the Coal Authority has considered the presumption in favour of disclosure in accordance with Regulation 12(2) of the EIR. The Coal Authority has taken into account the following public interests arguments when considering your request:
- The interest in the Authority being transparent and accountable to the public, and the public being able to better participate in environmental decision-making. The information that is contained in the application forms constitutes technical or commercial information. That information requires consideration by the Authority as the expert regulator in the context of its duties within the Coal Industry Act 1994 and these are not matters upon which the public are required to be consulted. In this context the public interest is satisfied by the Coal Authority disclosing the fact that an application for coal mining operations exists and is available on the Coal Authority’s website.
- The interest in the public understanding how coal resources are exploited by private entities in England and Wales. However, the same point applies as above with regard to how this interest is met.
The Coal Authority also considers the following arguments to apply in favour of maintaining this exception:
- The exception protects confidentiality provided by law. By way of Section 59 of the Coal Industry Act 1994 this specifically provides for the confidentiality of information provided by commercial operators and the Authority also consider that the common law duty of confidence is engaged in these circumstances. There is a strong public interest in ensuring that such confidentiality is maintained.
- If the information within these applications were to be made public then applicants may be less inclined to voluntarily provide information within the application forms, which could negatively impact the application process. In determining applications the Coal Authority is required to undertake important considerations in relation to potential subsidence, health
and safety, and ensuring that the operator applicant is able to finance the proper carrying on of the mining operations and discharge any liabilities related to those operations. All of these matters could impact upon the public and it is of primary importance that the Coal Authority is able to effectively undertake its role as expert regulator. The Coal Authority needs to be able to do this in an environment that is considered to be a “safe space” by the Applicant where they are prepared to be fully transparent with the Coal Authority as regulator and not inhibited in the information they provide.
The same public interest arguments in favour of disclosure apply as in relation to Regulation 12(5)(d) above. The Authority also considers the following to apply:
There are a number of primary issues that require consideration in determining a licence application including ensuring that the Coal Authority is satisfied that there are sufficient finances for the project, including sufficient finances to provide appropriate security to address potential issues such as subsidence. This requires the disclosure of sensitive financial information, as well as information gathered by the applicant in relation to the proposed site and which is not otherwise available to their competitors. If this information is made publicly available then the applicant may be less inclined to be transparent with the Coal Authority in relation to such matters, which could negatively impact upon the considerations to be undertaken by the Coal Authority. The Coal Authority therefore considers there to be a legitimate economic interest of operators that there is a public interest in maintaining.
In light of the above, the Coal Authority considers that the public interest weighs in favour of maintaining this exception.
The Coal Authority refuses your request under Regulation 14(3)(a) in relation to the application of the first exception Regulation 12(5)(d).
Yours sincerely Helen Simpson
Sent with ProtonMail Secure Email.
‐‐‐‐‐‐‐ Original Message ‐‐‐‐‐‐‐
On Monday, May 10, 2021 4:10 PM, Helen Simpson <HelenSimpson@coal.gov.uk> wrote:
For the attention of Marianne Birkby
Please find attached the Coal Authority responses to your requests for an Internal Review FOI 04-2021 and consideration under EIR.
Records Manager, Coal Authority
2 thoughts on “Tim Farron MP Calls for Inspector into Coal Inquiry to Have Sight of Secretive Licences – Coal Boss/GDF Advisor Refuses Public View – Why?”
Reblogged this on RADIATION FREE LAKELAND.
Please consider contacting Private Eye about this. They have a solid reputation for investigative journalism – they covered the Post Office scandal long before it was common knowledge.
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