Fracking wells are likely to have a lifespan of up to 10 years so operators will have a very short term interest in each site. Whilst the money offered by operators to build a well might be tempting (after all, if you don’t accept the offer, surely a neighbour will) very careful thought needs to be given to the terms of the agreement and whether it fully compensates the owner for the loss of use of their land for the drilling period and the potential long-term damage and loss of amenity that might be caused.
Landowners who allow fracking wells to be sited on their property could incur liability as a ‘knowing polluter’ under both:
- Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (the contamination regime); and
- Nuisance (through escape of gas and chemicals as well as noise and vibration)
Extremely close attention will be paid to the operation of fracking sites by anti-fracking organisations and individuals. Earthquakes were recorded in Blackpool in 2011, a degree of noise and vibration is inevitably involved in the drilling and subsequent fracking process and wilder tales have been reported (and can be seen on Youtube) of flammable water coming out of taps and other evidence of contamination which in some cases arises miles away from the site of the well itself because of pollution of underground watercourses.
Bearing in mind that fracking companies have a very short-term interest in the fracking well site, a landowner must ensure that:
- Operators expressly agree to assume and indemnify the landowner against all liability that might arise from the fracking operations;
- Operators give sufficient undertakings to reinstate the site after the fracking operations have concluded; and
- That all the obligations of the operators are backed by a robust insurance-backed indemnity policy and/or a bond or other form of security to cover all costs of compliance if the operator fails to perform its obligations whether by reason of insolvency, liquidation or otherwise.
Whether you are a big supporter of fracking and consider warnings of contamination as scaremongering by environmentalists or whether you see yourself as doing a deal with the devil, it is essential for landowners to take legal advice at the very earliest opportunity.
To speak to an experienced solicitor about your rights and obligations with regards to fracking on your property, get in touch with Farleys Solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or submit an enquiry through our online form.