Cuadrilla offering residents ‘goodwill payments’ for August quakes

Cuadrilla is offering 'goodwill payments' to people who claim their homes were damaged by an earthquake caused by fracking in August and has said it will put an end to the current round of drilling.

The beleaguered firm was forced to suspend its fracking operations in August when a tremor of 2.9 magnitude was recorded — 25 times bigger than than the 0.5ML ‘red light’ threshold set under the under the traffic light regulatory system,

In an interview with the PA news agency, Cuadrilla’s chief executive Francis Egan, yesterday said the number of reports of damage were in the “low two figures” and there was no clear evidence that the earthquake had caused them.

“It would be impossible to say if that was caused by the tremor, or is it just natural settlement in the building,” he said. “But we do want to retain goodwill, so we will make some payments.”

He said that no “major damage” had been reported by residents but they would be paid a few hundred pounds to help to cover the price of redecorating rooms where plaster had cracked.

Egan said some “obviously egregious” damage claims had been sent to the company. “Lots of people have showed us cracks with weeds growing out of them, for example, or cracks that when you look on [the property website] Rightmove you can see the exact same cracks in photographs taken well before the tremor.”

Cuadrilla said a small number of cases had been sent to its insurer and would be investigated further. It added in a statement that in cases in which it had made goodwill payments it accepted no liability for the damage.

Cuadrilla has not disclosed the number or size of the payments but several residents near Blackpool have reported receiving offers of up to £700, according to campaigning group Drill or Drop.

The Oil and Gas Authority is investigating the Lancashire tremor. Cuadrilla is the only company to have fracked for shale gas in Britain. It caused tremors of up to 2.3 magnitude in 2011, resulting in a lengthy suspension of works and the introduction of new rules under which companies are required to cease fracking for 18 hours if a tremor larger than 0.5 magnitude is recorded.

Cuadrilla has repeatedly argued for the rules to be relaxed, saying that they risked strangling the nascent industry. 

A report last week from the National Audit Office (NAO) found that growth in the sector had been slower than expected. In 2016, the government forecast up to 20 wells would be fracked by mid-2020, but only three have been so far.

"Low public acceptance" of the controversial oil and gas extraction technique is partly to blame,” it stated.

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