Surrey Earthquakes under scrutiny by MPs – call to reopen Inquiry on the cause

3 April 2019

Green Councillor Jonathan Essex (1) and Weald Action Group (2) representative, James Knapp, have presented evidence about the Surrey quakes (3) to the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Impact of Shale Gas (4) (April 2nd 2019).

They called for the British Geological Survey and Government body, the Oil and Gas Authority, to reopen an inquiry into the cause of the earthquakes which have caused worry and damage across a wide area.

Cllr Jonathan Essex said the quakes were shallow: “which means they are felt strongly in the close vicinity of the epicentres, typically less than 3km from the Horse Hill drill site”. He submitted a catalogue of reports from residents including

  • “A solid shake and a thump, with the second one lasting 4-5 seconds and it felt like it swayed the house sideways.”
  • “03.42am. Huge bang, windows shaking, doors rattling, whole house vibrating …”
  • He said thousands of pounds of damage has been caused.

 The APPG is reviewing the Traffic Light System (5) which controls the response to earthquakes caused by fracking in the north of England. The Group had also asked to hear about the Surrey quakes.

Both Cllr Essex and James Knapp called for a new, independently chaired, inquiry into the Surrey quakes, as the previous one had disregarded the existence of the oil site at Horse Hill, near Horley.

Cllr Essex said: “There are scared and angry local residents who feel powerless, let down by inadequate regulation. Instead of relaxing the Traffic Light System as proposed by Cuadrilla, the Traffic Light System for induced seismicity should be extended so that as well as hydraulic fracturing it covers other operations which might cause quakes, including acidisation, water re-injection and pressure release”.

James Knapp criticised the role of the Oil and Gas Authority for being both promoter of the fossil fuel industry and its regulator and said: “Our view is that if earthquakes can be stopped they should be, therefore the Traffic Light System should be applied nationally so its protection is available when unexplained earthquakes occur near drilling sites”.

The Chair of the APPG, Conservative MP Lee Rowley, said the regulatory system for oil and gas “is called gold standard but it’s more like ‘marking your own homework’” as much of the regulation relies on the oil companies to fill out paperwork.

Cllr Essex said: “there’s a complete breakdown in public trust”.


  1. Jonathan Essex is a Reigate and Banstead Councillor and member of Surrey County Council
  2. The Weald Action Group is a network of community organisations opposing oil and gas expansion across the South East
  3. The Surrey quakes started on April 1st 2018 and there have been 28 where none had been previously recorded. The epicentre is on a fault only three km from active drill site Horse Hill.  Last October the OGA had held a workshop which concluded that there was no link to oil drilling but disregarded the activities at Horse Hill.
  4. Information about the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Impact of Shale Gas can be found here

5.       Any quake over 0.5 on the Richter scale leads to a suspension of fracking activity


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