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Revolt Newsletter 98



1. A full-page article appeared in the September issue of NFU Countryside magazine, page 16, on the health dangers of powerlines, featuring the NGC North Yorkshire line and local NFU branch secretary Peter Edmonds. It concludes "the National Grid is a monopoly and ... if its customers say they do not want pylons then maybe it should listen".

2. Government bodies called Public Health Observatories have been set up in each NHS region. Ours (Northern & Yorkshire) is based at Durham University Stockton Campus. In its "scoping study" on environmental hazard information available to voluntary bodies, I was interviewed for Revolt. The report will be available on http://www.nypho.org.uk  in the new year.

3. Another interview for Revolt was given to Andersen Consulting for a government project enquiring into planning delays for energy projects. I suggested two key factors were failure of developers (a) to address need in a fair way and (b) to engage the public early in shaping the project. I emphasised the negative effect of company dishonesty and spin, and of weak regulation. They will make the report available, hopefully fairly soon.

4. The Independent 16.8.01 page 17 article "Hatfield still haunts improving Balfour" shows that Balfour Beatty (BB) shares are recovering slowly after the Hatfield crash. It says BB was "heavily criticised" over Hatfield and "could be charged with corporate manslaughter". BB is NGC's choice to install the North Yorkshire grid line. The article says work on the powerline has been disrupted by the FMD crisis, which knocked 3 million pounds off BB's profits in the first half of the year.

5. The Independent 10.9.01 reports Scottish Power (arch promoters of the North Yorkshire grid line) saw more than a billion pounds wiped off its stock market value, after its failings in the chaos of Californian electricity privatisation.

6. BBC News Online carries several articles about powerlines and health. E.g. see http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/health/newsid_1535000/1535316.stm and linked articles. That latest article, "Electricity workers' cancer risk 'dismissed'", takes some liberties! It reports a study of CEGB workers 1973 - 1997 and the incidence of brain cancer, estimating their EMF exposures. The outcome is a raised incidence of brain cancer (158 cases versus 146.4 expected) but that is rightly dismissed as it is not statistically significant in this study. But it is wrong to go on to say, as Brad Timms of the CRC is reported as saying, that the findings "should lay to rest concerns of people living near power lines". Those concerns are well founded by the persistent statistically significant findings for childhood leukaemia. A single study on brain cancer doesn't change that! The article also has the nerve, after not commenting on the excess of brain cancer cases, to mention "indications" over the last 5 years that there might be a protective effect - that too will be an insignificant random blip, not an "indication". Why do they highlight such a daft "indication" when it favours exposure, but never do with genuine statistics showing a potential hazard? There's some pretty rough journalism in other articles too - bad show, BBC!

7. Several points of interest from this month's DEFRA mag Energy & Environmental Management:

7.1 The Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group (PRASEG) recognises the problems the New Electricity Trading Arrangements (NETA) create for wind-power and CHP. See http://www.praseg.org.uk or praseg@chpa.co.uk  .

7.2 Energy Minister Brian Wilson (they do keep changing don't they) is chairing a review of government energy policy by the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU). CHP is mentioned prominently. Global warming and energy diversity are of concern, and the review will also consider what role, if any, nuclear should play. Expect to see the door creeping further open for nuclear. See http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/innovation 

7.3 A feature titled Electricity's Super-Highway promises less grid, not more: "the model that energy experts are developing is no longer centralised large power stations feeding a passive national grid". Whitehall catching up at last? The article is about the progress of hydrogen fuel cells as a means of local generation. "The vision is a fuel cell in every home and every car." "Micro CHP is also already appearing in the UK, with the possibility of 2m homes connected by 2010, turning them into mini power stations."

7.4 The DTI's Energy Trends and Quarterly Energy Prices for 2001-Q1 shows increasing UK primary energy consumption. Coal and solid fuel increased 13.7% "due to the increased use of coal for generating electricity". Coal imports were up 69% over a year. Oil and gas consumption both fell slightly.

8. FMD restrictions are easing in North Yorkshire. The last case in this area was August 7th. Some footpaths will reopen in the Dales 24.9.01 and in the Moors 1.10.01. But they will not reopen within 3 km of cases nor in the former Thirsk "blue box" bio-security area, which covers the Lackenby-Picton line, until DEFRA gives clearance. Even then, strict bio-security standards are expected to continue. Work on Lackenby-Picton should therefore not resume in the near future.

Mike O'Carroll

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