Forcing fracking on communities, the government shows it functions as the strong arm of the fossil fuel industry.
Thousands gathered in Manchester to protest against the government’s plans to impose the fracking industry on communities in England. Protestors denounced Communities and Local Government Minister Sajid Javid for overturning Lancashire County Council’s rejection of Cuadrilla’s bid to start drilling at Preston New Road.And they expressed their solidarity with campaigners from Rydale in North Yorkshire. There the County council voted by 7-4 to allow fracking at Kirby Misperton, in the teeth of massive local opposition and no local support. Rydale residents, backed by Friends of the Earth, are in court on November 22 to challenge the decision. And in Nottinghamshire, the County Council approved exploratory drilling for shale gas at Mission Springs, which will start early in 2017. They will take a decision on December 20th about exploration at Tinkers Lane, Barnby Moor. INEOS are starting seismic surveys across their license areas which includes Ashfield and Mansfield district up to Worksop, including the potential for drilling underneath Sherwood Forest.
All of this is taking place at a time when support for fracking across the UK is at its lowest-ever level with just 17% of people backing it, 35% against it and 48% having no opinion either way (according to the government’s own figures). This is a brutal imposition on communities with no hint of democracy.
In a crude attempt to buy public support, Teresa May has decided that instead of a percentage of tax revenue from fracking going to communities, it will instead go to individual households. This bribe would be between £5k and £20k the government says. But as the government’s own secret report says proximity to a fracking site will wipe 7% and more off the value of a house, this is an empty promise. One Fylde householder found her five-bedroom home had fallen in value from £535,000 to £190,000.
It is impossible for the government to meet its climate targets if it continues the drive to fracking, according to the Climate Change Committee which monitors legally binding targets. And the government has consistently ignored growing evidence from the United States that fracking is deadly for people’s health.
Speakers at the rally included Bianca Jagger who said fracking is a threat to our way of life, our environment, our water sources and the air we breathe: “It’s a threat to everything we think is important in our lives.
“I came to stand with you, and know there are millions of people across the country that are supporting the struggle of the people in Lancashire, in Morecambe, in Yorkshire, and throughout the country who are battling against the fracking industry. And it’s important to send a clear message to the government that it is wrong and we do not believe they will do what is necessary to protect our environment and protect us.”
Also speaking was Tina Louise Rothery, who is facing 14 days in jail from December 9th. Tina was taken to court by Cuadrilla, who demanded she pay £55,000 to cover their legal costs relating to the occupation of land they want to frack. Tina was one of a group of women who occupied the site at Little Plumpton. Cuadrilla and a group of landowners went to the High Court for a possession order and an injunction to prevent occupations of a number of other sites in Lancashire. Campaigners asked for an adjournment so they could prepare their case, but this was denied and Tina Rothery, who had been named by the company, was told to pay Cuadrilla £51k in court costs.
Refusing to give court officials information about her personal finances she said:
“With respect to the District Judge and the courts I have huge admiration for a system of justice that is fair but I feel in this case that our law courts are not being used to seek justice but instead being applied like a weapon and a threat against peaceful protest. The fact that Cuadrilla has the finances, power and vindictiveness to pursue this through our courts is an abuse of one of the most valued aspects of our democracy.
So please accept my aplogies if this seems rude but as this case has nothing to do whatsoever with justice, I will not be complying with any requests for information or payment. I make this statement on behalf of myself and an entire movement who will not be bullied.”
In Wales and Scotland there are moratoriums on fracking and coal-bed methane extraction. The Scottish government is gathering evidence, with impact reports commissioned on economy, climate, transport, seismicity, public health and decommissioning. The reports were published last week, and most striking was the economic report which revealed that fracking would contribute a paltry £55m a year spend in the Scottish economy and some 1400 jobs at peak production.
Earlier in the week, members of Scottish community groups fighting fracking met at Holyrood to hear business minister Paul Wheelhouse launch the impact reports and got together afterwards at the Serenity Cafe to give their immediate reaction.