A summer of anti-fracking protest is gearing up across the country, as campaigners cautiously celebrate a government U-turn on the ‘fracker’s charter’ promised in the Conservative Party manifesto.
The Queen’s Speech made no mention of government plans to relax planning laws to allow companies to explore possible fracking sites without the need for planning permission.
Green party activist and anti-fracking campaigner Tina Louise Rothery, hailed the Queen’s Speech omission as “brilliant”.
The campaigning group Frack Free United commented: “This is a good day for communities and local democracy. Yes, nothing has really changed and we will have to continue the fight to protect communities from being turned into fracking gas fields, but make no mistake, this is a tipping point.
“The industry will only flourish with government support and the Conservative party U-turn on the manifesto pledge is a real shot in the arm for the campaign, providing even more energy in our campaign for the battles ahead.”
The government says its policy on fracking remains the same, while Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Green Parties oppose it.
Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth, before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out. The term fracking refers to how the rock is fractured apart by the high pressure mixture.
Those fighting fracking say it poses risks to soil, water and air from leaks and spills, with an impact on health and well-being, the environment and to our climate. They say a fossil fuel free future is vital to save the planet.
Throughout July, the direct action network Reclaim the Power will be providing legal, press and social media support to groups across the country taking action against fracking.
Also planned is a Rolling Resistance programme of direct action workshops, training and events in Lancashire to support local campaigners opposing a fracking pad being built near Blackpool.
The fracking company Cuadrilla has met with daily protests from the local community since it began building a fracking pad at Preston New Road in January. Protesters have gathered to show the company they have no ‘social licence’ to operate. Their actions include people walking slowly in front of trucks. Protest blockades have been preventing fracking vehicles entering or leaving.
Climbing on top of the lorries stopped them moving on and off the site. Campaigners say a range of tactics are being used to cause a financial impact to Cuadrilla and their investors and to show other fracking firms that the industry won’t be allowed to gain a foothold.
Cuadrilla has cut its spending and reduced its workforce to offset losses as it faces delays to the flagship fracking project. Legal action by Preston New Road Action Group continues to halt the start of drilling work.
The company says that since the start of the year, its activities and those of its suppliers have contributed £1.4 million to the Lancashire economy. It says too that it has invested more than £100,000 to sponsor community projects.
Networks of campaigners are fighting fracking plans across the country. One group which has been living in a camp in Leith Hill, Surrey, to try to stop fracking on greenbelt woodland, was evicted by bailiffs in June.
The group lived in a wooden fort they built with a network of tunnels running underground since October. Some moved into the handmade ‘Great Escape style’ tunnels when the bailiffs arrived. It took up to three days to reach some of them.
The protesters were welcomed by locals unhappy with planned fracking at the local beauty spot when they moved in last year. A hectare of woodland will be cut down to make way for a 100ft high drilling tower.
Elsewhere, local communities in north Yorkshire are fighting gas company Third Energy’s plans to carry out a test frack later this year. They say fracking would be bad for local businesses, tourism, farming and people.
Third Energy has been warned by the Environmental Agency twice in less than a year. The first warning came after emissions from one of its gas wells were found to have been incorrectly reported. The second was issued for failures to use the agreed method for monitoring groundwater quality.
Anti-fracking groups are opposing drilling plans in Formby and exploratory drilling in Nottinghamshire. Others are putting pressure on contractors linked to fracking to cut their ties with the industry.
As Reclaim The Power activists prepare to start their programme of direct action near Blackpool this July, there is optimism that a hung Parliament could blight the future of fracking.
“The fracking industry has always leaned heavily on the Conservative government in Westminster to override local objections – and since the outcome of the General Election, that support is more fragile than ever,” they say.