In a shocking, landmark decision, the government has ruled that fracking in Little Plumpton, Lancashire, can go ahead - paving the way for further licences.
The decision, made on Thursday 6th October 2016, means that UK shale rock will be fracked horizontally for the first time and comes after years of protest from anti-fracking groups who fiercely oppose the controversial practice on environmental grounds. The Lancashire Nanas And Residents Against Fracking, whose campaign culminated in a protest outside Buckingham Palace on the 27th September 2016, described the ruling as ‘a travesty of justice,' and already have further plans to protest. A reactive, non-violent mass demonstration on the Preston New Road site is planned for Saturday 8th October, as a show of solidarity against the ruling which overturned a local council decision to reject the plans.
In a united statement, the Nanas explained, "This is a landmark moment that reveals the willingness of our government to gamble with our children’s futures, it marks the point where our local Councillors have been rendered impotent and where 'local democracy' was shown to be a myth. It marks the day when our hopes that we had a voice and choices in our own lives were extinguished. The prime minister said she wanted a society fairer for all… Where's the fairness for Lancashire, Theresa? You've made clear we truly aren't ‘all in this together.’”
“The Nanas will not be standing aside and letting Cuadrilla pass into the paths of our families. We have exhausted every option available to us in this democracy but our obligation remains to ensure the health and wellbeing of our children. How will this play out? We are still working that out, but we do know, it no longer involves bright yellow tabards, tea, cake and smiles - the oven gloves are off.”
The Nanas aren’t alone in their anger. Residents camped on a site earmarked for exploratory work in Swanage, Dorset, also reacted strongly to the news, with concerned resident Jack (who prefers not to give his last name), stating, “Today’s news proves that nowhere is safe from fracking. Although we remain committed to protecting Swanage from conventional drilling; it shows that, regardless of Infrastrata’s promises, a future investor may well escalate to fracking with full support from the current Tory regime.”
The political fallout of the fracking row is expected to be substantial. With the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and Labour Party now all united against fracking, co-leader of the Green Party and Brighton Pavilion MP, Caroline Lucas said, “Today’s decision shows the yawning gap between the government’s rhetoric and the reality of their policies – and it will send a shiver down the spine of the many people up and down the country fighting fracking.”
“Ministers promise to support “ordinary people” but have ignored the people of Lancashire – including local and district councillors and the overwhelming majority of local people who objected to these reckless plans. They claim to support the Paris Agreement, but are hell-bent on developing new fossil fuel projects.”
“Fracking is a dirty, expensive and dangerous gamble with our environment, security and economy. We should be choosing an energy system powered by the renewable sources that we have in abundance and keep fossil fuels in the ground.”
What is fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is one of several extreme methods of fossil fuel extraction, increasingly used to obtain gas or oil from shale rock. Drilling firms penetrate the water level and inject a high pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the shale rock to crack it and release the gas inside. This allows gas to flow to the top of the well.
The practice was first developed in the 1940s but has boomed with the development of drilling techniques which makes the process more cost effective for fracking companies. Horizontal fracking, for example, allows drilling companies to access resources of oil and gas that are normally difficult to reach, but campaigners have argued that this comes at a huge cost to the environment.
Vast amounts of water must be transported to the site, which increases traffic and pollution, while environmental campaigners warn that potentially dangerous chemicals can contaminate groundwater at the site. The process is also thought to cause small earthquakes which have been a consequence of exploratory drilling in Lancashire. In 2011, exploratory fracking work was suspended in the UK after it caused tremors near Blackpool, but work resumed in 2012.
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