“Residents face potential air, water, sound and light pollution, a massive increase in traffic and a large potential police presence because wherever the fracking industry tries to drill, people will gather to resist,”Alex Hart of Frack Free Somerset.
The sound of birdsong, a gentle breeze and the smell of freshly cut grass are usually the first things that spring to mind when you think about the British countryside. However, for many people around the UK, this idyllic image of country living is under threat as gas and oil companies engage in onshore exploration projects searching for fossil fuels such as coal bed methane and shale gas. Natural resources are extracted by drilling thousands of feet into the earth’s crust using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or horizontal/deep injection drilling techniques. These controversial methods come with increased environmental risks. In 2011, the government filed a report explaining that test drilling carried out by the energy company Cuadrilla near Blackpool may have caused earthquakes, “Earthquakes were suspected to be linked to hydraulic fracture treatments at the Preese Hall well operated by Cuadrilla Resources Ltd.”
From Balcome to Bucks, anti-fracking groups are standing up for their communities. These groups work locally to raise awareness of planning and licensing in their community and tell people of the real risks involved if fracking gets the go ahead. Frack Free Somerset is one such group who have formed a coalition with all independent anti-fracking organisations in their county. Together, the representatives from each local group have produced and directed the 2012 The Truth Behind The Dash For Gas film and continue to host screenings en masse around Somerset. “We were instantly forced to mobilise as UK Methane had put in an application to drill in Keynsham (near Mendip Hills) and a rapid response was needed”, Alex says. The group opened a dialogue with Mendip Council to share their concern, and in response to their conversations Alex told us that: “Mendip District Council unanimously passed a motion expressing concerns about unconventional gas exploration in the Mendip area. The Council believes that it should adopt whatever measures available to control, and if appropriate, seek to prevent the use of unconventional gas exploration and extraction within the Mendip district. Community members were proud to affirm that Somerset will not become a gasfield!”
A win for Somerset, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the battle. As increasing numbers of fracking applications are approved, grassroots organisations are uniting to prevent work going ahead. The serious environmental concerns related to fracking are also exacerbated by David Cameron’s ‘going all out’ for shale gas policy, which incentivises local councils by allowing them to keep 100% of business rates raised from drilling. Alex explains, “Everyone in Frack Free Somerset is working voluntarily and in their spare time, and as we become perceived as more of a threat to larger powers, industry and government, the harder we have to work to respond to attacks on the validity of our cause.”
The group are also focusing their energy on supporting the countrywide movement against fracking. They continue to join fracking sites across the country, travelling to camps like Balcombe, Barton Moss and Upton to show their solidarity and support for these essential hubs of resistance. “We want to be able to further extend our support to the people who are on the frontlines and the legal entities representing some of the arrestees together we can try to prevent innocent protectors going to jail on spurious charges.”
Get your fracks straight, visit frack-off.org to see if there’s an application to drill in your area.
Frack Free Somerset is one of many campaign groups that receive funding from Charity Pot.
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