A village on the climate crisis front line is taking matters into its own hands

A protest against fracking in Lancashire
Steve Topple

This article was updated at 4:25pm on Friday 12 October to reflect an error. It originally stated police “dragged” Jonathan Bartley away from the Preston New Road site; this actually happened at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire.

 

A Lancashire village on the front line of the climate crisis is taking direct action over the issue. But far from being a one-off event, campaigners and local residents have been at the eye of an environmental and political storm.

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Lancashire versus the frackers

Preston New Road, near the village of Little Plumpton, is at the centre of a row over fracking. Cuadrilla has permission to explore and drill the site for shale gas, which has pitted them against local people. Protests have increased since January 2017. But Cuadrilla’s operations have been dogged by numerous scandals. These include:

  • Campaigners and local councillors accusing police and private security at the site of using “disproportionate force” and trying to “provoke violence”, something both groups deny.
  • Political interventions from shadow chancellor John McDonnell, and from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and its co-leader Jonathan Bartley.

Then, in July, the government officially gave Cuadrilla the go-ahead to start extracting shale gas or frack properly. The decision was met by more protests from locals. As of Thursday 11 October, Cuadrilla still hadn’t started fracking. This was due to a last-minute court case from a local campaigner to try and block its work. At the time of publishing, the judge had not given their verdict.

Cuadrilla says…

As the Shropshire Star reported, Cuadrilla’s chief executive Francis Egan:

described the [legal] challenge as ‘a last gasp attempt at trying to frustrate the process’, but added that he was ‘confident’ that fracking would soon begin at the site…

Mr Egan claimed the plant was the most environmentally monitored of any oil and gas site in the world… ‘I think people can and should be reassured that there is a huge degree of scrutiny and technical sophistication on this site’.

But the situation in Lancashire is just one example of people’s concerns over fracking more broadly.

The climate in crisis

The government says that fracking could give the UK “greater energy security, growth and jobs”. It claims it’s “encouraging” companies to explore fracking in a “safe and environmentally sound” way.

But the fracking industry is controversial. Campaigners are against it; not least because of its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. It’s been linked to polluted drinking water and earthquakes. Studies also appear to show links to low birth weights, premature births, and a possible increased risk of breast cancer.

Fracking also sums up the climate crisis facing the world. Perhaps the most alarming news has been the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent, damning report. As the IPCC warned, we could cross the threshold into climate catastrophe as soon as 2030. And it noted that governments would need to spend trillions of dollars to stop this.

A “failure of imagination”

So, campaign group Frack Free Lancashire is stepping up its action. The group has organised a “National Climate Crisis Rally” on Saturday 20 October. It will be at Maple Farm in the village and things will kick off at 12pm. There will be visits and speeches from trade unions, politicians and campaigners. And there will also be entertainment and food available; the event is family friendly. It will culminate with a visit to the fracking site itself.

A spokesperson from Frack Free Lancashire told The Canary:

It is becoming increasingly clear that destroying the planet is not a strategy. It is not an option. Fracking for shale gas is not a solution. It is a failure of imagination.

We need to make rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society to avoid disastrous levels of global warming. The idea that fracking… in the UK is compatible with what we, as a nation and as a planet, need to do, is a sheer fantasy. It’s from a government which… is devoid of both policy and progressive ideas.

The industry and its friends in government should be in no doubt that their unsustainable pet project of yet more fossil fuels has no place in a modern-day energy strategy. Any attempt to force fracking onto unwilling communities will be met with continued protest and resistance.

Resistance

At the forefront of many people’s minds will be the three jailed fracking campaigners. As The Canary reported, a judge jailed the men for over a year each – effectively for protesting at Preston New Road. It is perhaps this which best sums up the climate crisis we’re facing. When citizens try and show resistance to the ongoing march of destructive capitalism, the law jails them. But the situation also shows that people won’t be stopped from trying to challenge the forces causing our planet’s destruction. And Frack Free Lancashire’s event on 20 October is a perfect example of this.

Get Involved!

Find out more about Frack Free Lancashire’s event. Follow the group on Twitter.

Featured image via Reclaim the Power – Flickr

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Steve Topple