In London the fracking threat is getting closer
The fracking threat is getting closer. While recent news, if very little, has focussed, on Lancashire and Yorkshire; the destructive impact of Hydraulic Fracturing is now affecting Surrey, south of London.
Looking first north to Lancashire at Preston New Road, we see that two years of community resistance have delayed but not stopped Cuadrilla who are now primed to start work on two huge sites, each one a mile and a quarter mile long with four wells; the eight in total will produce tons of toxic waste. While Brexit was supposed ‘to bring back control’ the government has shown scant regard for local democracy with the Lancashire County Council’s objections to drilling overruled by Sajid Javid, the business minister a year ago. Legal challenges, too, were brushed aside in the High Court and amongst the Preston New Road Campaign’s numerous objections that were dismissed was the need for an impact assessment of emissions so as not to breach of legally binding limits set by the 2015 Paris climate deal.
The government’s claims for fracking appear to be based on a dodgy document. Based on the MacKay-Stone report it is claimed that fracked gas is a safe transitional fuel that will assist the achievement of climate goals and provide a bridge to a bright renewable future. But independent analysis commissioned by Talk Fracking shows it is based on flawed data and fracking could be as bad if not worse than coal.
Moving east from red to white rose territory, Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire is facing the company, Third Energy which is embarking on plans to carry out final hydraulic fracturing tests in the sandstone layers beneath this small village. It will then try to proceed to exploit gas in the Bowland Shale below. The likelihood of increased pollution, dangerous carbon emissions, groundwater poisoned by chemicals, huge volumes of sand, water and large convoys shifting equipment have mobilised large numbers to the site, keeping up an ongoing blockade and facing a familiar violent and heavy handed treatment from the Yorkshire police. Even before drilling has supposedly started in earnest, local families are already experiencing severe headaches, nausea dizziness and burning throats. The environment agency is less than sympathetic despite these symptoms being a likely result of chemicals used on the site.
So these are some of the things we have to look forward to near London. While Lancashire County Council at least opposed the threat of fracking before being overruled by the Tories, here in Greater London, Surrey County Council seems disinclined to offer any resistance to fracking. Indeed the Tory majority seem to see it as their loyal duty to roll out Theresa May’s energy policy.
Last week campaigners attended the Surrey County Council chambers wearing red gags to demonstrate their enforced silencing. Their concerns, they were told, had been sufficiently aired weeks before. First up for discussion was Europa’s Bury Hill site near Leith Hill. It lies off the stunningly beautiful narrow, pre-roman sunken road that wends its way from Dorking to the village of Coldharbour in this designated area of outstanding natural beauty. The oil company Traffic Management Scheme (TMS) devised by Europa was deemed unfit for purpose and so will have to be rethought. But soon heavily laden articulated lorries will rev and grind daily up and down this ancient tree-canopied road pumping out fumes as they make hundreds of journeys. Meanwhile councillors provided assurances of Tree Protection Orders and discussed the sensitive pruning that will take place. All this to seemingly to create an impression that with just a nip here, and a tuck there, the Bury Hill plan will work out beautifully. The site was first accepted as a minor work being less than one hectare in size. The operators now unsurprisingly need to enlarge their footprint. This was passed with little objection while the inference was made that it was the protesters fault that a wider security perimeter was needed, not that this could possibly be an act of corporate stealth.
Over at Horse Hill three miles from Gatwick airport successful gas flaring by UKOG (UK Oil and Gas) has enabled it to now pull off a three year extension and authorisation to drill more bore holes. But residents here, too, are reporting similar symptoms to those of people living in Kirby Misperton. It is probable UKCOG’s safety claims are as extravagant as other claims about this site. Stuart Sanderson, the CEO, told the BBC in 2015: "We think we've found a very significant discovery here, probably the largest [onshore in the UK] in the last 30 years, and we think it has national significance." Such Dallas type claims clearly do not harm share values.
UKOG and Surrey Tory councillors like Ernest Mallet (OBE) seem to see eye to eye. Last week Mallet was keen to argue against every objection to drilling in Surrey and claimed these operations are key to our 'Western style of life.' Mallet is also as a council rep on meetings with Surrey Wildlife Trust so it is astonishing that he does appreciate there might be a link between a western lifestyle reliant on oil and gas and the species extinction Surrey Wildlife Trust wants to prevent.
The Labour Party who see themselves as the government-in-waiting, have made a commitment to ban fracking; but can we wait? The Tories are intent on clinging onto power and might be around for a long while yet so it is vital as much support as possible is built for the anti-fracking campaigns around us to stop the oil industry. The next government must end our reliance on fossil fuels that are destroying our planet and invest in renewable power and energy efficiency to provide climate-jobs and safe solutions to our the energy needs.
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