Anti-fracking activists lose their freedom while the government rewards the fossil fuel corporations with more.

At the April screening of the film ‘Powertrip’ on fracking we were pleased to welcome Richard Roberts aka Richard ‘the piano tuner’ as a panellist. Sadly Richard along with two other anti-fracking activists received a much rougher welcome by the HM Prisons Service this month. His crime, for which he received a sixteen month custodial sentence, was attempting to stop a greater environmental one.

The judge handed down the three exemplary sentences for impeding a convoy of trucks laden with drilling equipment from entering the Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool. Cuadrilla claim their action cost them £50,000 and seemingly this corporate expense is seen as cost that is more important than the cost to the environment. Supporters of Sustainable Hackney will no doubt be aware of the extreme environmental dangers fracking poses to water sources, air quality, climate stability and most forms of life. Accordingly Sustainable Hackney’s steering group has unanimously passed a motion in support of Richard and his associates who were doing nothing other than acting peacefully and responsibly to slow down the attempt by Cuadrilla to frack for shale oil and gas. This is the first time since the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in the Peak District in 1932 that environmental activists have received jail sentences for a protest. The government is intent on brushing aside the opposition of local communities who do not want to become gas-fields.

Faced with growing resistance from communities the repression of environmental activists is not only being stepped up but the Tories are now proposing removing the cumbersome obstacle of local authority planning permission which is slowing down the ‘dash for gas.’ The government plans to allow shale gas and oil exploration and drilling to go ahead as ‘permitted development’. If this sounds irresponsible, it is, fracking is hazardous and should not be treated on a par with a minor home improvement. It is absurd to remove it from the scrutiny of our local elected representatives. If this policy goes ahead it will allow our environment and our local democracy to be violated.  It would be an unacceptable form of ‘taking back control’ where a few powerful fossil fuel corporations benefit at the expense of the many.  

Between the week of the 8th to 14th October the ‘Let Communities Decide’ campaign will be offering advice and resources to use in this policy’s public consultation period. Consultations are often a procedural sham. We think this campaign should be wholeheartedly supported so this one isn’t.

Our September film-screening of ‘Plastic Ocean’ graphically showed the existential threat posed to animal, marine and human life by plastic, a derivative lest we forget, inextricably linked to fossil fuels which brings us back full circle to fracking. In 2014 INEOS the owners of the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland announced £1billion of investment in shale and gas production which will be used primarily for the manufacture of plastics. New facilities being built by the oil and gas industry will fuel a projected a 40% rise in plastic production in the next decade. While as ethical consumers we want to drastically reduce our consumption of plastic and deflate its demand. We face a system hell-bent on maximising its production and minimising  environmental controls. The relationship between industrialists and politicians exemplifies this is a systemic problem; Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man and the founder and chairman of the chemical giant INEOS is well-known as a fan of Brexit and a successful lobbyist of the government to reduce environmental legislation and taxes. It is such interests that are slamming the prison door on Richard Roberts and his fellow activists.   

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