Saturday, 3 August 2013

UK Protests against “Fracking” gain momentum

After nine days of protests outside Cuadrilla’s site at Balcombe in West Sussex,the company started drilling at 11:15 am on Saturday 3rd August 2013.  The protests continue even though Cuadrilla insists that it is only prospecting for oil using conventional drilling techniques.

Cuadrilla has stated that the operation on the Balcombe oil well site, which was plugged and abandoned after an evaluation by Conoco in 1986, is for an exploratory borehole only and no “fracking” will be carried out.  If you look at the Balcombe page on Cuadrilla’s website they have carried out a comprehensive set of studies and assessments since planning permission was granted by West Sussex County Council in 2010.  They are also working very closely with the Environment Agency, which has advised them of those applications that should be made for permission to enable them to legally handle the resulting waste materials from the drilling process. This includes applying for a licence to handle radioactive materials such as the water derived from the oil bearing strata, which is naturally contaminated with radioactive substances like uranium.

Frack Off!
Of course none of this is of any interest to the anti-fracking protesters who have effectively rallied support for their cause around this site.  They have been very successful in gaining media attention and the arrests, the heavy police presence and even the tents on the side of the road remind one of the Greenham Common protests which lasted from 1982 to 2000.

Tina Rothery
Tina Rothery of Residents Action on Flyde Fracking RAFF, said any plans to drill on the Lancashire coast, where fracking has already caused earthquakes, will be met with protest.
“If anything we have learned from the protests at Balcombe and they will help us to be more effective,” she said.

On BBC news today (03/08/2013) she used her media experience to fill a precious few seconds of air time with a highly articulate explanation setting out why the protests should continue, in spite of the fact that permission for “fracking” has not yet been applied for by Cuadrilla.  The drilling itself will create disruption, noise and waste disposal issues. There is also likely to be flaring of any gas found in the oil deposits. 

Fracking bribes may well be misplaced
When he announced tax subsidies for fracking companies George Osborne also said that local communities should be rewarded for allowing fracking in their area, but the idea may well backfire. 

In his recent book What Money Can’t BuyMichael Sandel tells an interesting story about the Swiss village of Wolfenschiessen, reported by the FT and Mr Leo Von Bülow-QuirkThe proposal for a financial incentive to accept a nuclear waste depository near their village reduced the percentage of residents in favour from 51% to 25%. The offer of money converted what the residents were prepared to accept as a civic duty into a mere matter of financial gain.

In my view this is an example of the moral bankruptcy of some UK politicians, which is typified by the MP's expenses scandal, ongoing lobbying payments, "cash for questions" and the blatant cronyism of the latest honours list. It is the politician's cynical use of their privileged positions to make money or to dole out rewards to the faithful, which has already led to a lack of trust between politicians and the electorate.  I think that the idea that people will risk their local environment and health, for a financial gain which will not begin to match the losses that they will make if they are property owners, is a non-starter.

If the money goes to Local Councils nobody will trust them not to spend it on expenses, increased salaries and fact finding trips. At best it's likely to get absorbed into general budgets to offset cuts elsewhere. 

On the other hand individuals tempted to accept financial payments, in exchange for allowing fracking to be established in their area, should know that they will be signing away all their rights to any compensation for whatever damage they, or their children, might suffer in the future.  


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