Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) is a new technology for extracting gas from the ground and is being used and developed in the UK. It is a drilling technique used to prise gas from shale rock deposits and is commonly referred to as an extreme form of energy extraction, and rightly so – fracking and coal seam gas (CSG – another form of extreme energy) have had extremely detrimental effects on the environment in South Africa, the US and Australia where the industries are well established. Fracking in particular has been banned outright in France and Bulgaria and there is much caution being observed by other member States of the EU in embracing this extraction method as a safe and viable part of long-term energy strategy. Indeed the EU’s Environment Directorate itself has declared fracking to be fundamentally unsafe, posing a significant risk to biodiversity, water depletion and contamination, land and air quality and seismic conditions.
The development of extreme energy methods in the UK has significant social, political, economic and environmental implications. The case against these methods is comprehensively evidenced and the outcry of the communities worldwide impacted by them hard to ignore. Despite this, our current Government is determined for shale gas to be a significant part of our future energy makeup. Widely dubbed a “dash for gas”, the Government has legislated to remove planning restrictions from development projects – The Growth & Infrastructure Act passed in April 2013 for example may see compulsory purchase orders as commonplace in the UK; undermining the autonomy of local people on decisions involving the industrial development of their own communities.
Shale gas is widely touted as a panacea to both our energy problems for the foreseen future, and our current economic woes. Indeed mainstream opinion frames fracking as a perfectly safe and desirable industry. However, reporting repeatedly omits the growing scientific case against fracking, giving industry figures and our conflicted politicians the platform they need to present biased supportive arguments as fact. Those vocalizing their opposition to fracking and other extreme energy methods are met with contempt and ridicule. This is ironic, given that arguments for such developments are invariably based on spin – whereas opposing arguments are couched in both scientific fact and the first hand experience of individuals and communities decimated by extreme energy methods like fracking.
Specifically in Sussex, 57,000 acres of land have been declared as exploration assets for Fracking. In Balcombe, Cuadrilla LTD have license for exploratory drilling and in other villages like Fernhurst and Billinghurst, Celtique Energie Weald LTD are posturing to begin similar operations.
The persistence of Cuadrilla LTD in Balcombe, where 85% of residents oppose the industry, is a sure sign that our democracy has been totally undermined. Consider one residents perspective:
“As a resident of Balcombe I find it disturbing, outrageous well, words fail me that a company, against the wishes of the people (again I say 85% of the people in my Village voted against fracking in a recent poll) Cuadrilla are able, about to be allowed to disturb our environment. Our MP has an interest so will not act. What can we do, what do we have to do to stop this? The wishes of the majority should be able to offset the actions of the greedy. It’s my earth too. I don’t want any drilling of any sort for any reason to go ahead and I believe most people in Balcombe would agree with me.”
Balcombe is just one example where the prospects of the Shale gas industry have been prioritized above the wellbeing of ordinary people and the integrity of their local environment. The rampant and callous profiteering of the industry is widespread, particularly in South Africa, the U.S and Australia, where thousands of acres of land have been condemned to be the industrial wastelands of the future.
However, there is hope! The movement against fracking is a transnational one, and set to become one of the biggest environmental justice campaigns in history. Affected communities share their stories and strategies for resistance online and there is a global sense of solidarity about the movement that captivates even the most novice of campaigner – the “knitting nannas” are a case in point. This campaign cuts across all divisions, whether class, age or politics, uniting communities on common sense principles about safeguarding the natural environment and the water and air that we all depend on for life.
Luckily for British people, we have the benefit of the hindsight of other communities that have already been exposed to extreme energy methods. One strategy that has been particularly effective for warding off the threat of unconventional gas mining has been the “Gasfield Free Community” campaign, championed by CSG Free Northern Rivers in Australia. Their campaigning efforts have seen the departure of big energy companies Dart Energy and Metgasco from the Northern Rivers. Gasfield Free Sussex has been founded to replicate the success of that strategy here in the UK after already having great success with the community of Balcombe. Check out the “Go Gasfield Free” section to find out more about the strategy, or watch the video below to see the campaign in action, in the Northern Rivers.
Please bear with us as we develop this resource for you.