Campaigners assemble as Cuadrilla to resume fracking

Anti-fracking campaigners have begun to return to Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Lancashire as the oil and gas exploration company announced it would be resuming drilling at the site with a view to completing its work programme by the end of November 2019. Alan Story reports.

Fracking Lancashire
Fracking Lancashire

Image: Kath Benson 

Alan Story

The owners of the oil and gas exploration company, Cuadrilla Resources, seem not to have heard the name Greta Thunberg, nor, more importantly, taken on board her message that our planet faces a climate emergency.

Today (11 July), Cuadrilla announced in an upbeat message that it planned to soon resume fracking at its site on Preston New Road near Blackpool in Lancashire. Local residents and anti-fracking campaigners were, not surprisingly, much less enthused.  

“This is an unwelcome but not unexpected announcement. It seems extraordinary that with the government [Parliament] just announcing a climate emergency, we are contemplating a resumption of fracking on the Fylde,” said Nick Danby of the campaign group Frack Free Lancashire.

Gina Dowding, newly-elected Green MEP for the North West, echoed Danby’s words: “With the UK Government [Parliament] declaring that we are in fact, in a climate emergency, it seems entirely senseless to pursue a new fossil fuel industry when we know we have to leave over 80 per cent of fossil fuels in the ground, unburned.”

And I am sure that if we could track down Thunberg for an interview she would send Cuadrilla the same message: this is climate emergency madness.

Yesterday (10 July), more than 150 people attended an event at Preston New Road to mark over two years of peaceful protest.

It is certain such protests will continue. You can follow developments on the Facebook group Frack Free Lancashire or via the excellent investigative journalism website Drill or Drop.

An observer on the scene a few hours after Cuadrilla made its announcement told Green World in a telephone interview that “campaigners are bemused, but seem very determined.”

Campaigners are already “starting to drift back to Preston New Road” and “while the blue bibs [police liaison officers] are sunning themselves just down the road from here, they’ve already got their high-powered mics out to listen in [on the conversations of campaigners].” He predicted a strong presence here of anti-frackers once Cuadrilla ramps up operations again.

The well-known fracking company seems, for the moment, in a pretty confident mood. Usually, such drilling announcements are released after regulatory approval has been given. At the time of going to press, however, such approval could not be verified. Nor would Cuadrilla confirm it had received approval. The upcoming drilling programme must be completed by the end of November 2019, Drill or Drop has confirmed.

Assuming fracking is approved here again, it is also fair to assume all will not go smoothly on Preston New Road between now and the end of November.  

In a statement, Danby said: “Let us remember that Cuadrilla have a long history of failure and that they caused 57 seismic events last time that they fracked.”

“They have also recently been taken to task and are being investigated by the Environment Agency for failing to properly monitor water quality, having previously failed to record a methane leak. They simply cannot be trusted to put the health and welfare of the community ahead of their commercial interests.”

Dowding added: “We absolutely need to act as though we’re in a climate emergency and start working strategically on sustainable and clean energy solutions. This does not include climate-wrecking fracked gas. A Green New Deal would address the investment required to tackle climate change and create a renewable energy jobs boom.”

Perhaps Greta Thunberg will not be able to make it personally from Sweden to Preston New Road to join the upcoming anti-fracking protests. But rest assured of one thing: announcements like today’s are creating more Gretas by the hour in this country. 

Alan Story is a member of the Sheffield Green Party and a regular contributor to Green World.

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