Fracking to start in Lancashire amid angry protests

'The supreme irony of the government giving the green light to a whole new fossil fuel industry to start today – just a week after the IPCC climate report on the importance of keeping the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground'

Toyin Owoseje
Monday 15 October 2018 15:31 BST
Fracking protests begin as drilling in Lancashire gets go-head from high court

Fracking has began in the UK for the first time in seven years amid protest over the controversial operation.

Energy firm Cuadrilla confirmed that work at started at the site on Preston New Road in Little Plumpton, near Blackpool, despite protestors taking to the streets of Lancashire on Monday morning. The hydraulic fracturing is expected to continue for three months before tests to see if the gas flow was commercially viable.

Police had been forced to close off the site after campaigners from Reclaim the Power gathered from around 7am ready for site workers to arrive. Two activists locked themselves to three tyres and sat in the middle of the road outside the site. Images on social media showed them holding placards.

Protester Ginette Evans said that although there was a mood of disappointment, the fight was “definitely not over”.

Charlie Edwards, from Reclaim the Power, said in a statement: “Today the government have launched their ‘Green Great Britain’ week – a tokenistic attempt to hide a series of climate-wrecking decisions such as expanding Heathrow airport and forcing fracking on the local communities.”

He added the UK’s energy minister, Claire Perry, had “the hypocrisy to say there was ‘no excuse’ for inaction on climate change. So we’re here today to stop the start of fracking, and show Claire Perry what real action on climate change looks like.”

Green MP for Brighton Caroline Lucas tweeted her support of the “peaceful” protestors, and shared a clip of the blocked road near the controversial operation.

“Supreme irony that government giving green light to whole new fossil fuel industry to start today – just a week after IPCC climate report on importance of keeping vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground.” she told her 316,000 followers.

Ms Perry recently said rules designed to halt fracking operations if they trigger minor earthquakes were “set at an explicitly cautious level … as we gain experience in applying these measures, the trigger levels can be adjusted upwards without compromising the effectiveness of the controls”.

The protest comes after Lancashire resident Bob Dennett‘s injunction to prevent energy firm Cuadrilla from pushing forward with fracturing operations was rejected by the High Court on Friday.

He had argued Lancashire County Council’s emergency response planning and measures at the site were insufficient and the authority had failed “to take account of relevant material considerations” in its assessment of the alleged environmental and health and safety risks of forcing water, sand and chemicals down a well to shatter rock.

Activities were ceased on the Lancashire site after two minor tremors in 2011 which were found “highly likely” to have been caused by the company’s operations. This led to a national ban on fracking and to the tightening of regulations.

Mr Justice Supperstone ruled on Friday there was not a “serious issue” that would justify an interim order.

Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan welcomed the outcome, saying in a statement: “We are delighted to be starting our hydraulic fracturing operations as planned. We are now commencing the final operational phase to evaluate the commercial potential for a new source of indigenous natural gas in Lancashire.

“If commercially recoverable, this will displace costly imported gas with lower emissions, significant economic benefit and better security of energy supply for the UK.”

The company’s permitted working hours are 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays, with a ban on Sundays. The work had been scheduled to start on Saturday but was delayed by Storm Callum.

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