Socialist Worker

Shale gas firm forced to halt drilling as activists camp out

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2367

Saturdays march in Balcombe

Saturday's march in Balcombe (Pic: Guy Smallman)


More than 1,000 people marched through the West Sussex village of Balcombe on Saturday of last week, against plans to frack for shale gas.

Cuadrilla Resources has been drilling an exploration rig in Balcombe, in the face of bitter opposition from local residents and a growing camp of direct action activists.

They suspended work last week for the duration of a second protest camp, organised by environmental campaign Reclaim the Power.

Students, trade unionists and members of Disabled People Against Cuts came together with veterans of the Climate Camps of the previous decade.

Many were on their first protest, outraged by the government’s plans to support a fracking industry which could ultimately see tens of thousands of wells drilled into an area larger than Wales.

Risks

“They know exactly what the risks are, but they’re still going ahead,” said Antonio, who has been camping at site. “They only stopped now because of the protests. We need to respect where energy comes from, and to stop what they are doing to the earth.”

Fracking has led to serious incidents of water contamination in the US, and earthquakes in Lancashire.

“Cuadrilla and the government say the earthquake was only like a small lorry going past,” said Bob, from the Residents Action on Fylde Fracking campaign in Blackpool. 

“But I can tell you it was not like that—it literally shook me out of bed. I was ready to do a runner, I thought my house was going to fall down.

“We’ve been campaigning against fracking for several years and sometimes it feels like we’re banging our head against a brick wall. But so many people have been woken up by these protests.”

Balcombe’s Parish Council put up signs distancing the village from the protesters. But one village resident told Socialist Worker that many residents felt differently.

“We’ve all been treated very shabbily,” she said. “We weren’t consulted about the drilling until it was a fait accompli. The Lord of the manor sold us down the river.

Divide

“They are trying to divide us against the protesters, saying all this will cost £1 million to police. But it’s a small price to pay to get rid of Cuadrilla.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas on the demo before her arrest

Green MP Caroline Lucas on the demo before her arrest (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Reclaim the Power camp organised direct actions against Cuadrilla on Monday of this week. During a sit-in, Green MP for Brighton Pavillion Caroline Lucas was arrested along with others. 

There were also several days of workshops. One made the case for the One Million Climate jobs report. The report was compiled by the Campaign Against Climate Change with the support several trade unions.

“We’ve got an economic crisis and an environmental crisis, and they have a common solution,” Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA rail workers’ union told Socialist Worker. 

“We need to invest in renewable energy, insulating homes, public transport. This protest shows that people want an alternative.”


Cuadrilla uses distorted research over fracking

Cuadrilla’s website claims there is “no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing”— quoted from a University of Texas report.

The report is only available on Cuadrilla’s website. The university took it down and changed its procedures after a damning independent review.

It found that the summary of the report—the bit Cuadrilla quoted—distorted research to suggest that fracking did not require new regulations. And the report’s lead author, Professor Chip Groat, did not disclose his financial interests in the fracking industry.

So why does Cuadrilla still use this report nine months later? Maybe because there are so few other sources to back up their story of safe fracking.

There are documented examples of shale gas contaminating water.  A well in Bainbridge, Ohio, leaked so much methane gas into drinking water it caused an explosion in someone’s basement.


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Tue 20 Aug 2013, 17:49 BST
Issue No. 2367
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