Socialist Worker

Councils inject £9 billion into fracking companies

A new report has uncovered how council bosses are investing workers’ money into dirty drilling. Sarah Bates looks at who’s funding the fossil fuel giants

Issue No. 2621

Theres huge resistance to fracking

There's huge resistance to fracking (Pic: Victoria Buchan-Dyer/Flickr)


New research has revealed the scale of local authority cash propping up the fracking industry.

Council bosses invested over £9 billion from workers’ pensions funds in fracking companies in just one year, according to the Divest Fracking report published last week.

The data is based on Freedom of Information requests which asked councils that manage pension funds for a list of investments in 2016-2017.

It notes that “all around the world councils, organisations and institutions are showing moral leadership on climate change by selling off their shares and other investments in fossil fuel companies.”

And it argues that councils in Britain should do the same and withdraw their money from this dangerous fossil fuels industry.

Fracking works by blasting water, sand and chemicals at a high pressure to extract gas or oil deep underground.

Threatens

It can shatter the lives of people living near wells and threatens more catastrophic climate change.

The first frack in Britain for seven years is on the horizon.

In July fracking firm Cuadrilla was granted final permission to start extracting shale gas at the Prison New Road site near Blackpool in Lancashire.

The surrounding area will suffer from noise and air pollution. Earthquakes and a contaminated water supply are also likely.

Ready for fraction - the Tory love-in with frackers and the resistance
Ready for fraction - the Tory love-in with frackers and the resistance
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Fracking bosses have their eyes on Lancashire, because they say its geology makes it ideal to frack.

In 2015 then Tory local government minister Sajid Javid overruled Lancashire council and gave Cuadrilla the go-ahead.

A mass campaign had forced it to vote to deny Cuadrilla permission to frack.

But Lancashire council has poured some £187 million into companies that profit from fracking.

Claire Stephenson from Frack Free Lancashire called the local authorities’ investment “incredibly short sighted”.

“This shocking revelation of where our councillors have their pensions invested is unsupportable and we urgently call for change and divestment,” she said.

Even in Scotland—where the Scottish National Party (SNP) government has temporarily banned fracking—councils have invested

£927 million in pension fund money.

Mary Church from Friends of the Earth Scotland, said, “If fracking is too dirty and dangerous for Scotland we shouldn’t be trying to profit from it taking place in other countries.” Public support for the fracking industry is very low—the latest figures show just 18 percent are in favour of fracking.

Councils would be better off resourcing renewable energy—which is supported by 85 percent of people.

Fracking further entrenches reliance on fossil fuels, when proper funding should be given to developing renewable energy. With climate catastrophe on the horizon, the stakes could not be higher to finish the dirty fracking industry off for good.


Victory at Leith Hill site

Anti-fracking campaigners have scored a victory in their decade-long battle against Europa Oil and Gas.

The company pulled out of the Leith Hill site in Surrey last week after it was unable to renew its lease.

Europa Oil and Gas shares dropped by 5.8 percent on the day of the announcement.

Fighting

Patrick Nolan is part of the Leith Hill Action group that has been fighting the plans since December 2008.

He said campaigners “have been told by many people in many circumstances that we were just fighting the inevitable”.

“However, today’s announcement shows the value of continuing the fight,” he added.

Europa Oil and Gas was unable to agree certain conditions on the lease, including traffic management plans and erecting security fencing.


Cops move against camp

With fracking set to start imminently at Preston New Road in Lancashire, bosses are redoubling their efforts to clamp down on protest.

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Anti-fracking activists have been based at three camps near the Preston New Road site since Cuadrilla started exploratory work there in January last year.

One of these is the “B and Q” camp near an industrial park in Dugdale.

On Tuesday of last week cops and guards from the Portal security company claimed they were serving a “writ of possession and control” to the camp.

This is a legal notice to leave

the property. But campaigners doubted the legality of the document as they were given no notice, it was dated incorrectly and misspelt.

Campaigners had erected structures to fortify the camp and have vowed to resist eviction, as Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday.

Activists think vacating the area will make it easier for Cuadrilla bosses to bring fracking equipment into the site.

Protest camps have been a focus for resistance during the long campaign to stop the next phase of the fracking industry in Lancashire.


Firms rely on legal threats

IGas was granted an interim injunction at Mission Springs and Tinker Lane in Nottinghamshire and at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.

CEO Stephen Bowler said they “fully respect peaceful protest”. But the injunction bans protests that stop vehicles from entering the site.


Billion-pound companies

Councils invested in huge multinationals such as Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips, which have major global fracking operations.

The Greater Manchester Pension Fund has a £275 million investment in BP.

BP said it doesn’t want to be linked to fracking in Britain.

But they’re happy to do it in the US, Argentina, Oman and China


Union leaders back frackers

Some trade union leaders support fracking because they claim it will create jobs and cut energy bills.

But Britain would need 6,000 shale gas wells to meet just

50 percent of current demand.

Trade unionists should fight for renewable jobs, which are part of a sustainable socialist economy that doesn’t cost the earth.


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