Socialist Worker

Activists celebrate Tory U-turn on fracking—and call for total ban

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2679

A protest against fracking at the Preston New Road site

A protest against fracking at the Preston New Road site (Pic: Martin Empson)


Climate campaigners were celebrating after the Tories announced an immediate halt to fracking in England on Saturday.

The Tory government was forced to say it won’t grant further licences to bosses “until compelling new evidence is provided” that fracking is safe. Its decision follows a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said people living near fracking sites suffered “unacceptable” consequences.

It’s a huge blow to the bosses of the dangerous fracking industry. And it’s a huge victory for all those activists who have protested tirelessly against the Tories and fossil fuel firms determined to start large-scale fracking. 

They feel vindicated after arguing that is causes earthquakes and pollution and contributes to climate chaos. Steve Mason from Frack Free United said, “We will certainly be raising a glass to anti-fracking campaigners everywhere.

“It is a really great step in the right direction and we will be watching with interest in the next actions of all political parties. 

“They must commit to the necessary action to dismantle the legislation backing fracking and take Britain down a clean energy strategy.”

The decision follows a disastrous fracking operation for by Cuadrilla at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire. The firm was unable to get beyond the exploratory stage because its fracking keeps producing earthquakes, forcing it to repeatedly suspend operations.

Susan Holliday, the Preston New Road Action Group chairperson, said, “Residents have suffered a great deal over the last three years. 

“The tremors in August 2019 were felt by thousands of people. 

“It must be a huge relief for those communities that are currently under the threat of planning applications for fracking. 

It’s yet another U-turn for prime minister Boris Johnson. He said fracking bosses should, ‘leave no stone unturned or unfracked’ and called the practice ‘glorious news for humanity’.

Licences 

Efforts to frack were based in Sussex, Surrey and Lancashire—many of which are Tory-voting areas. It caused huge division within the party on local and regional levels, with some Tory councillors refusing to grant licences.

The moratorium stops short of a permanent ban on fracking and Johnson cannot be trusted.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the move a “greenwash” for the general election. He said, “I think it sounds like fracking would come back on 13 December, if they were elected back into office. 

“We’re quite clear, we will end fracking. 

Maureen Mills from The Moss Alliance said activists were ready to get back on to the streets if necessary. “If we have to fight that battle again, we will,” she said. “We hope we don’t need to.: 

Campaigner Eddie Thornton has called for a total ban on fracking. He said, “We will continue to campaign until we secure an outright ban and legal assurances that the taxpayer won’t be left with the clean-up bill when fracking companies go bust.”

He added, ”The moratorium represents a significant victory for communities like mine up and down the country that have been fighting fracking for so long.

“But the timing of this announcement will now be lost on anyone.

“It's a cynical attempt to grease the wheels of Boris Johnson's election bus."

The pressure has to be kept up to make sure the government doesn’t roll back the moratorium. It did that to the temporary ban issued after the Preese Hall earthquakes in 2011. 

It’s a victory for all those battling climate catastrophe. And it’s particularly a victory for those on the front lines of anti-fracking activity, who never tired of telling the oil and gas firms, “We said no.” 

 


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