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Don’t trust landowners to fight the fracking bosses

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Fracking companies are going on the offensive and taking the National Trust to court. We need a national fight to beat them back, writes Sarah Bates
Issue 2594
Protesting against fracking at Preston New Road in Lancashire
Protesting against fracking at Preston New Road in Lancashire (Pic: Martin Empson)

New battles against fracking bosses are in the pipeline.

Britain’s biggest shale gas company Ineos wants to frack—extract gas—underneath Clumber Park. That’s a national park covering some 3,800 acres in Nottinghamshire.

Its plans will pit it against local campaigners, the National Trust—and even sections of landowners.

The National Trust has refused access for “seismic testing”, which would identify the best place to drill or frack wells under the grade 1 listed estate and gardens.

The Trust has declared it “has no wish for our land to play any part in extracting gas or oil”.

James is from nearby Chesterfield Against Fracking and president of Chesterfield trades council. “We’re going to fight this,” he told Socialist Worker. “People are very supportive of the stand the National Trust have taken—it’s a principled rejection of fracking.

“We’re planning to keep on campaigning over Clumber Park and make sure Ineos can’t frack.”

The government-controlled Oil and Gas Authority last week gave the go-ahead for Ineos to fight the National Trust for access.


Once a well is built, a fracking drill can operate horizontally. Fracking companies want licences to test for shale gas underneath land—without necessarily having the owners’ permission.

Councils—some of them even led by Tories—are increasingly turning against an industry that is deeply unpopular. But James said the Tories’ opposition “stops at the constituency boundaries”.

Ineos is making enemies in even more unexpected places. In a letter published in the Gazette and Herald newspaper in Yorkshire, dozens of major landowners attacked fracking.

The letter said they opposed “fracking not just in Yorkshire, but everywhere.”

It is signed by some 32 landowners, including two barons, a baronet and a viscount.

Many rural residents, who would otherwise be Tory supporters, are against fracking.

James argued that we need a national strategy to finish off fracking for good. “There’s loads of good groups who do brilliant local campaigning,” he said.

“But the decisions over fracking are being taken out of local authorities’ hands and put into the hands of central government.

“This means we need to have a national focus too.”

A dirty industry that harms people and the planet

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a dirty and dangerous method of extracting gas trapped in shale or other rock formatations.

It works by pumping high pressured water, sand and chemicals into rock kilometres below the ground.

This high pressure jet fractures the rock and releases gas.

One of anti-fracking campaigners’ main worries is about water contamination. A 2016 report by the US Environment Protection Agency admitted that fracking had harmed some water supplies.

Contamination can happen because infrastructure is not built properly or industrial wastewater isn’t disposed of correctly.

Another big concern is earthquakes—which are thought to happen because fracking disturbs the bedrock.

In Oklahoma in the US the fracking industry makes up 7 percent of the state’s economy.

But the state has experienced “almost a millennium’s worth of earthquakes in just two years”.

That was according to the National Earthquake Information Centre.


And two small earthquakes in 2011 in Lancashire were thought to have been caused by fracking.

They prompted a temporary ban on fracking.

Activists are also worried about the effect of pollution in rural areas and the impact of large scale industrialisation on the countryside.

But the overarching concern is climate change —and the implications fracking has for the planet.

Advocates say fracking is “cleaner” energy than coal, but the process releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

This contributes to a rise in temperatures across the globe, which means a rise in sea levels and extreme weather conditions.

Instead of looking for new ways to access gas, governments should be investing in renewable energy.

This would be good news for the environment.

But it would also release rural areas from the stranglehold of multinational companies such as Ineos that want to profit from natural resources.

Celebrations at Kirby Misperton

After more than a year the anti-fracking camp at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire is closing.

Protesters said that that their “job has been done”.

Their statement added, “The last two weeks have seen convoys of fracking equipment leaving the site.

“And this week we celebrated as the rig was finally removed.”

But Third Energy bosses have permission to extract gas using conventional methods at the nearby KM8 site.

Some activists believe they will extract gas in this way, or sell the well to a rival fracking company.

Ineos to take Scots to court

Not content with just fighting the National Trust, Ineos is also preparing to wage a legal battle against the Scottish government.

Its has joined forces with fracking company Reach Coal Seam Gas in an effort to overturn the Scottish government’s ban on fracking.

In a consultation of 60,000 people in Scotland 99 percent opposed fracking.

But Ineos and Reach Coal Seam Gas claim their “business interests are adversely affected”.

The case is expected to be heard in May at a judicial review.


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