|Cuadrilla drilling rig at Banks in Lancashire|
As hundreds of West Sussex residents today blockade roads preventing Cuadrilla trucks from entering their shale gas extraction ('fracking') site at Balcombe (see reports here), the anti-fracking campaign is gathering momentum in Lancashire with a series of local meetings in August (see details below) which will also be attended by campaigners from Brighton.
Oil company Cuadrilla plans to start shale oil and gas extraction on sites roughly between Preston and Blackpool, (see map) with a number of planning applications in various stages of being approved by Lancashire County Council.
News that buildings insurance now excludes damage from fracking as an 'Excluded Peril' has worried Lancashire residents following earthquakes in the Spring of 2011 caused by test drilling at the sites. Further evidence has been published this month linking substantially increased levels of tremors and earthquakes to water injection processes such as used in shale gas fracking.
In the US shale oil and gas extraction methods have also resulted in heavy contamination of local agriculture and drinking water supplies. Research is still underway on claims that the industry is responsible for increases in adrenal and pituitary tumors, headaches, nausea, joint pain, respiratory problems, birth defects and other symptoms.
However US extraction sites are mainly concentrated in rural areas, far from large centres of population. Such wildernesses do not exist in densely populated England, and over a million people live within a 25 mile radius of the proposed Lancashire extraction sites. The chair of Water UK has raised concerns over the likelihood of pollution but rather than impose regulation on what is largely a self-regulated industry the Environment Agency has said it will only deal with matters on a case-by-case basis.
The Cuadrilla Coalition Cabinet
Generous tax cuts for fracking companies were announced by Chancellor George Osborne this month, making it increasingly impossible for sustainable energy suppliers to compete and obtain investment. They complain that senior figures from the shale oil and gas extraction industry sit in the heart of Government.
Cuadrilla Chairman and former BP boss Lord Browne (Cabinet Office), Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw (Dept of Transport) and BG Group director Baroness Hogg (Treasury) have all been accused of the potential for conflicts of interest, as they hold senior advisory roles at a time when the Government is heavily promoting fracking.
Last month Centrica paid Cuadrilla £40m for a 25% share in its Lancashire exploration license. Next month the Government will publish new planning guidance on fracking. Planning and regulations will be streamlined to make it easier for shale gas exploration and production.
When chair of BP, Cuadrilla's Chief Exec Lord Browne became known for his 'ruthless' policies of cost-cutting which were blamed for a series of major disasters including the Texas City Refinery explosion (2005) and culminating with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. After it was found in 2007 that he had committed perjury in a legal case he resigned from BP and also from Goldmann Sachs, where he was a non-executive director, during a time when it was alleged that it engaged in improper and irresponsible practices that helped to precipitate the global financial crisis.
Browne is still heavily involved in energy-oriented private equity dealings and, as global power shifts eastward he is following it, being recently appointed adviser to Russia’s Alfa Group to advise the company on a new $20bn (£12.7bn) global oil and gas fund.
According to the World Development Movement (WDM), up to a third of all coalition ministers have past or present links with fossil fuel companies or with financial and services companies supporting oil or gas projects.
History of Corruption
As the Blackpool Gazette reported last year, tourism is important to Fylde and the scenario of 800 wells could have a hugely damaging impact. Nevertheless it still seems as if Lancashire residents have as much chance of having their concerns noted as residents of the Niger Delta did when a series of the world's greatest oil spills were inflicted on them by BP under Lord Browne's leadership.
Far from the industry delivering the promised benefits, or operating to any required safety standards, government and local officials were bought off and corruption runs rampant. Nigeria actually became more impoverished as a result of oil-dependency and the corruption introduced by the petrochemical industry.
Lancaster & Morecambe area residents may face even greater perils, as there has been no reference in any of the UK fracking debates or planning documents to the fact that we have two nuclear reactors within 20 miles of a drilling site known to have already caused earthquakes.
A number of local groups have formed to campaign for adequate environmental protection from Cuadrilla's oil and gas extraction projects and for tighter regulation and have arranged a series of meetings to be held in rural Fylde in August.
Residents' Action on Fylde Fracking say that:
'There is a great demand, especially amongst famers, for more information and discussion on the impact of shale gas extraction in rural areas and on agricultural land.
"RAFF is very grateful to the Frack Off folk for coming up from Brighton to arrange these meetings and help the community conversation that is gaining momentum in Lancashire."
Confirmed Local Meeting dates are:
Sunday 4th August - Grimsargh Village Hall - 11am
Sunday 4th August - Kenlis Arms, Barnacre, Garstang - 5pm
Monday 5th August - Townley Arms Longridge - 7:30pm
Tuesday 6th August - Goosnargh Village Hall - 7:30pm
Tuesday 6th August - Broughton and District Club - 7pm
Wednesday 7th August - Wheatsheaf, Garstang - 6pm
Wednedsay 7th August - Billsborrow Village Hall - 6:30pm
Thursday 8th August - Barton Village Hall - 7pm
Further information can be found at http://stopfyldefracking.org.uk/, and also on the RAFF facebook page at
Other local groups include:
Frack Free Fylde: http://www.frackfreefylde.com/ - you can also find them on facebook at
Ribble Estuary Against Fracking http://www.reaf.org.uk/ - also on facebook at
See a map of current and proposed locations licensed for fracking at http://frack-off.org.uk/locations/
The Friends of the Earth international Fracking and Shale Gas campaign hub can be found at