Fracking and its associated evils hadn't exactly escaped my attention, but it's only these past two weeks - with test drilling for coal bed methane happening 10 miles from my home - that I've made time to find out more and join in the resistance. This article is a summary of a few things I've learned, plus links, hopefully useful for anyone else in a similar position. I know it's not comprehensive - use it as a starting point. There are numerous extreme energy sites and potential sites around the country that all need our attention and resistance.
A bit of background
Fracking hit the indymedia headlines last summer when there was feisty resistance to Cuadrilla's exploratory drilling for gas in Balcombe, West Sussex. Court cases resulting from arrests at the camp drag on, the latest unfinished after a five day hearing and now adjourned until April. Active resistance to extreme energy extraction (shale gas, coal bed methane etc.) is happening right now, at Barton Moss near Manchester where a brutally policed protection camp continues to challenge IGas' drilling operations as they now dismantle the test site, and at Daneshill in north Nottinghamshire where a new community protection camp has been set up to resist Dart Energy's test-drilling for coal bed methane (CBM). Test drilling by Dart Energy for CBM at Farndon between Wrexham and Chester has been completed and a resistance camp there was dismantled at the weekend after two weeks of slow walk-ins with a small but dedicated group of protectors. Wrexham County Borough Council meets tonight to discuss again Dart's planning application for test drilling for CBM at Borras after a decision was deferred at the last meeting. Up in Scotland, they're in the middle of a Public Inquiry at Falkirk over Dart Energy's plans for CBM extraction. Recent events in London have included a Fracked Future Carnival and a Mothers Against Fracking event [YouTube link] on Mothering Sunday. In Ireland, where they know all about the evils of gas extraction, an anti-fracking video has been released.
Extreme Energy in the Marches
I knew from the Extreme Energy in the Marches website and a couple of local meetings I hadn't been able to attend that fracking was on the agenda in the Wrexham area but it was only when I was alerted to the fact that a drilling rig had been set up in nearby Farndon, just over the border in England, that I finally got my arse into gear to do something, starting with a couple of lone lorry walk-outs after I turned up to see what the situation was and take some photos. The following Sunday, there was a well-attended protest at the gates of the site that ended with a protection camp being established.
The camp remained for two weeks - a small crew of live-in protectors supported by mostly day visitors, dedicated to disrupting Dart Energy's operations to maximum effect with minimum numbers by escorting site vehicles [Flickr photos] up and down the long lane to and from the main road at a snail's pace. Although in a few notable instances cops declined to protect people from reckless drivers, leading to a crane hitting someone in the head and others being forcibly pushed along the road by trucks, the policing in general was fairly laid back, with officers generally willing to facilitate the protest with good grace. No doubt this would have changed in an instant had anyone blockaded the site...
In between site visits, I tried to read around fracking and related issues as much as possible, to properly inform myself. I was going to the site most days with my Australian friend Ciaron who knows people involved in the resistance to extreme energy extraction down under, much of which has involved coal bed methane (usually called coal seam gas in Australia). Dart Energy suspended all its Australian mining activity last year in response to fierce community resistance and the Australian authorities finally bringing in tighter controls, but the company is pushing ahead with the same technology here where the political and social climate is deemed to be more favourable. Coal bed methane extraction is just as disastrous for the environment here as it is there. Incidentally, much of the coal bed methane extraction in Australia has been undertaken by a company owned by British Gas. If we want to protect our air, water and this densely populated land for our children and our children's children then we need to learn from Australia's mistakes, build community resistance and quickly, before it's too late.
Some places I found useful information
The Frack-Off website looks at threatened areas and notes
We have just enough time to stop Fracking taking hold in the UK. The industry is in its infancy and is vulnerable. Success lies with nation-wide community resistance.Loads of other useful info. on the Frack-Off site.
Paul Mobbs' Extreme Energy in the Marches has a lot of information about the Borras planning application and other proposed local drilling sites.
Falkirk Against Unconventional Gas has information about coal bed methane, Dart Energy and community concerns, and is currently reporting on the Public Inquiry.
Gas Leak by Four Corners is an Australian Broadcasting Company investigative report into the disastrous effects of coal bed methane extraction in Queensland and New South Wales.
The Energy Justice Network has information about coal bed methane. The US based organisation advocates
a complete phase-out of nuclear power, fossil fuels, large hydroelectric dams and "biomass"/incineration within the next 20 years. We believe that this is possible, affordable and absolutely necessary.
Inspirational reports like this from Earth First! Journal and Gasfied Free Byron Shire are coming out of the Bentley Blockade against Metagasco's gas project in New South Wales, Australia as I write. Solidarity.
Frack Free Everywhere
Tonight, Wrexham County Borough Council Planning Committee voted to REJECT Dart Energy's application to test drill for coal bed methane at Borras.
Details of the application here:
Great news. Thanks to everyone who objected to the original application, attended council meetings, made representations to councillors, supported the Farndon camp and helped in myriad other ways.
Wrexham People's Assembly supporters joined the anti-fracking protest outside Wrexham Guildhall tonight before moving to the public gallery to hear the planning application for a test borehole at Commonwood, Borras. The council recommendation was to grant planning permission for 60 days test drilling, 24 hours a day plus 5 days either end for setting up and dismantling of the drilling rig. Up to 50 lorries a day during each of those 5 days was proposed to fetch and remove materials to the site ready to drill as borehole 950 metres deep and almost 1/2 metre in diameter in an area approximately 1 kilometre from the furthest reaches of the old Gresford Colliery workings.
Despite the council chairman advising that this was not fracking but a test borehole, several councillors expressed reservations about the safety of the borehole, in particular any escape of gas - not just vertically, but laterally into the Gresford fault and then into the old mine tunnels. The council was reminded that the Gresford disaster had been caused by a large gas explosion. No-one knew the extent of the gas down there and there was a concern that test drilling could hit a large pocket of gas with disastrous consequences. A motion was put to the planning committee to reject the planning application which was passed by 17 to 1 to rousing cheers and applause from protesters in the public gallery.
More photos from outside the Guildhall earlier:
from Eileen O'Reilly