It Is Now Or Never To Stop Fracking In Its Tracks

05/04/2017 13:10 BST | Updated 05/04/2017 13:10 BST
Reclaim the Power

This week I will take direct action to target the fracking industry. I'll put my body on the line to obstruct, protest and oppose shale gas extraction. I will be joining others from grassroots network Reclaim the Power in the Break the Chain fortnight of action to expose and disrupt the fracking supply chain. I have better things to do than this; a life to live, ends to meet, commitments to honour. Taking direct action can be stressful, risky, and I wish it was not necessary. But I believe it is.

The UK has been frack free for nearly six years since earthquakes caused by fracking in the Lancashire Fylde prompted a moratorium. British public opinion has remained set against fracking since then, preventing the industry from gaining a toehold in this country.

Lately, however, the government has disregarded this national opposition and set about instead creating as attractive an environment as possible for the fracking industry. New laws have removed important legislative checks and balances. Tax incentives have created "the most generous [tax regime] for fracking in the world." Most damagingly for democracy , planning regulations have been changed which enable government to overrule regional planning decisions. This has already happened in Lancashire. There the County Council rejected Cuadrilla's application to frack near the Fylde resort of Blackpool only for Secretary of State Sajid Javid to reverse that decision last autumn.

As a result, the Fylde has become a fracking frontline once more. My grandfather laboured on the Fylde's farms, my great uncle dug its ditches, my great grandfather was a salt miner here. They lived hard lives, but loved this land and respected its limits. They would have had no truck with fracking's extreme physical intrusion, chemical meddling, reckless risks and drastic industrialisation of the landscape.

Fracking involves high-pressure injection of fracking fluid - a cocktail of millions of gallons of water, sand and tonnes of toxic chemicals - to fracture deep lying shale rocks and release oil and gas they contain. In addition to the inherent toxicity of fracking fluid itself, the process releases radioactive material in the rock. Fracking risks contamination of natural aquifers, land, groundwater and air.

Evidence of the dangers posed to our environment and health has persistently emerged in from countries such as the USA and Australia where it is practised commercially. There, sickness and pollution have followed close on the trail of the frackers. In the far more densely populated UK those impacts stand to be amplified.

Beyond the imperatives of local impacts looms the spectre of climate change. The UK government signed the Paris agreement, committing the UK to act to hold global temperature rises below 2C. Everyone knows we need to keep 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground to stand a chance of this, not develop extreme ways of taking more.

On the ground meanwhile, and despite fierce ongoing local opposition, the first new well is under construction on the Fylde. But Lancashire is not alone. Planning has been granted for fracking in Yorkshire, Notts and Surrey, with a slew of further applications in the pipeline nationwide. Without courageous and decisive action, fracking might be coming soon to a neighbourhood near many or any of us. It is crucial that this does not happen; our water, air, land, health, climate and future are at stake.

Since last Monday Reclaim the Power has taken action against quarries, water suppliers, haulage companies, PR firms and gas companies - all with direct links to the fracking industry. By taking out the links in the supply chain we can break the whole industry into pieces.

I'll be nervous when I take action. It means stepping into the frontline and that carries risks, including arrest and even prosecution. But I will be there. Time to stand up and be counted; it is now or never to stop fracking in its tracks.

Follow Reclaim The Power's fortnight of action on Twitter @reclaimthepower.