Week Ending 16th March 2014

Special Report - The new RSPB etc report - Are We Fit To Frack?.

UK news highlights

Resistance broken? As if!

Barton Moss

The Manchester Evening News began with a prediction of around 200 people expected at the city centre anti-fracking march on Sunday 16th. They had to revise their estimates upwards as the event took place, and admit it was the biggest-ever fracking protest. Salford Star reported around 1,500 took part.

On Monday the court verdict was expected on whether arch-villains Peel Holdings would be able to evict the Barton Moss Protection Camp from what may or may not be their land.

The verdict, slightly surprisingly, went against the camp. An appeal was lodged against the judge's refusal to allow appeal... It is highly unlikely this will be the end of the matter, or the end of the camp.

By mid-day on Tuesday this was proved an accurate prediction. The camp was given permission to appeal and the eviction order stayed.

A frustrated police force became increasingly aggressive as they were faced with lock-on, tree occupation and sit-down passive occupation of a public footpath right of way.

"Shocking GMP brutality on the walk in today! Numerous people assaulted, grabbed, pushed, kicked, punched in the face and ribs, slammed against trees, thrown to the ground in the worst police violence we have seen so far. Sit down protests were attempted to stop the TAU brutality but we were moved on. Officers were even told to walk into people lying on the ground! One disabled man was pounced on by 8 officers who dragged him around on the ground and then arrested him. Several protectors and locals are injured. 4 confirmed arrests not counting the two in the lock on but there is more awaiting confirmation."

In a further court decision, a stay was put on the eviction. The "Camp" was given right to state the case the Court of Appeal.

This was followed by a two-week stay until 26th March to give time for full defence preparation of evidence. That would then be considered before an oral hearing.

Police frustration at the continuance of the Barton Moss camp and the refusal of the protectors to be daunted resulted in a step-up of brutal attempts to suppress the protest.

On Thursday protectors were injured, including reportedly a woman with fractured ribs.

"The policing at Barton Moss this morning was the worst, most brutal assault on the protectors yet. One man, after being pushed so hard fell over, the police just went straight over the top of him, trampling him.

There were at least 2 arrests, both good, peaceful and caring people. One was arrested with an arm around his neck. We were treated like animals.

When the police look at us, what do they see. Do they look at us and see criminals? Animals? Scum? Because this is how we are being treated, this morning, more so than ever before. How do they look at us and see these things. Don't they have a shred of respect? A remote care about the future of their drinking water, their environment? What happened to make them act in this way. Because for the life of me, I wouldn't and couldn't treat other human beings with such little respect and dignity as we have been shown this morning."

"Can someone please take TS to hospital to get her BROKEN RIBS seen to. Carying on with those GMP THUGS about she could puncture a lung."

TS reply "I don't need to go I am a nurse and I know nothing can be done they can't be fixed I've strapped it so it stops moving. but thank u for your concern. Will go hospital later promise."

Friday was yet another court victory for common sense, and a kick in the face for GMP and their outrageous arrest and police bail actions, also the prosecution, when all protectors in court were given unconditional bail. This is no less than a farce. And one which calls for the resignation of the Police and Crime Commissioner.


Six organisations including the National Trust and the RSPB, produced a report on the potential effects of fracking. The main conclusions that fracking offers a threat to the environment including climate change effects were reduced by media reports to comments that the organisations wanted to stop fracking in national parks. Overall my initial impression is this report as reported by the media is as likely to harm the no-fracking-anywhere cause as aid it, with the message that fracking can be OK if properly regulated and carried out in the "right places". Opponents will no doubt, somewhat understandably, attack the report (as media-spoon-fed to them) as coming from loony greens more interested in wildlife than in the well-being of human beings.

However the report itself tells a slightly different story. It is available for download here

It seems that Cuadrilla are frustrated with their lack of ability to turn fracking into good publicity. The controversial company PPS which made PR gaffes and led Cuadrilla into trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority fell by the wayside when Cuadrilla took on giants Bell Pottinger. Now it is said Cuadrilla have ditched them as PR agents. The reasons are not spelt out, but a Bell Pottinger rep made a huge error in saying fracking wasn't safe a while ago, with a comment caught on tape about what they said to the contrary being f**ing bullshit...

The worst news of the week was that the British government helped scupper plans for increased EU controls over shale gas. A new set of rules was passed through parliament, but shale was excluded due to intense lobbying by Britain, supported by Poland.

Rather more encouraging was the result of an Ipsos Mori report prepared for the government (Public Attitudes to Science 2014). Greenpeace say "People overwhelmingly support clean offshore wind over dangerous fracking". If this is so, the government has simply got it wrong. Time for a change of policy, or a change of government.

However, a look at the report itself needs care. Support for renewable energy is certainly there, and a majority want action on climate change, although there is still a sizeable minority (13%) who do not link climate change with human activity. Regarding fracking the report itself says-
"On balance, people expect fracking to benefit the economy and lower energy bills, but they are less sure of its net impact on climate change and concerned about its overall environmental impact."
which is hardly the full-hearted opposition to fracking we would have liked.

It would be clearer if the Ipsos Mori report (can be downloaded here ) did not contain an error - on p171 the text says support for fracking is 36% and 51% for CCS but the figure referred to on p172 shows the support at 51%. I suggest and hope the text is right, and so then is Greenpeace, of course! But this raises the interesting question - if people do not support fracking but think it can benefit the economy, is this a sign that environmental concern is finally winning the day?

As always we should be careful about surveys and statistics. Only 36% support fracking, but then only 34% oppose it. Hopefully the balance has changed since the data for the report was collected. But the support for fracking certainly looks feeble compared with the 77% support for wind! - with ONLY 11% opposing. Greenpeace are right. This is a clear message for the government on its energy policy.

A Green Scottish MP's attempt to get a parliamentary committee to establish a 2km fracking exclusion zone around homes failed. Hardly surprising. Such buffer zones from homes would kill off fracking in the UK.

Outside the UK

Stories about earthquakes being linked to fracking rumble on. However the pro-frackers may enjoy saying it can't be true, Ohio officials took the steps this week of closing down temporarily fracking operations after two 'quakes in Mahoning County (!)

Despite recent crowing about dropping of South African anti-fracking protest, a report came that giant Shell are expressing dowbts about the financial viability of fracking the Karoo.

In the uS too, Shell have admitted shale has not worked out for the company.

A Poland desperate to frack announced the intention of giving the frackers huge tax breaks which make Osborne's efforts to pay off his friends miniscule.

UKIP - who always say fracking is safe touting the lie that in a notoriously litigious country the US there are no problems with lawsuits against fracking may sit up and take notice reading that another suit has just been launched claiming $25 million for anti-social fracking in Colorado.And another gas well leak in Ohio adds to the catalogue of disasters.

California continues to be a fracking battleground, with a new call signalling fear of fracking-related earthquakes.

Pakistan accepts that shale gas production will be 3 to 5 times more costly than conventional gas.

Any opinions here not quotes from the week's news reports are my own.
Alan Tootill

News As It Came In with links to original stories

1,000 take to the streets for biggest ever fracking protest


Anti-fracking protesters have until midday on Tuesday to leave Barton Moss site

Barton Moss fracking protesters told to leave camp

Anti-fracking campaigners in Salford can stay, court rules

Fracking 'could harm wildlife'

Warning over fracking impact on Norfolk, Suffolk and Fens wildlife

Ban fracking in national parks, says the National Trust

An environmental puzzle finally.

Ohio officials tight-lipped on fracking, Monday’s earthquakes

Shell: Fracking may not make us money

Fracking along: Poland to offer tax incentives to spur shale investment

Denton homeowners file $25M lawsuit over neighborhood fracking

Shell: Fracking may not make us money

Gas leak at private well forces evacuation

Fears Fylde fracking will affect wildlife

California at big risk of fracking-induced earthquakes, says Clean Water Action

Shell's American Woes Highlight Difficulty of Cracking Shale

Shell to restructure shale assets in U.S.

EU parliament excludes shale gas from tougher environmental code

EU exempts shale gas from tougher environmental assessments

Shale gas production to cost higher

Wind farms far more popular than fracking, government poll shows

Call for 2km zones to protect homes from fracking

  Links to other
anti-fracking sites