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Week Ending 18th May 2014

Crawberry Hill - protector swiped by fracker's truck

Crawberry Hill - two peaceful protectors released after 10 hours detention following arrest on spurious charges

"Free! Val, Beverley resident and her husband Jon, former Director of Education for Humberside freed after being held for about 10 hours for taking a stand and peacefully protesting against fracking."

UK news highlights

Main stories - Cuadrilla declare war, and Police continue their support of the frackers

On Monday the Telegraph confirmed what the Sunday Times and IB Times had suggested the day before. Cuadrilla is hell-bent on fracking the Fylde. By next year they hope to start production and feeding the gas grid. By the end of the month they are to submit two planning applications, near Roseacre and Little Plumpton.

It remains to be seen what detail is contained in these applications. However it will be very difficult for Cuadrilla now to claim these are only "temporary" test sites. Any applications must be judged in the full understanding that they are likely to become permanent production sites, with all that entails. They must be vigorously opposed.

This also brings a whole new raft of problems for Cuadrilla, and for the government. The regulatory authorities are not even geared up to shale drilling and testing, far less production. And without permission from landowners under whose land Cuadrilla want to frack, the company is gambling on the government coming to its aid and scrapping the ancient trespass laws. It is also clear that Cuadrilla expect any landowner to receive minimal compensation, perhaps less than £100, for having their land put under risk of irretrievable damage.

There is clear incentive now for those opposed to fracking to focus the growing movement's attention on Fylde. It will become a significant battleground. The frackers must not win here. It would set a precedent for the rest of the country.

The situation at the Crawberry Hill protection camp hotted up on Thursday when a protector was reportedly driven into by a pickup truck or crane, needing hospital treatment. Fortunately he was able to be released from hospital later that day. Police held the truck driver, but it appears he was released without charge. This is unsettling, as witnesses alleged they had seen a reckless if not deliberate attempt to run the protector down. He himself said the truck lurched at him with accelerator pedal pushed to the floor. The reluctance to charge the driver or carry out a full investigation into the incident leaves a very unpleasant taste in the mouth, considering that two protectors were later charged with offences, their action being to sit peacefully "medidating". Two - a local couple in their 60s - were arrested under the Trades Union Act - presumably the section 241 prohibiting intimidation of workers. At Balcombe most of those arrested under this act had the charges changed.

There were also separate reports of attemped intimidation of camp members.

On the same day the Guardian reported that Sussex police came under fire from a solicitor defending Balcombe protestors that for criminalising non-criminal activities, with the suggestion they had a political agenda.

Another protector of Barton Moss walked free from court on Monday. And five more have their cases dropped before Tuesday's court appearance. What a legal shambles. Heads should roll at GMP. There have now been sixteen cases acquitted. And only one conviction, of a protector who did not use solicitors for defence, is now planning an appeal. We learned on Tuesday that yet more cases due in court this week were dropped.

The failure of the prosecutions against Barton Moss protectors led Lizars lawyer Simon Pook to say: "Our clients fundamental rights to peaceful protest was unlawfully interfered with in a disproportionate manner…"

Celtique tried to put the best spin on the story that they have cut back (not eliminated) their initial plans for drilling in the South Downs National Park. Their staged approach is becoming a standard ploy as an article from Louisiana shows.Centrica boss Laidlaw said they would not start by drilling in national parks.

Lord Howell was back on the fracking scene, accusing the government of overhyping fracking but still saying it should go ahead in the desolate north. His main message, although he seems to fail to see it himself, is that fracking is entirely inappropriate for the UK. He makes a lot of good points against fracking, so worth a read of what he actually said rather than what the media say he said.

Less publicised in the media, which focused on the "fracking will lose votes" aspect of Lord Howell's article, was the startling suggestion that Europe should learn to love Russian gas. See this article under the title "Russian Gas is the Realistic Option for Europe" here.

After IGas buying of Dart, comes the story that Egdon Resources are in process of acquiring Alkane. According to Proactiveinvestors the mergers and acquisitions signal a land grab operation getting ready for the DECC 14th round of licensing.

The recent Lords committee on shale gas was savaged by the World Wildlife Fund.

Welsh Assembly Labour members blocked a move to force the issue of technical guidance on handling fracking planning applications.

Outside the UK

An Associated Press enquiry to four US states found confirmation of water pollution from drilling. The Associated Press said their review of complaints casts doubt on industry view that it rarely happens. In contrast, of course, to the UK pro-fracking politicians who gaily assert it NEVER happens.

The AP also accused the US government of failing to inspect thousands of high-risk wells for water and environmental damage.

A New Jersey senate vote would ban dumping of Pennsylvania's fracking waste in the state.

Acid fracking is fracking, according to Florida officials, who have just halted illegal fracking-like operations near the Everglades.

'Their method is considered “fracking-like” because the company injects dissolving acids into the ground to unearth oil reserves rather than the usual fracking chemicals. It also says it uses a “modest volume” of water and sand in the process.'

This raises again, as in Sussex, the question when is fracking not fracking, and how companies are hiding behind terminology and distorting the truth.

A new report of a North Dakota oil spill warns us again about the accidents which can occur with fracking whatever regulation is in place, a further warning about shale oil in the south.

A Scientific American article pointed out the inadequacy of Ohio legislators to control fracking wastes.

More confirmation comes from the US to back Howell's idea that US LNG imports can not help Europe and compete with Russian gas.

A new report from Duke university scotches the idea that shale gas will on its own help tackle climate change. It confirms natural gas production and consumption has higher emissions than renewables and nuclear power.

Over 20 Spanish parties now advocate a ban on fracking, because of effects on environment and human health.

From Australia came the news that hundreds of police are preparing to storm a coal seam-gas protest camp - the Bentley Blockade following weeks of mounting tension in northern NSW. Next Monday is the scheduled date for drilling equipment to be delivered. Thousands of protesters could join the camp, which is already over a thousand strong.

However on Thursday came the dramatic news that Metgasco's CSG operation had been suspended and the company reported to the corruption Commission. The company licence was suspended for failing to properly consult the community. A victory for the camp, and for local democracy. The industry was horrified that this could now set a precedent threating the country's CSG operations. Let's hope if the government ignores local opinion we shall see similar success through community action in the UK.

Russia Today asked the question - "Are Western energy giants’ interests behind Ukraine violence?". Whilst not an unbiased source, the article does contain reference to foreign oil companies' investment in the Ukraine and the interest of sons and friends of American politicos in the country's oil industry.

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

First British shale gas 'to fuel homes next year’

Energy company abandons South Downs fracking plans

We won’t start fracking in national parks, says Centrica

4 states confirm water pollution from drilling

Regulators Failed To Inspect Thousands Of High-Priority Fracking Wells, Report Finds

NJ Senate approves bill that would ban fracking waste


Illegal 'fracking-like' oil drilling halted in ecologically-sensitive Everglades

Company Drilling Near Everglades Claims Not To Be Fracking, Just Acid Fracking

OIL COLUMN – Consolidation points to UK shale land-grab

IGas acquisition will create largest UK shale gas explorer

UPDATE 1-Egdon Resources in advanced talks to buy Alkane shale assets

UPDATE 1-Egdon Resources in advanced talks to buy Alkane shale assets

Alkane eyes deal to speed up shale gas exploration

Alkane to transfer shale assets to Egdon

Government drive for fracking 'losing thousands of Tory votes', Lord Howell warns

Lord Howell: British fracking policy – a change of direction needed

Lord Howell: Russian Gas is the Realistic Option for Europe

Start fracking in the 'derelict and desolate' north says George Osborne's father-in-law

Ron Burgundy, a leaking North Dakota fracking well owned by Denver company brought under control

A Confidential Fracking Well Named Ron Burgundy Is Leaking In North Dakota

Helis Oil Co. agrees to drill vertically, study results before considering fracking in St. Tammany

Confusion Over Anti-Fracking Protest

Row over lack of national guidance for fracking applications

Fracking Regulations Weak and Scarce Despite Natural Gas Bonanza

US 'shale gas' cannot replace Russian supplies to EU: GECF chief Adeli

By itself, abundant shale gas unlikely to alter climate projections

Over 20 Spanish parties now advocate a ban on fracking

Hundreds of police to break Bentley blockade

NSW's CSG suspension 'damaging': miners

Metgasco's Bentley gas operations suspended

Sussex police under fire for 'criminalising' fracking protests

Top lawyer raises concerns about number of arrests at Balcombe fracking protests

Shale gas and politics: Are Western energy giants’ interests behind Ukraine violence?

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