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Tuesday, October 04, 2022

A consultative earthquake

The government's determination to bring back fracking is yet another example of ministers ignoring public opinion in pursuit of a dubious policy that will not deliver the benefits they are claiming for it.

Just to recap a previous post, fracking produces a greenhouse gas at a time when we are seeking to deliver challenging climate change targets, it does so by pumping huge amounts of water into small fissures, potentially creating geological instabilities, and polluting water supplies, and it extends our reliance on gas, when we should be developing other long-term sources of energy, such as tidal, solar, wind and even nuclear.

The most bizarre part of the government's policy on this practise is their declared intention to rely on local consent before issuing a fracking licence. So far we have had no indication of how that consent will be measured and when asked about it on local radio in one of many car crash interviews, Liz Truss failed to provide any clarity.

Now, according to the Independent, it has emerged that fracking companies themselves may be placed in charge of surveying local opinion on whether drilling should go ahead:

Government sources have suggested that companies like Cuadrilla – rather than councils or any other independent body – will be mandated to test if the controversial procedure has support.

It raises the bizarre prospect of ministers waving through plans for a procedure known to cause earthquakes on the basis that the outfit doing it has assured them people are happy to live with tremors.

“I have never heard anything so ludicrous in all my life,” said Barbara Richardson of Frack Free Lancashire. “I cannot think of a parallel to this ever happening. It goes against all democratic norms.

“Can we really see fracking companies going back to the government and saying, ‘Oh yes, actually, they don’t want us to drill so we won’t’. They will twist it every way they can to get the verdict they want.”

Ms Richardson was among a group of women – the self-proclaimed Lancashire Nanas – who spent six years fighting proposed fracking sites at Roseacre and, more famously, Preston New Road, near the village of Little Plumpton.

They held mass demonstrations, created hugely popular petitions and, for a brief period, occupied one site. Often dressed in yellow tabards and head scarves, they created a sprawling protest camp, organised weekly vigils attended by hundreds of local people, and blockaded vehicles headed for wells.

Eventually, in 2019 – after the group helped highlight how exploratory drilling had caused more than 15 significant tremors in just two weeks – Boris Johnson’s government backed down and effectively banned fracking not just in Lancashire but across the country.

Now, after new prime minister Liz Truss reneged on a Conservative manifesto pledge to keep the process banned last month, the group are preparing to fight again.

Exactly how the new plans for fracking companies to test for so-called local consent would work remains unclear – but one suggestion is that business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg would ask fracking companies to show they had reached a threshold of support among nearby residents.

The companies, in turn, would be allowed to gain the support of residents through offering financial benefits or money off energy bills.

“Bribery, basically,” said Ms Richardson, a retired IT professional. “And that still won’t work because the feeling against it round here is so strong. But the worry is now that these companies can essentially twist things to say there is support.”

You couldn't make this stuff up.
Just remember the Conservatives are devious little creatures who will do whatever it takes to get their way.They are not a Democratic party.
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