Fracking concerns remain in West Sussex as process set to resume in UK

JPCT 200112 Green Euro-MP Keith Taylor visits Balcome to support anti-fracking protestors. Mr Taylor with campaigner Vanessa Vine. photo by derek martin
JPCT 200112 Green Euro-MP Keith Taylor visits Balcome to support anti-fracking protestors. Mr Taylor with campaigner Vanessa Vine. photo by derek martin

Campaigners in Sussex are continuing to protest against fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - as the Government gave it the green light today (Thursday December 13).

Cuadrilla, an energy firm exploring for shale gas and oil in Lancashire, suspending its operations voluntarily in June 2011 after concerns over seismic activity.

But while Ed Davey, energy and climate change minister, announced new controls on the process today, West Sussex residents are still worried that a proposed drilling site south west of Balcombe could lead to an ecological disaster.

Vanessa Vine, a West Hoathly resident, of Frack Free Sussex (FFS), fears for the ecological future around the site as it is near the London to Brighton railway line, the River Ouse, Ardingly Reservoir, and a Grade II listed viaduct.

“The threat is not only to our seismic security, but puts in jeopardy our wild ecology, our farmland and thereby our health, through industrialisation of our landscape and resultant contamination of soil, air and groundwater,” she said.

“It beggars belief that our legislators appear set to allow hydraulic fracturing to be carried out.”

In a statement today Mr Davey said: “Shale gas represents a promising new potential energy resource for the UK. It could contribute significantly to our energy security, reducing our reliance on imported gas, as we move to a low carbon economy.

“My decision is based on the evidence. It comes after detailed study of the latest scientific research available and advice from leading experts in the field.

“We are still in the very early stages of shale gas exploration in the UK and it is likely to develop slowly. It is essential that its development should not come at the expense of local communities or the environment. Fracking must be safe and the public must be confident that it is safe.”

Following the chancellor of the exchequer’s announcement in last week’s autumn statement to give tax breaks to shale gas exploration Francis Egan, CEO at Cuadrilla Resources, said: “In the UK, our activities fully comply with one of the world’s tightest regulatory systems for oil and gas.

“We welcome any initiative that streamlines decision-making processes while ensuring that all shale gas extraction conforms to the highest environmental and health and safety standards.”

Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: “Giving the green light to fracking for shale gas will send shock waves across the UK.

“Communities up and down the country will be disturbed by this reckless decision which threatens to contaminate our air and water and undermine national climate targets.

“George Osborne’s short-sighted dash for gas will leave the country dependent on dirty fossil fuels – MPs must stand up for a safe and affordable future by insisting on clean British energy from the wind, waves and sun.”

What do you think?