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Issue #1752      October 12, 2016

Tories say: Frack you Lancashire

The Tory government rode roughshod over the wishes of tens of thousands of people in Lancashire after giving the go-ahead to fracking. A landmark ruling from Communities Secretary Sajid Javid paved the way for the first fracking site in Preston New Road.

But the government halted progress on the one in Roseacre Wood due to a “real and unacceptable risk to the safety of people using the public highway.”

The ruling said the other social, environmental and economic effects of fracking – which involves smashing underground rocks with a high-pressure toxic sludge to release gas – could be reduced to an “acceptable level,” but did not specify how.

Lancashire County Council had refused permission to fracking company Cuadrilla to extract shale gas at both sites, citing adverse effects on traffic and noise, but the company appealed. The council’s cabinet member for the environment Marcus Johnstone said: “A local council, made up of councillors democratically elected by local people, and charged with serving their interests, is exactly the right body to make decisions on local matters.

“It is clear that the government supports the development of a shale gas industry, but I would ask it to do more to address the concerns of local communities and the councillors who represent them by supporting the best environmental controls.”

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Barry Gardiner accused Javid of overriding the wishes of local communities.

He said: “The government’s decision bulldozes local democracy and risks locking Britain into an old-fashioned dirty energy infrastructure when we should be seizing the opportunities for new long-term jobs and investment in a clean energy future.

“Cuadrilla’s own figures on jobs show they would be very temporary, and their claims that fracking will lower British energy bills have been discredited.”

Campaigners immediately vowed to continue their battle against the controversial process. But general union GMB welcomed the government decision, saying it meant new jobs and opened the door to an alternative supply of energy for Britain. GMB national officer Stuart Fegan called the government decision “pragmatic,” as the gas industry provides for “highly skilled jobs.”

He said: “The go-ahead will reduce the gas we will need to import from regimes fronted by henchmen, hangmen and head-choppers.”

The union also welcomed the arrival of shale gas imported from the US to Scotland last week, again on the grounds of job creation.

However opponents say the process is environmentally damaging, threatens health, pollutes water sources and can even cause earthquakes.

The government’s ruling is a bitter blow for anti-fracking campaigners who worked tirelessly to protect the land from the drill.

A Residents Action on Fylde Fracking spokeswoman told the Morning Star: “What was once a rural community will now become an industrialised zone.

“We will continue to fight this dirty, unwanted and unneeded industry. There were over 18,000 objections and only 200 in support.

“More and more communities are speaking out up and down the country, and there are now more than 500 community groups opposed to fracking, with more being set up every week.”

The group accused Javid of “overruling democracy.”

The campaigners also said Prime Minister Theresa May had backtracked on a pledge in her maiden speech when she said: “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you.”

Nanashire anti-fracking group’s Tina Rothery said: “Today marks a day we made local democracy a myth, a mockery. They took away our ability to defend our families using democratic processes.”

Anti-fracking groups will gather at Maple Farm near the Preston New Road site to discuss what to do next and show once again they will not give up the fight.

Morning Star

Next article – Honduras – Pre-election violence spikes

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