The fight against fracking has been long and exhausting, but full of inspiration.
The last time I was at Preston New Road in Lancashire, currently the only active fracking site in the UK, it was an unusually warm October afternoon and we were listening to speeches at a thousand person strong rally. One of them was from a member of the Frack Free Three, a group who had received custodial sentences for blockading the PNR site in July 2017, but had just had their sentences overturned. They were commenting on our numbers, on our support for each other, and on our strength together. And despite the odds feeling stacked against us, it did feel like at least there were many of us standing there in opposition. It’s that incredibly empowering feeling you get when united in resistance.
Fast-forward to March 2019 and it feels like we’re in a totally different place. We’ve just had the news that fracking firm Cuadrilla won’t be appealing the government’s refusal of their application to frack at Roseacre Wood, their second site in Lancashire. That’s right - the government’s refusal. And it’s not the only thing that’s giving cause for hope.
It seems the release of the Frack Free Three was to start the chain of events that could see fracking end this year.
First, the months following that rally saw a series of earthquakes taking place at PNR once fracking began, forcing Cuadrilla to cease operations continuously. Pressure built up and Cuadrilla pleaded for the government to relax their regulations on earthquakes, as they were costing them quite a bit of money. Many of us kindly reminded Cuadrilla that these were regulations they had agreed to only a few months before, but it seemed that now these regulations were doing their job, the industry had had a change of mind.
Fortunately in response, we’ve seen a government who for the last six years has been leading the fracking charge finally catch whiff of how unpopular it really is. They decided that the regulations ought to stay the same. And I get the feeling that was due to the sheer level of opposition they’ve seen towards their plans to fast-track fracking through the planning system. That, alongside the series of earthquakes and the outrageous arrest of the Frack Free Three, had brought this unconventional fossil industry right up in public discourse, and the government were too afraid this time to bend in the industry’s favour.
The great thing about this first piece of news is that many fracking companies have said they simply cannot commercially operate with these earthquake regulations in place. Obviously, this was fantastic news for anyone apart from those in the industry and the pro-fracking government ministers. But it didn’t seem to stop there.
For anyone who was following the accurate climate science and not industry propaganda, it has been clear for a long, long time that fracking is not compatible with a 1.5 degree world. Yet due to this long propagated myth that natural gas is a bridge fuel (see our blog here on why this is simply not the case), the industry and government had been getting away for a while with this idea that we still need gas.
It was very disappointing when the government failed to respond to the Committee on Climate Change’s statement in 2016 that fracking is incompatible with the UK’s climate change targets. But since then the evidence has become harder for the government to ignore, even coming from within the government and party supporters. The Conservative think tank Bright Blue came out in February saying the UK must rid itself of fossil gas in three decades to meet its climate change targets, and on the 6 March the High Court ruled against the government’s fast-tracking policy, stating that ministers had failed to look at the latest evidence of the climate impacts of fracking.
In response to the growing evidence and opposition, the Government have not only backed down on their support for fracking, but made the announcement in the Spring Budget that no new homes will be connected to the gas grid after 2025. All in all, the toxic narrative that gas is necessary and here to stay is, well, blowing away.
So with the case for fracking eroded, and the industry on the rails, will 2019 see the end of fracking? Reminiscing that rally in October makes me think that it is us who will make the difference. There is a reason why the last five months have unravelled in the way they have, and without the concerted, sustained and passionate opposition, we simply wouldn’t be here.
As a result, now is the time to stick together and see it to the end, and there’s a number of great upcoming events and interventions to get involved in to make this happen:
14th April - Youth-led anti-fracking action at Parliament Square in London organised by UKYCC’s Gas Working Group
Mid April - The Scottish Government will launch a further consultation on banning fracking (more info here, keep an eye out for specific dates)
26th - 31st July - Power Beyond Borders Mass Action Camp - organised by Reclaim the Power
Upcoming - The private members bill for a UK Green New Deal will be discussed - this would see decarbonisation and the eradication of inequality in a ten year timeframe
There is so much more happening across the UK and beyond in resistance to fracking, and you can get involved in a local group here.
It’s been five months of largely good news for those opposing this climate damaging, undemocratic industry - let’s hope the next five see its demise, alongside the rise of a cleaner, greener future for everyone.