Drilling diary – June 2017



60+ events in June about fracking and onshore oil and gas, including five direct action training sessions, nine screenings of The Bentley Effect documentary and the UK launch of Frackopoly. Plus meetings, fundraisers and industry conferences & workshops.

Continue reading “Drilling diary – June 2017”

European backing for Lancashire fracking protests


About 80 opponents of fracking from across Europe joined a protest today outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, where drilling is expected to start imminently.

The campaigners were from Friends of the Earth groups in 30 countries, including Holland, Germany, Belgium, Estonia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

Jules Burton, of the local campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, said:

“This industry has already caused catastrophic damage to great swathes of the countryside wherever it’s been practised.

“What is happening here at Preston New Road is not the culmination of Cuadrilla’s attempt to frack the Fylde but merely the start of an invasive and all-pervading industry that will change our area into one huge gasfield with no agriculture, no tourist industry and no more clean air or water.”

A spokesperson for Friends of the Earth said:

“The eyes of the world are on England – particularly the Fylde.

“We have successfully fought off the blight of fracking from countries in Europe and people power is gradually driving it out of Australia, Canada and America where it was born.

“The only country in the western world still supporting this dangerous and discredited industry is England and there is a real fear that if fracking goes ahead here it will give foreign governments the excuse they were looking for to re-introduce licenses regardless of public opinion”.

“Government misled public and parliament over shale gas carbon emissions” – new research

The government misled parliament and the public over the climate change impacts of shale gas, according to new research. It suggests that ministers may even have breached their code of conduct by giving MPs inaccurate information.

The conclusions, by environmental investigator Paul Mobbs, centre on the government’s use of a report to portray shale gas as a bridge to a green, low carbon future.

The report on shale’s greenhouse gas emissions was commissioned by the then Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) from David MacKay and Timothy Stone and published in 2013. Continue reading ““Government misled public and parliament over shale gas carbon emissions” – new research”

Conservatives back fracking and seeks to take some shale decisions away from local councils

ConsManifesto.jpgA Conservative government would take some decisions on shale gas drilling plans out of local control.In the manifesto published this morning, the party said:

  • Drilling that did not involve fracking would be classed as permitted development and would not need planning permission
  • Major shale planning decisions could be made by a government minister rather than a local council planning committee.

This marks a major change in policy for the Conservatives, who have previously promised “local people know best” and there would be “no compromise” in taking account of the views of local communities.

Read more

Conservatives back fracking and seeks to take some shale decisions away from local councils


Anti-fracking campaigners accuse police of “disproportionate and aggressive” tactics at Cuadrilla shale gas site


Opponents of Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool say their right to protest has been “repeatedly trampled on” by Lancashire Police.

In a letter to the force’s incoming chief constable, Andy Rhodes, they called for a meeting on policing of protests at the site at Preston New Road.

The letter, signed by more than 300 people, was handed-in at Kirkham Police Station this afternoon. The signatories accused the police of “increasingly aggressive tactics and lack of respect for human rights”.

Lancs police letter

It said:

“The timing of an increasing zero-tolerance attitude to protests, just as the fracking industry and its supporters have called for you to ‘crack down on protesters’, has further damaged confidence and trust that the operation at Preston New Road is impartial and proportionate.”

“Lancashire Police has a legal duty to protect the right to freedom of assembly and a responsibility to provide greater transparency and genuine accountability for your operation and the conduct of officers who are part of it.”

Barbara Richardson, of Roseacre Awareness Group, was among about 100 people from across Lancashire who gathered outside the police station. She told the Blackpool Gazette the police presence at Preston New Road was “heavy-handed” and was facilitating Cuadrilla’s activities. She said of the policing:

“It’s not giving us the opportunity to protest in the peaceful way that we want to.”

She said policing costs, estimated at an extra £450,000 a month, were “over-the-top” because the presence was disproportionate.

“On the majority of days, there’s a few people there, normal residents like myself who just want to protest and there’s been three or four policemen to one person. That’s disproportionate.”

She added that lock-on protests had taken place off the carriageway and it was unfair to blame protesters for any traffic problems.

The letter, is supported by the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), a national human rights organisation that has monitored the policing of anti-fracking protests since 2014.

It said it had been increasingly alarmed by Lancashire Police’s failure to learn from previous opposition to fracking in other parts of the country.

Netpol said it was particularly concerned about what it called “often extremely aggressive behaviour by officers”, arbitrary decisions about arrests and the way protesters were “pushed into the path of busy traffic with a lack of care about their safety”.

Kevin Blowe, the coordinator for Netpol, said:

“Concerns have been raised about the financial costs of policing the protests at Preston New Road but little thought appears to have been given to the legacy costs of this confrontational style of policing or the long-term impact it is having on relations between Lancashire Police and local people.”

“In the interests of transparency and accountability, we urge the new Chief Constable to agree to the request to participate and answer questions in an open public meeting and urge the Police & Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, to also attend and take part.”

At times tensions rose on both sides during today’s gathering. Supt Richard Robertshaw, of Lancashire Police, said:

Supt Robert Robertshaw“What today has shown is the very difficult job that the officers who are on the front line of the policing operation at Preston New Road have to deal with on a daily basis.

“Our intention is to facilitate peaceful protest We want people to be able to exercise their democratic rights. However that that needs to be balanced against by the right of Cuadrilla to develop the site in Preston New Road.”

“We don’t have a position on whether fracking is a good thing or a bad thing. We are very much in the middle trying to strike a balance between the protesting side of the argument and the development of the site.

“There are a vast amount of protesters who go about protesting in a peaceful and appropriate way and there are also others who are very aggressive. They are very much in the face of officers and acting in what I would describe as quite a threatening and aggressive way towards officers.

“What you will also see today is the professionalism of officers working on the operation. They know they’ve got a job to do. They know there are strong feelings. But they will also try to use the absolute minimum amount of force.”

Judge dismisses bid to challenge government minister over reopening Lancashire fracking inquiry


A Lancashire resident failed today to bring a legal challenge to the decision by the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, over one of Cuadrilla’s proposed shale gas sites.

Mr Javid announced in October 2016 that he was reopening the public inquiry into plans to frack at Roseacre Wood, near Blackpool, despite the recommendation from an inspector that the scheme should be refused on highway safety grounds.

Roseacre resident, Jules Burton, who lives 500m from the proposed site, sought to bring a legal challenge in the High Court against reopening the inquiry.

He argued that the Secretary of State’s decision was unfair, irrational, tainted with bias and an abuse of power.

But in the past few minutes, Mr Justice Kerr, sitting at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, said the case was not arguable and he refused permission for a challenge. He confirmed a written ruling issued before Easter by Mr Justice Dove.

After today’s hearing, Mr Burton said:

“This has nothing whatever to do with justice and everything to do with the interpretation of the law. This is the interpretation the government chooses to put on the law because the government wants to promote fracking.

“Unfortunately this is not a triumph for democracy or a triumph for people. It is contrary to everything that should represent fairness in the British judicial system.”

Mr Javid said in October he was minded to approve Cuadrilla’s plans to drill, frack and test up to four wells at Roseacre Wood. But he said Cuadrilla had failed to provide adequate evidence that it had properly addressed highway safety issues.

Reopening the inquiry would, Mr Javid said, give the company an opportunity to “provide additional evidence”.

The reopened inquiry has been scheduled for six-to eight days and is expected to begin on 10 April 2018. Cuadrilla had said it would use the time before the new inquiry to undertake further traffic surveys and assessments that would inform updated transport plans.

A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said this afternoon:

“We are pleased that the Secretary of State’s “minded to grant” decision, regarding our planning appeal for our proposed shale gas exploration at Roseacre Wood, has been upheld. Cuadrilla looks forward to demonstrating that it will meet the necessary highway conditions which are to be considered at a public inquiry in April 2018.”

Photographer appeals against conviction for obstruction at anti-fracking protest

A photo-journalist who spent about five minutes at an anti-fracking protest in Bolton is to appeal against a conviction for obstructing the highway.

Peter Yankowski Walker, from Oldham, said he was arrested after taking photographs of a lorry which was the subject of a slow-walking protest in Bolton.

He estimated that he was in front of the lorry for about three seconds and did not intend to stop it moving.

But he was found guilty today at Manchester Magistrates Court after district judge Paul Carr said police video evidence was “quite compelling”.

Outside the court, Mr Yankowski Walker, who has a masters degree in international photo journalism, said he was “shell-shocked” by the verdict.

“I have opinions on fracking but at that time I was being a journalist”.

The court heard he had no criminal record. But Mr Yankowski Walker told DrillOrDrop the police had presented to preliminary hearings of his case the record of someone else, who had been in prison and had convictions for assaulting a police officer and driving offences.

Mr Yankowski Walker said he had been held in custody for 11 hours and was not offered a caution because the police thought he had criminal convictions.

The court saw police video footage which showed Mr Yankowski Walker’s arrest at about 11am on 8 February 2017. This was about five minutes after the photographer arrived at the protest near the depot belonging to A E Yates. The company is the main construction contractor at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road near Blackpool and has been the focus of multiple protests.

Vincent Yip, prosecuting, said for the previous two hours a group of anti-fracking protesters had “slow-walked” a large articulated lorry from the depot through an industrial estate and on to a main road at De Haviland Way. There, the police had decided it was no longer safe for the protest to continue and the lorry was stationary.

Sergeant Alex Metcalfe, the officer in charge, told the court he gave instructions to the protesters that they should leave the road. He said he initially thought Mr Yankowski Walker could have been a press photographer but he could also have been a protester. He said:

“We attempted to move the protesters and keep them at the side of the road. Officers signalled to the lorry pull out and then the defendant [Mr Yankowski Walker] pulled in front of the lorry to prevent its progress.”

Richard Brigden, defending, put it to Sergeant Metcalfe:

“Nobody said to the protesters or Mr [Yankowski] Walker that the lorry is about to move now”.

The sergeant relied:

“No one specifically”.

Mr Brigden suggested to another officer, PC Simon Findlow, that the lorry had moved towards Mr Yankowski Walker. PC Findlow replied:

“He stopped it from moving”.

A third officer, PC Amy Abram, said Mr Yankowski Walker ran up to the lorry and jumped up to the cab. Mr Brigden said this was not supported by the video.

Giving evidence, Mr Yankowski Walker said he had photographed 300-400 anti-fracking protests and had never been arrested. His pictures had appeared in newspapers, online and in magazines, including a Big Issue front cover.

Asked by Mr Brigden if he deliberately tried to stop the lorry, he replied:

“No. That would have been irrational.”

Mr Brigden asked:

“What caused you to move into contact with the lorry?”

Mr Yankowski Walker replied

“It was moving into me.”

He said he didn’t hear the warning or see a signal to the lorry driver to pull out.

“I was taking photographs of the cab and then all of a sudden it [the lorry] took off and it took me with it.

“The whole incident lasted about three seconds. I was making an assessment about what was the safe thing to do.”

Asked why he didn’t go back to the curb, he replied:

“It would not have been possible because the lorry was turning towards me. If I had gone that way I would have gone under the wheels”.

Mr Yip asked the judge to “infer the intentions” of Mr Yankowski Walker. Mr Brigden said his client had not intended to obstruct the lorry and the obstruction was minimal. He may have made a mistake in coming into close contact with lorry, Mr Brigden said. “But in this country we don’t convict people for making a mistake”.

District judge Carr said there were discrepancies in the police evidence but they were not material. He said:

“The video evidence is quite compelling. He [Mr Yankowski Walker] was walking with the camera with the intention of obstructing the lorry. It was more than de minimis. He is guilty of the offence.”

The district judge conditionally discharged Mr Yankowski Walker for a year and ordered him to pay £150 costs and £20 victim surcharge.

Battered but steadfast: dispatch from Lancashire, England’s fracking frontline

The months-old protest at Preston New Road, Lancashire, is no longer just about fracking, writes Mat Hope. This dispute is now about London versus the North. It is about the government failing ‘the people’ from which it has become detached. It is about people sensing hopelessness and helplessness and trying to find a means to resist. And it is about holding on, steadfast, in spite of it all, knowing this is the forgotten frontline of a far greater struggle.