Anti-fracking pressure mounts as Greenpeace plans 'spectacular' activity

Environmental groups have vowed to intensify the campaign against hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking', in a further challenge to the UK's onshore oil and gas industry.

Protest: Greenpeace activists at George Osborne’s Tatton office
Protest: Greenpeace activists at George Osborne’s Tatton office

Greenpeace is planning ‘spectacular’ activity as it steps up its opposition to the fossil fuel drive, having been surprised by the scale of the wider protests at Balcombe.

It was not closely involved with the Reclaim the Power camp organised by activist group No Dash For Gas, which encouraged Monday’s direct action against Cuadrilla and its PR agency Bell Pottinger. The protests led to up to 30 arrests, including that of Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

However, Leila Deen, Greenpeace energy team leader, said it supported the protesters’ strategy of civil disobedience and planned to ‘use the whole range of tactics’ in its own campaign, adding: ‘Greenpeace is renowned for its high-profile, non-violent direct action and we will do spectacular activities around fracking.’

Greenpeace also plans to make an election issue of the technology, which it opposes chiefly on the grounds that it is an unnecessary distraction from renewable energy.

‘We will be talking to the three main parties at conference and as they create their manifestos,’ added Deen.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has also entered the arena, registering its objections to Balcombe and another Cuadrilla site. The RSPB also penned a joint letter to The Sunday Times with the WWF, Greenpeace and The Wildlife Trusts, calling for the Government to ‘put the brakes on fracking’. 

However, a Cuadrilla spokesman told PRWeek the company would go beyond current regulation by conducting an environmental impact assessment for every one of its sites right at the start of the approval process. 

 Cuadrilla will submit assessments if it opts to apply for planning permission for up to six sites it is currently studying in Lancashire. Greenpeace activists will start engaging with the Lancashire public this weekend to try to increase councillors’ awareness of local opposition.

The Cuadrilla spokesman added: ‘We’ve been talking to people in Lancashire for a couple of years. It’s now very public and what we don’t want is to have engagement sessions overrun by the antis, so we’ve got to work out how we do that and get our mess-age across to local people.’

Reclaim the Power draws in range of protest groups

No Dash For Gas, the group that targeted Bell Pottinger’s offices as part of direct action against its client Cuadrilla, belongs to a loose coalition of protest movements. 

Six people were arrested after about five hours spent blockading the main entrance to the agency’s Holborn offices under a banner that read: ‘Bell Pottinger – Fracking Liars’.

Workshops on direct action protesting were held at the weekend at the Reclaim the Power camp near Balcombe. Other groups involved in the Reclaim the Power movement include UK Uncut, Fuel Poverty Action, Disabled People Against Cuts, Occupy, Greater London Pensioners’ Association, Frack Off and Platform.

No Dash For Gas last year occupied EDF’s West Burton power plant and then fought off a £5m lawsuit from the firm. It is protesting against fracking because it advocates the pursuit of renewable and sustainable energy, enabling communities to be independent of fossil fuels.

A spokeswoman claimed the number of people Reclaim the Power had handling media enquiries around the protests was in double figures: ‘They are not professional communicators, though some come from a journalistic background.’

Shale gas timeline

Winter 2013 British Geological Survey to release formal estimate of amount of shale oil and gas under the Weald in the South East of England

October 2013 UK Shale Gas summit in London including keynote speech by the head of DECC’s new regulatory body, the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil

16 August 2013 Reclaim the Power protest camp set up near Balcombe two weeks after Cuadrilla starts test drilling 

December 2012 The Government lifts ban on exploratory fracking imposed after small seismic tremors at a Cuadrilla site near Blackpool in May 2011.

Key stats

55Percentage of people associating shale gas with being ‘cheap fuel’*

37Percentage of people associating shale gas with not being ‘clean fuel’*

£3Cuadrilla membership fees paid to APPG for Unconventional Oil & Gas**

£0k WWF membership fees paid to APPG for Unconventional Oil & Gas**

£10k INEOS membership fees paid to APPG for Unconventional Oil & Gas**

£5k UK Onshore Operators Group membership fees paid to APPG for Unconventional Oil & Gas**

£100‘Community benefits’ operators are expected to pay per fracked site***

Source: *University of Nottingham; **Parliament Register of All-Party Groups; ***Department of Energy and Climate Change

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