More shale gas with your tea vicar?

Brenda Pollack

16 July 2013

A couple of weeks ago I was enjoying a fine cup of tea with cucumber sandwiches. It wasn’t a summer garden party, but a Very British Tea Party protest.

In the heart of England, not on a village green but on a roadside verge, I was sitting opposite a site where Cuadrilla wants to drill underground to test for oil and gas. With me were residents from Balcombe, West Sussex, who are concerned that if and when Cuadrilla find what they are looking for, they will use a process called hydraulic fracturing (fracking, for short) to release the oil or gas from shale rock deep under the ground.

There is a lot of evidence from other countries that this process can be really damaging, affecting air and water quality and potentially human health. Many people in Balcombe are worried about their air and drinking water being polluted, and about the risk of earth tremors, brought on by fracking, affecting the nearby mainline railway services.

Our Government seems to think that gas trapped in rocks underneath us can solve all our energy problems. But after careful research Friends of the Earth believes that it is too risky and actually unnecessary. It’s a gamble not worth taking – and others share this view.

While the Government continues its love affair with gas, a polluting fossil fuel which we should not be burning more of, cleaner energy sources like wind, wave and solar power get overlooked. Yet we know we can keep the lights on without shale gas.

We’re expecting the Government to announce changes to planning guidelines later this week that will make it easier for councils to give fracking the green light.

That’s why we are urgently asking our supporters to email their MP to show they are concerned and want a full public consultation before any rules are changed. We want planning guidance that properly protects communities, addresses climate change and prevents risks of water contamination.

Meanwhile I’ll be continuing to work with residents to tell the Government and the gas and oil companies that Sussex is ‘not for shale’ – nor Kent, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey or the rest of the country!

Brenda Pollack, South East Campaigner, England Team

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