“We’re going to keep on hammering this until we get the proper ban on fracking”
For eight years, a group of women helped lead the fight against unwelcome, unpopular and seemingly unsafe fracking in Lancashire.
A regular presence by the Preston New Road Cuadrilla site, the ‘Lancashire Nanas’ were distinctively dressed in yellow as they held vigils and protests, blocked roads, and even chained themselves to fences. The fight wasn’t without risks, with some arrested and others aware of the frustration caused to the powerful energy firm.
For a short while, it seemed as though their efforts had proved enough. A moratorium on fracking was put in place in 2019 and was hoped to be the end of the practice. A few nervous years followed as the prospect of the ban being overturned loomed large.
And those worst fears were confirmed this week as Prime Minister Liz Truss confirmed the news they’d been fearing – a return of fracking with the rather vague caveat that it needed “local support”.
Protesters are now back in their dozens following the Government U-turn yesterday, prepared to battle again to make it clear that drilling for shale gas will not be welcomed in Lancahire. Mirror Online joined the front line this week at the site operated by British energy firm Cuadrilla until the tremor in 2019. Locals fear it could be one of the first to see a new application made.
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Danny Gross, said “ripping up the rules that protect people would send shockwaves through local communities.” But while politicians and environmental groups wade in, it is people like retiree Barbara Richardson, 66, who will create the Government’s biggest headaches.
Those in favour say the resumption will boost domestic production when costs are soaring in part due to Russia ’s invasion of Ukraine. So can fracking for shale gas alleviate the UK’s energy supply crisis?
“No,” says Professor Jon Gluyas, Director of the Energy Institute at Durham University. “The reserve which can be won by drilling and fracking is tiny. We have the wrong kind of shale, the wrong kind of geology – small geological basins rather than vast tracts of identical geology [like the US] – and our island is too crowded to get in thousands of wells.”
Earlier this year, then-Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng reopened the debate when he asked the British Geological Survey to review whether technology had advanced since the practice was banned in 2019. An update released yesterday found little progress in reducing the risk of earthquakes.
Cuadrilla’s founder also said it would be impossible to drill for shale gas at a meaningful scale and that the Government’s support for it was merely “a political gesture”. Drilling must stop if tremors of 0.5 or more are caused. But fracking companies are reportedly lobbying for a big increase.
Announcing the U-turn yesterday, Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg also called the 0.5 limit “too low”, causing concern for residents like Tina Rothery. “ Liz Truss has children and so does Rees-Mogg,” the founder of the Nanas group said. “Don’t they care about their futures?”
Tina, 60, who was arrested seven times at the site, vowed to “pull out all the stops”. She too had no history of activism before Cuadrilla announced its plans in 2011 but it led to her standing for the Green party against George Osborne in the 2019 general election.
Fighting the proposals “consumed our lives”, she admitted, but said it was essential for future generations. “We’re going to keep on hammering this until we get the proper ban on fracking.