An anti-fracking protestor stands on the top of a vehicle attempting to enter an exploratory drill site in Manchester, England in 2014. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jon Super


Locals are outraged after a permit denial is overturned...

Overriding the local decision, Britain’s Secretary of State sided with a natural gas developer on Thursday, granting the company’s appeal and allowing natural gas exploration in Lancashire to proceed.

The decision, following a local decision to deny the permit application, allows fracking exploration to begin in one location and directs the company to provide further highway safety information for a second location. In its letter announcing the decision, the Department of Communities and Development cited a national interest in gas, as well as a lack of health and environmental concerns.

“The Secretary of State has considered carefully the evidence and… agrees that there would be no health impacts.”

Local activists and environmentalists were outraged Thursday.

Calling the ruling “arrogant”, British Greenpeace campaigner Hannah Martin said, “It sends a signal to other communities that the government will respect their right to decide about their affairs only when it agrees with them, but will overrule with brute force when they don’t.”

The British government has determined that domestic natural gas should be a key fuel source, and, to that end, has engaged in a slow, steady march towards fracking. In 2014, the government opened up nearly half the country’s total land area for fracking exploration — provided companies get the appropriate permits. The government has also told local councils that applications must be considered in “swift process.”

The letter outlining Thursday’s decision says, “The Secretary of State has considered the weight that should be attached to the need for shale gas exploration” and the written ministerial statement on fracking from last year. That statement announced “the Government’s view that there is a need to explore and develop our shale gas and oil resources in a safe, sustainable and timely way.”

But the push to switch to natural gas — composed primarily of methane — is unlikely to have the climate benefits the government is looking for. Methane has an outsized effect on global warming, trapping heat 86 times more effectively than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.

In addition, locals argue the practice isn’t safe and the environmental concerns in the densely inhabited countryside are overwhelming, including truck traffic on small, winding roads and inadequate wastewater disposal options.

In 2015, more than 90,000 people petitioned the Lancaster County Council to reject the application from Cuadrilla, the company that intends to explore for oil and gas resources in the area, in the northwest of England. The council agreed, denying the permit application in June 2015.

“Today’s news is devastating for the communities surrounding the sites,” said Ebony Johnson, founder of Frack Free Lancashire. “It demonstrates the Conservative government’s contempt for democracy and utter hypocrisy on their localism policy. As a country we need to be embracing technology of the future and investing in long term energy solutions.”

“As a country we need to be embracing technology of the future and investing in long term energy solutions.”

Johnson said activists will continue to fight against fracking, a practice in which large volumes of chemical-laced water is injected deep underground into shale rock formation, breaking up the rock and releasing the pockets of oil or natural gas trapped below. In the United States, which has has a surge in fracking in the past decade, it has been linked to water contamination, earthquakes, and air quality issues.

“The Secretary of State has considered carefully the evidence and the representations that were put forward in respect of public health and public concern… [and] agrees that there would be no health impacts arising from potential exposure to air and water pollutants,” the decision says.

Climate Reporter at @ThinkProgress.
original story HERE
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