Fracking test site in Greater Manchester blockaded with giant wind turbine blade

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This morning fifty pro-renewables campaigners delivered a 17 metre, 1.5 tonne wind turbine blade as “Christmas gift” for fracking company IGas. The entrance to the Barton Moss test site has been blocked, to prevent drilling vehicles from entering.

Barton Moss
At 5.30 this morning (Monday 16th December 2013), fifty people blocked the entrance to IGas’s exploratory drilling site in Barton Moss with a giant wind turbine blade. The campaigners arrived at the site in Salford in Greater Manchester, proceeded to unload and assemble the 17-metre blade from its three component segments. They were spotted by a security guard who called the police, but the officers who arrived on the scene were too late to prevent the blockade from being set up.

The campaigners then left, leaving the heavy wind turbine blade in place across the entrance, complete with a large red Christmas bow. Currently all vehicle access the site is being severly disrupted by the 1.5-tonne blade, which cannot be moved without large numbers of people or specialist equipment.
Barton_Blade_1_WEB (1)
IGas have obtained permission to drill a 3000 metre (10000 foot) test well at Barton Moss, in the hope of extracting both coal bed methane and shale gas. If the tests prove successful, IGas would then be likely to use the controversial extraction method of horizontal slickwater hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) to blast gas out of the ground [1]. In the US, where fracking has been underway for several years, the practice has been linked to water contamination, air pollution, and risks to local water supplies, with over 1000 leaks and spills reported in one year in North Dakota alone [2]. If fracking were to spread across the UK, it would lead to the extraction of large amounts of oil and gas that would otherwise have remained in the ground, with serious consequences for the climate [3].

The fracking industry itself has admitted that the practice is unlikely to bring down energy bills [4], and economist Nicholas Stern has accused the Government of “baseless economics” for claiming otherwise [5]. Meanwhile, the Government’s own Committee on Climate Change has released a report showing that a shift away from fossil fuels to renewables and energy efficiency could save the UK public £85 billion per year [6].

Following a summer of high-profile anti-fracking protests at Balcombe in West Sussex, which ended when the drilling company Cuadrilla withdrew its fracking application [7], Barton Moss is now widely seen as the new frontline in the battle for clean energy in the UK [8], and in November 2013 a “Barton Moss Protection Camp” was set up at the site. Actions are frequently launched from the camp to disrupt drilling activities at the site, and at least ten people, including local residents, have been arrested in the last few weeks [9]. This year’s anti-fracking protests seem to have shifted public opinion; according to national polling by the University of Nottingham, support for fracking dropped significantly after the summer protests at Balcombe [10].

Today’s action was carried out by a group of people from all over the UK who had been inspired by the Reclaim The Power protest camp at Balcombe earlier this year. Sandra Denton, who was one of the people who put the blade in place, said: “We’ve delivered this early Christmas gift to IGas to remind them that we don’t need damaging, risky and polluting energy sources like oil and gas to power the UK. The Government and the big energy companies are planning to build a new wave of gas-fired power stations, partly fed by thousands of fracking wells across the British countryside. This would lock us into using this expensive and dirty fossil fuel for decades to come, trapping us in a future of spiralling energy prices and disastrous floods, storms and droughts as climate change kicks in. Meanwhile, a shift to properly insulated homes powered by clean, community-owned or publicly-controlled renewable energy would rescue millions from fuel poverty, prevent thousands of winter deaths and give us all a decent chance at avoiding runaway climate change.”

Rachel Thompson of Frack Free Greater Manchester, a separate local group who are campaigning against fracking in the area, said: “The Government’s plan to increase our reliance on gas – including fracked gas – would lead to higher energy bills and more pollution. The only reason they’re going down this path is because of the power and influence of the big energy companies. The Big Six can make far bigger profits from fossil fuels than from clean energy or home insulation schemes, which is why they’re using their cosy relationship with Government to block renewable alternatives and keep us all burning their expensive gas. That’s why we all need to stand up for a fairer, cleaner, more democratic energy system without the Big Six profiteers in charge.”

Pearl Hopkins, a local resident, said, “I didn’t know today’s action was going to happen but I’m very glad it did. It’s great that people are coming from all over the country to support us at Barton Moss – and with creative blockades like this one. Local people have tried using all the official channels to object to this scheme, but the Council and IGas seem determined to brush our concerns under the carpet and carry on regardless. We’d like renewable energy for the future – not the destruction of our towns and countryside with thousands of drill sites.”

More information on what’s going on can be found on The Northern Gas Gala website.

More info

[1] http://frack-off.org.uk/fracking-manchester-igas-threatens-barton-moss/

[2] http://www.propublica.org/article/the-other-fracking-north-dakotas-oil-boom-brings-damage-along-with-prosperi

[3] The International Energy Agency has calculated that we need to leave two thirds of known conventional fossil fuels in the ground to have even a 50% chance of avoiding runaway climate change. This calculation doesn’t include unconventional fossil fuel sources like shale gas and coal bed methane, which means we can’t really afford to burn these forms of fuel at all. See Page 11 of http://newint.org/blog/the_fracking_files.pdf

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/29/browne-fracking-not-reduce-uk-gas-prices-shale-energy-bills

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/baseless-economics-lord-stern-on-david-camerons-claims-that-a-uk-fracking-boom-can-bring-down-price-of-gas-8796758.html

[6] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/11/uk-carbon-targets-benefits

[7] http://www.resource.uk.com/article/UK/Cuadrilla_withdraws_planning_applications-3584#.Uq4AkOK3AgU

[8] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/barton-moss-the-latest-front-line-in-britains-unconventional-energy-revolution-against-fracking-8967753.html

[9] http://northerngasgala.org.uk/

[10] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/02/fracking-protest-support-shale-gas-poll

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