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Guest Post by Miranda Cox: A view from the other side of the well pad

171214 Miranda Cox LCC George Brown 1

Miranda Cox at a demonstration outside Lancashire County Council in Preston, 14 December 2017. Photo: George Brown

In this guest post, Miranda Cox, a member of Kirkham Town Council in Lancashire, reflects on the opposition to Cuadrilla’s shale gas site nearby at Preston New Road. Last week, Lee Petts wrote about his impressions of the company’s operation.

It’s been a very strange year for those of us in the anti-fracking campaign. We have made bonds forged in adversity and we have pushed ourselves to the very limits of our mental and physical tolerances.

Some of us, who previously have never protested, have been arrested and criminalised; we have been physically hurt and traumatised by a deep sense of betrayal.

Speak to many involved at the roadside or behind the scenes, and they all tell the same story, that fracking changed the way they view the whole world.

It’s a changed view not just about the environment but also about politics, democracy, economic and social norms that once accepted, are now challenged.

The sense of betrayal is directed at those authorities we have spent a lifetime respecting and expecting to be protected by.

The past month in particular, has highlighted beyond doubt that this battle is as much about our fight for democratic justice as it is about our desire to stop an industry we firmly believe is toxic to the environment, to politics and our communities.

171213 LCC planning meeting

Lancashire County Councillors vote to amend a condition of Cuadrilla’s planning permission, 13 December 2017. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Wednesday’s narrow vote in the Lancashire County Council’s Development Control committee to allow yet another variation in Cuadrilla’s traffic management plan, is a highly concerning political development.

Without rehearsing the argument that planning was originally refused by LCC, when it was led by Labour, it is clear that the new Conservative administration seeks to behave as their parliamentary counterparts, by resolutely voting along party lines.

Inconsistent

There is growing resistance to fracking across the world with a number of investors divesting from construction schemes and pensions. Even the UK Government is not consistent in the message that this new fossil fuel has a place.

The economic argument is being debunked, and the safety credentials are questioned. Theresa May’s Government is attempting to re-brand as a green party whilst shamelessly pursuing fossil fuel extraction at the expense of renewables. It is an agenda of chasing short-term financial gain ahead of any responsibility to the environment or communities.

The blatant denial of evidence from the US and Australia is leaving England isolated. For a government intent on unionism it is following an isolationist agenda on fuel. Scotland has banned fracking and there’s a moratorium in Wales.

It therefore is so painful that planning conditions are changed regularly to suit the Industry rather than protect the residents, as is the purpose of planning regulations.

The fact that county councillors and officers, who rarely visit the site, who know little about protesters, appear to wave through changes based on assumption.

“Self-regulation”

pnr 171025 Alan Finney - Copy

Surface water flooding at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site, 25 October 2017. Photo: Alan Finney

In the past year, Cuadrilla at the Preston New Road site has been found wanting regarding its water management, health and safety and communication. There have been numerous traffic breaches and acts of violence. Reports made by protectors have highlighted these issues.

Regulators told a community liaison Group that they “were learning on the job”. Cuadrilla is, in effect, self regulating, whilst maintaining a public facade of being a good neighbour.

Its investment in school science competitions, awards ceremonies and children’s sports is a conventional PR tactic and is combined with online astro-turf groups attempting to discredit dissident voices.

Dismay

The fact the Environment Agency passed a variation in the fracking process and that LCC passed yet another traffic alteration against this background, has left many dismayed.

Adding to this cauldron of mistrust and anger are the police. Earlier this week, I had sight of some notes from a police and crime authority meeting. Fracking featured, naturally, as the police response to the protest so far has been controversial and expensive.

The injuries sustained to protesters (this writer included) include broken fingers, torn ligaments and cartilage, bruises, concussion, loss of consciousness. People have been dragged, wheelchair users tipped, people tripped, shoved and pushed.

Repeatedly we are told that the aim is to be even-handed but the balance consistently falls in favour of the industry. Scenes such as this are repeated in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, so the conclusion is that it is a deliberate attempt to curtail protest.

Police narrative

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Protest outside Lancashire County Council in Preston, 14 December 2017. Photo: Frack Free Lancashire

The briefing notes repeated the idea protesters are not local, ignoring the many locals who are roadside, or attending meetings and working behind the scenes.

This narrative of “local”and therefore legitimate, against “national” and therefore a trouble maker, has been played out since day one and repeatedly challenged by those who have been part of the demonstrations.

Unfortunately there is a disingenuous element to the Police s relationship with the community.

On one hand we are told in meetings that our rights to protest are upheld but actions on the ground have been the opposite. Despite attempts to reassure us, the fact we know what is being “spun” to authorities and the media away from the front line leaves us distrustful.

Our community relationship with our police will never be recovered.

For now, many view the force as security guards for corporate interests. Those who have seen other campaigns forewarned us, but for many the realisation has been difficult.

The police collusion in facilitation of fracking is clear when myths about protesters are perpetuated in police community meetings, repeated by the media and used as “evidence” in planning meetings.

“Shouting into the void”

Many town and parish councillors are frustrated by their inability to be heard amid the clamour to enforce the fracking agenda.

Residents are determined, when they are aware of the issues, pushing themselves to make their presence felt, while others are cowed by fear or simply don’t believe their actions will make a difference.

I understand that.

Having stuck my head over the parapet I know how hard it is to keep going, to keep shouting into the void, to make complaints.

We are fighting an entire system, not just one industry.

We are faced with a Government infiltrated by oil and gas lobbyists, and faced with a County Council and regulators incapable of robust action. And we are fighting perceptions too, as we have a media, which at best, likes to paint anti-fracking campaigners as extremists, or at worse just ignores the protest.

As we prepare to rally resistance to a second site, tucked away in rural Fylde at Roseacre, we cannot help believe that even-handed judgement is a thing of fiction.

This post first appeared on social media and the Frack Free Lancashire website

63 replies »

  1. Sir, please read what I actually wrote. Rather than responding to what you would have liked me to write. Every single one of your assertions is incorrect on some level. I am not going to waste anyone’s time repeating myself on those points (eg – it’s actually people that cause the pollution, not the actual plastics etc…) . If anyone cares enough, my few posts here are easy enough to find.

    I would have far more respect for the lady at the head of this article if she spent her protesting time worrying about the old or disadvantaged in her community who have to choose between heating and eating, rather than attempting to disrupt a companies lawful business activities. I’d be much more impressed if the lady (or anyone else here) went out and spent a couple of hours planting broad leaf tree saplings each weekend to reforest our dismal landscape and take actual positive steps to enhance the environment for everyone rather than just their own back yard.

    I guess that doesn’t suit the agenda right now though.

    • Your comments are awfully similar to the phrases to what we read elsewhere on this website FB?

      I think perhaps, like all arguments this can be turned around quite easily.

      Let’s see where that takes us shall we?

      Firstly can we dispense with the personality foundation of most anti anti arguments?

      People are still free, today at least, to speak their mind based upon their own experience, Miranda Cox, you, me, everyone. On the subject of fracking and it’s connotations, this is probably the best place to do it. You are quite welcome to say, within reason how you feel about fracking, but please realise anyone else can do the same?
      The object, it seems to me at least, is to share views and not condemn just because one or other aspect is disagreed with. That is hard though, it is difficult for both sides, but that is also the lesson we can learn from each other, not to condemn out of hand.

      Next, let’s look at this attitude that just because people disagree with having their community invaded by an industrialising process that is known throughout the world to be dangerous to health, air, water, land, wildlife, you name it, and has been revealed to be a prime cause of climate change, see the Exxon cover ups. That people object to this is not only understandable, it is our legal right to do so, and should, I say should, be protected by government, you, me and the police. The fact that government, the police, and the fracking operators object to that protest because perhaps it draws unwelcome attention, and seek to remove that legal right by government decree, legal injunctions and police enforcement only goes to prove how sensitive they all are to what is being foisted onto the people of this country.

      Next, this weird attempt to say that simply because people want to protect their communities, and the whole country from this industrial invasion, does not mean that the benefits of hydrocarbons are not appreciated or used.

      The fact that for the last 150 years or more, a large amount of the industrial revolution was powered by hydrocarbons and it’s derivatives.

      That is how we have been up to now, so that is the way most of us live. Not because the alternatives are not available, but simply because the hydrocarbon industry has made it that way. But that could have changed over 100 years ago, had it been allowed to. But now with communication practically free and at the present relatively uncensored, and that is in danger too, media, that we now know that worldwide climate change is upon us, and yes, it is our suicidal ignorance of how we have polluted everything that is at least exacerbating it, if not causing this rapid acceleration of climate change fluctuation. There are alternatives and now we understand more of quantum physics and the ageless free energy systems around us, we are leaving that fossil fuel imperative behind, the future is in natural power systems that the universe gives freely, the technology is only now being made available. We do that now and we may be able to stave off more violent climate change. Fail to invest in and utilise the natural energy systems and sooner, rather than later, it will be goodnight Vienna, New York, London, Beijing, Paris, Berlin and everywhere else.

      Would you be outraged, if the detractors of fracking and it’s associated denial of the name processes, said, that all supporters of fracking etc etc, must only drink water laced with hydrocarbons, acid laced and fracking slip chemicals and radioactive elements dredged up from kilometres down? That you must not live in a quiet rural environment but must live right next to a motorway where all that hydrocarbons is being pumped out by the hundreds of thousands of HGV’s transporting fresh water to the sites and carrying away highly toxic waste to……where will they take it?

      Would you be outraged to be told that you must not eat clean organic food, enjoy a clean environment, not walk anywhere, but always drive in gas guzzling 4×4’s, not breath fresh air that is uncontaminated with CO2 and methane and natural radioactive gas?
      That you must only drive gas (diesel or petrol) powered cars, not hybrids or electric or hydrogen when it becomes available?
      That you must only wear clothes that are manufactured from hydrocarbons and not wear clothes made from natural fibres?

      You see how ridiculous that argument is? That is why the detractors of the industrial invasion into our country and communities do not say anything so ridiculous, but I have said it because it needs saying just to put this ridiculous attack on ethics in perspective.

      Why do you think onshore gas and oil extraction is all the rage now?

      Is it to benefit the population of this country? The very ones whose health livelihoods ans environment will be made unbearable and unliveable?

      Or is it because onshore extraction is 3 to 100 times cheaper than offshore? It’s less expensive to the operators, but, and it’s a big but, this country is crowded, the industrial processes to explore and exploit hydrocarbons are dangerous, sea life is becoming poisoned and scarce, but now the industry wants to have it’s cake and eat it off our backs, in under and above our “back yard” and everyone’s “back yard” and your community, and my community, and everyone’s community, and beneath our feet with new infrastructure act allowing them to put ANYTHING in the ground without consulting us, explaining the risks or even notifying us that it is being, or has been done!

      So we object, we would be stupid to do otherwise, we haven’t secretly lobbied government behind you back, we haven’t co opted the police force to harass and intimidate you, we haven’t taken out secret court injunctions against you, we haven’t misinformed and obfuscated anything that cannot be found anywhere on the free non fake news mass media censorship forums. What we have seen with the more militant protests is not a cause, it’s the inevitable result of the people in this country being systematically sidelined, ignored, harassed intimidated, violently abused, criminalised and overturned at every stage.

      It is a result of the roughshod attitude of government and the corporate railroading imperatives, not a cause.

      You only have yourselves to blame. If you want to see where it can lead, just look at the women’s right movement and the anti slavery movement, the religious and ethnical freedom movements and many many far more volatile objections to mere slow walking and occupation?

      We have not done any of these things.

      This industry has from the very beginning deliberately targeted opposition protest and protection and have tried their utmost to make the protest the only issue on the media.

      This industry have attempted to hide behind the whole protest argument because it’s the one thing that cannot be bought and paid for in back room lobbies and secret courts.

      Protest is not a cause of the problem, protest and protection is a result of an industry that has compromised everything but protest against this provably poisonous, provably climate change accelerating invading industry that simply will not obey any regulations and planning conditions and seeks to overturn them all at our expense.

      There, does that make it more clear for you?

      We protest, we object, we protect, not because we want to, but because we have to, your favoured industry has left us no choice.

      I would suspect that this information does not fit with fourth agendas of another kind does it?

      Well that’s enough for a Sunday morning, may i wish everyone a great Sunday with friends and family.

      • Ruth is currently looking at this story. There appears to be at least one inaccuracy which she is investigating.

        The story also repeats the claim that protestors made 999 calls to the ambulance service when it is not clear whether those calls were made by protestors or police.

        We were unaware of the group “Ryedale Against Antisocial Protesters”. We would welcome any information from members of the group via our Contacts page.

        • If you look on the comments on the article page, at least one of those accused has put the record straight.
          I’d like to understand why it’s okay for musicians and actors to have ‘persona’ names an create new lifestyle choices/spiritual conviction based on their perception of the world, but not a mere mortal………..

          • Hi Paul, thanks, I think that Sunday Mail release needs Ruths cool eye to tease out the threads.
            I could say much about the reasons and the forces behind that politically promoted hatchet job that is that article.
            But I will reserve judgement until the actual facts become more clear.

            I will say this though, at a time when the public needs to be properly informed about the whole fracking debacle, to have what amounts to little more than individual character assassination, only goes to show just how far the media have descended into gutter press farce.

  2. Well, Fred, you see how it works. Objection is made, based on falsehoods and speculation, with alternatives proposed that are also based on the same. Meanwhile, the results of that are seen in alternative systems proving to be uneconomic without large subsidies and are being closed down when they expire, or are reduced. (Wind turbines in Lake District, Waste to fuel in the south, Vivergo in the N.East, Wood pellets in N.Ireland and Yorkshire.)

    The source of those subsidies? The tax payer. The ability to sustain that from the tax payer? Difficult, with much of UK energy sourcing now failing to provide any tax revenue to the UK.
    A nice Sunday, with no sunshine but with high pressure sitting, so no wind. The pipeline down, gas from Donald’s fracking probably used for recent Sunday roasts, Vlad’s gas due to arrive from the Arctic next week for cooking Christmas dinners.

    The pipeline problem, if it takes a while to fix, could change a few perceptions. Miranda may need to hold onto that woolly hat.

    • Clearly Martin, your ‘Objection is made, based on falsehoods and speculation’…..have a nice Sunday.
      p.s my wind turbine is spinning it’s little a%se off 🙂

  3. Which falsehoods Martin?
    Regarding the Australia query, they’ve had a bad experience with fracking so far: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-gas-fracking/western-australia-halts-hydraulic-fracturing-to-probe-risks-idUSKCN1BG16F
    And this earlier documentary is revealing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCMcr27uAg4

    Francis … Nasty divisive stuff from the Daily Mail (as expected). The protests may be tainted by the odd loony but they’re not contaminated by them. DM as usual attempts to stir division [edited by moderator]

    [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

  4. Read my previous posts on this subject PhilipP. You antis really seem unable to read, and research, what is put out there. Not surprising, but I still am bewildered as to who you think is equally myopic.

    You haven’t seen anything yet Sherwulfe. Never mind, Jim obtained some good press coverage at the same time-ahh, must be a conspiracy fuelled by his red wine at his recent event!

    Energy security concerns in the market tend to start such media scrutiny. Get used to it, we are not into January/February yet. When is fracking due to start? Oh, naughty!

    • Martin your idea of science and reading goes as far as how to change the subject when a straight answer is given to a straight question. The truth certainly is out there it’s just difficult to get some people to take their blinkers off.

    • What are these,
      So wither’d and so wild in their attire,
      That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ earth,
      And yet are on’t? Live you? or are you aught
      That some may question? . . .
      By each one their choppy finger laying
      Upon their skinny lips. You should be human,
      And yet your actions forbid me to interpret
      That you are so

    • “Read my previous posts on this subject PhilipP. You antis really seem unable to read, and research, what is put out there. Not surprising, but I still am bewildered as to who you think is equally myopic.”

      Oh, martin, talk about inability to read, and myopia from someone who refuses to read (allegedly) and to self censor anything that threatens to excite your ever more exclusive and denying comfort blanket, that is simply hypercritical and hypocritical beyond all reason and measure.

      Hoist by your own petty petard.

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

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