Residents and campaigners who have been monitoring an oil and gas site in East Yorkshire for more than a month are making a direct appeal to the county council to drop its threat of eviction.
The group has had a 24-hour-a-day presence outside Rathlin Energy’s West Newton A site, near New Ellerby, north of Hull since preparations began for drilling in early January.
Members said their purpose has been to record incidents and breaches of permissions because official regulators lacked the resources to do this.
But East Riding of Yorkshire Council has told the group to remove its equipment and structures from the grass verge outside the site or face eviction. The council said last month it did not want to “obstruct or deny democratic rights to protest” but it was concerned about the safety of campaigners and road users.
Since then, well-known environmental activists have supported the case for the monitoring station.
The group said it had also received the backing of the local community and the Environment Agency. It said dozens of letters had been sent to the council opposing the eviction threat.
New Ellerby resident, Harry Clark, who has campaigned against operations at West Newton for five years, has tabled a formal question for the full meeting of the council on Wednesday afternoon (20 February 2019). He is expected to ask:
‘In view of the very strong support of very many of the residents of the communities surrounding the well site at West Newton, demonstrated by the receipt of a large number of letters of support and of the admitted lack of resources preventing the Environment Agency – who welcome the monitoring station – and the Health and Safety Executive from providing acceptable levels of site monitoring, would the Leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council please withdraw the eviction order served on the Monitoring and Information Station, located adjacent to the well site at West Newton?”
Mr Clark was among local residents and campaigners who uncovered at least 14 breaches of environmental permits at the West Newton well site during flow tests in 2014.
Pippa Hockey, from the West Newton Monitoring Station, said:
“The Council have said they’re concerned for our safety. That is up to us. We don’t believe there are any issues, visibility is not impeded by our presence and if vehicles going on to site adhere to safe driving neither them nor us are at any risk.
“The council hasn’t even been to conduct a full health and safety risk assessment, whereas our own experts have said they don’t think there is any problem. We believe being here to monitor is more important and this has been proven to us by the huge support we’ve received from the local community.”
“Protect the right to stay”
Jonathan Bartley, co Leader of the Green Party, wrote to the council. He said:
“We recognise the importance of this monitoring camp and it should have your full support, as it does ours. Last time they were drilling there were many breaches of the environmental permit that were only reported because of the camp.
“Please listen to the protectors outside West Newton A well site and protect their right to stay, as they seek to protect the future for us all.”
“Monitoring stations hold industry to account”
Josh Fox, the Oscar nominated director of the film, Gasland, said:
“When it comes to fracking, ordinary citizens have always been just as effective than the government when it comes to monitoring and stopping pollution and toxic exposure, if not more so. It is more important than ever to have monitoring stations like the one at West Newton to hold oil and gas companies to account.
“In times of government-imposed ‘austerity’ it is clear that the government is not monitoring effectively. It is therefore up to the local community in East Yorkshire to watch Rathlin closely. They are able to achieve this with the twenty four hour presence at the monitoring station.
“The citizens should be trusted, not the industry. Local communities must step up in order to protect themselves.”
Joe Corré, of the campaign group, Talk Fracking, said:
“We recognise the vital importance of the monitoring camp at West Newton.
“With the current dismal state of regulation, policing and enforcement, this camp is performing a public service.
“There have been many instances already where the only reason regulators have been informed of the numerous breaches is because of the monitoring provided by the camp. This industry is so dangerous. It is completely irresponsible not to allow community monitoring.”
Simon Bowens, Friends of the Earth’s Yorkshire campaigner, said:
“In 2014, monitoring activities at West Newton were instrumental in identifying and addressing the environmental problems caused by Rathlin’s drilling. It’s vital that this monitoring continues as the company drills its second well to shine the light on any further pollution incidents at this site.”
- The meeting of East Riding of Yorkshire Council starts at 2pm on Wednesday 20 February at County Hall, Cross Street, Beverley HU17 9BA. A Call to the Hall demonstration is planned outside the council at 1pm (details)