Friday, 2 August 2013

Company starts test drilling for oil in the English countryside despite nine days of anti-fracking protests

This is going to spark the biggest environmental movement we have seen.”- Vanessa Vine, Frack Free Sussex

Energy company Cuadrilla begun experimental drilling at 11.15am today. Protesters fear that the drilling will lead to fracking on the West Sussex site. Police lead trucks and equipment past protesters at the gates this morning. 'Incredulous' campaigners described the drilling as a 'threat to our geology'. A 19-year-old woman and a man have been arrested at the site today.

An energy company has begun exploratory oil drilling in the English countryside despite campaigners who fear that the tests will lead to fracking starting a ninth day of fierce protest.

The drilling, being carried out by energy company Cuadrilla, was delayed for several days because of the protests which were aimed at stopping the delivery of trucks and equipment to the plant.

[Left] Still campaigning: Protesters stand in front of police after they had escorted a lorry onto the West Sussex site.

But despite demonstrators going to such lengths as super gluing their hands together around the site's gates in recent days, drilling finally began shortly after 11am.

Police formed a line of protection as trucks carrying supplies and equipment were driven on to the site earlier this morning.

Protesters were pictured clashing with police officers at the site this afternoon as tensions ran high following the announcement that drilling had begun.

A 19-year-old woman and a man have been arrested by police at the site so far today on suspicion of assaulting police.

Officers had earlier been seen using a saw to remove a man chained to the ladder of a fire engine which had been used as a makeshift blockade to the site's entrance.

[Left] Fears: Campaigners are worried about the possible effects of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing.

A Cuadrilla spokesman said today: 'We started test drilling at 11.15am, and we will do a 3,000ft vertical well. We will be there for two to three months.'

Protesters, including many women and children, waving anti-fracking banners had earlier blocked the road leading to the site.

Campaigners fear the project at Lower Stumble, near Balcombe, West Sussex, could lead Cuadrilla to go on to conduct hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The controversial method of fracking involves high pressure liquid being pumped deep underground to split shale rock and release gas supplies.

Opponents of fracking have highlighted concerns about potential water contamination and environmental damage, as well as small-scale earthquakes.

[Left] Danger: Campaigners described the start of exploratory drilling today as a 'threat to our geology'.

Reacting to the start of drilling, Vanessa Vine, of Frack Free Sussex, said: 'I’m absolutely livid and incredulous. This is a violation of our geology that could threaten our water, fresh air and our children.

'I cannot comprehend why the people in Government who are supposedly responsible for protecting the people have not only allowed this, but forced this through.

'There is a political mania around this. I have no faith in our governmental process, and I feel like Balcombe is sacrificial.

'This is going to spark the biggest environmental movement we have seen.'

Police have put security measures in place around the test site’s entrance as dozens of anti-fracking protesters turned out to halt deliveries.

More than 30 people have been arrested since last Friday, mainly on suspicion of obstructing deliveries, including Natalie Hynde, 30, the daughter of the Kinks’ Ray Davies and the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde.

[Left] Shocking: A protester has her hair pulled as tensions rise during the ninth day of campaigns against fracking in West Sussex.

Natalie Hynde’s boyfriend, veteran eco campaigner Simon 'Sitting Bull' Medhurst, 55, was also held after the pair superglued their hands together around the gate for around two hours.

This week Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, reacted to concerns surrounding the drilling by saying his firm has 'no intention of ruining the countryside and won’t ruin the countryside'.

Mr Egan insisted fracking was safe and would not pose a threat to the public or people’s drinking water.
He said 'significant' amounts of oil and gas could be made available through fracking in the UK.

[Left] Forcing through: Protesters stand on the road as police officers escort a lorry to the entrance gate of a site run by Cuadrilla Resources outside the village of Balcombe.

The sensitivity of the subject was highlighted after former Government energy adviser Lord Howell issued an apology for suggesting fracking could be used in 'desolate' north east England without any impact on the surrounding environment.

Lord Howell went on to provoke further criticism when he tried to clarify his comments by suggesting he actually meant 'unloved' areas of the country such as Lancashire.

His attempt at clearing up the controversy prompted Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to urge Lord Howell to be quiet. 

Mr Clegg also suggested on his regular LBC radio phone-in that the Conservatives were getting 'over-excited' about the controversial extraction technique’s potential benefits.

Related articles of interest:

* See also the documentary, 'Meet the Frackers'.