Legal Blockade Against Fracking in Sussex by Landowners
By Anne Lewis-Schneider
Environmental activists are convinced that test wells that will be drilled to explore the possibility of extracting shale gas will lead to water contamination problems and are vehemently against this practice going ahead. In the latest anti-fracking move, land owners in the Sussex Downs National Park are seeking a legal blockade and to this end have called upon solicitors to assist them with letters of protest to Celtique Energie and Ed Davey who is the Energy Secretary. These entreaties are explicit in their denial to permit fracking from taking place under their properties when the fracking exploration starts.
British Government has said that they are looking into changing the trespass laws to make it easier for exploration companies to drill test wells under the property of land owners. Sussex was one of the sites that saw protesters and demonstrations when the area was earmarked for test wells last year and the demonstrations were long and vociferous. Fracking is a means of drilling deep down into the earth first vertically and then horizontally up to depths of a mile or more to release shale gas trapped in the rocks by using high pressure jets of water. Land owner Mr Marcus Adams Fernhurst has said that there are very valid concerns being raised with regard to fracking and that it is diabolical to do so in a national park. The main concerns are for water contamination and air pollution as well as noise from Lorries on the sites.
Celtique Energie has said that no firm plans have been made as yet with concern to where wells will be drilled as part of the testing and that horizontal drilling will only take place on a well that has positive results from vertical drilling. Geoff Davies who is their chief executive has said that this is just one site on the 250,000 acres that have been set aside for exploration. He added that the well is purely exploratory. Operators of exploration drillings have to obtain permission from land owners to drill but if no agreement can be reached then there is recourse to appeal to the law.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change is tasked with reviewing whether the current law is fit for purpose, and that fracking could be held up by lengthy court battles which will prove to be costly. Government is enthusiastic with regard to fracking and has said that it sees this as one way to drastically cut energy prices as well as the jobs that will be created and the boost that it will give to an ailing economy. Incentives have been put in place for landowners and councils that will allow exploration to be carried out. Prime Minister David Cameron is looking for ways to simplify the process to get test wells started.
Environmental groups are not only concerned with water pollution, but also seismic activity and the effects that fracking will have on climate change. Greenpeace has instigated mass action against fracking and energy campaigner Anna Jones is hopeful that the Fernhurst action will spur other regions into similar actions and that resistance to fracking will spread to other regions as well.
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