Campaigners have occupied government buildings and a potential fracking site in Yorkshire as part of a day of direct action taking place across the UK in protest at the government’s push for shale gas development.
Three activists superglued themselves to the doors of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in London at 8am this morning, while another climbed the building to unfurl a banner reading “What’s to hide Defra? – Don’t frack with our future”, in reference to the department’s release last week of a report on fracking impacts which was heavily redacted.
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Protest group No Dash for Gas confirmed campaigners from the group have also occupied and shut down a proposed fracking site at Crawberry Hill, East Yorkshire, after two protestors locked and superglued themselves to the outside gate in a bid to highlight allegations of “a number of safety breaches committed by Rathlin Energy at nearby West Newton drilling site”.
The day of action has also seen protests near Blackpool, while activists from the Reclaim the Power group today shut down the Swansea Bay campus of Swansea University, whose Energy Safety Research Institute is working with BP on long-term “strengths” in petroleum and chemical processing and fracking.
The protests come after the government last week released a report on the potential impact of fracking for shale gas on rural communities that contained 63 redactions, including analysis of how fracking projects can affect house prices and rural services. Sections on health policy and estimates suggesting the industry may not be commercially viable are also thought to have been blacked out.
According to No Dash for Gas, some of the activists in London wore black tape across their mouths in a bid to highlight the “vital information” that has been removed from the released report.
“Keeping secret the impacts of shale gas extraction on the rural communities that it’s going to affect is shameful – the public has a right to know the effects upon their housing and local services,” said protestor Lindsay Alderton. “This morning we’re here at DEFRA to remind them that they work for the public that pays them their wages, and that the public demands to know the facts about fracking – censoring is not an acceptable option.”
Both Defra and Rathlin Energy said they were aware of the situation, but had not issued a comment at time of going to press. However, a Defra spokeswoman rejected critcism of last week’s report. “There is no evidence that house prices have been affected in over half a century of oil and gas exploration in the UK or evidence that this would be the case with shale,” she said in a statement. “This government believes that shale has a positive part to play in our future energy mix, providing energy security, driving growth and creating jobs.”
David Cameron’s vow to go “all out for shale” has proved hugely controversial, with campaigners arguing fracking could pollute waterways, push up emissions and have a negligible effect on UK energy bills. Last summer saw protests in Lancashire and Sussex, effectively halting operations, while repeated polls suggest shale is far less popular than renewable energy.
However, the government has consistently maintained that the UK’s shale gas and oil reserves offer a potentially secure source of energy that could curb greenhouse gas emissions by replacing coal and imported gas.