Frack site: The well in Lancashire contributes to global warming and climate change.
It seems I have opened a can of worms with This Site’s article about Lancashire police reporting disabled anti-fracking protesters to the Department for Work and Pensions.
I have been contacted by a representative of Gathering Place Films, which has been filming over the past five years for a long form documentary about fracking in the UK. This person told me, “What we have observed while filming, around the policing of this movement, has been quite surprising.”
The film is entitled Targeting Protesters and its publicity material states: “The police have identified and targeted prominent anti-fracking campaigners, key protest organisers and invariably protesters with disabilities – in order to undermine or neutralise their effectiveness in challenging the interests of the shale oil and gas industry.”
Discrimination: The man on the floor is Nick Sheldrick, who is paralysed from the waist down. Protesters say police pushed him out of his wheelchair during an anti-fracking protest in Lancashire during July 2017. Police said they were moving him out of the way of a lorry, but they would, wouldn’t they?
Is this fascism?
People with disabilities who exercised their right to protest against fracking (in accordance with the United Nations convention) are being reported to the Department for Work and Pensions by Lancashire police, apparently in the hope that their benefits will be cancelled as punishment for daring to leave their homes.
According to Disability News Service, police forces have been accused of targeting disabled people involved in anti-fracking protests with violence [see the image above for a possible example] – and now protesters in Lancashire have accused their local police of passing information to the DWP.
DWP practices mean anyone investigated for fraud has their benefits stopped before any guilt or innocence is proved. This has prompted some to say that malicious prompting of disabled people for benefit fraud – without evidence – should be considered a hate crime:
It seems Lancashire Police had no such evidence, despite their tweeted claim:
Hi – thanks for the tweet. No-one is saying you can't protest and we will absolutely uphold everyone's right to do it peacefully and lawfully. However, if we have info. to suggest fraud may be being committed then we have a duty to pass that on so it can be looked into.
Information to suggest fraud may be being committed, is it? John Pring of DNS asked the obvious question:
Hi John – thanks for the tweet. Clearly our officers aren't qualified to make any medical assessments and they would never do so. However, they do have a duty to pass on info. to the relevant agency to assess if it clearly suggests fraud may be being committed. Thanks.
But what “clearly suggests fraud may be being committed”, if disabled people are out at a protest? Tom Artingstall put the question in its baldest possible terms: “So, to be clear, @LancsPolice officially consider disabled persons being outside their homes to ‘clearly suggest that fraud may be being committed’? Please confirm or clarify your official position.”
I have seen no response to this question. In its absence, members of the public have been led to draw their own conclusions.
Katie de Long, for example, pointed out: “You are encouraging officers to exercise rampant ableist bias in the hopes of frightening disabled people out of protesting. You can’t tell someone’s med status from looking at them- and encouraging reassessment of benefits is a form of retaliation. Shame on you, every one.”
FeistyWeevil picked up on the wording used by the police spokesperson: “Clearly suggests? How? Example: To be eligible for PIP a claimant’s impairment(s) has to affect their ability to complete an activity on more than 50% of days in a 12 month period, not ALL the time. You are meddling in something you have no place in out of spite. Unprofessional.”
Evander suggested: “So you aren’t “qualified to make any medical assessments” but still decide that simply being outside as a disabled person “clearly suggests fraud”? You know nothing about the sheer amount of diseases and conditions, including ones that fluctuate.”
And This Site’s old friend Paula Peters concluded: “There is a thing called the Right to Protest as ratified by the UN convention. The actions of your police force & officers are horrendous and disgusting. Attacking disabled protestors then reporting them Is the lowest of the low. No wonder you are called the enemy of the state.”
There is more to this story than meets the eye.
Consider the following thread by Mark Brown:
When members of the public 'tip off' the authorities about 'suspected' benefits fraud they are very often wrong. But we've had 15 years of politically sanctioned spiteful righteousness https://t.co/RheG07c4k6
We've had at least a decade of banging on about community but Disabled people and people with #mentalhealth difficulties have been pushed to the edge of that community as if the need for benefits were a gift which the 'community' can withdraw if they get out of line. Precarious
The hostile environment for people claiming benefits has been built as much in people's heads as it has in structures. Your freedom in life in common spaces is curtailed by others who feel justified in being snides. As a disabled person your life is subject to others tolerance
“As a disabled person your life is subject to others’ tolerance.” “Disabled people and people with mental health difficulties have been pushed to the edge of [our] community.” “As a result of 15 years of anti-benefits rhetoric, [the] public feels it has [the] right to subject those it does not like to scrutiny and try [to] grass them up maliciously.”
Isn’t that exactly the kind of “othering” that happens in fascist states? Minorities to be persecuted are treated as somehow less than the favoured majority and it is intimated that they should not enjoy the same rights as the rest of society. So, when they are persecuted by the public, the authorities turn a blind eye. And when they are persecuted by the authorities, who will stand up for them?
Mr Brown concluded: “In a different culture, one free from the suspicion of Disabled people, it would not cross anyone’s mind to even question someone’s right to benefits because they were demonstrating. In this one, it’s too many peoples first thought. ‘How dare you be in need and also a person?'”
The Labour Party has challenged the Conservative government on this attitude, likening it to the “hostile environment” policy inflicted on people from foreign countries who were invited into the UK to rebuild our nation after the ravages of World War II, and then persecuted them when Theresa May decided they were no longer needed.
And, as Marsha de Cordova pointed out in Parliament, the effects of this policy are more far-reaching than an attempt to cause trouble for a few disabled protesters:
The Conservative government has created a hostile environment for disabled people.
They have forced through devastating social security cuts and built a cruel assessments and sanctions regime.
So, again, I ask: Is this fascism? I think so. And I wonder – it isn’t very many years since the UK stood as a beacon of hope against fascist states and the discrimination – the persecution – they promote. How did we allow our nation to become the enemy?
Frack site: The well in Lancashire contributes to global warming and climate change.
Climate change “negotiators” got a hard lesson in their own shortcomings – from a minor.
Greta Thunberg is only 15, but she packed more maturity into her three-minute speech than we’ve seen in decades of mealy-mouthed “negotiations” between representatives of national and international economic interests.
The Swedish activist shamed her elders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP24, where representatives eventually managed to reach a weak agreement over how to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. But everybody there knew they weren’t doing nearly enough to achieve that goal, which is why Ms Thunberg’s words had such bite.
Here’s her speech:
“You say you love your children above all else and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is,” she told an audience entirely composed of her elders (but clearly not her betters). “Even that burden you leave to us children.
“Our civilisation is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.
“It is the sufferings of the many that pay for the luxuries of the few… We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground.”
She also said: “You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again.”
Now consider the current court case in the UK over plans by our Conservative government to expand fracking.
If ever there was an example of the many suffering to support the luxuries of the few – the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money – it is the fracking industry in the United Kingdom.
The current case highlights new planning guidance by the government which makes it easier to establish fracking sites. The document orders local authorities to facilitate the establishment of such sites, and proposes the removal of the need for new wells to get planning permission.
The government did not carry out any assessment of the impact its plans would have on the environment, and the guidance was imposed on the country without any public consultation.
It seems clear that James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, qualifies as one of the people Ms Thunberg describes as “not mature enough to tell it like it is.”
So do former prime minister David Cameron and his successor Theresa May. At a time when sustainable energy has never been cheaper or easier to supply, one is led to ask why they continue to kowtow to fossil fuel corporates like Cuadrilla bosses Roy Franklin and Francis Egan.
Fracking at Cuadrilla’s only UK site, in Lancashire, was halted again on December 11 after yet another earth tremor was caused by the process. This one measured 1.5 on the Richter scale, causing a woman who lives 1.6 miles from the site to say she heard a loud “bang” and her house shook. A Cuadrilla spokesperson said the effect would have been “like dropping a melon”.
We may conclude from this that the spokesperson is “not mature enough to tell it like it is” either.
But what is to be done in the face of such monumental selfishness, such wilful ignorance, such naked greed?
I’d like to think change is coming, whether the government figures and corporates named above like it or not – but I don’t think it will, unless somebody does something shocking.
I think someone would have to grab Messrs Cameron, Brokenshire, Egan and Franklin, along with Mrs May, drag them to the fracking well in Lancashire, and throw them down it – and then fill it in on top of them.
That’s what it would take to get these people to look up from counting their money and pay attention – the threat of extreme sanction.
But I can’t advocate such extreme measures – and the system is skewed in favour of the privileged. So what’s to be done?
Graphic showing progression of tremors over time. A is the first tremor (October 18) and L was on October 25. Tremors C and E are in almost the same location.
Carbon fuel energy company Cuadrilla has been forced to stop its controversial fracking operation in Lancashire after no fewer than 17 earthquakes took place there within nine days.
The British Geological Society recorded three tremors on October 18, one the following day, one on October 20, six on October 24, three on October 25 and and three on October 26.
The intensity of the quakes had been increasing, to the point at which a tremor was declared a “red event” and operations had to be halted.
The incident prompted calls for fracking to be banned:
Once again, Cuadrilla have had to halt fracking in Blackpool for the evening, after the SEVENTEENTH earth tremor in 9 days. The Environment Secretary @michaelgove must act to stop this foolishness now. Fracking must be banned in Britain, with no exceptions.
But the corrupt Conservative government has no intention of halting what it sees as a potentially lucrative income stream for the already-very-rich, and never mind the cost to the environment or the poor.
The Tories know how unpopular this policy is, though – and that is probably the reason Energy Minister Claire Perry has been holding secret meetings about exporting fracking across the world, breaking the Ministerial Code in doing so.
Energy minister had private meeting with fracking firms to discuss exporting fracking worldwide>Clare Perry should be sacked for breaking both the Ministerial Code and for her utterly abject failure to tackle the existential threat of #climatechamgehttps://t.co/C7CbdOeNdq
Perry and officials met with all the key shale players – Cuadrilla, Ineos, iGas and Third Energy – along with oil and gas companies including BP on 21 May. While her meeting with wind power executives on the same day was recorded on an official transparency register, the shale event was not.
Minutes of the shale meeting, which were eventually released under freedom of information rules, reveal:
Perry hopes to “create a ‘UK model’ for shale gas extraction which can be exported around the world”.
The UK plans to “make a virtue” of the industry’s regulation to help “export expertise abroad”.
The government will make the case for shale gas to “get past myths on the topic”.
Gas, including that extracted from shale wells, is seen as a key part of the future energy mix.
It will be interesting to see how the Tories “get past” the “myth” that fracking causes earthquakes!
Also worth noting are the suggestions that polluting processes like fracking, that produce global warming fuels like shale gas, are considered by the Tories to be a “key part” of the UK’s future energy providers.
And the suggestion that the Tories will “make a virtue” of the way it regulates the process is extremely sinister as it is tacit acknowledgement that the process is harmful.
Despite the obvious harm being done to the fabric of Lancashire, fracking is set to continue there – and may expand to more than 100 sites across the UK, if the Conservatives have their way. Vast swathes of land will be rendered unstable and water sources polluted in order to enrich a small number of greedy speculators. There are far more effective – and far less polluting – sources of energy that could be exploited instead but the Tories are trying to close them down.
If you are concerned about the effect of fracking, then you have only one option:
Loss of freedom: Every day the Coalition government tries to take something away from you; at the moment, it’s your right to free speech.
With the Antisocial Behaviour Bill successfully blocked (for the time being), defenders of Free Speech may return to the Transparency of Lobbying Bill, and its provision to block any campaigning that our right-wing government doesn’t like.
Caroline Lucas MP, writing in The Guardian today, informs us that the Tories’ and Liberal Democrats’ current rationale for the plan to gag us all is to prevent, say, large fracking firms from spending huge amounts of money in her Brighton Pavilion constituency to unseat her.
The Green Party MP writes: “Yes, apparently Tory and Lib Dem supporters of the bill are defending its swingeing provisions at public meetings up and down the country by claiming they’re necessary in order to prevent fracking firm Cuadrilla pumping a million pounds into Brighton Pavilion to unseat me, and – of course – they would hate to see that happen.”
This is laughable. No member of one party would lift a finger to prevent a member of another from losing their seat.
However, we can use this argument to get to a more likely truth – simply by reversing it.
So let’s suggest that the plan to cut, drastically, spending limits on campaigns by third-party organisations, to broaden the definition of what constitutes campaigning in order to catch more people within the legislation and to regulate organisations lobbying on issues at constituency level is in fact intended to protect Conservative and Liberal Democrat seats from attacks by ordinary people like you and me.
Does this seem more likely?
The evidence does tend to stack up in favour. The legislation is already well-known as the ‘Gagging’ Bill and, as Ms Lucas explains in her article, “would effectively shut down legitimate voices seeking to raise awareness on issues of public interest, whether they are on NHS reform, housing policy, or wildlife conservation”.
Taking just those three examples, the general public remains infuriated at the way the Health and Social Care Act – otherwise known as the NHS Privatisation Act – was pushed through Parliament while mounting public and professional opposition to its provisions was ignored. We counted on our representatives in Parliament and in the press and they let us down. The BBC in particular should hang its corporate head in shame. The ‘Gagging’ Bill would ensure that we could not raise the issue again during an election period, giving the Coalition parties a chance to brush it under the carpet or dismiss it as old news.
The Bedroom Tax will remain a burning issue until after the 2015 election, whether the government likes it or not – the recent revelation that regulations governing people who were social housing tenants before 1996 exempt them from the Tax ensures it, as the government has already committed itself to re-writing those regulations and re-assessing the tenants who are currently let off the hook. Not only that, but tenants who have already lost money – or perhaps even their homes – because they didn’t know these regulations still applied will want reparation for the way they have been treated; let’s not forget that any harm done to those tenants is an illegal act. The ‘Gagging’ Bill would sideline these people and this issue.
As for wildlife conservation, you may be aware that there has been a hugely controversial cull of badgers in a couple of English counties. The pretext for this is the eradication of Tuberculosis – the badgers are said to carry the disease and pass it on to cattle, causing costly damage to herds. However, it seems not one culled badger has been tested for the disease – and at £4,100 per dead badger, is the cull not fairly costly itself?
Coming back to the Guardian article, Ms Lucas hits the nail on the head: “Big business or wealthy people like Lord Ashcroft don’t influence politics through charities, small community groups or campaigning organisations. They often already gain it through family connections or social networks, or they buy it through donations to political parties. Or, in the case of the big energy companies, they helpfully supply staff to work in government departments. The provisions of the lobbying bill will do nothing to stop any of that.
“Sadly, one of the underlying reasons for the government’s attempts to push through this bill is that it is afraid of the power of informed and organised public opinion.
“If Nick Clegg and David Cameron get their way, the legitimate voices of the third sector will be suppressed, and their power neutered.”
Isn’t that what tyrants (or in this case, wannabe tyrants) do?
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Fracked water is set ablaze in the film Gasland: “There is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies,” said Cameron.
“We’re all in it together”, David Cameron scrawled in his Telegraph article on fracking. Presumably this means he personally has invested heavily in the process as the evidence suggests there are appalling drawbacks for the majority of the UK.
Let’s put the alternative view immediately. Fracking would involve drilling large numbers of directional wells at regular intervals – coating the landscape with far more than the eight in the current largest onshore gas field in the UK, at Saltfleetby in Lincolnshire. Thousands would be required to temporarily – that’s right, temporarily – replace just one North Sea field. Production from a typical shale well declines by 70-80 per cent in the first year alone, meaning new wells must be drilled constantly to maintain production.
The method is to inject millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the wells, under massive pressure. Water consumption and contamination is a major issue, and disposal of the huge amounts of toxic waste produced by the process is extremely difficult – it seems attempts to inject it into the ground are causing large numbers of earthquakes.
Air pollution means high ozone levels, along with carcinogenic hydrocarbon vapours that can be blown hundreds of miles from the source, creating breathing difficulties, cancer clusters, neurological and reproductive problems in humans and animals living in the shadow of these industries. The typical response from industrialists (and government, to judge from Mr Cameron’s comments) is to demand proof from people who have neither the funds nor the health to do so.
Methane gas emissions amplify the global warming effects of burning other carbon fuels.
This is the process Mr Cameron wishes to inflict on you.
“If we don’t back this technology, we will miss a massive opportunity to help families with their bills and make our country more competitive,” he wrote in the Telegraph. He’s clearly forgetting that families wouldn’t have such serious problems with their bills if a previous Conservative government hadn’t privatised the energy companies, giving them to greedy shareholders who have raised prices far above increases in inflation, every year. As for making the country more competitive, he is forgetting that the Conservative government of Mrs Thatcher reduced our competitiveness by closing down the coal mines in order to chase cheap fuels from abroad, that have now risen in price. What a false economy that was!
With such a track record, why should we now believe a Conservative’s claims about this form of energy extraction?
“Labour’s mismanagement of the economy means that many people are struggling with the cost of living today.” To clarify: Labour did not mismanage the economy – the 1997-2010 government recently received a clean bill of health, as reported on this blog and elsewhere. This is a repetition of a lie that Conservatives have been spouting gleefully, ever since they decided on a whim that they no longer support what Labour did to save the economy after the credit crunch. Previously, they backed Labour all the way but this has been retrospectively changed. They seem to like retrospective alterations.
According to the BBC, “the government’s own energy department DECC says it’s not clear whether fracking will bring down bills or not”. So Mr Cameron is contradicting his own experts.
“Where we can act to relieve the pressure, we must.” Fine. Since there are more fossil fuels stockpiled today than we can burn at once, without causing the climate change that has been feared for so many years, the answer is to cut fuel bills by forcing the energy companies to stop being so stupidly greedy and charge realistic prices. Obviously.
“Secondly, fracking will create jobs in Britain.” But these people will then contract fracking-related diseases and be invalided out of work. They’ll go on to claim Employment and Support Allowance and/or Personal Independence Payment, be refused by “Returned To Unit”‘s* Department of Work and Pensions and die. The deaths will go unnoticed because the government has already decided to stop collecting death statistics.
“Thirdly, fracking will bring money to local neighbourhoods.” This sounds enticing, but no reference is made to how this money will be distributed. It goes to communities, not to people. “This is money that could be used for a variety of purposes – from reductions in council tax bills to investment in neighbourhood schools.” Those are both benefits that could be negated by, say, reductions in government grants to local councils, meaning the local levy must increase, and privatisation of the education system, meaning local people will need to find other ways of educating their children.
“I want all parts of our nation to share in the benefits: north or south, Conservative or Labour. We are all in this together.” Does anybody remember the fuss when the route for the new HS2 rail service was revealed to pass through a government minister’s constituency? That was bad for the government’s image and won’t happen again. Expect fracking to be confined to areas away from Tory heartlands, where ministers and backbenchers won’t complain about it.
“Local people will not be cut out and ignored… firms looking to frack should make people aware of their plans well before they apply for a permit…. if residents express specific concerns, then companies should take them on board.” None of this guarantees that firms will be prohibited from fracking if sufficient public objection is raised; they’ll just say they’ve taken those concerns on board and carry on regardless.
Look at Balcombe, in West Sussex, where the firm Cuadrilla is facing determined opposition from protesters who were horrified when permission for drilling was granted last December. It seems likely that the firm will have to seek – and will receive – the necessary permits for fracking, but the community may receive no benefits as the oil targeted will be in rocks that are “not shale”.
Objections have been raised and ignored. That is what will happen to you.
“International evidence shows there is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated,” said Mr Cameron, leader of the Party of DEregulation. Conservatives do not know how to regulate anything and it is against their ideology to do so. “If any shale gas well were to pose a risk of pollution, then we have all the powers we need to close it down.” Note that he does not make any mention of exercising those powers.
Plenty of independent information is available on fracking – certainly on the Internet – and readers are encouraged to look it up and decide for themselves.
And tell other people to do the same – otherwise we all stand in danger of having our land raped by a money-grubbing liar whose political party caused the problems he claims this environmentally-disastrous process will resolve.
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