Image: Gillian Kelly, Lancashire resident and one of three generations protesting at the Preston New Road fracking site.
On Friday a defiant Barbara of Frack Free Lancashire stood outside Preston New Road fracking site. “Not here, not anywhere” she shouted and was greeted with one of the loudest cheers of the day.
“Not here, not anywhere”, I’ll repeat to myself this morning as I lie in front of the entrance to Preston New Road fracking site, using my body to physically stop vehicles entering and leaving the site.
Today’s protest is part of the Rolling Resistance, a month long blockade of the Lancashire frack site.
If Cuadrilla have their way this will be the UK's first multi-well fracking site. Once that was inevitable, but right now it looks more likely to become the site of the UK anti-fracking movement's biggest win.
Since January 2017 the community in Lancashire have been determinedly disrupting Cuadrilla's attempts to frack their local area. Communities weary of betrayal are trying to prise our beleaguered democracy free of the corporate stranglehold.
Back in June 2015 Lancashire county council rejected Cuadrilla's fracking plans - but the following year Secretary of State Sajid Javid overturned the council's decision. In January 2017 Cuadrilla came to drill. But Caudrilla didn’t reckon on was the community determined to stand in their way. Since January there have been over 200 arrests with protests disrupting work almost every day at the site.
At the start of July Reclaim the Power joined the local protectors for a month of Rolling Resistance. It kicked off with an action that involved three county councillors. Councillor Gina Dowding explained: “I got involved in local government because I thought that's an effective way to influence policy, but it's absolutely clear when it comes to fracking that the government's overturned Lancashire County Council's decision not to accept fracking”. One action involved three members of the same Lancashire family, including 73 year Gillian Kelly who explained that she wanted “many more people to stand up and be counted”.
The company are hurting
Last week it was revealed that in May the drill rig Cuadrilla had planned to use at Preston New Road was deliberately vandalised with sledgehammers – resulting in smashed touchscreens, components drilled out and pneumatic pipes and electrical cables cut. It was going nowhere near Preston New Road or any other fracking rig. And the terrible publicity generated from seven months of daily protests has seen contractor after contractor pull out from working with Cuadrilla. In 2017 alone eight have dropped out including Cemex. There is no doubt that the company are hurting. Their timetable has already slipped - they originally hoped to drill in June.
As first coal and now oil become climate pariahs, and dwindling resources become harder to exploit, the fossil fuel industry are looking to gas to ensure future profits. The industry's PR machine is already working overtime to frame gas as 'a clean, green fuel that will bridge us to a sustainable future'. In reality gas is a bridge to nowhere. Experts now fear that gas may be more harmful to the atmosphere than oil because of the amount of methane released through gas extraction, which has a much more powerful warming effect than carbon dioxide.
From Lancashire to Puglia, Azerbaijan and beyond
The Lancashire community know they are not alone in the struggle against the next line of fossil fuel extraction. Today at the gates of Preston New Road we're taking action in solidarity with another community fighting the industry that wants to sacrifice their home for gas. As protestors at Preston New Road were beaten and allegedly strangled at the start of July, eerily similar images were coming out of the small town of Melendugno in Southern Italy, where local residents are standing up to the riot cops violently attempting to enforce the construction of a giant gas pipeline across their land, destroying a beautiful coastal town, ruining its beaches, ripping up 2000 year old olive trees and destroying people’s livelihoods.
The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is a crucial section of the Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline – which if built will run over 3500 kms from the Caspian Sea off the coast of Azerbaijan, through Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Albania, across the seabed of the Adriatic before breaking land in Melendugno. And it won’t end there – the gas will then be pumped via another pipeline from southern to northern Italy.
This BP-led pipeline will create a giant construction site across Europe. Trucks and excavators will rip up farmland, thousands of villages, forests, deserts and the seabed of the Adriatic. The Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline doesn't just destroy land - the profits from it will also entrench the repressive Aliyev regime in Azerbaijan.
In response, the community in Puglia have organised a tenacious campaign. The story of the extraordinary struggle in Melendugno begins with a waste plant, which arrived without warning and without permission from the local community. The unaccountability shocked people and left them determined to understand the implications of infrastructure before they are built.
In 2010 when a resident discovered that the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) was supposed to land in the region, small local associations, environmental and political groups and residents associations came together to form the No TAP committee. The result is an incredibly well organised group who are not only unequivocally rejecting a piece of fossil fuel infrastructure, but also proactively seeking alternatives.
As local resident Maria Mancini says
“This idea is crazy, it makes no sense. It is going to ruin the landscape and the people. The people who live here don’t want this. We will get dumped with it because we are not rich enough to get listened to when we say no.”
The No TAP campaign has spread across Puglia. Mayoral candidates have stood on anti-pipeline platforms, and thousands of people attended a concert against the pipeline. By challenging the Environmental Impact Assessment, the town proved the pipeline was unsafe and the regional authority rejected the project.
Yet, as in Lancashire, democracy has betrayed this Italian community and now the pipeline is being forced upon them by the national government and the corporations they support.
A popular movement of thousands of people are organising daily non-violent actions in Melendugno to stop the operations. The size of the protests, which include stone barricades blocking access to the site, have delayed the works day after day. BP are beginning worry that Melendugno will stop their pipeline being built at all.
As more and more communities stand up against the fossil fuel industry inevitabilities are turning into impossibilities. The oil corporations may want to make gas the fuel of the future but we're here to tell them “not here, not anywhere”