No Dash for Gas UK action group says it plans to send a new wave of campaigners to Balcombe
By Sophie Yeo
UK campaign group No Dash for Gas says it plans to link up with protesters in the village of Balcombe, in what is rapidly turning into a battle over the future of fracking in the country.
A link between the two groups could lead to potentially thousands of people joining the camp in the West Sussex village, which been is currently in its fourteenth day of resisting the efforts of Cuadrilla to drill exploratory boreholes in search of shale gas.
According to Frances Jenkins, a protester who was arrested at Balcombe, protesters are also planning on taking the action to Downing Street this Saturday in an attempt to persuade the government to drop its support of the shale gas industry.
Ewa Jasiewicz, a spokesperson for No Dash for Gas, told RTCC, “We are expecting in excess of 500 at least. Due to the proximity of the camp to London, it could be in the thousands.
“In the past when there have been climate flashpoints like this – the runway at Heathrow or Kingsnorth coal-fired power station at Kent – we’ve had thousands of people.”
The five day action camp was intended to take place in Nottinghamshire, and brings together a number of groups including UK Uncut, Disabled People Against Cuts, The Greater London Pensioners Association and Fuel Poverty Action.
The group protests against the government’s growing enthusiasm for a “Dash for Gas”. DECC has given planning consent to at least 14GW of new gas-fired power stations. George Osborne is pushing for Britain to be a leader in the shale gas revolution and has set a 30% tax rate for onshore production.
“Fracking is an integral part of the wider No Dash for Gas protest,” says Jasiewicz
“Fracking is about extraction, the big gas power stations are about processing, and at the moment most of our gas is coming from Egypt, Qatar, Nigeria. In the future, the government plan would be to have more gas locally produced.
“Our argument is that we can’t have any gas, because it’s a dirty fossil fuel that’s going to crash our climate change targets and increase fuel poverty, so it’s part of the same fight.”
There has been a large police presence at the protests, with sixteen arrests on the second day.
Frances Jenkins, who appears in court on the 14th, charged under Section 241 of the Trade Union Labour Relations Act, will not be at the growing protests, as she is banned from entering the parish of Balcombe.
She told RTCC, “Being arrested was worth it, because it’s now in the media properly. I’m facing a maximum of 6 months and up to a £2500 fine, so I’m very scared that they’re going to do this to send out a message to everybody. Obviously that’s taking a toll on me at the moment.”
But for the No Dash for Gas activists, who fought a legal battle with EDF over their occupation of the West Burton power station, relocating to Balcombe is less risky, as it means they will not be in breach of their injunction.
Jasiewicz says, “The 21 defendants are safer down in Balcombe than had they gone up to West Burton, because they are injuncted by EDF from coming within 50 metres of the power station.
“Even though I don’t think there was any plan for any of those defendants to disrupt that injunctions, they could still have been pre-emptively arrested or anything like that.”
While Balcombe is currently the hub of the anti-fracking action, DECC has granted licenses to a number of energy companies across the country, giving them permission to explore unconventional energy sources. Cuadrilla has already started exploratory drilling in Lancashire, with Centrica acquiring a 25% stake in the exploration there this June.
Red: Labour Party
Yellow: Liberal Democrats
Green: Green Party
Purple: Oil & Gas license