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ANTI-FRACKING protesters declared their fight had “just got serious” today as they staged a “lock-on” in response to the start of drilling at its site near Blackpool by energy firm Cuadrilla.
Police closed off Preston New Road this morning as dozens of protesters gathered at the site prior to the start of Cuadrilla’s hydraulic fracturing operations.
Fracking for shale gas is taking place for the first time in seven years. The operation was banned in 2011 after being linked to two minor earthquakes. A last-ditch legal bid to block it was rejected at the High Court on Friday.
A police protester-removal team cut out locked-on activists, including a man and woman who had cemented their arms into a set of tyres.
Reclaim the Power campaign group spokesman Charlie Edwards said: “The government have launched their Green Great Britain week — a tokenistic attempt to hide a series of climate-wrecking decisions, such as expanding Heathrow airport and forcing fracking on communities.
“After granting permission to frack earlier in the summer, last week the Energy Minister [Claire Perry] had the hypocrisy to say there was ‘no excuse’ for inaction on climate change.”
Mr Edwards said the anti-frackers were at the site to show Ms Perry what “real action on climate change looks like.”
In August, the government quietly dropped its question about support for fracking from its quarterly opinion survey, apparently because of the public’s consistently low backing for the much criticised fossil-fuel extraction method.
Campaigner Ginette Evans said she and her colleagues would be monitoring the site 24 hours a day.
“It is definitely not over, the fight’s just really started,” she said.
Activist Henry Owen sat on top of a van outside the site and locked his neck onto scaffolding at the site entrance.
Before his action, he said: “Claire Perry has referred to the opposition to fracking as a ‘travelling circus,’ but the only joke here is Cuadrilla and the government thinking that fracking at Preston New Road is a win for the industry.
“There’s no way that these companies will reach their requirements of thousands of wells when a single site has been met by this much local and national resistance.
“Fracking at Preston New Road is just a desperate attempt to snatch profit and save face as the industry dies. Local people have been leading the resistance for years.”
The work was due on Saturday but was delayed by the effects of Storm Callum.
Frack Free Lancashire’s John Hobson said: “There’s a huge irony that we’re stood here waiting for the first fracking in the UK since 2011 a week after the IPCC issued a dire warning that we only have 11 years to take action to avert climate change.”
Environmental campaigner Bob Dennett, whose application for an injunction was dismissed on Friday, was at today’s protest. He had argued that Lancashire County Council’s emergency-response planning and procedures at the site were inadequate, but the judge had ruled that there was no “serious issue” that would justify an interim order.
Further protest is expected to take place tomorrow. Celebrated fashion designer Vivienne Westwood will be showing support by dancing at the gates of the site to Abba’s Dancing Queen as “one in the eye” for Prime Minister Theresa May after her performance at the Tory party conference.
Ms Westwood’s son Joe Corre said: “Britain’s democracy has been run roughshod over by the Tories, who are defying local government objection to fracking to instead stand up for the dying oil and gas industry and breach our climate-change objectives.
“Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Germany have all rejected fracking. England has been left flapping in the wind.
“The Conservative government is now isolated as the only main political party waving the last and final flag of air-polluting fracking.”
He added that Tory MPs knew the next election depends on them “rejecting fracking at all costs and standing up for communities’ right to decide.”
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