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, â€śWe are expecting in excess of 500 at least. Due to the proximity of the camp to London, it could be in the thousands.
â€śIn the past when there have been climate flashpoints like this â€“ the runway at Heathrow or Kingsnorth coal-fired power station at Kent â€“ weâ€™ve had thousands of people.â€ť
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 governmentâ€™s growing enthusiasm for a â€śDash for Gasâ€ť. 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.
â€śFracking is an integral part of the wider No Dash for Gas protest,â€ť says Jasiewicz
â€śFracking 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.
â€śOur argument is that we canâ€™t have any gas, because itâ€™s a dirty fossil fuel thatâ€™s going to crash our climate change targets and increase fuel poverty, so itâ€™s part of the same fight.â€ť
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, â€śBeing arrested was worth it, because itâ€™s now in the media properly. Iâ€™m facing a maximum of 6 months and up to a ÂŁ2500 fine, so Iâ€™m very scared that theyâ€™re going to do this to send out a message to everybody. Obviously thatâ€™s taking a toll on me at the moment.â€ť
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, â€śThe 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.
â€śEven though I donâ€™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.â€ť
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