Hit the road, frack! Anti-shale victories

10 July 2015

Bad news for would-be frackers this month, as people power trumped dirty energy projects in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch government put shale gas on the back burner for another five years as it extended a national moratorium on shale gas exploration and extraction.

This means that existing licences for shale gas exploration will not be renewed pending a more long-term decision on the future of shale at the end of 2015. It halts commercial activities for the next five years. However, the moratorium does not cover exploratory drilling, which the government may yet commission for research purposes.

At present, the Dutch shale industry is on shaky ground. No test drilling has taken place so far, so it is unclear how much shale gas is available and whether its extraction could be profitable.

Ike Teuling, energy campaigner with Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands said: "For us, the story of shale gas is ending. We need to stop using fossil fuels and finally make the transition to completely clean and safe energy. Only then can we solve the the climate problem."

Anti-shale gas demo, Netherlands (Credit: Milieudefensie)

Meanwhile in Germany, a law that could have paved the way for shale gas extraction was kicked into the long grass. Just days before the governing parties wanted to vote on the law, they announced that they could not find any agreement on its substance.

They have now postponed any decision until after the summer break and BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany believes it is highly unlikely that they will revisit the issue again soon. The parties negotiated under huge pressure for ten days during July, and failed to reach a conclusion.

The Social Democrats wanted a law that would have allowed test fracks, but no commercial shale gas fracking, the Conservatives wanted a law that would have allowed commercial shale gas fracking. Ultimately the political differences obstructed consensus, and German fracking remains a distant proposition.

In the UK, a local authority in the north of England rejected an application to frack by Cuadrilla. It was a key battle in the government-led push for shale. The Conservative administration has backed plans to go "all out for shale", and so there is enormous pressure on local councils to approve applications for shale gas development.

The decision made by councilors at Lancashire county council at the start of July had to be postponed because of veiled legal threats to the local representatives, highlighting the potential legal costs that could follow a rejection.

Nonetheless, in the final vote the application was rejected outright, sparking huge cheers from the hundreds of people from around the country who'd travelled to follow the vote.

Lancs says no to fracking (Credit: FoE EWNI)

Finn Allen-Lamont, a 19-year-old from Lancaster, said: "It's amazing. When I realised how they'd voted I was so happy. When I was older I had been planning to move away if fracking had gone ahead but now I can stay. It's brilliant.

"If fracking was allowed to happen here it would spread everywhere - that's why it needs to be stopped. We need to switch to renewable energy before it's too late."

Tony Balmer, 56, a retired engineer from Preston, said: "I'd like to applaud the councillors of Preston for standing up for the interests of their constituents. There has been an enormous amount of pressure put on them to approve this application but they've put the people first."