Fracking deadlock: Will Lancashire councillors stay strong against the fracking industry?

Posted by LiamBB — 25 June 2015 at 2:57pm - Comments
Don't frack our future
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace UK
Local protests at Preston Town Hall earlier this week

As I write this, the Lancashire County Council planning committee charged with approving or rejecting Cuadrilla’s applications to frack for shale gas in the county, is at a stalemate. With seven members of its fifteen moving to approve the application at Preston New Road, seven standing to reject it, and one councillor abstaining, the vote - which was expected to be decided on Wednesday - has been delayed until Monday.

I can’t overstate the importance of this decision. If the committee approves Cuadrilla’s bid, it will signal a green light for a new round of fracking licences to be granted across the country, spelling certain havoc for countless local communities and the environment.

Up until yesterday, all reports were suggesting that the Preston New Road site would get the go-ahead, after extensive lobbying from Cuadrilla’s cheerleaders in central government. That the vote has created the current deadlock is a positive sign; it means that the human stories, the scientific and economic reports, and the voices of worried constituents are getting through to the councillors charged with this critical decision, through the pressure of industry strong-arming.

What happens in Lancashire in the coming days is likely to be remembered for years to come, but the nature of the story that will be told still lies delicately in the balance. How will the members of the committee - typically hidden in the shadows of mundane planning details - be remembered? As the ones who caved to the pressure of industry lobbying, selling their county and their country down the river for a few short-term jobs? Or as upstanding local leaders that stuck with their principles, their democratic mandates, and the future of the climate, putting a nail in the coffin of an industry that should never have been?

At this point, we don’t know. What we do know is that we’ve only got a few days to make sure each of those councillors know exactly what is at stake. The choice is clear: an industry that will pollute the local environment and increase carbon emissions, in exchange for a relative few short-term jobs, or the protection of the environment and the landscape that Lancashire has held dear for so long.

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