The need for action

What is fracking and why we must stop it from happening in the UK – or anywhere.

12 Sep 2019

The Problem

Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – means pumping water, sand and chemicals down a well at very high pressure to fracture shale rock. Gas or oil trapped in the rock then flows back up the well.

The biggest problem with fracking is that it’s a way to extract even more more gas and oil, which have to be left in the ground. We need to radically cut our use of fossil fuels like these if we are to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.

As well as locking us into a future dependent on fossil fuels, fracking can also cause a whole host of problems for local communities and their environment.

Fracking has caused many earthquakes in the UK. Regulations force fracking to stop for 18 hours if there’s a quake of 0.5 magnitude on the Richter scale or more, to protect the local community and environment. Fracking company Cuadrilla have frequently caused quakes well above this limit. So they are pleading with the government to weaken the rules.

These essential regulations to prevent damage from earthquakes must be protected.

Fracking can also cause risks to public health, as set out in a letter to the British Medical Journal from 20 leading UK medical experts. The How Many Wells report found that over 6,000 fracking wells would be required, industrialising vast amounts of the countryside, to replace even half of our gas imports.

Hundreds of trucks are needed to bring machinery and water to fracking sites, sometimes through villages and down narrow, unlit country lanes. And the government plans to let fracking companies drill across the English countryside – without the need to apply for planning permission.

The Solution

Instead of fracking for more fossil fuels we should be switching to renewable energy. Almost all our energy can reliably come from the wind, waves and sun.

And this is essential because we know that 80% of the world’s existing fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground if we are to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees.

Now is the time to end our dependence on fossil fuels – not launch a whole new industry to find more of them.

What we’re calling for

Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to drop fracking.

The government should drop plans to bypass local democracy by allowing drilling under permitted development – a category designed for minor home improvements like putting up a garden shed. Instead they should listen to local communities all over the country, who have rejected fracking.

The government must also make sure that the regulations, which prevent damage from earthquakes, are never weakened – despite calls from the fracking industry to do so.

We need to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2045 at the latest. Fracking would make that harder, so it must be dropped.

The plan

Friends of the Earth’s strategy to defeat fracking is rooted in our support for local groups who are fighting to defend their communities from fracking. Meanwhile we work to increase awareness of the industry among the general public and mobilise activists to take meaningful action against the industry.

Local anti-fracking groups have managed to prevent fracking applications all over the country. Friends of the Earth activists, lawyers and planning exerts have supported them in opposing these applications. Together, we have ensured that fracking has only been able to go ahead at one site, Preston New Road, and only because the government overruled Lancashire County Council’s vote to prevent it.

We stand in solidarity with the courageous protesters at Preston New Road. As they withstand fracking company Cuadrilla’s assault on the land we have worked with them to amplify their message that fracking is not welcome in Lancashire, or anywhere.

In Westminster we faced a government that wanted to go “all out for shale”. We have worked to inform the public about fracking and mobilise large numbers of people to oppose it. MPs and Ministers have received thousands of letters and emails from constituents telling them not to back this industry.

Friends of the Earth, local communities and our allies won’t let the government weaken earthquake regulations or take decisions away from local people.