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Psychotic Fracturing In Barton Moss?

 Community Blockade At Fracking Site

Another fracking site, another blockade. At Balcombe this summer thousands of people turned out over two months to defend Sussex from Cuadrilla’s fracking threat. The policing costs alone are said to have been close to £4 million, and that was to drill a well that might have produced £8 million of oil, if it was a production well. Such efforts are clearly not economically sustainable over the long term. The only question is whether the anti-frackers can keep up the pressure. Enter Barton Moss. Winter, the outskirts of Manchester, little media interest and more police violence. If a blockade can be made to work here, Balcombe will start to look like the fracking Twyford Down (that was the first of many road protest sites in the 90s, for our younger readers).

IGas, one of the big 3 fracking companies in the UK along with Cuadrilla Resources and Dart Energy, are trying to drill a combination shale gas/coal bed methane (CBM) exploration well at Barton Moss in Salford near Manchester. IGas have a crescent of licence blocks stretching from Manchester through to Liverpool, and the amounts of gas they are bragging that they might be able to extract would require thousands of wells to be drilled, coating the landscape at densities of 8 wells per square mile or more.

For the last 3 weeks a blockade similar to the one which took place at Balcombe, has been under way at the Barton Moss site. The prospect of being fracked has been no more popular in Salford than in Sussex and local support has been strong. A camp has been constructed, blown down by the recent storms, and rebuilt again. While numbers have not reaching the levels seen this summer, hundreds of people have turned out on some days. This blockade has also got started earlier in the process, and the main drilling rig has yet to arrive at the site.

Police Try To Intimidate Local Residents

The police response has been similar to Balcombe; bringing in overwhelming force and pushing the fracking trucks through the blockade. The main difference is that with much less scrutiny than Balcombe, they have been able to get away with a lot more. Last Friday saw the worst police violence so far, which included a disabled man having his leg broken as a snatch squad barged him out of the way to arrest a pregnant woman. A woman in her eighties was also snatched and briefly detained. Ticking all the boxes there then!

A series of dawn raids on houses of local people who support the blockade have also taken place, and those arrested have been given highly dodgy bail conditions prohibiting them from telling anyone they have been arrested! The purpose of this is clearly to try to scare the local community away from supporting the resistance to IGas’s plans, and divide the local community from the people from further afield who want to support them in the fight. So far this has proved unsuccessful, with large numbers of local people both attending and providing everything from water to building materials to the camp.

The reaction of the mainstream media has been predictably indifferent. Given that Barton Moss is far away from London, not populated by well to do commuters and the haunt of birdwatchers, rather than pheasant shooters, there has been little interest. The BBC’s northern headquarters is less than 5 miles down the road, at the MediaCityUK complex in Salford, but despite having less excuse than most their coverage has been close to non-existent. Given this, the importance of alternative media in spreading the message has been even greater.

Frackers In Bed With Local Elite

An omnipresent force in the region is the shadowy Peel Group, a massive landowner and serial tax evader, who happen to own the site where IGas is drilling. A local resident when asked about what Peel owned said, ‘Throw a rock!’, but most local ports, airports and the Manchester ship canal would be on the list. Coincidentally Peel are also the BBC’s landlords, at the MediaCityUK complex down the road. Peel have also made clear that they are actively working to acquire more land for fracking sites across the region.

It has also recently emerged that both Salford and Trafford Councils, who have also granted permission for IGas to drill at a neighbouring site close to the Trafford Centre, have financial links to IGas, through their pension funds, which have millions invested in the Henderson Group. The Henderson Group, through a subsidiary investment vehicle, is a major shareholder in IGas. Beyond these specific conflicts of interest, there are also numerous financial links to the fracking industry more generally.

Meanwhile the IGas spin machine is going into overdrive, with the company busy ‘engaging’ with the local community. Of course the local community only seems to consist of councillors and big business, with most the engagement taking place in private. A recent information evening was invite only, at a ‘secret’ location, but that didn’t stop the real community protesting outside. With the drilling, which has not yet started, scheduled to last 2-3 months it does not look like IGas will find Salford any easier to frack than Cuadrilla found Sussex.

There are 3 comments on this story...
Added By: Mr Bobby - 19th December 2013 @ 4:00 AM
Fracking is safe, the water companies did a case study for the government and they said there was nothing to worry about. Only a stinky anarchist would call that a conflict of interest! Personally I'm looking forward to getting methane directly from my drinking water; I'll separate it out and it will cut the cost of my gas bill.
Mr Bobby
I was going to vote anarchist but they didn't have any candidates!
Added By: I mean Cheebus - 20th December 2013 @ 10:50 AM
Can someone please inform me if the depleted-uranium charges being used in these explorative processes are local and/or free range?

Many thanks

Added By: Miffy - 20th December 2013 @ 11:12 AM
Cheebus, they are not.
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