Frack Free Somerset in the Bath Chronicle


Against fracking: Helen Moore of Frack-Free Somerset

The issue of fracking is shaping up to be one of the biggest environmental issues facing the Bath area. Read the views of all sides of the debate and whether fracking could damage Bath’s hot springs

Around the world there are bans on fracking. Countries that have already rejected this extreme method for drilling shale gas from deep underground include France, Germany, Ireland and South Africa. So why did George Osborne give generous tax breaks to British fracking companies in his recent Budget?

Members of Frack-Free Somerset weren’t surprised. We know this Government has vested interests in the industry. George Osborne promised to “ensure local communities will benefit from shale gas projects in their area”. But whatever sweeteners he may offer, who would seriously welcome contamination to their water supplies with radiation, poisonous chemicals and methane, as has occurred in the US?

More than 500 toxic chemicals go into the ‘fracking fluid’. Some of this is removed but 60-80 per cent remains underground. Layers of cement are then the only barrier to any leakage and, with industry research stating that every well degrades over time, clearly there can be no guarantees over the integrity of our aquifers where this technology is concerned.

And there are other potential health hazards. Where wells produce condensate, air pollution is caused, with a study by the US Center for Disease Control & Prevention recording increased rates of breast cancer, headaches and breathing difficulties.

Here in Somerset, we’re also opposed to the massive industrialisation of our landscape. Unconventional gas production is energy intensive, requiring thousands of lorryloads of water, plus the construction of access roads, pipelines and ‘frack pads’. Roads blocked by lorries is the least of our worries. More serious are impacts on agriculture and wildlife.

And why plunder the planet for more fossil fuels when we urgently need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? Many communities have already been affected by flooding resulting from global warming, and so we support carbon reduction programmes and renewable energy sources.

In Frome, now officially a ‘Frack-free Zone’, the council has installed solar panels on a town centre venue and is exploring the viability of generating hydroelectric energy from a central weir. This is part of a wave of community-scale renewable energy schemes worldwide. They in turn are sparking a revolution in energy ownership. In the UK, where 99 per cent of our electricity is generated by six companies, a community energy coalition led by The Co-operative, and including the National Trust, the WI, the Church of England and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, is calling for a localised approach to generating energy. Job creation, carbon reduction and revitalised communities are just some of the associated benefits.

Posted on: April 28, 2013