To Protect Local Democracy, British Parliament Gets Fracked

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To Protect Local Democracy, British Parliament Gets Fracked

'Ministers are pushing aside local democracy to bulldoze through their unpopular fracking plans,' says anti-drilling campaigners

Greenpeace has installed a life-like ten-metre fracking rig and drill at Parliament Square this morning to ‘bring the local impacts of fracking to the heart of democracy’. (Photo: Greenpeace/Kristain Buut)

As a way to "bring the local impacts of fracking to the heart of democracy" in the UK, Greenpeace volunteers opposed to the Conservative-led government's push for dangerous gas development erected a life-like ten-meter drilling rig at the footsteps of Westminster in the pre-dawn hours on Monday.

"We apologize for any inconvenience caused while we frack," read large billboard signs tied to chain-linked fencing placed around the established work site outside the parliament building. Designed for disruptive effect, Greenpeace says that the authentic-looking rig fires up every hour using bio ethanol to create a flare while flood lighting and the sound effects of drilling and large trucks were being blasted on loud speakers.

"We are here to fight for the future of the English countryside," declared Greenpeace campaigner Hannah Martin. "Ministers are pushing aside local democracy to bulldoze through their unpopular fracking plans. We have installed a life-like fracking rig and drill at Parliament Square to show them what people in Lancashire and beyond will have to endure if so-called Communities Minister Greg Clark forces fracking on a reluctant nation."

While Prime Minister David Cameron has made developing the fracking industry a centerpiece of his energy plan for the UK, local opponents across the country—and most noticeably in Lacanshire—have been intensifying their grassroots campaign to combat the increasingly aggressive policy proposals put forth by the industry and government.

In a guest blog post, Greenpeace volunteer Tina Rothery, who lives in Lacanshire and has been an active member of the coalition there fighting against the drilling giant Caudrilla, explained why Tuesday's protest was necessary. "What we want is clean, safe energy for us, for our children, and for generations to come. We want our voices to be heard and for our right to refuse the fossil fuel industry to be respected."

Last weekend, a leaked letter from three Cabinet ministers suggesting that fracking applications could be taken out of local authorities’ control altogether and immediately passed to the national regulatory bodies stirred anger among UK residents opposed to further expansion of gas drilling. 

The implications of that letter, said Martin, "is an affront to local democracy and shows a lack of respect for people’s wishes. People who love and live in the countryside and who care about climate change will not stand for a government riding roughshod over democracy to industrialise our landscape and damage the climate."

In a message sent directly to Cameron on Monday, U.S. actor and prominent anti-fracking activist Mark Ruffalo issued a video statement with Friends of the Earth UK telling the prime minister that his stubborn commitment to fracking was a profound betrayal.

"Your people don’t want it. You’ve already told them once before that if they didn’t want it, you wouldn’t push them to take it, and you’re turning back on your word, sir. And what is a politician if he’s not credible," said Ruffalo.

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As Greenpeace's Martin argues, "We and the government know that most known reserves of fossil fuels must stay in the ground if we are to have any chance of combating climate change. A dash for gas is simply not an environmentally and economically effective strategy to power the UK after the Paris climate agreement."

And as Lacanshire resident Rockery concluded, "The fracking rig we’ve built outside of Westminster today isn’t real. By the end of the day our protest will be over and our point will have been made. But in Lancashire, and in so many other towns, the threat remains a reality we’re forced to live with every single day."

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