Protesters have blocked access to a shale gas drilling site with a 1.5 ton wind turbine blade tied up with Christmas bow. A local activist group says the act is “symbolic” and the UK should be pursuing more environmentally-friendly energy sources.
The “early Christmas present” – as it has been dubbed by the activists – was placed in front of the test facility in Salford, Greater Manchester at 5.30 GMT on Monday morning and has blocked access to the site. This latest act of protest is the latest in a string of demonstrations, some of which have led to clashes with the police.
“We've delivered this early Christmas gift to energy company IGas to remind them that we don't need damaging, risky and polluting energy sources like oil and gas to power the UK,” said Sandra Denton, a campaigner from No Dash for Gas.
IGas has received permission from the local authorities to carry out test drilling in the area. If large deposits of shale gas are found, it could pave the way for the mass exploitation of resources using the process of fracking. Environmentalists take issue with the technique as it involves blasting chemicals at high pressure deep underground to free deposits of shale gas. The practice has been linked to pollution, water contamination and caused two minor earthquakes in Blackpool on April 1 and May 27 of 2011.
IGas has said that while it recognizes the right of the inhabitants of the area to protest, it cannot condone “any protest activity which impacts the right of local people to go about their daily lives and work”.
The energy firm has been given the go-ahead to drill a 3,000 meter test well in the town of Barton Moss in Salford in search of coal bed methane. The British Ecological Survey has estimated that this region of the UK may hold up to 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, which could meet the UK’s energy demands for the next six years.
IGas has sought to allay residents’ fears, saying that it has “no plans” for fracking. Activists, however, argue that the company would not be investing time and money if they did not have any future plans.
The British government has advocated fracking as a way of lowering soaring household bills by exploiting the UK’s untapped shale resources.
"International evidence shows there is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated," Cameron wrote in The Daily Telegraph in August.
The United Nations Environment Program has said that “fracking may result in unavoidable environmental impacts, even if [unconventional gas] is extracted properly.”