ON SATURDAY (May 28), supporters of Frack Free West Wales gathered outside Barclays in Aberystwyth to protest against the bank’s support for fracking in the UK. Fracking is shorthand for the hydraulic fracturing of shale rock to extract methane (natural gas).
The action outside Barclays was a show of solidarity with the residents of North Yorkshire.
North Yorkshire Council recently approved a fracking development outside Kirby Misperton, a village in Ryedale near the North York Moors national park. The Aberystwyth protest was one of a number of similar actions taking place across Britain.
Nicki Wilkins of Frack Free West Wales said, ‘We support communities around the world who are fighting governments and companies that put profit before people or the planet. We organised this gathering in solidarity with those people in Yorkshire who continue to try to safeguard their community from Third Energy, which is owned by Barclays Bank, and the Conservative government, who are intent on profiting from the exploitation of fossil fuels. We have to leave fossil fuels in the ground if we are to protect future generations from runaway climate change, it’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, our current government doesn’t take our future into consideration when making their deals so it’s up to us, the people, to stand up to them.’
In 2015 Frack Free West Wales successfully lobbied Ceredigion Council to declare the county ‘frack free’. Ceredigion was the first local authority in Wales to take this step, empowering other councils to follow suit.
RIDING ROUGHSHOD OVER RYEDALE
North Yorkshire Council’s decision to approve Third Energy’s proposal to frack for gas at Kirby Misperton was made despite thousands of objections from residents and campaigners.
Over 32,000 people signed a petition condemning the Council’s decision. The petition also challenged the UK Government to ‘develop a balanced long term energy policy that will achieve our globally agreed climate change targets’.
The Frack Free Ryedale campaign group are currently considering whether they can take legal action to stop the fracking at Kirby Misperton.
No new fracking developments have been approved in Britain since 2011 when the process was found to be responsible for two earthquakes near Blackpool. Since then, campaigners have successfully countered proposed developments, notably Cuadrilla’s schemes in Sussex and Lancashire. Communities and campaigns across Britain are concerned that the North Yorkshire decision will set a precedent that leads to more fracking sites being approved.
The UK government seems set on the promotion of fracking. In 2014 David Cameron stated ‘We’re going all out for shale’. Opponents argue that such a policy directly contradicts the UK’s commitment to curb climate change.
Although it is ‘cleaner’ than coal or oil, shale gas is still a fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide when burned to produce energy. There is also evidence that leakages of methane associated with the fracking process could mean that the overall impact of shale gas on the climate is worse that of other fossil fuels.
Measure for measure over a 100 year period methane causes around 25 times more atmospheric warming than carbon dioxide.
In 2015 Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said the UK is ‘absolutely committed’ to the Paris climate deal and will be ‘making sure we deliver on it’. Opponents claim that Rudd and Cameron’s statements are contradictory.
Scotland has imposed a moratorium on fracking.
New SNP Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said it would not be permitted unless it could be proved ‘beyond doubt that there is no risk to health, communities or the environment.’
FRACK FREE WALES?
Wales does not have a moratorium on fracking. In 2015, the then Natural Resources and Planning Minister Carl Sargeant assumed the power to stop councils from approving applications for fracking.
In a letter to the 25 planning authorities in Wales he wrote that where a local planning authority ‘do not propose to refuse an application for unconventional oil and gas development, the authority must notify the Welsh ministers.’
That directive followed a Senedd vote instigated by Plaid Cymru proposing that the Welsh government to do everything in its power to prevent fracking in Wales.
Nobody has yet applied for fracking in Wales. There are two sites with all the necessary permits to carry out test drilling, Pontrhydyfen and Llandow. However, there is no sign of work beginning any time soon.
A spokesperson for Frack Free Wales, Keith Ross, told the Herald: “The main concern about the North Yorks decision is that it will pave the way for more fracking applications and give the whole industry renewed impetus.
Despite the so-called ‘moratorium’ in Wales we can expect the UK Government to do everything in its power to undermine opposition in Wales, so we need to focus hard on preventing this industry from gaining a foothold. Anything that can done to slow progress and to put obstacles in the way of the industry will contribute to this aim – including action against those who are funding the industry.
“The fight in Wales goes on until we have a complete ban on Unconventional Gas Development and are well on the path to generating all our energy from renewable resources.”
‘YOU WON’T BE FRACKING LONG!’
There are legitimate public concerns about fracking.
Including excessive water use, earthquakes, well-head and transportation accidents leading to groundwater contamination, landscape degradation and an increase in heavy road traffic because the gas is usually transported by tanker.
In the longer term the major concern must be that burning any fossil fuel drives climate change and fracking comes with the extra risk of methane leakage.
Opponents of fracking consistently argue the need to develop sources of renewable energy.
In common with protesters around Britain, Frack Free West Wales shared photos and video footage of the Barclays action on social media. Groups opposed to fracking across the UK are calling on customers to lobby Barclays and switch their accounts from a bank with a notoriously unethical history that includes supporting the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
The solidarity action in west Wales was much appreciated by the Frack Free Ryedale group who tweeted in response: ‘We love this! Thank you Aberystwyth – each & every one of you!’
Protesters in Aberystwyth sang ‘You won’t be fracking long’ to the tune of The Laughing Policeman.
As the evidence against the process increases and public opposition grows, they may indeed have the last laugh.
Further delay to Universal Credit in Ceredigion
BEN LAKE MP for Ceredigion has expressed his concerns following a recent announcement by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that the roll-out of the government’s controversial benefit payment, Universal Credit, will be fully rolled-out across Ceredigion in December 2018.
The payment, which is set to replace longstanding benefits such as Income Support, ESA and Working Tax Credits, had initially been set to become active in Ceredigion in September 2018, however recent documentation shows the date has now been moved back to December 2018.
Ben Lake MP has expressed his concern that a roll-out in December 2018 will hit families and vulnerable people at the most difficult time of year.
Ben Lake MP said: “I welcome the news that the UK Government have decided to delay the roll-out of Universal Credit in Ceredigion, I hope that this will allow the Government an opportunity to address and resolve many of the well-publicised issues associated with the payment. There have already been significant problems with the roll-out of the new regime in other areas, however, the proposed timing of December for its roll-out in Ceredigion is particularly problematic.
“With the Christmas celebrations, cold weather, and lengthy holiday periods, December can often be a difficult month financially for many families and individuals. I have significant concerns therefore that the full introduction of Universal Credit in Ceredigion will not only see claimants put under additional financial strain, but that it will coincide with a period when many of the support services available will be disrupted due to the festive holidays.”
“I have since written to the Department of Work and Pensions expressing such concerns.”
Share experiences of sexual harassment to help police
PEOPLE who have been subject to sexual harassment are encouraged to share their experiences to help understand the scale of the problem in communities across Wales.
Dyfed-Powys Police is taking part in a country-wide campaign, which urges anyone who has been subject to sexual harassment to say when and where the incident took place, as well as how it made them feel, anonymously through an online survey.
The results will be used to challenge and change the culture of misogyny and sexual harassment, so people can feel safe to live their lives without fear of harassment.
Dyfed-Powys Police Assistant Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: “Sexual harassment is simply unacceptable – it doesn’t matter who it comes from or where it happens, it should not be tolerated by anyone in society.
“We are committed to making sure everybody feels safe in their community, and has the freedom to make life choices without fear of sexual harassment. We want people to be able to access every area of society with confidence, from sports facilities and workplaces, to public transport or pubs and clubs.
“By taking part in this survey, you will help us to understand the scale of the problem in communities across Dyfed-Powys Police, which will enable us to listen to those affected by sexual harassment and to make a real difference in the future.”
To take part in the survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SWPCOM
Proposed salmon byelaws to be postponed until 2019
NEW fishing byelaws have been proposed which will make it mandatory for fishermen to release all salmon caught in Welsh rivers.
The procedures for introducing new byelaws are protracted and Natural Resources Wales wishes to avoid uncertainty for fishermen by delaying implementation of approved new measures until the 2019 fishing season.
The proposed all Wales byelaws, which include restrictions on fishing methods to help the survival of released fish and reduced net fishing seasons, are currently being considered by Welsh Government.
Dave Mee, Senior Fisheries Advisor for NRW, said: “At the moment timescales for a decision are uncertain, so we are proposing that introduction of any new measures should be postponed until the beginning of the 2019 rod and net seasons.
“We hope this will help clarify the situation for anglers, netsmen, fishery owners and clubs and associations.”
Welsh salmon stocks remain in a perilous condition. Although the mandatory catch and release proposals have proved unpopular with anglers, NRW firmly believes that they, along with other measures such as tackling agricultural pollution, improving water quality and managing the potential threats from predators are vital for the future survival of these iconic fish.
Peter Gough, Principal Fisheries Advisor for NRW added: “This delay is a pragmatic solution to resolving current uncertainty.
“However, it is important to note that this does not mean there will be further debate on the subject as NRW has concluded its position and the case for further controls has been made and presented to Welsh Government and it remains unchanged.
“Protection of the breeding resources of these wonderful fish is a fundamental part of our work to manage this important natural resource sustainably.”
This season, fishermen are again being asked by NRW to practice full restraint and ensure conservation of fish stocks by voluntarily releasing all the salmon they catch in 2018.
Dave explained: “Our salmon stocks are in serious trouble and have fallen to historically low levels and the same is true of about half of our sea trout stocks.
“Neither species can sustain uncontrolled killing of fish and so we are again asking all anglers to release all of their salmon.
“Most anglers are already voluntarily releasing the fish they catch, but some are not. We feel the situation is now so serious for salmon that we must ask all anglers to help preserve as many fish as possible by returning all their salmon.
“It’s also very important to take great care of returned fish. Fishing methods and tackle should be used that ensure fish have a high probability of survival, they should always be kept in the water while unhooking to ensure they can swim away strongly.”
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