The UK’s flailing fracking industry was dealt another blow this week, after Lancashire Council rejected a bid to resume drilling operations in the county.
On Monday 29 June, the council denied permission to shale gas firm Cuadrilla to frack at two sites between Preston and Blackpool after a robust campaign by local people and environmentalists.
The council opposed the application on the grounds that it would “lead to the industrialisation of the countryside and adversely affect the landscape character”.
The result was something of a surprise, as councillors had come under enormous pressure from the industry, with veiled threats of massive legal action if they opposed the planning application.
If they received the go ahead, it would have been the UK’s first fracking operation in four years, since the process was suspended in 2011.
The decision — the first of a number of planning applications — suggests that the tide is turning against dirty shale gas, which would have enormous consequences for carbon emissions if the industry gets the go ahead in the UK and across Europe. France, Bulgaria and the Netherlands currently have a moratorium on fracking.
The Scottish government also has a moratorium and the Welsh assembly may do the same. Although fracking is technically legal in Germany, protests have forced authorities to impose stiff controls. Governments in Denmark, Poland and the UK are actively backing the fracking industry.
The industry could face yet another setback, as the Information Commissioner has ruled that a heavily-redacted government report from 2014 on the impacts of fracking on house prices, businesses and services in rural areas must be published in full.
The Lancashire decision is a boost for local anti-fracking groups and a big step forward for climate campaigners. However, the Westminster government is unlikely to walk away from the industry.
It has already begun to make the application process easier for the industry, as well as giving it political support (sadly now joined by the GMB leadership). The government has announced it will cut subsidies to onshore wind, which will probably ruin the wind industry in the UK.
Therefore it is vital for socialists and trade union activists join the anti-fracking campaign and argue for a working class-based orientation.