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Opposition to British fracking plans swells

Local democracy at stake in fight against government plans for natural gas.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
British campaigners express solidarity with local council amid plans to prioritize shale natural gas programs. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
British campaigners express solidarity with local council amid plans to prioritize shale natural gas programs. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

LONDON, June 15 (UPI) -- A British environmental advocacy group said more than 150,000 signatures were added to a petition sent to the government against hydraulic fracturing plans.

"Fracking poses risks to people and the environment, and politicians in Westminster shouldn't force this risky technology on any community," campaigners Hannah Martin of Greenpeace and Rose Dickinson of Friends of the Earth said in a joint statement.

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In May, the British Geological Survey started working with its university counterparts to set a baseline for water and air quality associated with shale natural gas reserves in North Yorkshire. Third Energy U.K. Gas Ltd. submitted an application last year to use hydraulic fracturing, known also as fracking, at one well site there.

BGS already started environmental surveys in Lancashire, where shale pioneer Cuadrilla Resources aimed to explore for natural gas using hydraulic fracturing.

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Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace said they delivered a petition with 186,000 signatures to the British government expressing solidarity with a move by the Lancashire County Council to prohibit drilling in the area.

Cuadrilla was the target of widespread protests that grew out of its early fracking campaign in the region.

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Friends of the Earth earlier this year said it has seen documents that show the government aims to develop a commercial shale industry under the terms of a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning mechanism, a mechanism criticized as a way to sideline local voices. Beyond the concerns about the controversial drilling practice, which may be linked to groundwater contamination and small earthquakes, local advocates said the fight against the government was a fight for local empowerment.

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The British government estimates shale basins in the country may hold more than 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, a level the government said could help an economy with natural gas imports on pace to increase from 45 percent of demand in 2011 to 76 percent by 2030.

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