On Sunday we had a stall at the Lush store in Eldon Square, we informed the shoppers of the impending plans to begin Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) extraction along the North East coast. Despite recent articles in the local press championing this relatively unheard of extraction process none of the people we spoke to had any idea of what is coming.
We were supported by volunteers from the local Greenpeace group, and we received around £50 donations from the charity pot which we will send to National organisation Frack-off, who supplied us with the leaflets on the day. There is a lot of misinformation being spread about UCG, about its benefits and how green it is, especially as it will first be tried out along our beautiful coastline.
Newcastle City Council passed a motion to oppose fracking on Wednesday, which was proposed by Councillor Chris Bartlett. The government is currently trying to amend the trespass law, so that fracking companies do not have to ask the permission of home owners before drilling under their properties, this loophole was discovered by Greenpeace and subsequently they created the Wrongmove petition giving everyone the opportunity to oppose the controversial extraction procedure.
According to a Greenpeace/YouGov poll almost 75% of the public in the UK are opposed to the proposed change in the trespass law and almost 50,000 people have already signed the Greenpeace petition, potentially denying access to fracking companies.
The debate that preceded the vote on the motion was quite lively; firstly a motion amended by Councillor Wendy Taylor of the Liberal Democrats was presented to the councillors, which was not the copy distributed before the meeting. The amendments proposed to change the motion from one that opposed fracking to one that called for fracking planning policy to include strict enforcement of regulations that safeguard the local environment and monitor any pollution. The subsequent vote on the amendment was a sign of things to come as it was defeated because of the Labour majority in the chamber, but surprisingly two of the Liberal Democrats abstained from the vote.
The arguments for and against the motion were for a large part from party political lines, with Liberal Democrats presenting an argument built on fear of Moscow and the unstable Middle East, but failing to mention that the UK has the potential to be self-sufficient for the majority of its energy needs if only the renewable option was embraced as much as it is in mainland Europe. By contrast most of the Labour Councillors were more concerned by the impact of Climate Change and the legacy that we will be leaving future generations, by choosing fossil fuels when other options are becoming more viable.
The vote on the motion was also along party political lines, with Labour voting for the motion and the Liberal Democrats voting against it. Newcastle joins a growing number of Councils around the country that have either declared themselves Frack-Free or are opposed to fracking, including the former steel city of Sheffield.