Civil liberties of indigenous people illegally suppressed at Standing Rock

The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at the Sioux Standing Rock reservation shows incredible unity against the exploitation of indigenous lands.

For a long time, it looked like a foregone conclusion that the oil pipeline would be built close to the reservation.

And yet, in a remarkable twist in the usual of story of fights against big energy companies, the US Army Corps of Engineers denied permission for the building of a crucial part of the project.

As scholars of indigenous rights who have visited the camps of the numerous opponents of DAPL in North Dakota, we are sceptical that this decision will hold.

Having witnessed numerous abuses of the state against those trying to stop the pipeline, we are not confident that indigenous rights will be respected in the near future.

It took enormous efforts to get the US government to take notice of the environmental and land rights concerns at stake. Led by the native Lakota people, thousands of people calling themselves ‘water protectors’ converged upon the Standing Rock reservation in recent months to resist the adulteration of lands that have deep historical and sacred meanings. The rivers and lakes under which the pipeline was planned to pass are vital water supplies and abundant in wildlife.

The 1,172 mile Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) would carry highly flammable oil from the Bakken and Three Forks fields in North Dakota to a terminal in Illinois. The proposed route is a short distance from the Standing Rock reservation and would go underneath Lake Oahe which flows into the Missouri River.

This project carries grave health and ecological risks, which were subject only to a light environmental review conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers. As with oil pipelines on indigenous lands elsewhere, contamination of not only water but the local ecology is a real possibility.

Using official data on pipelines, the US Center for Biological Diversity maintains that “since 1986 pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels per year or more than 3m gallons. This is equivalent to 200 barrels every day”. The centre also lists 500 fatalities in the US from pipeline accidents since 1986.

Yet the US Army’s decision on 4th December – based on environmental concerns – came as a big surprise. Until that time, the authorities policing Standing Rock showed little appreciation of the obligations of law, including civil rights and the freedom of expression – let alone the importance of the lands and waters to indigenous peoples.

Violence and threats

Resistance to the pipeline was met not only with official violence, but also suppression of opponents from voicing the environmental, land rights and indigenous self-determination conflicts at stake. This was evident when we visited the Oceti Sakowin camp with a delegation from the University of Wyoming in late November.

To stop people accessing the area where a stretch of the pipeline was to be built, police and National Guard units erected a crude barrier of concrete, razor wire and two burnt out trucks. Many protectors had attempted to remove the barriers, successfully towing off one of the burnt out trucks. As spokespeople for the protectors have said, the barricades were dangerous and prevented a lawful protest.

We witnessed police respond with tear gas, sound cannons, high velocity rubber bullets (which wounded one of our delegation) and, most menacingly, water cannons which doused protectors in subzero temperatures. Armoured vehicles, helicopters, and planes were clearly visible and several American Indian Veterans said they had seen snipers in the hills.

A young woman named Sophia Wilansky went to hospital facing possible amputation of her arm. A statement by her father alleged it was caused by a concussion grenade lobbed by police at the bridge. She, along with about 400 others at the scene were unarmed.

As well as this violence by the state authorities, even more disturbing acts of suppression were used over that fateful weekend of November 20-21.

A plane continuously circled the camps, flying at night without lights. NBC reported what many water protectors were saying; that the mysterious plane had been jamming signals so that witnesses could not disseminate what they saw, heard and felt. Several people mentioned in the NBC report as well as one of our party had their mobile phones rendered permanently unusable, possibly through interference of this kind.

The threat of arrest, the megaphones bellowing warnings that “munitions will be utilised to effect arrests” and the massed ranks of police and National Guard, all spread fear and discouraged the taking of photos because anyone considered a protester could be criminalised. Since our visit, even those who donate to the camps have been threatened with US$1,000 fines by North Dakota officials.

A long history

These acts of suppression contradict the freedom of expression enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution (though it is not the first time that Native Americans have had this freedom denied them specifically). Equally humiliating and not unrelated to civil rights is that the DAPL traverses tribal lands that have been continuously confiscated.

The Great Sioux Reservation, which once stretched from the Missouri to the North Platte River in Wyoming, was marked out for “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” for the Lakota Sioux in a treaty with the US government back in 1868. It has since been reduced to four reservations in the Dakotas. Standing Rock Reservation, the home of great chief Sitting Bull, is one of these remnant spots that still belongs to the Lakota.

Land grabbing continued in the 1940s when the government dispossessed the Lakota and other tribes of their homes for a series of dam projects. This led to the flooding of burial sites, which caused human remains to float to the surface and was the precursor to many other acts of desecration of indigenous remains and sacred sites.

Uncertain future

It had looked like DAPL would be approved via the same legal process (and with similar consequences) to these dam projects. However, the Army has called for a more lengthy environmental impact assessment and it has recommended that routes away from Standing Rock be explored. Whether any of this will happen is open to question.

The company that is building DAPL, Energy Transfer Partners, has sizeable investments from numerous important backers, including Donald Trump. Trump himself assumes the presidency next month, and has a set of advisers already urging him to privatise oil-rich indigenous lands. The company may still go ahead with constructing the pipeline under the lake, having previously disregarded an Army Corps of Engineers request to cease construction.

What’s been clear from the outset is a lack of meaningful consultation with indigenous people over the use of their ancestral lands. US security forces have been literally shielding Energy Transfer Partners and the state has discouraged those opposing it from expressing their views.

Perhaps the most egregious act of suppression is that the area where the pipeline is being built is made inaccessible for those who want to see what’s going on. The freedom of the press is severely restricted by this concealment. Keeping informed about the environmental assessment, if it goes ahead, could prove equally difficult.

Where is the justice? The US has committed itself to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Both require free, prior and informed consent for any intrusions on indigenous lands and stipulate that indigenous peoples shall own and control their traditional lands.

This has not taken place at Standing Rock, and despite the army’s decision, the threats, the surveillance, the barricades and intimidation of those opposing the oil pipeline continues.

 


 

Colin Samson is Professor of Sociology, Indigenous Peoples, University of Essex.

Øyvind Ravna is Professor of Law, University of TromsøThe Conversation.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

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Cuadrilla – drop your £55,000 claim against Lancashire fracking ‘Nana’!

Tina Rothery, Lancashire Nana and anti-fracking campaigner, is being aggressively pursued for legal costs of over £55,000 and the likelihood of a possible two-week prison sentence.

Pursuing her for the ‘debt’ is the fracking company Cuadrilla, and its CEO Francis Egan who is being called upon by Tina’s many supporters to “drop the case as completely unjustified”.

Hundreds, including well-known figures such as Emma Thompson and Vivienne Westwood, are expected to gather outside Preston court tomorrow, Friday 9th December, when her case is heard, rallying under the banner #IamTinaToo.

Paul Ridge of Bindmans solicitors, representing Tina, said: “I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla. It is made all the more oppressive when they know that there is nothing to be gained.

An open letter (reproduced in full below) calls on Cuadrilla to drop the case, however Cuadrilla’s solicitors, Eversheds, have claimed in response that to withdraw their action would be a legal impossibility. Paul Ridge emphatically rejects that argument:

“The steps now being taken to seek payment have been started by your client and it would be possible for them to stop the action by confirming that they no longer seek costs from Ms Rothery and regard this matter as at an end …

“It is not correct to suggest that this is simply a matter for the court. I have no doubt that the court would not continue to seek information if your client confirmed that they regarded the matter as closed and the debt was no longer being sought from Ms Rothery.

“Plainly the court will not want to engage in pointless further examination of matters if the claimant is no longer seeking ancient legal costs and views the matter as concluded.”

£55,000 costs for an eviction that never took place

The dispute began at 5am on 7th August 2014 when a group of 26 people from Lancashire naming ourselves ‘The Nanas’, occupied a field on Preston New Road, near Blackpool, Lancashire. As Tina later wrote in The Ecologist:

“The police and landowner were informed on the day, that this would last for three weeks and we would vacate on 26th August. Later press releases, online blogs and social media posts made this leaving date public too.

No damage was done but a huge amount was achieved during those three weeks; with neighbours bringing ice and fresh bread daily, the local milkman dropping off when he could and so many conversations and information days that ‘Frack Free Lancashire’ signs multiplied throughout the area and neighbours became ‘community’.

On the day we left, we completed a fingertip-search of the field, filmed this and our departure and delivered a note to the land owner explaining we were gone and all was tidy. We informed the press and police as well. Cuadrilla (through the landowner) ‘evicted’ the clean, empty field on 27th August 2016. We found ourselves in court on the 28th.”

Tina Rothery then volunteered to be the ‘named defendant’ in the action and is now being pursued by Cuadrilla in person. She in turn has stated that she is completely unable to pay the sum claimed, and even if she could pay it, she would refuse on principle:

“I will not pay any amount. More than the simple fact of not being able to pay, this is about reaching my own line-in-the-sand point in this long struggle. I believe our law courts should be about seeing true justice, not as a weapon against opposition. Our law courts and legal system are a costly indulgence that eats time and money that activists just don’t have.”

Former conservative cabinet minister John Gummer, now Lord Deben has now joined the call for the case to be dropped, tweeting:

Why not green gas?

Green energy firm Ecotricity has also challenged Cuadrilla and the wider the shale gas industry today by submitting planning applications for rival ‘green gas’ mills on proposed fracking sites in Lancashire including the Preston New Road site where Tina’s occupation took place, and nearby Roseacre Wood.

In a new report released last month, Green Gas: The Opportunity for Britain, Ecotricity unveiled a national plan for Britain to get its gas through a new and sustainable method, using species-rich grass grown on farmland.

The report found that there is enough grassland to provide almost all of Britain’s household gas demand by 2035 – in the process creating a new industry supporting 150,000 jobs and pumping £7.5 billion into the economy every year.   

“Green gas will make big cuts to carbon emissions, create wildlife habitats on an unprecedented scale, support food production by improving soils, and provide support for farmers who are set to lose EU subsidies following Brexit”, the company claims.

Ecotricity recently won planning permission to build its first Green Gas Mill in Hampshire – one of six sites in development. The company says its latest applications at potential fracking sites in Lancashire “are part of a wider strategic campaign to prevent shale gas exploitation, highlight the lack of democracy in the planning process ­and illustrate there is an alternative way to make our gas.”

Letter text  in full: drop Tina’s case!

Dear Mr Egan,

We are writing to urge you to end Cuadrilla’s legal action against Tina Rothery, a peaceful anti-fracking campaigner facing over £55,000 legal costs and a possible two-week jail sentence following the supposed eviction of campaigners on 27th August 2014 from a site you hope to frack.

The bailiffs in fact ‘evicted’ an empty field. As Cuadrilla, the landowner and the public were made aware, the protesters were always going to leave on 26th August. They did this, having fully cleaned the site after their three-week stay and caused no damage.

In the light of this, the decision to incur large legal costs for eviction and to pursue one individual for these looks like a deliberate strategy to deter other protesters. Tina now faces a potential two-week jail sentence for refusing to comply with the Court Order, which she did because she considers Cuadrilla’s case against her to be unjust, bullying and an abuse of perfectly legitimate campaigners to deter protest.  The intention to vacate the site was communicated to Cuadrilla and so there was no need for the action you took.

Tina has shown extraordinary bravery. When this legal action was brought and a named defendant was needed, she volunteered to prevent one of her fellow Lancashire Nanas, perhaps someone caring for children or elderly parents, being victimised.

Tina is an ordinary citizen seeking to exercise her right of protest against an industry which, according to Government opinion polls, is more unpopular than ever because of the risks it poses to our health, to our local and global environment and to our communities.

Lancashire County Council supported local people’s objections and refused Cuadrilla’s application to test-drill, frack and flow-test shale gas wells at two sites. Following an appeal, the Government has decided to overturn one refusal and probably both.

You may have won a legal argument, but, as far as we the undersigned and the people of Lancashire are concerned, you have not won a democratic or moral argument. You may have the permission of the Government to frack in Lancashire, but you do not have the permission of the people of Lancashire. Fracking is being imposed on Lancashire against its will.

You have described the fracking opportunities in the UK as ‘an absolute game-changer’. We agree: fracking could be a game changer – for the climate. According to Oil Change International, potential carbon emissions from oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields (without new fracking) and mines would take us beyond 2C of warming, let alone the 1.5C which the Paris climate agreement requires us to pursue efforts towards. If we cannot afford to burn the gas we currently have, what is the point of looking for more?

We urge you to drop Tina’s case, allow peaceful protest and halt the drilling – for all our futures.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Thompson    
Vivienne Westwood    
Josh Fox, Filmmaker
Raoul Martinez, Artist, writer, filmmaker
Francesca Martinez, Comedian
Anthony Tombling, Filmmaker
Suzanne Jeffery, Campaign against Climate Change
Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven, Greenpeace
Ellie Groves, Reclaim the Power
Danielle Paffard, 350.org
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Caroline Lucas, Green Party
Jonathan Bartley, Green Party
Natalie Bennett, Green Party
Manuel Cortes, TSSA
Chris Baugh, PCS
Matt Wrack, FBU
Tony Kearns, Communication Workers Union
Ian Hodson, Bakers, Food & Allied Workers union
Graham Petersen, Greener Jobs Alliance.

 


 

Action: Facebook event for the #IamTinaToo protest.

Twitter: #IAmTinaToo

Petition: Ecotricity has launched a petition urging the Government to reconsider where Britain will get its gas from in future: Green Gas or Fracking – Let the People choose.

Main source: campaigncc.org/iamtinatoo

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

 

Cuadrilla – drop your £55,000 claim against Lancashire fracking ‘Nana’!

Tina Rothery, Lancashire Nana and anti-fracking campaigner, is being aggressively pursued for legal costs of over £55,000 and the likelihood of a possible two-week prison sentence.

Pursuing her for the ‘debt’ is the fracking company Cuadrilla, and its CEO Francis Egan who is being called upon by Tina’s many supporters to “drop the case as completely unjustified”.

Hundreds, including well-known figures such as Emma Thompson and Vivienne Westwood, are expected to gather outside Preston court tomorrow, Friday 9th December, when her case is heard, rallying under the banner #IamTinaToo.

Paul Ridge of Bindmans solicitors, representing Tina, said: “I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla. It is made all the more oppressive when they know that there is nothing to be gained.

An open letter (reproduced in full below) calls on Cuadrilla to drop the case, however Cuadrilla’s solicitors, Eversheds, have claimed in response that to withdraw their action would be a legal impossibility. Paul Ridge emphatically rejects that argument:

“The steps now being taken to seek payment have been started by your client and it would be possible for them to stop the action by confirming that they no longer seek costs from Ms Rothery and regard this matter as at an end …

“It is not correct to suggest that this is simply a matter for the court. I have no doubt that the court would not continue to seek information if your client confirmed that they regarded the matter as closed and the debt was no longer being sought from Ms Rothery.

“Plainly the court will not want to engage in pointless further examination of matters if the claimant is no longer seeking ancient legal costs and views the matter as concluded.”

£55,000 costs for an eviction that never took place

The dispute began at 5am on 7th August 2014 when a group of 26 people from Lancashire naming ourselves ‘The Nanas’, occupied a field on Preston New Road, near Blackpool, Lancashire. As Tina later wrote in The Ecologist:

“The police and landowner were informed on the day, that this would last for three weeks and we would vacate on 26th August. Later press releases, online blogs and social media posts made this leaving date public too.

No damage was done but a huge amount was achieved during those three weeks; with neighbours bringing ice and fresh bread daily, the local milkman dropping off when he could and so many conversations and information days that ‘Frack Free Lancashire’ signs multiplied throughout the area and neighbours became ‘community’.

On the day we left, we completed a fingertip-search of the field, filmed this and our departure and delivered a note to the land owner explaining we were gone and all was tidy. We informed the press and police as well. Cuadrilla (through the landowner) ‘evicted’ the clean, empty field on 27th August 2016. We found ourselves in court on the 28th.”

Tina Rothery then volunteered to be the ‘named defendant’ in the action and is now being pursued by Cuadrilla in person. She in turn has stated that she is completely unable to pay the sum claimed, and even if she could pay it, she would refuse on principle:

“I will not pay any amount. More than the simple fact of not being able to pay, this is about reaching my own line-in-the-sand point in this long struggle. I believe our law courts should be about seeing true justice, not as a weapon against opposition. Our law courts and legal system are a costly indulgence that eats time and money that activists just don’t have.”

Former conservative cabinet minister John Gummer, now Lord Deben has now joined the call for the case to be dropped, tweeting:

Why not green gas?

Green energy firm Ecotricity has also challenged Cuadrilla and the wider the shale gas industry today by submitting planning applications for rival ‘green gas’ mills on proposed fracking sites in Lancashire including the Preston New Road site where Tina’s occupation took place, and nearby Roseacre Wood.

In a new report released last month, Green Gas: The Opportunity for Britain, Ecotricity unveiled a national plan for Britain to get its gas through a new and sustainable method, using species-rich grass grown on farmland.

The report found that there is enough grassland to provide almost all of Britain’s household gas demand by 2035 – in the process creating a new industry supporting 150,000 jobs and pumping £7.5 billion into the economy every year.   

“Green gas will make big cuts to carbon emissions, create wildlife habitats on an unprecedented scale, support food production by improving soils, and provide support for farmers who are set to lose EU subsidies following Brexit”, the company claims.

Ecotricity recently won planning permission to build its first Green Gas Mill in Hampshire – one of six sites in development. The company says its latest applications at potential fracking sites in Lancashire “are part of a wider strategic campaign to prevent shale gas exploitation, highlight the lack of democracy in the planning process ­and illustrate there is an alternative way to make our gas.”

Letter text  in full: drop Tina’s case!

Dear Mr Egan,

We are writing to urge you to end Cuadrilla’s legal action against Tina Rothery, a peaceful anti-fracking campaigner facing over £55,000 legal costs and a possible two-week jail sentence following the supposed eviction of campaigners on 27th August 2014 from a site you hope to frack.

The bailiffs in fact ‘evicted’ an empty field. As Cuadrilla, the landowner and the public were made aware, the protesters were always going to leave on 26th August. They did this, having fully cleaned the site after their three-week stay and caused no damage.

In the light of this, the decision to incur large legal costs for eviction and to pursue one individual for these looks like a deliberate strategy to deter other protesters. Tina now faces a potential two-week jail sentence for refusing to comply with the Court Order, which she did because she considers Cuadrilla’s case against her to be unjust, bullying and an abuse of perfectly legitimate campaigners to deter protest.  The intention to vacate the site was communicated to Cuadrilla and so there was no need for the action you took.

Tina has shown extraordinary bravery. When this legal action was brought and a named defendant was needed, she volunteered to prevent one of her fellow Lancashire Nanas, perhaps someone caring for children or elderly parents, being victimised.

Tina is an ordinary citizen seeking to exercise her right of protest against an industry which, according to Government opinion polls, is more unpopular than ever because of the risks it poses to our health, to our local and global environment and to our communities.

Lancashire County Council supported local people’s objections and refused Cuadrilla’s application to test-drill, frack and flow-test shale gas wells at two sites. Following an appeal, the Government has decided to overturn one refusal and probably both.

You may have won a legal argument, but, as far as we the undersigned and the people of Lancashire are concerned, you have not won a democratic or moral argument. You may have the permission of the Government to frack in Lancashire, but you do not have the permission of the people of Lancashire. Fracking is being imposed on Lancashire against its will.

You have described the fracking opportunities in the UK as ‘an absolute game-changer’. We agree: fracking could be a game changer – for the climate. According to Oil Change International, potential carbon emissions from oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields (without new fracking) and mines would take us beyond 2C of warming, let alone the 1.5C which the Paris climate agreement requires us to pursue efforts towards. If we cannot afford to burn the gas we currently have, what is the point of looking for more?

We urge you to drop Tina’s case, allow peaceful protest and halt the drilling – for all our futures.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Thompson    
Vivienne Westwood    
Josh Fox, Filmmaker
Raoul Martinez, Artist, writer, filmmaker
Francesca Martinez, Comedian
Anthony Tombling, Filmmaker
Suzanne Jeffery, Campaign against Climate Change
Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven, Greenpeace
Ellie Groves, Reclaim the Power
Danielle Paffard, 350.org
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Caroline Lucas, Green Party
Jonathan Bartley, Green Party
Natalie Bennett, Green Party
Manuel Cortes, TSSA
Chris Baugh, PCS
Matt Wrack, FBU
Tony Kearns, Communication Workers Union
Ian Hodson, Bakers, Food & Allied Workers union
Graham Petersen, Greener Jobs Alliance.

 


 

Action: Facebook event for the #IamTinaToo protest.

Twitter: #IAmTinaToo

Petition: Ecotricity has launched a petition urging the Government to reconsider where Britain will get its gas from in future: Green Gas or Fracking – Let the People choose.

Main source: campaigncc.org/iamtinatoo

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

 

Cuadrilla – drop your £55,000 claim against Lancashire fracking ‘Nana’!

Tina Rothery, Lancashire Nana and anti-fracking campaigner, is being aggressively pursued for legal costs of over £55,000 and the likelihood of a possible two-week prison sentence.

Pursuing her for the ‘debt’ is the fracking company Cuadrilla, and its CEO Francis Egan who is being called upon by Tina’s many supporters to “drop the case as completely unjustified”.

Hundreds, including well-known figures such as Emma Thompson and Vivienne Westwood, are expected to gather outside Preston court tomorrow, Friday 9th December, when her case is heard, rallying under the banner #IamTinaToo.

Paul Ridge of Bindmans solicitors, representing Tina, said: “I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla. It is made all the more oppressive when they know that there is nothing to be gained.

An open letter (reproduced in full below) calls on Cuadrilla to drop the case, however Cuadrilla’s solicitors, Eversheds, have claimed in response that to withdraw their action would be a legal impossibility. Paul Ridge emphatically rejects that argument:

“The steps now being taken to seek payment have been started by your client and it would be possible for them to stop the action by confirming that they no longer seek costs from Ms Rothery and regard this matter as at an end …

“It is not correct to suggest that this is simply a matter for the court. I have no doubt that the court would not continue to seek information if your client confirmed that they regarded the matter as closed and the debt was no longer being sought from Ms Rothery.

“Plainly the court will not want to engage in pointless further examination of matters if the claimant is no longer seeking ancient legal costs and views the matter as concluded.”

£55,000 costs for an eviction that never took place

The dispute began at 5am on 7th August 2014 when a group of 26 people from Lancashire naming ourselves ‘The Nanas’, occupied a field on Preston New Road, near Blackpool, Lancashire. As Tina later wrote in The Ecologist:

“The police and landowner were informed on the day, that this would last for three weeks and we would vacate on 26th August. Later press releases, online blogs and social media posts made this leaving date public too.

No damage was done but a huge amount was achieved during those three weeks; with neighbours bringing ice and fresh bread daily, the local milkman dropping off when he could and so many conversations and information days that ‘Frack Free Lancashire’ signs multiplied throughout the area and neighbours became ‘community’.

On the day we left, we completed a fingertip-search of the field, filmed this and our departure and delivered a note to the land owner explaining we were gone and all was tidy. We informed the press and police as well. Cuadrilla (through the landowner) ‘evicted’ the clean, empty field on 27th August 2016. We found ourselves in court on the 28th.”

Tina Rothery then volunteered to be the ‘named defendant’ in the action and is now being pursued by Cuadrilla in person. She in turn has stated that she is completely unable to pay the sum claimed, and even if she could pay it, she would refuse on principle:

“I will not pay any amount. More than the simple fact of not being able to pay, this is about reaching my own line-in-the-sand point in this long struggle. I believe our law courts should be about seeing true justice, not as a weapon against opposition. Our law courts and legal system are a costly indulgence that eats time and money that activists just don’t have.”

Former conservative cabinet minister John Gummer, now Lord Deben has now joined the call for the case to be dropped, tweeting:

Why not green gas?

Green energy firm Ecotricity has also challenged Cuadrilla and the wider the shale gas industry today by submitting planning applications for rival ‘green gas’ mills on proposed fracking sites in Lancashire including the Preston New Road site where Tina’s occupation took place, and nearby Roseacre Wood.

In a new report released last month, Green Gas: The Opportunity for Britain, Ecotricity unveiled a national plan for Britain to get its gas through a new and sustainable method, using species-rich grass grown on farmland.

The report found that there is enough grassland to provide almost all of Britain’s household gas demand by 2035 – in the process creating a new industry supporting 150,000 jobs and pumping £7.5 billion into the economy every year.   

“Green gas will make big cuts to carbon emissions, create wildlife habitats on an unprecedented scale, support food production by improving soils, and provide support for farmers who are set to lose EU subsidies following Brexit”, the company claims.

Ecotricity recently won planning permission to build its first Green Gas Mill in Hampshire – one of six sites in development. The company says its latest applications at potential fracking sites in Lancashire “are part of a wider strategic campaign to prevent shale gas exploitation, highlight the lack of democracy in the planning process ­and illustrate there is an alternative way to make our gas.”

Letter text  in full: drop Tina’s case!

Dear Mr Egan,

We are writing to urge you to end Cuadrilla’s legal action against Tina Rothery, a peaceful anti-fracking campaigner facing over £55,000 legal costs and a possible two-week jail sentence following the supposed eviction of campaigners on 27th August 2014 from a site you hope to frack.

The bailiffs in fact ‘evicted’ an empty field. As Cuadrilla, the landowner and the public were made aware, the protesters were always going to leave on 26th August. They did this, having fully cleaned the site after their three-week stay and caused no damage.

In the light of this, the decision to incur large legal costs for eviction and to pursue one individual for these looks like a deliberate strategy to deter other protesters. Tina now faces a potential two-week jail sentence for refusing to comply with the Court Order, which she did because she considers Cuadrilla’s case against her to be unjust, bullying and an abuse of perfectly legitimate campaigners to deter protest.  The intention to vacate the site was communicated to Cuadrilla and so there was no need for the action you took.

Tina has shown extraordinary bravery. When this legal action was brought and a named defendant was needed, she volunteered to prevent one of her fellow Lancashire Nanas, perhaps someone caring for children or elderly parents, being victimised.

Tina is an ordinary citizen seeking to exercise her right of protest against an industry which, according to Government opinion polls, is more unpopular than ever because of the risks it poses to our health, to our local and global environment and to our communities.

Lancashire County Council supported local people’s objections and refused Cuadrilla’s application to test-drill, frack and flow-test shale gas wells at two sites. Following an appeal, the Government has decided to overturn one refusal and probably both.

You may have won a legal argument, but, as far as we the undersigned and the people of Lancashire are concerned, you have not won a democratic or moral argument. You may have the permission of the Government to frack in Lancashire, but you do not have the permission of the people of Lancashire. Fracking is being imposed on Lancashire against its will.

You have described the fracking opportunities in the UK as ‘an absolute game-changer’. We agree: fracking could be a game changer – for the climate. According to Oil Change International, potential carbon emissions from oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields (without new fracking) and mines would take us beyond 2C of warming, let alone the 1.5C which the Paris climate agreement requires us to pursue efforts towards. If we cannot afford to burn the gas we currently have, what is the point of looking for more?

We urge you to drop Tina’s case, allow peaceful protest and halt the drilling – for all our futures.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Thompson    
Vivienne Westwood    
Josh Fox, Filmmaker
Raoul Martinez, Artist, writer, filmmaker
Francesca Martinez, Comedian
Anthony Tombling, Filmmaker
Suzanne Jeffery, Campaign against Climate Change
Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven, Greenpeace
Ellie Groves, Reclaim the Power
Danielle Paffard, 350.org
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Caroline Lucas, Green Party
Jonathan Bartley, Green Party
Natalie Bennett, Green Party
Manuel Cortes, TSSA
Chris Baugh, PCS
Matt Wrack, FBU
Tony Kearns, Communication Workers Union
Ian Hodson, Bakers, Food & Allied Workers union
Graham Petersen, Greener Jobs Alliance.

 


 

Action: Facebook event for the #IamTinaToo protest.

Twitter: #IAmTinaToo

Petition: Ecotricity has launched a petition urging the Government to reconsider where Britain will get its gas from in future: Green Gas or Fracking – Let the People choose.

Main source: campaigncc.org/iamtinatoo

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

 

Cuadrilla – drop your £55,000 claim against Lancashire fracking ‘Nana’!

Tina Rothery, Lancashire Nana and anti-fracking campaigner, is being aggressively pursued for legal costs of over £55,000 and the likelihood of a possible two-week prison sentence.

Pursuing her for the ‘debt’ is the fracking company Cuadrilla, and its CEO Francis Egan who is being called upon by Tina’s many supporters to “drop the case as completely unjustified”.

Hundreds, including well-known figures such as Emma Thompson and Vivienne Westwood, are expected to gather outside Preston court tomorrow, Friday 9th December, when her case is heard, rallying under the banner #IamTinaToo.

Paul Ridge of Bindmans solicitors, representing Tina, said: “I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla. It is made all the more oppressive when they know that there is nothing to be gained.

An open letter (reproduced in full below) calls on Cuadrilla to drop the case, however Cuadrilla’s solicitors, Eversheds, have claimed in response that to withdraw their action would be a legal impossibility. Paul Ridge emphatically rejects that argument:

“The steps now being taken to seek payment have been started by your client and it would be possible for them to stop the action by confirming that they no longer seek costs from Ms Rothery and regard this matter as at an end …

“It is not correct to suggest that this is simply a matter for the court. I have no doubt that the court would not continue to seek information if your client confirmed that they regarded the matter as closed and the debt was no longer being sought from Ms Rothery.

“Plainly the court will not want to engage in pointless further examination of matters if the claimant is no longer seeking ancient legal costs and views the matter as concluded.”

£55,000 costs for an eviction that never took place

The dispute began at 5am on 7th August 2014 when a group of 26 people from Lancashire naming ourselves ‘The Nanas’, occupied a field on Preston New Road, near Blackpool, Lancashire. As Tina later wrote in The Ecologist:

“The police and landowner were informed on the day, that this would last for three weeks and we would vacate on 26th August. Later press releases, online blogs and social media posts made this leaving date public too.

No damage was done but a huge amount was achieved during those three weeks; with neighbours bringing ice and fresh bread daily, the local milkman dropping off when he could and so many conversations and information days that ‘Frack Free Lancashire’ signs multiplied throughout the area and neighbours became ‘community’.

On the day we left, we completed a fingertip-search of the field, filmed this and our departure and delivered a note to the land owner explaining we were gone and all was tidy. We informed the press and police as well. Cuadrilla (through the landowner) ‘evicted’ the clean, empty field on 27th August 2016. We found ourselves in court on the 28th.”

Tina Rothery then volunteered to be the ‘named defendant’ in the action and is now being pursued by Cuadrilla in person. She in turn has stated that she is completely unable to pay the sum claimed, and even if she could pay it, she would refuse on principle:

“I will not pay any amount. More than the simple fact of not being able to pay, this is about reaching my own line-in-the-sand point in this long struggle. I believe our law courts should be about seeing true justice, not as a weapon against opposition. Our law courts and legal system are a costly indulgence that eats time and money that activists just don’t have.”

Former conservative cabinet minister John Gummer, now Lord Deben has now joined the call for the case to be dropped, tweeting:

Why not green gas?

Green energy firm Ecotricity has also challenged Cuadrilla and the wider the shale gas industry today by submitting planning applications for rival ‘green gas’ mills on proposed fracking sites in Lancashire including the Preston New Road site where Tina’s occupation took place, and nearby Roseacre Wood.

In a new report released last month, Green Gas: The Opportunity for Britain, Ecotricity unveiled a national plan for Britain to get its gas through a new and sustainable method, using species-rich grass grown on farmland.

The report found that there is enough grassland to provide almost all of Britain’s household gas demand by 2035 – in the process creating a new industry supporting 150,000 jobs and pumping £7.5 billion into the economy every year.   

“Green gas will make big cuts to carbon emissions, create wildlife habitats on an unprecedented scale, support food production by improving soils, and provide support for farmers who are set to lose EU subsidies following Brexit”, the company claims.

Ecotricity recently won planning permission to build its first Green Gas Mill in Hampshire – one of six sites in development. The company says its latest applications at potential fracking sites in Lancashire “are part of a wider strategic campaign to prevent shale gas exploitation, highlight the lack of democracy in the planning process ­and illustrate there is an alternative way to make our gas.”

Letter text  in full: drop Tina’s case!

Dear Mr Egan,

We are writing to urge you to end Cuadrilla’s legal action against Tina Rothery, a peaceful anti-fracking campaigner facing over £55,000 legal costs and a possible two-week jail sentence following the supposed eviction of campaigners on 27th August 2014 from a site you hope to frack.

The bailiffs in fact ‘evicted’ an empty field. As Cuadrilla, the landowner and the public were made aware, the protesters were always going to leave on 26th August. They did this, having fully cleaned the site after their three-week stay and caused no damage.

In the light of this, the decision to incur large legal costs for eviction and to pursue one individual for these looks like a deliberate strategy to deter other protesters. Tina now faces a potential two-week jail sentence for refusing to comply with the Court Order, which she did because she considers Cuadrilla’s case against her to be unjust, bullying and an abuse of perfectly legitimate campaigners to deter protest.  The intention to vacate the site was communicated to Cuadrilla and so there was no need for the action you took.

Tina has shown extraordinary bravery. When this legal action was brought and a named defendant was needed, she volunteered to prevent one of her fellow Lancashire Nanas, perhaps someone caring for children or elderly parents, being victimised.

Tina is an ordinary citizen seeking to exercise her right of protest against an industry which, according to Government opinion polls, is more unpopular than ever because of the risks it poses to our health, to our local and global environment and to our communities.

Lancashire County Council supported local people’s objections and refused Cuadrilla’s application to test-drill, frack and flow-test shale gas wells at two sites. Following an appeal, the Government has decided to overturn one refusal and probably both.

You may have won a legal argument, but, as far as we the undersigned and the people of Lancashire are concerned, you have not won a democratic or moral argument. You may have the permission of the Government to frack in Lancashire, but you do not have the permission of the people of Lancashire. Fracking is being imposed on Lancashire against its will.

You have described the fracking opportunities in the UK as ‘an absolute game-changer’. We agree: fracking could be a game changer – for the climate. According to Oil Change International, potential carbon emissions from oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields (without new fracking) and mines would take us beyond 2C of warming, let alone the 1.5C which the Paris climate agreement requires us to pursue efforts towards. If we cannot afford to burn the gas we currently have, what is the point of looking for more?

We urge you to drop Tina’s case, allow peaceful protest and halt the drilling – for all our futures.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Thompson    
Vivienne Westwood    
Josh Fox, Filmmaker
Raoul Martinez, Artist, writer, filmmaker
Francesca Martinez, Comedian
Anthony Tombling, Filmmaker
Suzanne Jeffery, Campaign against Climate Change
Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven, Greenpeace
Ellie Groves, Reclaim the Power
Danielle Paffard, 350.org
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Caroline Lucas, Green Party
Jonathan Bartley, Green Party
Natalie Bennett, Green Party
Manuel Cortes, TSSA
Chris Baugh, PCS
Matt Wrack, FBU
Tony Kearns, Communication Workers Union
Ian Hodson, Bakers, Food & Allied Workers union
Graham Petersen, Greener Jobs Alliance.

 


 

Action: Facebook event for the #IamTinaToo protest.

Twitter: #IAmTinaToo

Petition: Ecotricity has launched a petition urging the Government to reconsider where Britain will get its gas from in future: Green Gas or Fracking – Let the People choose.

Main source: campaigncc.org/iamtinatoo

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

 

Cuadrilla – drop your £55,000 claim against Lancashire fracking ‘Nana’!

Tina Rothery, Lancashire Nana and anti-fracking campaigner, is being aggressively pursued for legal costs of over £55,000 and the likelihood of a possible two-week prison sentence.

Pursuing her for the ‘debt’ is the fracking company Cuadrilla, and its CEO Francis Egan who is being called upon by Tina’s many supporters to “drop the case as completely unjustified”.

Hundreds, including well-known figures such as Emma Thompson and Vivienne Westwood, are expected to gather outside Preston court tomorrow, Friday 9th December, when her case is heard, rallying under the banner #IamTinaToo.

Paul Ridge of Bindmans solicitors, representing Tina, said: “I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla. It is made all the more oppressive when they know that there is nothing to be gained.

An open letter (reproduced in full below) calls on Cuadrilla to drop the case, however Cuadrilla’s solicitors, Eversheds, have claimed in response that to withdraw their action would be a legal impossibility. Paul Ridge emphatically rejects that argument:

“The steps now being taken to seek payment have been started by your client and it would be possible for them to stop the action by confirming that they no longer seek costs from Ms Rothery and regard this matter as at an end …

“It is not correct to suggest that this is simply a matter for the court. I have no doubt that the court would not continue to seek information if your client confirmed that they regarded the matter as closed and the debt was no longer being sought from Ms Rothery.

“Plainly the court will not want to engage in pointless further examination of matters if the claimant is no longer seeking ancient legal costs and views the matter as concluded.”

£55,000 costs for an eviction that never took place

The dispute began at 5am on 7th August 2014 when a group of 26 people from Lancashire naming ourselves ‘The Nanas’, occupied a field on Preston New Road, near Blackpool, Lancashire. As Tina later wrote in The Ecologist:

“The police and landowner were informed on the day, that this would last for three weeks and we would vacate on 26th August. Later press releases, online blogs and social media posts made this leaving date public too.

No damage was done but a huge amount was achieved during those three weeks; with neighbours bringing ice and fresh bread daily, the local milkman dropping off when he could and so many conversations and information days that ‘Frack Free Lancashire’ signs multiplied throughout the area and neighbours became ‘community’.

On the day we left, we completed a fingertip-search of the field, filmed this and our departure and delivered a note to the land owner explaining we were gone and all was tidy. We informed the press and police as well. Cuadrilla (through the landowner) ‘evicted’ the clean, empty field on 27th August 2016. We found ourselves in court on the 28th.”

Tina Rothery then volunteered to be the ‘named defendant’ in the action and is now being pursued by Cuadrilla in person. She in turn has stated that she is completely unable to pay the sum claimed, and even if she could pay it, she would refuse on principle:

“I will not pay any amount. More than the simple fact of not being able to pay, this is about reaching my own line-in-the-sand point in this long struggle. I believe our law courts should be about seeing true justice, not as a weapon against opposition. Our law courts and legal system are a costly indulgence that eats time and money that activists just don’t have.”

Former conservative cabinet minister John Gummer, now Lord Deben has now joined the call for the case to be dropped, tweeting:

Why not green gas?

Green energy firm Ecotricity has also challenged Cuadrilla and the wider the shale gas industry today by submitting planning applications for rival ‘green gas’ mills on proposed fracking sites in Lancashire including the Preston New Road site where Tina’s occupation took place, and nearby Roseacre Wood.

In a new report released last month, Green Gas: The Opportunity for Britain, Ecotricity unveiled a national plan for Britain to get its gas through a new and sustainable method, using species-rich grass grown on farmland.

The report found that there is enough grassland to provide almost all of Britain’s household gas demand by 2035 – in the process creating a new industry supporting 150,000 jobs and pumping £7.5 billion into the economy every year.   

“Green gas will make big cuts to carbon emissions, create wildlife habitats on an unprecedented scale, support food production by improving soils, and provide support for farmers who are set to lose EU subsidies following Brexit”, the company claims.

Ecotricity recently won planning permission to build its first Green Gas Mill in Hampshire – one of six sites in development. The company says its latest applications at potential fracking sites in Lancashire “are part of a wider strategic campaign to prevent shale gas exploitation, highlight the lack of democracy in the planning process ­and illustrate there is an alternative way to make our gas.”

Letter text  in full: drop Tina’s case!

Dear Mr Egan,

We are writing to urge you to end Cuadrilla’s legal action against Tina Rothery, a peaceful anti-fracking campaigner facing over £55,000 legal costs and a possible two-week jail sentence following the supposed eviction of campaigners on 27th August 2014 from a site you hope to frack.

The bailiffs in fact ‘evicted’ an empty field. As Cuadrilla, the landowner and the public were made aware, the protesters were always going to leave on 26th August. They did this, having fully cleaned the site after their three-week stay and caused no damage.

In the light of this, the decision to incur large legal costs for eviction and to pursue one individual for these looks like a deliberate strategy to deter other protesters. Tina now faces a potential two-week jail sentence for refusing to comply with the Court Order, which she did because she considers Cuadrilla’s case against her to be unjust, bullying and an abuse of perfectly legitimate campaigners to deter protest.  The intention to vacate the site was communicated to Cuadrilla and so there was no need for the action you took.

Tina has shown extraordinary bravery. When this legal action was brought and a named defendant was needed, she volunteered to prevent one of her fellow Lancashire Nanas, perhaps someone caring for children or elderly parents, being victimised.

Tina is an ordinary citizen seeking to exercise her right of protest against an industry which, according to Government opinion polls, is more unpopular than ever because of the risks it poses to our health, to our local and global environment and to our communities.

Lancashire County Council supported local people’s objections and refused Cuadrilla’s application to test-drill, frack and flow-test shale gas wells at two sites. Following an appeal, the Government has decided to overturn one refusal and probably both.

You may have won a legal argument, but, as far as we the undersigned and the people of Lancashire are concerned, you have not won a democratic or moral argument. You may have the permission of the Government to frack in Lancashire, but you do not have the permission of the people of Lancashire. Fracking is being imposed on Lancashire against its will.

You have described the fracking opportunities in the UK as ‘an absolute game-changer’. We agree: fracking could be a game changer – for the climate. According to Oil Change International, potential carbon emissions from oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields (without new fracking) and mines would take us beyond 2C of warming, let alone the 1.5C which the Paris climate agreement requires us to pursue efforts towards. If we cannot afford to burn the gas we currently have, what is the point of looking for more?

We urge you to drop Tina’s case, allow peaceful protest and halt the drilling – for all our futures.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Thompson    
Vivienne Westwood    
Josh Fox, Filmmaker
Raoul Martinez, Artist, writer, filmmaker
Francesca Martinez, Comedian
Anthony Tombling, Filmmaker
Suzanne Jeffery, Campaign against Climate Change
Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven, Greenpeace
Ellie Groves, Reclaim the Power
Danielle Paffard, 350.org
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Caroline Lucas, Green Party
Jonathan Bartley, Green Party
Natalie Bennett, Green Party
Manuel Cortes, TSSA
Chris Baugh, PCS
Matt Wrack, FBU
Tony Kearns, Communication Workers Union
Ian Hodson, Bakers, Food & Allied Workers union
Graham Petersen, Greener Jobs Alliance.

 


 

Action: Facebook event for the #IamTinaToo protest.

Twitter: #IAmTinaToo

Petition: Ecotricity has launched a petition urging the Government to reconsider where Britain will get its gas from in future: Green Gas or Fracking – Let the People choose.

Main source: campaigncc.org/iamtinatoo

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

 

French taxpayers face huge nuclear bill as EDF financial crisis deepens

The liabilities of Électricité de France (EDF) – the biggest electricity supplier in Europe, with 39 million customers – are increasing so fast that they will soon exceed its assets, according a report by an independent equity research company,

Bankruptcy for EDF seems inevitable – and if such a vast empire in any other line of business seemed to be in such serious financial trouble, there would be near-panic in the workforce and in governments at the subsequent political fall-out.

But it seems that the nuclear-dominated EDF group is considered too big to be allowed to fail. So, to keep the lights on in western Europe, the company will have to be bailed out by the taxpayers of France and the UK.

The French government, facing elections next spring, and the British, struggling with the implications of the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, are currently turning a blind eye to the report by AlphaValue that EDF has badly under-reported its potential liabilities.

Ageing nuclear reactors

While EDF is threatening to sue people who say it is technically bankrupt, the evidence is that the cost of producing electricity from its ageing nuclear reactors is greater than the market price.

Coupled with the impossibility of EDF paying the full decommissioning costs of its reactors, it is inevitable that it is the taxpayers in France and the UK who will eventually pick up the bill. However this will not be easy due to the EU’s ‘state aid’ rules, which limit governments’ ability to support ailing companies.

There is also the ongoing thorny problem of disposing of the nuclear waste and spent fuel rods, which are building up in cooling ponds and stores on both sides of the Channel, with no disposal route yet in sight.

A looming problem for EDF, which already admits is has €37 billion of debt, is that 17 of its ageing fleet of nuclear reactors, which provide 70% of France’s electricity, are being retired.

According to AlphaValue, EDF has underestimated the liabilities for decommissioning these reactors by €20 billion. Another €33.5 billion should be added to cost of handling nuclear waste, the report says. Juan Camilo Rodriguez, an equity analyst who is the author of the report, says that a correct adjustment of nuclear provisions would lead to the technical bankruptcy of the company.

In a statement, EDF said it “strongly contests the alleged accounting and financial analyses by the firm AlphaValue carried out at the request of Greenpeace and relating to the situation of EDF”.

It says that its accounts are audited and certified by its statutory auditors, and that the dismantling costs of EDF’s existing nuclear power fleet have also been subject to an audit mandated by the French Ministry of the Environment, Energy and the Sea.

Even with its huge debts, EDF’s problems could be surmounted if the company was making big profits on its electricity sales, but the cost of producing power from its nuclear fleet is frequently greater than the wholesale price.

That creates a second problem – that unless the wholesale price of electricity rises and stays high, the company will make a loss on every kilowatt of electricity it sells. The new rightwing French presidential candidate, François Fillon, promises not to retire French reactors and to keep them going for 60 years. But this cannot be done without more cost.

This is the third problem: vast sums of capital are needed to refurbish EDF’s old nuclear fleet for safety reasons following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

New nuclear stations

Even more money is required to finish new nuclear stations EDF is already committed to building. The first, Flamanville in northern France, is five years late and billions over budget. Questions over the quality of the steel in its reactor are still not resolved, and it may never be fully operational.

Add to that the need for €12 billion (or potentially considerably more) capital to complete the two nuclear stations EDF is committed to building at Hinkley Point in southwest England, and it is hard to see where all the money will come from.

To help the cash-strapped company, its ultimate owner, the French state, has already provided €3 billion in extra capital this year, and decided to forego its shareholder dividend. But that is a drop in the ocean.

Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based independent international consultant on energy and nuclear policy, says: “The French company overvalues its nuclear assets, and underestimates how much it will cost to decommission them.

“However, EDF’s biggest problem is the cost of producing power from these ageing power stations. The cost is greater than the wholesale price, so everything they sell is at a loss. It is impossible to see how they can ever make a profit.”

He says that is not the company’s only problem: France has not dealt with the problem of nuclear waste, and has badly underestimated the cost of doing so: “With German electricity prices going down and production increasing in order to export cheap electricity to France, it is impossible to see how EDF can ever compete. It is really staggering that no one is paying any attention to this.”

Even former EDF director Gérard Magnin agrees. He resigned from the board in July as he thought the Hinkley Point project too risky for the company because of its already stretched finances. Now he says that, with the reactors closed for safety checks, the French nuclear industry faces “its worst situation ever”.

The company’s troubles do not stop in France, as EDF also owns the UK nuclear industry. Ironically, it took over 15 reactors in the UK after British Energy went bankrupt in 2002 because the cost of producing the electricity was greater than the wholesale price – exactly the situation being repeated now in France.

Repeated life extensions

Since the sale of UK nuclear plants to EDF in 2008 at a cost £12.5 billion, the company has continued to operate them, and has repeatedly got life extensions to keep them running.

But this cannot go on forever, and they are expected to start closing in the next ten years. Once this happens, the asset value of each station would become a liability, and EDF’s mountain of debt would get bigger.

So far, the French and UK governments, and the company itself, seem to be in denial about this situation. Currently 17 French reactors are shut down for safety checks, following the discovery of faulty safety-critical compenents including large, difficult to replace steel forgings like steam generators.

The company has issued reassuring statements that they will be back to full power after Christmas, however in so doing EDF is assuming that the safety checks will give the reactors a clean bill of health. However there are three other potential outcomes:

  • additional potentially time-consuming tests are needed that will create further months of downtime.
  • remedial engineering works are required to make the reactors safe. These would probably be costly and time-consuming.
  • key components at the heart of the reactors, for example steam generators, need to be replaced altogether. However this would be so costly that, for a nuclear plant already reaching the end of its lifetime, premature closure would be the only viable option.

Perhaps the most likely outcome is that some of the 17 reactors will fall into each of these four categories, creating as yet unquantifiable additional, unbudgeted costs for the company.

Meanwhile, to make up the shortfall from the closed reactors, electricity is being bought from neighbouring countries, including the UK, to keep the lights on in France. The power shortage is temporarily causing an increase in wholesale prices – but one that EDF is unable to fully exploit because so many of its reactors are not generating.

The future remains unpredictable – but as long as there are no actual power cuts, no action is expected from governments. Despite official denials, however, the calculations of many outside the industry suggest that it is only a matter of time before disaster strikes.

The cost of producing electricity from renewables is still falling, while nuclear gets ever more expensive, and massive liabilities loom. Ultimately, the bill will have to be passed on to the taxpayers.

 


 

Paul Brown writes for Climate News Network, where this article was originally published.

This article includes some additional reporting by The Ecologist.

 

Cuadrilla – drop your £55,000 claim against Lancashire fracking ‘Nana’!

Tina Rothery, Lancashire Nana and anti-fracking campaigner, is being aggressively pursued for legal costs of over £55,000 and the likelihood of a possible two-week prison sentence.

Pursuing her for the ‘debt’ is the fracking company Cuadrilla, and its CEO Francis Egan who is being called upon by Tina’s many supporters to “drop the case as completely unjustified”.

Hundreds, including well-known figures such as Emma Thompson and Vivienne Westwood, are expected to gather outside Preston court tomorrow, Friday 9th December, when her case is heard, rallying under the banner #IamTinaToo.

Paul Ridge of Bindmans solicitors, representing Tina, said: “I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla. It is made all the more oppressive when they know that there is nothing to be gained.

An open letter (reproduced in full below) calls on Cuadrilla to drop the case, however Cuadrilla’s solicitors, Eversheds, have claimed in response that to withdraw their action would be a legal impossibility. Paul Ridge emphatically rejects that argument:

“The steps now being taken to seek payment have been started by your client and it would be possible for them to stop the action by confirming that they no longer seek costs from Ms Rothery and regard this matter as at an end …

“It is not correct to suggest that this is simply a matter for the court. I have no doubt that the court would not continue to seek information if your client confirmed that they regarded the matter as closed and the debt was no longer being sought from Ms Rothery.

“Plainly the court will not want to engage in pointless further examination of matters if the claimant is no longer seeking ancient legal costs and views the matter as concluded.”

£55,000 costs for an eviction that never took place

The dispute began at 5am on 7th August 2014 when a group of 26 people from Lancashire naming ourselves ‘The Nanas’, occupied a field on Preston New Road, near Blackpool, Lancashire. As Tina later wrote in The Ecologist:

“The police and landowner were informed on the day, that this would last for three weeks and we would vacate on 26th August. Later press releases, online blogs and social media posts made this leaving date public too.

No damage was done but a huge amount was achieved during those three weeks; with neighbours bringing ice and fresh bread daily, the local milkman dropping off when he could and so many conversations and information days that ‘Frack Free Lancashire’ signs multiplied throughout the area and neighbours became ‘community’.

On the day we left, we completed a fingertip-search of the field, filmed this and our departure and delivered a note to the land owner explaining we were gone and all was tidy. We informed the press and police as well. Cuadrilla (through the landowner) ‘evicted’ the clean, empty field on 27th August 2016. We found ourselves in court on the 28th.”

Tina Rothery then volunteered to be the ‘named defendant’ in the action and is now being pursued by Cuadrilla in person. She in turn has stated that she is completely unable to pay the sum claimed, and even if she could pay it, she would refuse on principle:

“I will not pay any amount. More than the simple fact of not being able to pay, this is about reaching my own line-in-the-sand point in this long struggle. I believe our law courts should be about seeing true justice, not as a weapon against opposition. Our law courts and legal system are a costly indulgence that eats time and money that activists just don’t have.”

Former conservative cabinet minister John Gummer, now Lord Deben has now joined the call for the case to be dropped, tweeting:

Why not green gas?

Green energy firm Ecotricity has also challenged Cuadrilla and the wider the shale gas industry today by submitting planning applications for rival ‘green gas’ mills on proposed fracking sites in Lancashire including the Preston New Road site where Tina’s occupation took place, and nearby Roseacre Wood.

In a new report released last month, Green Gas: The Opportunity for Britain, Ecotricity unveiled a national plan for Britain to get its gas through a new and sustainable method, using species-rich grass grown on farmland.

The report found that there is enough grassland to provide almost all of Britain’s household gas demand by 2035 – in the process creating a new industry supporting 150,000 jobs and pumping £7.5 billion into the economy every year.   

“Green gas will make big cuts to carbon emissions, create wildlife habitats on an unprecedented scale, support food production by improving soils, and provide support for farmers who are set to lose EU subsidies following Brexit”, the company claims.

Ecotricity recently won planning permission to build its first Green Gas Mill in Hampshire – one of six sites in development. The company says its latest applications at potential fracking sites in Lancashire “are part of a wider strategic campaign to prevent shale gas exploitation, highlight the lack of democracy in the planning process ­and illustrate there is an alternative way to make our gas.”

Letter text  in full: drop Tina’s case!

Dear Mr Egan,

We are writing to urge you to end Cuadrilla’s legal action against Tina Rothery, a peaceful anti-fracking campaigner facing over £55,000 legal costs and a possible two-week jail sentence following the supposed eviction of campaigners on 27th August 2014 from a site you hope to frack.

The bailiffs in fact ‘evicted’ an empty field. As Cuadrilla, the landowner and the public were made aware, the protesters were always going to leave on 26th August. They did this, having fully cleaned the site after their three-week stay and caused no damage.

In the light of this, the decision to incur large legal costs for eviction and to pursue one individual for these looks like a deliberate strategy to deter other protesters. Tina now faces a potential two-week jail sentence for refusing to comply with the Court Order, which she did because she considers Cuadrilla’s case against her to be unjust, bullying and an abuse of perfectly legitimate campaigners to deter protest.  The intention to vacate the site was communicated to Cuadrilla and so there was no need for the action you took.

Tina has shown extraordinary bravery. When this legal action was brought and a named defendant was needed, she volunteered to prevent one of her fellow Lancashire Nanas, perhaps someone caring for children or elderly parents, being victimised.

Tina is an ordinary citizen seeking to exercise her right of protest against an industry which, according to Government opinion polls, is more unpopular than ever because of the risks it poses to our health, to our local and global environment and to our communities.

Lancashire County Council supported local people’s objections and refused Cuadrilla’s application to test-drill, frack and flow-test shale gas wells at two sites. Following an appeal, the Government has decided to overturn one refusal and probably both.

You may have won a legal argument, but, as far as we the undersigned and the people of Lancashire are concerned, you have not won a democratic or moral argument. You may have the permission of the Government to frack in Lancashire, but you do not have the permission of the people of Lancashire. Fracking is being imposed on Lancashire against its will.

You have described the fracking opportunities in the UK as ‘an absolute game-changer’. We agree: fracking could be a game changer – for the climate. According to Oil Change International, potential carbon emissions from oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields (without new fracking) and mines would take us beyond 2C of warming, let alone the 1.5C which the Paris climate agreement requires us to pursue efforts towards. If we cannot afford to burn the gas we currently have, what is the point of looking for more?

We urge you to drop Tina’s case, allow peaceful protest and halt the drilling – for all our futures.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Thompson    
Vivienne Westwood    
Josh Fox, Filmmaker
Raoul Martinez, Artist, writer, filmmaker
Francesca Martinez, Comedian
Anthony Tombling, Filmmaker
Suzanne Jeffery, Campaign against Climate Change
Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven, Greenpeace
Ellie Groves, Reclaim the Power
Danielle Paffard, 350.org
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Caroline Lucas, Green Party
Jonathan Bartley, Green Party
Natalie Bennett, Green Party
Manuel Cortes, TSSA
Chris Baugh, PCS
Matt Wrack, FBU
Tony Kearns, Communication Workers Union
Ian Hodson, Bakers, Food & Allied Workers union
Graham Petersen, Greener Jobs Alliance.

 


 

Action: Facebook event for the #IamTinaToo protest.

Twitter: #IAmTinaToo

Petition: Ecotricity has launched a petition urging the Government to reconsider where Britain will get its gas from in future: Green Gas or Fracking – Let the People choose.

Main source: campaigncc.org/iamtinatoo

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

 

Vital EU wildlife laws saved! But will UK keep them after Brexit?

Following an 18 month Defend Nature campaign run by environmental NGOs across Europe the European Commission today decided to save the EU’s flagship environment legislation; the Birds and Habitats Directives.

The campaign to save the laws engaged a record 550,000 who responded to the public consultation giving the EU nature laws their unequivocal support.

Revered worldwide, and perceived to be the foundation of nature conservation across Europe, the Directives are scientifically proven to be effective – where properly implemented – delivering demonstrable benefits for nature as well as significant social and economic benefits.

“This is excellent news for the environment because the Directives – when properly implemented – provide a strong safeguard for Europe’s important wildlife and habitats”, said Kate Jennings of RSPB, Chair of Environment Links UK Habitats and Birds group.

“They are considered – worldwide – to be a leading example of environmental legislation, and the UK has relied upon these laws to protect some of our best loved and most iconic wildlife and landscapes for over 30 years.”

ClientEarth lawyer Alice Puritz said: “This is a huge win for wildlife. These laws work and should be celebrated. Now, we need to see strong implementation and enforcement, to make sure Europe’s nature gets the protection it needs to thrive.”

Commission: directives ‘remain relevant and fit for purpose’

The threat to the Directives arose from President Jean-Claude Juncker’s instruction in 2014 to “carry out an in-depth evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives and assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation”, as part of the ‘better regulation’ initiative, aimed at reducing regulation on business.

Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella, tasked along with First Vice-President Frans Timmermans to oversee the review, said: “Our European Commission ‘fitness check’ has recognised that the European Birds and Habitats Directives remain relevant and fit for purpose. They will not be ‘opened’.

The Juncker Commission continues to look to connect in meaningful ways with European citizens. Protecting and investing more in nature is essential as so many depend on it also economically – It  is literally a grassroots approach. Our focus will now be on making sure that they are implemented in the most effective and efficient way to realise their full potential for nature, people and the economy.”

However the Commission identified areas in which improvements were needed: “The challenges and problems identified primarily relate to the insufficient management and lack of adequate investment in the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, as well as to local deficiencies such as delays, unnecessary burdens for project permits and lack of adequate different assessments in regulating individual species.

“The evaluation identified the need to improve the implementation of the Directives and their coherence with broader socio-economic objectives, including other EU policy areas such as energy, agriculture and fisheries … the Commission will develop an Action Plan to correct the deficiencies encountered in the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives.”

The big mystery is why it took so long for the Commission to reach its welcome conclusion. In February 2016, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to oppose any revision of the Nature Directives.

Consultants appointed by the Commission later concluded that the laws were entirely “fit for purpose” and working well. A copy of the report was leaked in June 2016 as reported on The Ecologist.

Whither the UK after Brexit?

Over 100 UK NGOs came together in response, calling for the Directives to be saved and better implemented – not ‘modernised’.

They are now calling on the UK Government to retain all aspects of these EU laws after Brexit, and to improve how they are implemented so that UK wildlife habitats and species are protected effectively now and in the long term.

“We celebrate with our European partners because retaining the Habitats and Birds Directives is great news for nature across Europe”, said Dr Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link. “But we also call on the UK Government to retain all aspects of these vital laws in order to safeguard our wildlife and habitats.”

“As over 100,000 UK citizens responded to the public consultation, it is clear that people across the UK care a great deal about the environment and are prepared to fight for its future.”

The attitude of the UK government to the EU nature laws has been equivocal. In November 2015 Environment Ministers from Germany, France, Poland, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia and Luxembourg wrote a joint letter to Karmenu Vella, the EU Commissioner for the Environment.

In it they warned against tampering with Europe’s nature laws, and stated their willingness to better implement the laws. But the UK’s signature was missing. Theresa May’s right-wing post-Brexit government may now take an even more negative view of the nature laws than David Cameron’s more moderate government last year.

Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for the South East and a member of the European Parliament’s Environment committee, said: “These vital laws are driving positive conservation action in Britain. Protected wildlife sites were being lost at a rate of 15% a year before EU action; now that rate has fallen to just 1% a year.”
 
“Wildlife and environmental issues were sidelined during the referendum campaign, but we cannot allow leaving the EU to be an excuse to erode the vital safeguards Leave campaigners maligned as ‘red tape’.”

 
Molly Scott Cato, MEP for the South West and a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture committee, added:

“As the EU seeks to strengthen its nature laws we need UK Ministers to commit to maintaining these vital protections in a post-Brexit Britain. These are worrying times for the environment in the UK. We already see hard-line Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg calling for environmental and safety regulations to be slashed once the UK leaves the EU.”

 


 

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

 

Responding to populism: we need more politics in energy, not less!

It’s a pall that hangs over almost every meeting in every sector of society at the moment: the rise of the populist right.

And it was certainly hanging in the air at the University of Exeter Energy Policy Group conference in London this week.

A Danish researcher noted that even though her nation was being held out as a model of energy transition, even its advances were very vulnerable to political change, with a push to liberalise infrastructure, the state seeking to make money from its assets, rather than secure their future.

But it was great to see that rather than retreating into technocratic calculations about how things ‘should’ be, the issue of how politically to get to a secure, safe, sensible energy policy was front and centre at the conference session at which I spoke.

One speaker from the floor summed it up very well: “we need more politics in energy policy, not less.”

Amy Mount from the Green Alliance suggested that the answer to ‘post-truth’ politics was more transparency.

A massive failure to communicate the good news

There was an acknowledgement that while Britain was leading the world in 2008 with the Climate Change Act, there hadn’t been the leadership to explain it to the British people.

The need to take action hasn’t been properly explained, nor have the benefits of new policies in energy, transport and other sectors of the economy that would not only cut carbon emissions but also improve people’s lives.

The exciting possibilities of an energy-generating democracy haven’t been highlighted – with community-owned energy offering voters control over the type and placement of locally owned renewables whose profits fund community facilities and projects while local investors receive returns that go back into the local economy.

The surety of a warm, comfortable, affordable-to-heat home for everyone that could come from investing in housing as part of our national infrastructure hasn’t been made clear.

The change that could come from this decentralisation – reducing the lobbying power and vested interests of the Big Six energy companies, who are making massive profits from the failed privatised system – hasn’t been set out.

And of course that’s not accidental. As another floor speaker said, “when new popular ideas [like community-owned energy] start to bubble up and threaten the existing system, they get squashed.”

The vested interests only have to look to Germany, where the monoliths are tottering, to see the risks to them, even while the rest of the world sees the benefits of the Energiewende.

But there is a great story to be told here, a story that should be strong enough to overcome the obstacles. And there is progress.

Is China’s government more responsive to democratic pressure that the UK’s?

It’s only now that the urgency of tackling air pollution – and ending the tens of thousands of premature deaths it causes – is leading to a broader understanding of the need to shift away from private cars to public transport, with the added benefits in reducing congestion, improving productivity and linking up communities.

Globally, that’s a powerful driver of action that cuts the pollution and greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. Particularly in China – which is handy really, to see democratic pressure having an impact in a country that doesn’t make any claim to being a democracy.

For of course, in the discussion we soon ran up against the broader problems of our politics in Britain – the failures of what can barely be called a democracy, in which 24% of eligible voters chose a government that has 100% of power, in which there’s no structural answer to the illegitimacy of a government elected on a manifesto that no longer has any relevance, since it assumed continued membership of the European Union.

That was one reason why the proposition I put – that to get a people-centred energy policy, as with so many other desirable outcomes – we need electoral reform, a fair voting system that allows community to take back control.

Of course it will take more than that: our discussion focused on the need for decentralised control over energy systems – city regions, bioregions, whatever term is used what’s needed are decisions suitable to local conditions, not delivered from far-away Westminster.

The changes needed are large: the transformation of our energy system from fossil fuels to low carbon within a generation is only a subset of the broader changes we need to make to our economies and society.

But that’s a message of hope, not despair …

Trashing the planet, as we have increasingly done in the past few decades, hasn’t delivered a secure, stable, productive economy and society. Nor has it given voters the security and freedom from fear that they increasingly crave.

I suggested, tongue in cheek, to the collection of suited academics in front of me that they might like to pick up placards and march down Whitehall. They weren’t quite up for that, but they are understanding that they can’t regard politics as someone else’s business. That they have to engage, get involved, argue their corner.

They’re finding, as so many others are, that if you don’t make politics something you do, then it’s something that gets done to you – by the vested interests and the 1%. We can’t keep electing the wrong people and hope they’ll do the right thing, with energy or anything else. It’s time for us all to get political! 

 


 

Natalie Bennett is a journalist and policy analyst specialising in energy, climate and other environmental topics. She is also the former leader of the Green Party of England & Wales.