Green Party MEP backs fracking film show

The scene that met Balcombe residents when they met for a tea party on a grass verge opposite the woods at Lower Stumble where Cuadrilla is starting drilling for oil.
The scene that met Balcombe residents when they met for a tea party on a grass verge opposite the woods at Lower Stumble where Cuadrilla is starting drilling for oil.

Audiences in Sussex are being targeted for a film which examines the effects of fracking for oil and gas on communities in Europe and America.

Organisers, led by Green Party MEP for the South East Keith Taylor, say the film, entitled ‘Drill Baby Drill’, will offer a glimpse of what could happen in Sussex if fracking is allowed.

At the same time, people have a few days left to comment to the Environment Agency on drilling company Cuadrilla’s bid for a mining waste permit for its site off the B2036 near Balcombe.

The permit is for it to manage wastes from an exploratory borehole it wants to drill to test for oil reserves. The company has assured authorities, including Balcombe Parish Council, that it is not proposing to frack (hydraulically fracture) yet, although it will stimulate the rock with a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid.

According to the Environment Agency, Cuadrilla also plans to apply for an environmental permit to manage waste water which may contain naturally-occurring radioactive materials (NORM). This second permit application will also be subject to public consultation.

People can comment on the first permit on the Environment Agency website, up until July 16, at http://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/permits/app/cuadrilla/balcombe.

Opponents running the No Fracking in Balcombe Society (NoFIBS) and Frack Free Sussex are also urging people to write to MPs and to comment on the Draft High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plan before July 26, and on South East Water’s consultation on its plans for the region’s water management.

Anti-frackers planned a three-hour session of what was described as “Peaceful Action Training” recently and intend to be at Balcombe Village Fete on Saturday.

The ‘Drill Baby Drill’ film by Lech Kowalski, will be shown at the Victory Hall in Balcombe on Monday at 7.45pm with free admission. Mr Taylor, Green Party MEP for the South East, will hold a discussion afterwards.

He said: “The government is hell-bent on carving up our countryside in this new dash for gas. This film illustrates some major concerns around fracking. It shows us that local communities have had their water contaminated and their air polluted. It also shows the ruthlessness of fracking companies who are willing to drill at any cost despite opposition from local communities.”

Proponents say fracking, which stimulates the subterranean rock using water, sand, chemicals and pressure, could release reserves of hydrocarbons to provide much needed, cheaper fuel and help make Britain less dependent on vulnerable imports.

Cuadrilla is consulting the Balcombe community about its plans and attempting to reassure people that its operations are safe without threat to ground water or the surface environment.

The Environment Agency said that if any permits were granted to Cuadrilla, the company would need to adhere strictly to the conditions to ensure that local communities and the environment were protected.

Chris Wick of the EA said: “It is our role to ensure that the environment will be safeguarded during exploration for oil. With this in mind we must ensure all relevant information is considered before we make a final decision.

“We are consulting on the permit application between 17 June and 16 July to ensure that we have fully considered all views before determining the application for a mining waste permit.”

More information on the plans is available on the EA website: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/.

People can email PSCpublicresponse@environment-agency.gov.uk or write to: P&SC – EP Team, Quadrant 2, 99 Parkway Avenue,

Sheffield S9 4WF.

Other Sussex screenings of Drill Baby Drill’ can be foud on the website at www.drillbabydrill.eu .