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Speech Climate.change Legal

I will edit and organise this page with useful information about fracking as I receive your feed back. Elizabeth (07543281999, elizabeth@ravenseyemedia.com, www.facebook.com/groups/ALLTHATGAS)

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SPEECH FROM KENT

I'm posting here a speech, written and delivered last night at a Dover District Council Scrutiny meeting by Pamela Mudge-Wood. Pam is a committee member of East Kent Against Fracking but she's also a villager of Shepherdswell, one of the areas that Coastal Oil & Gas Ltd had in their sights until last Thursday. Pam has worked tirelessly in her village and within her own village group, Keep Shepherdswell Well. She was born just across the border from Pennsylvania and thought she'd dodged a bullet called fracking until she found it was almost on her doorstep. Working alongside Pam here in our campaign, I think it's no wonder Coastal Oil & Gas Ltd withdrew last week. Here's Pam's most excellent speech. Julie x

Address to Dover District Council Scrutiny committee on the subject of Fracking, November 11, 2013

Introduction: My name is Pamela Mudge-Wood. I have lived in East Kent for 30 years; 25 years in Canterbury and 5 years in Shepherdswell. Originally from America, I am married to Kevin Mudge-Wood, the son of a Kent miner, raised in Snowdown; he is an Old Pharosian (ex Dover Grammar School) and has worked for 20 years as a production editor on Kent’s local newspapers. With a PGCE from Christ Church University, I have taught music and English in Kent schools since 1993.

I say all this to show that, contrary to the popular image of anti-fracking campaigners as rent-a-mob idealogues drifting from benefit offices to protest camps, neither I nor my fellow Keep Shepherdswell Well colleagues speaking tonight are ‘professional protesters’. We are hard-working, tax-paying residents of a village and district directly threatened by the government-backed encroachment of a polluting industrial practice upon and underneath our locality.

We are standing up alongside our neighbours to protect ourselves from the deteriorating effects on the landscape, local economy, public health, social cohesion and political integrity that fracking and related drilling practices have brought to many parts of the US over the past decade, including the area where I grew up, on the banks of the Delaware River in the Catskill Mountains; on the border between New York and Pennsylvania; above the Marcellus Shale.

I first encountered the gas industry on an extended visit to my parents in 2007, as I witnessed a gas pipeline cutting 100 foot-wide scars along hundreds of miles of the gently forested and rural landscape of the Catskill foothills. This was before I had ever heard of fracking, or coal bed methane extraction, or coal gasification, or any of the other extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction currently being sold to the UK public as the magic formula that has brought Americans cheaper gas bills, skilled jobs, and clean, safe energy.

Argument:

Having watched the development of the fracking boom in my home area from the safe distance across the Atlantic over the past 5 years, I have become thoroughly convinced that all of these unconventional extraction practices are to be opposed on principle, not just as a localised or NIMBY issue, for the following reasons:

· By perpetuating our dependence on fossil fuels through sinking more investment into sucking the earth dry, we starve sustainable energy alternatives of investment.

· They have the potential to cause air and water pollution with catastrophic consequences, and cannot be made entirely risk-free even if regulation and monitoring of industrial practices are of the highest standard. All cement casing deteriorate eventually.

· The US government has reduced standards of monitoring and regulation by excluding these practices from the jurisdiction of federal environmental protection legislation, (the Halliburton loophole) thus leaving the states and local authorities to take up the responsibility for regulating, monitoring and dealing with accidents; and

· The UK government is giving every indication that it intends to follow the same agenda:

o by cutting Environment Agency budgets further and faster than expected,

o by putting political pressure on local authorities to permit drilling applications,

o by pledging de-regulation, while at the same time promising that accidents that have happened abroad could never happen in our highly regulated industrial scenario; and

o by appointing gas industry moguls to cabinet posts, including Lord John Browne, former CEO of BP, who while in office has made extensive use of his power to appoint non-executive members of his choice to government departments concerned with regulating the oil and gas industry. (1)

We have heard much eyewash from central government and the gas companies about how utterly risk-free these drilling practices are. Only this Saturday, Business and Energy minister Michael Fallon was again assuring us in the Daily Telegraph (2) that the Water UK study into the dangers of fracking, as yet unpublished, will show that fracking is “largely safe” (but it’s the small, unsafe bit we’re concerned about!) and will show that there is “no risk” of contamination of water supplies. We must ask (a) how can he know what the report will say before it is published, and (b) how can we believe that anything can be as risk-free as they repeatedly claim, especially when (c) our government is working so hard to increase the risk through de-regulation; as Fallon boasts later in the article, “ministers have reduced the regulatory barriers to fracking, clearing the way for the industry to spread across the country.” This relentlessly positive slant on the risk-free benefits of fracking strains the credulity of the famously sceptical British public and so weakens the government’s Dash for Gas.

Apparent conflict of interest in the highest offices of state, rampant de-regulation, exemption from environmental protection legislation, dismissal of risk, denial of alleged harm, disparagement of dissent and legal gagging of dissenters; these are all hallmarks of the political climate which has allowed fracking to spread unrestricted across rural America over the past decade. This laissez-faire approach enabled fracking companies to go from a small handful of vertical test bores in Western Pennsylvania in 2007 to over 3,000 wells, about half of which are now horizontal fracking wells, spreading like a fungus across the once-rural landscape of Northwestern Pennsylvania. (3)

In response to the repeated industry claim that there is no documented evidence of fracking ever causing harm, may I direct you to the Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air’s “List of the Harmed”. (4) an online list of now approaching 1800 cases of harm to individuals’ health and homes caused by gas drilling, ranging from nosebleeds and cracks in walls to cancer and sudden death. Each entry includes direct online links to media reports, photos and films of the people concerned; I have included one such media report here (5). So how does the industry maintain this stance of blanket denial of harm? Proof of contamination is hidden from public view by the industry-wide practice of settling out of court and imposing non-disclosure agreements, once the harmed individuals have themselves paid for environmental testing to prove contamination. Big oil and gas companies have big pockets to pay for big lawyers, and individuals impoverished by legal fees, deteriorating health and plummeting property values eventually must give up the fight and agree to remain silent, or face further penury, often alongside public disparagement. (6) For further development and evidence of the political climate in which fracking has flourished in the US, please refer to Sourcewatch.Org (7) http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Fracking Also watch Gasland I and II http://gaslandmovie.co.uk/

Conclusion:

We are aware that there is a public order concern in East Kent around the anti-fracking movement, and my aim here has been to inform you of the political paradigm under which the fracking debate has developed and is developing. What is happening in East Kent has happened before in many other places in the US. EKAF and Keep Shepherdswell Well have not brought the threat of public protest to our area; no more than the residents of Balcombe started direct action on a whim, to follow some environmental bandwagon in August. By allowing Cuadrilla unchecked permission to drill in their village, over the heads and literally under the feet of the residents , Balcombe Parish Council and East Sussex County Council themselves brought the prospect of public protest to their doorstep. And without the concerted intervention on our own behalf of local residents of Shepherdswell and East Kent, Coastal Oil and Gas were undoubtedly hoping to push their borehole plans through unnoticed and unopposed as well.

We are grateful that the Parish Councils of the four villages most directly affected have voted over-whelmingly to reject the test bore applications, we are grateful that Dover District Council has undertaken the task of scrutinising the potential effects of fracking and related practices on our locality, and we are very glad that as a result of public opposition through the democratic process and material concerns raised by the Environment Agency about the safety of East Kent’s water supply, we have, for now, escaped the fate of Balcombe as well as those of Dimock, PA, Pavillion, WY and Dish TX. (see Gasland I and II) We should be wary though, of Michael Fallon’s warning/threat in The Telegraph this weekend: “Households right across the South should prepare for gas fracking to begin in their areas, a senior minister warns.” (2)

(1) ABOUT LORD BROWNE

(2) FRACKING IN THE TELEGRAPH

(3) ENERGY TODAY

(4) THE LIST OF HARMED

(5) COURT CASE

(6) Cycle of fracking denial, Earthworks, handout

(7) ABOUT CORRUPTION

(8) gaslandmovie.co.uk

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