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A Magazine for Sheffield

Wake up and smell the methane

Sheffield is in the middle of a massive area licensed for fracking. Barnsley Council admits meeting secretly with Cuadrilla, the drilling firm which caused earthquakes while fracking in Lancashire, and they tried slipping into their Local Plan that applications to frack will 'generally be supported'. The UK’s largest gas explorer, IGas Energy, has applied to drill exploratory wells near Blyth and Misson, both 20-odd miles from Sheffield. North Yorkshire County Council has given permission to Barclays-owned Third Energy to frack near Flamingo Land. Thankfully, Friends of the Earth are challenging this one in court. In case you’re not aware, fracking means extracting shale gas by drilling horizontally over large areas underground, cracking rock by pumping in water and chemicals. Nuclear material may be used to measure seams. Some of these liquids are pumped out along with hydrocarbon gases. The rest just leaks, releasing greenhouse gases like methane. It’s old, nasty and polluting technology. Oh, and did I mention it can cause earthquakes? Fracked wells drain quickly, so there’s a constant need to drill for new reserves. In the US and Australia a rash of fracking has left land and communities blighted and uninsurable, with disease clusters, poisonous water supplies, air and dust. Films like Promised Land (starring Matt Damon), Gasland and Gasland 2 vividly highlight the dangers. I’d recommend Voices from the Gasfields. Little details stand out, like the Australians suffering health breakdowns, while workers on the rigs with the same problems are helicoptered out to distant hospitals, masking patterns of damaging effects. Fracking is banned in France, but here in Britain, the government is advocating its introduction. There’s very big business behind it. Theresa May is offering money to households to accept it in their backyards. Why? Because they know there’s massive opposition and the science is so scary that they have to hide the evidence. They’re currently accused of suppressing a fracking Climate Change Committee report. In 2014, a government report on fracking was so heavily censored it was comical. A stunning 63 redactions featured in its 13 pages, including all but two of the 18 conclusions. So what did they actually say? Firstly, that effects on rural communities could be like those near conventional gas and oil wells, quarries and mines (in other words, NIMBY hell). Secondly, the sweetener for fracked councils could be keeping their business rates income. Would that money ‘trickle down’ like acid rain onto the people affected? Don’t hold your breath - unless you’re near a fracking site. Wake up and smell the methane. Follow groups like Sheffield Against Fracking and Frack-Free South Yorkshire. Fracking corporations have been known to act before obtaining permission. That’s why campaigners are gearing up to tell them they have no social licence. We don’t need more toxins, we need sustainable energy - and they can frack off.

Current Affairs Discussion Course Thu 10:30am-12:30pm, from 22 Sep | Central United Reformed Church

A Workers’ Educational Association discussion course on various social, political, environmental and ethical issues, as agreed by the group, in 11 sessions running through to 8 December, with a half-term break on 27 October. Enrolment costs £73, or free with means-tested benefits or Working Tax Credit and income below £15,276. Book by emailing Link

Agitate, Organise, Resist: Justice Conference 2016 Sat 1 Oct | 10am-4pm | Central United Reform Church

A Sheffield gathering of speakers ranging across many current issues of injustice to the British working class. Helen Steel of the Police Spies Out of Lives Campaign, Eileen Turnbull of Shrewsbury 24, Roy Bentham of Blacklisting Campaign, and Barbara Jackson and John Dunn of Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign. Lunch and refreshments provided. Register by emailing Link )

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