Police boss slams UK energy firm’s ‘irresponsible’ eviction

Police boss slams UK energy firm’s ‘irresponsible’ eviction

A notorious scene from the US documentary Gasland about the environmental impact of fracking where a Colorado resident sets fire to his tap water. Source: YouTube

UK energy company IGas has been accused of irresponsible behaviour and risking serious injury by the police and crime commissioner for Cheshire in northern England.

John Dwyer’s condemnation comes after the heavy-handed eviction of protesters from IGas’s site at Upton last month. He said this turned out to be unnecessary as IGas had since announced it would abandon its plans for the compound.

“I am astonished that you have made such an announcement only some three weeks after a complex eviction process, which risked the safety of the public, protesters, bailiffs and police,” said Dwyer in a letter to IGas chief executive Stephen Bowler.

“I find it incredible that a company that describes itself as a responsible operator, with the highest standards of health, safety and environmental protection, would have allowed the bailiff’s action to proceed and risk serious injury to all involved whilst at the same time deciding not to proceed with its interests at the site,” he wrote. “It is unfortunate that your company has acted so irresponsibly and failed to understand local community concerns and risks.” Dwyer asked IGas to repay the £200,000 (€254,000) cost of the “wholly unnecessary operation” but a company spokeswoman said IGas was refusing to pay.

The company has 17 shale gas exploration sites in England covering 270,000 acres. Donna Hume, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “It really comes to something when the police want their money back – maybe the government should be more focused on listening to local people rather than squandering taxpayers’ money on preventing peaceful opposition.”

The IGas spokeswoman said: “The eviction involved the enforcement of a court order granted to deal with trespassers, who were on the land illegally. Police involvement in the eviction was a matter for the relevant local police authority and for them to assess the level of policing required to support the process.”

Dwyer is due to meet Cheshire chief constable Simon Byrne next week to discuss IGas’s refusal.

IGas had applied to explore the Upton site’s potential to generate gas from the coal there, a process called coal-bed methane (CBM) extraction. But the firm said seismic studies suggested the area was less promising than hoped for CBM. IGas added that but it had not ruled out future investigations of the shale-gas potential in the area.

IGas is looking at two main areas for shale gas development: northwest England and where the east Midlands meets south Yorkshire. It has applied to drill two wells at Misson in north Nottinghamshire in the English Midlands.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced last year that his government was going “all out” for shale gas, and ministers promised to “fast track” planning applications after Lancashire County Council, in northern England, rejected two fracking bids by another shale firm, Cuadrilla. Ministers’ letters have also revealed they are considering classifying shale gas wells as “nationally significant infrastructure projects”, which would take planning decisions away from the country’s municipal authorities.

Residents opposed to fracking in Lancashire have packed a second public inquiry to urge a planning inspector to throw out plans to search for shale gas in the northern county.

Dairy farmer Robert Sanderson from Kirkham said farmers were anxious to protect their livelihood, families and land. Sanderson said: “Surely there are enough green energy solutions out there without us having to go down this dirty road?” He said his business was subject to strict food regulations and fracking could seriously compromise this through environmental degradation.

Cuadrilla is appealing against Lancashire County Council’s decision to refuse its fracking application on two Lancashire sites. Cuadrilla claimed shale gas would give Lancashire an economic boom, create jobs and wealth. The inquiry is expected to last for up to another two weeks.

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