A piece of my mind – Julie Wassmer, TV writer, author and campaigner
FROM 7.30pm tonight (Wednesday) I will be taking part in my first public debate — speaking out against fracking. Canterbury Christ Church University has organised the event, which will be filmed and which has attracted some very prestigious fellow speakers. Also putting forward the case against tracking will be David Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at Glasgow University. David advises groups both in France and the UK, opposing shale gas or coal bed exploitation by tracking due to the unacceptable risk of contamination of drinking water aquifers.
The particular threat to water posed by the unconventional oil and gas industry forms one of the specific concerns about tracking in Kent, as raised by Kent’s campaign for the protection for rural England (CPRE Kent) and East Kent against Fracking (EKAF) — not least because the chalk aquifer supplies at least 70 per cent of our county’s water.
I am pleased that Green Party councillor, Ian Driver, who is prospective parliamentary candidate for Thanet South will also be speaking with me tonight. Ian was a fellow committee member when I was vice chair of EKAF and we campaigned together, along with many local people, to successfully fight applications for exploratory drilling in three villages in east Kent in 2013.
Those applications had been submitted by Coastal Oil & Gas Ltd, the CEO of which, Gerwyn Williams, will be a ‘pro’ speaker tonight, together with geologist Dr Nick Riley MBE and economist, Professor Paul Stevens, distinguished fellow at Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) in London.
For my own humble part, I continue to sit on the Environment Committee of CPRE Kent, chaired by the respected hydrogeologist, Graham Warren, and I have spent the last two years researching tracking, virtually full time, while liaising with, and supporting, numerous groups and initiatives all over the UK. One of those groups, Mothers Against Fracking, has in turn been supported at events by both Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party and Bianca Jagger founder of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation which recently commissioned a report entitled A Human Rights Assessment of Hydraulic Fractunng and other Unconventional Gas Development in the UK.
Some of the groups I am in regular contact with are based in the Fylde Lancashire, the only area in the whole of the UK to have experienced HVHF, (the hydraulic fracturing technique employed for shale extraction). In 2011, this caused seismic events that deformed part of Cuadrilla’s well and led to a suspension of tracking in the UK until very recently. A critic of the regulatory regime for the industry is Lancashire resident, Mike Hill, who will also be speaking. Engineer and Expert Adviser to the EU Commission on Shale Gas, Mike has been researching regulations into onshore exploration and development for several years and has written papers on shale gas — the last of which was published in The Lancet on the health implications of fracking.
Fracking is tremendously relevant to us all. Please do come along tonight and hear the arguments on both sides.
• Tickets are free at: shop.canterbury.ac.uk
Herne Bay Gazette, November 19th 2014