Shalford meeting raises awareness of shale gas

Nearly one hundred people from Shalford, Chilworth and Albury, and even some from much further afield, attended a meeting at Shalford Village Hall on 12 April to find out more about shale gas and its extraction by hydraulic fracturing.

The event was organised and hosted by Shalford resident Seorais Graham, who was alarmed by how little local people seemed to know about the subject aside from the official government rhetoric.

Seorais said, “The company IGas holds a licence for on shore oil and gas development in this ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’ therefore we can’t afford to ignore the potential risks that any fracking development may bring.”

Dr Damien Short, a senior lecturer in human rights at the University of London, who lives in Chilworth, co-hosted the proceedings. Damien runs The Extreme Energy Initiative, which monitors the human rights impacts of unconventional fossil fuels.

The Truth Behind The Dash for Gas

An edited version of the documentary The Truth Behind The Dash for Gas was shown. This film pulls no punches. It explores our own government’s close ties to the powerful oil and gas industry.[1] It also covers the serious and under-reported consequences of fracking: serious negative effects on health; damage to the environment – in particular water contamination – and major social disruption.

Graham Warren, an independent hydro-geologist from Kent, then gave a detailed presentation, supported by diagrams, about the local geology. He concluded that, “there would appear to be the makings of a case against shale gas extraction as posing a significant threat to the integrity of the local water resource“.The Weald is full of naturally occurring fault lines that could lead to the migration of fracking fluids to aquifers.

Supporting protesters

Kathryn McWhirter, a resident from the West Sussex village of Balcombe, followed with a sincere and moving account of how her life has been transformed since Cuadrilla set up a fracking rig only fifty metres from her house.

She has been forced to become an expert on the oil and gas industry, as well as planning laws, in order to fight for the survival of the village she loves. Her tireless campaigning has become a priority over all her other work.

But she is not alone in her efforts – a ‘wartime spirit’ has united many of the villagers against Cuadrilla; only a minority support its activities. And she has made many more friends since the arrival of the protesters, or ‘protectors’. She encouraged everyone at the meeting to be open-minded about them: academics, students and professionals, who lay down in front of the convoy of Cuadrilla’s HGVs.

Kathryn’s first hand experience and wide-reaching research has convinced her that fracking should be banned throughout Britain. The growing number of communities who are joining together to stand up against the government’s plans to implement shale gas extraction prove the Chinese proverb that she cited, ‘many fleas makes the dog jump’, may be coming true.

Better aware than in the dark

After the presentations, everyone present was invited to join the discussion.

John Brockwell, a councillor from Albury, explained how the parish council was holding monthly meetings with IGas about the Albury well site and its future plans. Seorais asked John about whether he could trust a company that falsely claimed on its website that there have been ‘more than one million wells drilled around the world and in no case has there been a single case of water pollution’.  John said it was at least good to be engaged with them – better to be aware of what is being planned in the local area than not, better to know about fracking and its potential consequences than to stay in the dark.

Thanks to the knowledgeable guest speakers and the content of the film,  people left the meeting not only with a better understanding of the threat of fracking but hopefully inspired to start organising ‘frackfree communities’.

Another meeting to move forward on organising these local groups – open to all – will be held at Chilworth Village Hall on Wednesday May 7th at 7:30pm.



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