REACTION TO CUADRILLA’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF FRACKING KIT TO LEAVE LANCASHIRE SITE

Gina Dowding, Green MEP for the North West said:

“After completing just a few fracks back in August, and provoking another run of earthquakes, Cuadrilla have announced they will now be flow-testing whatever gas they may have found.

“Cuadrilla seem to be compulsively over-optimistic about their predicament.

“They have been over-optimistic since the very beginning of their operations. However, the fears and concerns of local campaigners have been justified every time they fracked.

“As they were able to frack just seven stages out of the planned 47 in the second well, it seems very unlikely that a commercially viable gas flow has been stimulated at Preston New Road.

“After the 2.9ML fracking earthquake that thousands of people felt across the Fylde and beyond, with many reports of property damage, there is no reason to believe that any future operations by Cuadrilla will achieve any other result. Their 100% failure record remains unblemished.”

 

Journeys, Speeches & the Wrong Clothes

As you read this I’m packing (more on that sort of thing further down) and getting ready to join a cross-party delegation visit to Israel and Palestine. I’m particularly keen to explore the potential role of the European Union and its institutions, in helping to find a way forward for Palestinians and the Israeli people. I’ll write more about this when I return. Also very much on my mind this week, has been the awful news from near Blackpool, where Cuadrilla have triggered more fracking-induced seismic events, including a 1.6ML that some residents felt. The worry and stress that the community has gone through since the first shale gas operation and earthquakes there in 2011, is just awful and seems never-ending.

Israel & Palestine

Ahead of my trip, I’ve written to various groups and individuals that I thought might find the feedback from the trip of interest.  I’m delighted to have received responses from bishops in the region. You can read more about the delegation visit here and I will be posting fully about my visit upon my return.

Peterloo

Thank you so much to Geraldine Coggins, Trafford Green Lead Councillor for speaking my words to the rally. I wish I could have been there

My speech:

I am really sorry that I cannot be with you in person on this important anniversary, commemorating the horrific and senseless slaughter of men, women and children, protesting peacefully for their right to vote 200 years ago. The day of the Peterloo Massacre was a key event at the beginning of a slow victory for the reform of our voting system.

But today’s celebrations must highlight that the fight is not over and we have a long way to go, and indeed we have to fight right now to keep the democracy we have won so far.

It is no coincidence that those who seek to undermine democracy and human rights protections are so often also of the self same group that is promoting climate change denial and who seek to prevent action to deal with the climate crisis.

Today we have to fight for two major reforms.

One is to change our first past the post voting system to proportional representation.

The first past the post electoral system has disenfranchised a huge section of the electorate. The British adversarial political system is incapable to find solutions to the most important issues we are facing as a nation: the climate crisis; the inequality born out of austerity politics and the sense of disempowerment that lead people to vote for Brexit three years ago.

Proportional representation allows for respectful cross-party working to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies, and listen to available solutions, like the Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal demands a wholesale transformation of our systems of production, consumption, and social relations – rewiring our systems ensuring: recycling, reuse, repair and care are central. This means a circular economy that empowers citizens and their communities, raises the standard of living, guarantees decent jobs and recognises that housework, childcare and care for the elderly are recognised and rewarded, but also that activities which contribute to the regeneration of our natural systems play a central role in our economy.

I was delighted to be voted into the European Parliament as the first Green North West MEP – which of course uses a form of Proportional representation. The UK is about the only country in Europe -indeed among any democracies that uses first-past-the-post in its general elections.

Across Europe and in the European Union those recent European elections are now referred to as the climate elections, when voters demanded that politicians put the climate crisis at the forefront of their minds.

It is now crystal clear since the referendum that we urgently need new reforms to control the use of personalised information on the web for all future elections. We must now urgently review rules about elections campaigning to address fairness and accuracy of information, to close electoral law loopholes created by our dependence on the web. We cannot allow rich individuals, organisations or other states to exploit people’s fears, personal data, interfere in our elections through data mining and spread lies without any transparency and controls.

But there are reasons to be optimistic. Those people boldly involved in Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Climate Strikers are now part of the vanguard of a new peaceful democratic movement and they need to be listened to! Citizens are taking to the streets here in the UK and across the world in a sign that patience is running out with outdated systems that are not geared to meet the needs of our people and the demands we have for change.

You are all here because you care about the future. I am with you in spirit today and all the way on our continuing fight for real democracy.

The Wrong Clothes

One of the wonderful perks for MEPs – if I could only find the time to avail myself of it –  is that we are encouraged, in as much a budget is available for lessons or packages, to learn new or refresh other languages. I haven’t actually opened the email with what’s available yet!

My trips to Brussels have allowed me to practice my s’il vous plaits and remember a few unexpected words plus learn ones I never knew: gaspiller = waste!

I was once almost fluent, although I didn’t do more than ‘O’ Level French at school.

While my mum was a school secretary in a primary school in Clapham, south London, she became friendly with a new mother from France, who had a friend near Orleans with a daughter looking for a pen-friend. It was arranged that I should have my first visit to Sabine in her very rural tiny village and off I went after only four or five practice letters.

A big question – as it would be for most 14-year-old girls at the time – what to wear? My mum was a tailor and I was an only child. I had three older girl cousins whose hand-me-downs I loved because I thought they were all so cool. In short, I had loads and loads of clothes and in the absence of knowing what might be appropriate for life in a French village… I took 70% of my whole wardrobe for that first 10-day stay in an enormous grey suitcase that was almost too heavy to lift.

I was un peu embarraseé to say the least. I learned then that less is sometimes more; that the French really do have style, that girls in rural France were not obsessed with clothes! But Sabine and I developed a good friendship that lasted a number of years and I got to be almost fluent. It would be such a ‘domage’ not to improve again.

Meanwhile this week…

Good

Got some time away with family ahead of the next working-trip – although the ability to ‘relax’ and just let go of all the thoughts about what’s going on, is near impossible!

Bad

Fracking failure

I have campaigned to ban fracking alongside residents not just here in the North West, but across the country: it’s a dangerous practice and yet another fossil fuel we can’t afford to burn even if they do get the gas out. Reading the updates of seismic activity on the British Geological Society page specifically for seismic activity caused by human activity (!) was sickening – update after update as the events kept happening. Yes, they’re small, mostly not ‘felt’ events but back in 2011 and the first of the fracking-induced earthquakes, the tremor did indeed damage a well and there’s every reason to be concerned about a repeat event.

Last night’s 2.23ML earthquake (according to Cuadrilla, but the BGS state 2.21ML) has caused great worry and unease across Blackpool and the Fylde, with hundreds of reports that the quake was both felt and heard, with some people reporting property damage. Campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, have called for an “urgent reconsideration of a fracking moratorium” and I completely back this call. The fracking industry is neither wanted nor needed in Lancashire or anywhere.

Ban fracking

The Burning Amazon

In Brazil and its surrounds, the Amazon rainforest is burning. It is heavily ablaze and it is no natural disaster: it has been done on purpose.

Magid Magid MEP said:

“We are literally burning the lungs of our planet.”

And Molly Scott Cato said:

The stakes couldn’t be higher. The burning of the Amazon places the planet on red alert. This is a globally significant eco-system and carbon sink, vital in the fight against climate breakdown. If we lose it, our planet and civilization face meltdown.

“Bolsonaro is encouraging this torching of the forest to appease his agricultural paymasters so they can use the land for beef cattle and soya. He is guilty of ecocide and politicians across the globe must stand up to this environmental criminal.”

Where hope lies

Aside from the awful updates about seismic events and the condescending response to residents’ concerns by the industry, I could see where the power, wisdom and determination was coming from and that’s the incredible community who have protested at the site since January 2017: events planning, press releases, freedom of information requests and freshly-made charts and diagrams filled up social media timelines and the press. There is no stopping a community that’s fighting for the health and well-being of their families and until fracking is gone, the protests will continue.

Onwards

 

Speeches, Motions & Marching

From making my first speech in the European Parliament plenary on clean air on Wednesday, to trying to get a motion again through Lancashire County Council calling for maintaining the current seismic limits at the fracking site, and ending the week in London at the REMAIN rally…it’s been a roller-coaster of a week: from first-time-highs to deep disappointments and anger, to being re-energised by the power and determination of those fighting to remain part of Europe.

Starting in Strasbourg, I spoke in a plenary session on the need for action on clean air; it was as daunting as it sounds -the space is so huge- but good to do. In the North West, over 2000 deaths per year are attributable to air pollution. I stressed the need for a shift to a truly green travel system with support for sustainable urban mobility plans; investment in cycling infrastructure, walking-friendly streets and public transport.

“With attractive sustainable transport and polluting vehicles off our streets, we can improve quality of life and save the lives of citizens across all of Europe.”

I watched a lot of the other speeches too and am in awe of the breadth of interests and strength of commitment by all the Greens; especially fellow UK MEPs. People might have noticed empty seats on the film-clips, as you would in any Parliament where people come for their specific interests rather than all the debates.

A lot was shared and discussed this week about Ursula von der Leyen as she successfully sought election to the role of President of the EU Commission, but with a margin of 9 votes; the Greens voted against her. Molly Scott Cato MEP sums up best why we did:

“The prospect of the first woman president of the EU Commission is a reason to welcome the nomination of Ursula von der Leyen. We are also encouraged by her comments on Brexit, particularly her willingness to grant the UK a further extension and so prevent a disastrous crash out of the EU. However, we find ourselves unable to vote for her.

“The appointments process used to select her was a back-room deal cobbled together to appease the far right in countries of Central Europe where the rule of law is under threat and democratic standards at risk. And on a wide range of issues, from tax and trade to climate and protecting life in our countryside, there is clearly a gulf between her views and the Green agenda for change.

“Had she chosen to set some targets for radical change that millions of Green voters demand, we could see the EU transformed over the next 5 years. We would tackle inequality and poverty, defend people from corporate power, fix our broken tax system and properly address the climate emergency.”

I came back to continue the debate in Lancashire County Council about fracking; particularly Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool. I was left angered by the exchanges and the outcome. Drill or Drop reported:

“Conservative councillors in Lancashire have been accused of using a “wrecking amendment” for a second time to block support for their government’s policy on the rules on seismic activity induced by fracking.”

Conservatives councillors amended my motion, thus removing all reference to the traffic light system (that monitors seismic activity and forces a halt to fracking operations when seismicity goes above 0.5 on the local magnitude scale).

It’s very frustrating that local Tories are playing games with words: they have undermined an opportunity to strengthen the safety and protection for local people, and our calls for the fracking industry to be properly regulated when it comes to seismic limits.

The vote was 42 in favour of Conservative amendment, 34 against & one abstention.

I was atop a soapbox on Saturday and amongst an inspiring crowd as we took to the (London) streets to join the ‘March for Change’ alongside the ‘Another Europe is Possible’ contingent. I used the opportunity to call for people to visit the shale gas site near Blackpool and lend support to the residents who have been protesting there since 5th January 2017. I ended with:

I’ve got a message for the Tory no-dealers and fat cat fossil fuel industry:

This is our world

This is our Europe

This is our home

We will not be divided

We will work together

And together we will win climate and social justice

 

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

I went to the Electricity North West – Stakeholder Engagement Workshop and it proved very informative. Electricity North West (ENW) is the electricity distribution network operator for most of the North West. It owns and operates the network infrastructure (overhead lines, underground cables, substations etc) that transports electricity from the national grid to homes and businesses, and vice versa when energy is produced by domestic solar panels. And they’re vital to the low carbon transition. Unlike energy suppliers, network operators have an incentive to encourage consumers to use less energy (if we use less electricity, fewer infrastructure upgrades are needed!) and ENW plans to spend £63.5 million over the next four years to help businesses, customers and colleagues to decarbonise – check here for further information. It was good to hear their focus on protecting vulnerable customers from fuel poverty, which is a very real issue in the North West. In some wards, more than one in three households are in fuel poverty.

Bad:

Worrying news throughout the week as tensions are escalating in international waters with oil tankers being seized. The word COBRA sends shivers down my spine; this is the government’s alternate war cabinet when things get really serious. Such a shame it doesn’t meet regularly to deal with the climate emergency rather than focusing on the delivery of oil being transported around the world. The situation is deeply concerning but not unexpected after the ramped-up rhetoric and aggressive sanctions against Iran by the White House and the Trump withdrawal from Iran peace deal that was always going to have consequences.

Where hope lies:

An uplifting visit on Friday to the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester and meeting with the Chair, Nasar Mahmood OBE and Chief Executive, Maqsood Ahmad OBE. The commitment and ambition of the staff and Trustees to providing open, welcoming facilities not only for the Muslim community, but for a whole range of diverse communities to work and learn together was inspiring. The venue itself is in a beautiful setting. There are two exhibition spaces: House of Wisdom, and Stories of Sacrifice, which is dedicated to the bravery and sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers who fought for Britain in World War One, provide such good information on the contribution Muslim communities have made to science, technology and culture. The conference space, which is being expanded, is open for all groups to hire, creating jobs and community cohesion. Gracious hosts, a warm welcome and a real highlight of the week.

Onwards 💚

 

Bicycles, Dolphins & Strasbourg

My holiday plan for this year originally involved a couple of weeks cycling in France but after the election it got trimmed to a few days in Morecambe Bay; every moment though was worth it. Away from cities and work, cycling the fabulous Cumbrian coastal way was bliss; catching sight of dolphins off the coast at Piel Island, the icing on the cake.

These simple pleasures remind me why I am in the Green Party: to protect and preserve nature and promote the lifestyles and modes of transport that enable a less toxic future. Cycling has been a pleasure I and my family have enjoyed for years and it is such a shame to see cycling and cyclists marginalised again this week in Manchester.

There was though a fantastic turnout at ‘The Great Ancoats Street Swindle ’ where protesters gathered to demand bike lanes on this key route. Manchester City Council recently announced a £9.1 million “green transformation” to Great Ancoats Street, which, they said: “will radically improve the way pedestrians, cyclists and motorists travel”. However, the scheme will take out the existing cycle lanes without replacing them. There is a petition that puts the case well:

https://www.change.org/p/manchester-city-council-install-bike-lanes-on-great-ancoats-street-manchester

Coming up this week is an important trip to Strasbourg.

Following last month’s elections, the new session of the European Parliament kicks off on Tuesday, with MEPs meeting in Strasbourg for its ninth term. For me, it’s another ‘first’ and I’m genuinely looking forward to discovering how the processes work and what we can achieve with them. I’ll keep you posted where possible!

The European Parliament’s new term starts on July 2, but negotiations over political groupings have been underway since the end of last month. Now though it’s time to put MEPs into key roles and all the EU’s top positions are being voted on. According to the information:

“One of the big things to keep an eye on is who will replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission. The new European Commission will take office in November. EU leaders will attempt to pick a candidate, taking account of last month’s results, before MEPs cast their vote. Given the Commission proposes and enforces EU law, manages policies, negotiates international agreements and allocates funding, this is a crucial role.”

With the shift in the balance of power that came with the elections, the Greens as one of the four main blocks have been in talks throughout the preceding weeks. With considerably more power than in previous Parliaments, we aim and hope to use this position to prioritise action on climate and biodiversity, social justice, employment, poverty and transparency. As the democratic process unfolds, I’ll be curious to see how it compares to the politics here in the UK.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

A good result for Blackpool after Garry Richardson of Blackpool & Fylde Green Party started a petition that eventuated in this:

“Councillors unanimously backed moves to ensure the authority does everything it can to tackle global warming including to make “clear its fundamental opposition to the practice of fracking.”

More here.

Bad:

Three anti-fracking campaigners from the Preston New Road Rolling Roadside Protest faced charges of Contempt of Court this week; accused of breaching an injunction at the site. The court found them guilty but has deferred sentencing until after a challenge to the injunction is heard.

The future will celebrate the protesters’ efforts and wonder what was driving government policy and Cuadrilla’s choices in this age of climate emergency. It will also surely learn the lesson that peaceful protest is a crucial safety valve in our societies, a way of the people pointing out to the government when they are getting decisions wrong and refusing to acknowledge their error.

Where hope lies:

There’s a fantastic interview out this week between two amazing young women, well worth your time. Here’s an excerpt followed by the link:

‘Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions.’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

“I went to Standing Rock, in the Dakotas, to fight against a fracking pipeline. It seemed impossible at the time. It was just normal people, showing up, just standing on the land to prevent this pipeline from going through. And it made me feel extremely powerful, even though we had nothing, materially – just the act of standing up to some of the most powerful corporations in the world. From there I learned that hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.”

Greta Thunberg:

Most of us know that this is going to affect us in our lifetimes – it’s not just something that might happen in the future. It’s already here and it’s going to get worse, and many of us understand that this is going to make our lives much worse. And also that as young people, we aren’t as used to the system. We don’t say, “It’s always been like this, we can’t change anything.” ..it always reminds me a lot of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone believes in this lie, that only a child dares to question.”

 

Onwards 💚

 

What part of ‘climate catastrophe’​ isn’t getting through?

For those who live here in the North West of England and certainly many beyond, we are very much aware of the issue of fracking. Extracting shale gas by unconventional techniques like fracking, introduces hazards, toxins, pollution and risk of harm to the environment, nature, wildlife and people of the community.

I have strongly and actively opposed this industry and took part in non-violent direct action during the ongoing protests at the Preston New Road Rolling Roadside Protest (between Preston and Blackpool) where fracking firm Cuadrilla has a site.

Yesterday it was made clear that despite the last attempts to frack being prematurely brought to an end after causing 57 seismic events, Cuadrilla has applied to carry out fracking again on a second well. The community opposing this is devastated. They’ve already been active in protest at this site daily since 4th January 2017 and had thought there was a chance it was over. Sadly not.

I will continue to work both here and in Europe to ensure we bring a halt to the extraction of all fossil fuels and hope you can get involved wherever you are in the fight to protect our precious environment.

Further details on the planning application can be found here.

 

Gina

 

RSS
Facebook
Facebook
Instagram