Fracking Stumbles Ahead onto Uncharted Paths

Rally against Fracking in Ohio, United States

Ministerial Optimism sees Fracking Stumble Ahead onto Uncharted Paths

In a letter regarding the controversial drilling process Sarah Boyack MSP says regarding the Scottish Government’s position “I am sure that you share my hope that the Minister’s optimism is well-placed” [1].

I do share Sarah’s hope, but optimism is a frivolous commodity when dealing with the regulation of heavy industry. Gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing, known as ‘fracking’, with its highly dubious record of negative health and environmental impacts, demands a more serious attitude.

Onshore gas extraction has hit set-backs in the in the UK in the last six months, with Vale of Glamorgan Council rejecting plans for exploration in September [2] and in October gas drilling company ‘Cuadrilla Resources’ published a report saying it was “highly probable” that their operations triggered earth tremors near Blackpool [3]. These events could spell further trouble ahead for the on-shore gas industry as increased public awareness of its impacts affects policy making.

However, reliable information on these impacts is desperately lacking. Anecdotal reports of cancer rates and neurological conditions increasing in areas of gas development in the US have caused considerable stir [4], but there are only a couple of governmental studies and their results are inconclusive [5]. A county in Colorado state investigated potential adverse health effects of a proposed 200-well operation and concluded that nearbye residents might experience chemical exposures, accidents resulting from industry operations, and psychological impacts such as depression, anxiety, and stress [6], but their study was never been finalised due to disputes with the gas companies and local residents [5]. Bernard Goldstein, a professor in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, says published epidemiological studies relating shale gas production to health are “virtually non-existent” [5].

US journal Environmental Health Perspectives reports vastly increased levels of methane in ground-water near fracking sites [6], but there information about the effect of dissolved methane on human health is limited.

It is claimed that toxic chemicals from the fracking process, as well as enormous amounts of salt, some radionuclides, heavy metals, and other contaminants are entering the water supply from ponds of waste water from the extraction process [5]. Although this impact is better understood, it is not well quantified.

This lack of data from the US is crucial because it is the only country with any active fracking operations.

Yet all of this might be brushed aside if there was a clear view on the impacts on energy policy.

Scottish Government Minister Furgus Ewing [1], the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency [8], and the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change [9] all believe that shale gas can help in the transition to a low-carbon economy. But their view is opposed by scientific groups including the Tynadall Centre. In a report for the Cooperative they concluded that gas from fracking will increase global greenhouse gas emissions [10].

For fracking to be permitted in Scotland, a company needs a drilling licence from the UK Government Department for Energy and Climate Change, planning permission is required from the local authority, and authorisation from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency [8]. So far these conditions have been met by only one operation in Scotland, in Canonbie, Dumfries and Galloway. However the operator, Greenpark Energy, says it has not yet decided whether it will use the technology [11]. Another firm, Dart Energy, is developing a site for extracting coal-bed methane on Airth, Falkirk. The fate of this site is unclear, with Furgus Ewing denying knowledge of the company’s intent stated in the Scotsman that they may apply for a licence to frack [11].

Fracking is on the cusp of going big on the British mainland without any reliable data on its likely health and environmental impacts.

It is not clear that this technology is a mistake but concerned citizens should ask for more than poorly-informed optimism from their decision makers.


  1. Letter from Sarah Boyack MSP enclosing note from Fergus Ewing MSP.
  2. BBC News
  4. Earth Works Action
  5. Environmental Health Perspectives
  6. Garfield County, Colorado
  7. Environmental Health Perspectives
  8. Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
  9. UK Parliament
  10. Tyndall Centre
  11. The Scotsman

This post was originally published on Bright Green.


Volunteers uncover £50 million from Oil, Arms and Big Pharma

People & Planet volunteers are starting to uncover the hidden connections between research and corporations at our Universities.

The laboratory is political - say Mitchell and Webb...

Freedom of information requests sent to 17 universities shed light on £50.7 million of funding from the UK’s five biggest oil, weapons, and pharmaceutical companies.

This includes research grants of £5.2 m from oil company BP and £2.7 m from weapons manufacturer BAE Systems. (Reclaim Research study, June 2010)

Interviews with PhD students and academics at Birmingham and Edinburgh tell a story about how this funding is influencing research. One participant said “funding bodies are increasingly looking for immediate, tangible benefits from research”, and another:

“We are being asked to justify the benefit to society [prioritising] more applied research […] which will tend to be more commercial.” (Reclaim Research study, June 2010)

The increased pressure on researchers to produce marketable research comes at a time when the Government is planning to make historic cuts to University funding. The Government is depending on corporations to fill the funding gap.

This research forms part of the Reclaim Research project which aims to uncover, challenge, and change the ways in which our Universities are working to create profit, instead of striving for truth.

People & Planet started the Reclaim Research project after students voted to “Reclaim Education” at the Forum in Cardiff, 2009.  It’s now entirely run by volunteers in the Reclaim Research Working Group.

What can you do?

  • Want to do stuff on research at your uni? Want help or have some ideas? Why not come along to the second Reclaim Research skype chat, 8pm on Sunday 21 November. You’ll need a cheapo microphone and to download Skype (for free) at Then just add ricjameslander to your contacts.
  • If you’re one of the Universities listed, Reclaim Research already has some info about research funding at your Uni. You can discuss this in your local groups by downloading it from here (files correspond with two letter codes in brackets below).  University of Wales, Aberystwyth (Ab); University of St. Andrews (An); University of Bath (Ba); University of Birmingham (Bh); University of Bristol (Br); Cardiff University (Cd); University of Cambridge (Cm); University of Derby (Db); University of Durham (Dh); University of Edinburgh (Ed); Lancaster University (La); University of Loughborough (Lb); University of Leeds (Ld); Oxford Brookes University (Ob); University of Oxford (Ox); University of Sheffield (Sh); University College London (Ul).

This post was originally published on People & Planet News.


Mass Action Disables UK’s 3rd Largest CO2 Emitter

People & Planet members peacefully encircled Ratcliffe-on-Sour coal-fired power station in Nottinghamshire last weekend in a public attempt to shut down the site. Many members of the protest, known as “the Great Climate Swoop” [1], successfully removed sections of fence and entered the station, the 3rd largest source of CO2 in the UK. Sources are unclear over whether the plant was running at normal capacity on Saturday (17th October), or whether it was running at “neutral”.

As well as attempting to shut down the plant, the protest held a “funeral” for UK coal, following E.on’s (who operate Ratcliffe-on-Sour) decision to shelve plans to expand Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in Kent and Dong Energy’s decision to pull out of the building of a new plant at Hunterston, citing a desire to invest in renewables. Coal is the most carbon-intensive form of electricity generation.

Mike Starkey from Edinburgh University People & Planet said: “E.on tell us that coal can be green – nothing could be further from the truth. Coal fired power stations are by far the dirtiest way to generate power and there is no proven technology to change that. We need to start building a low-carbon future now, and there is no place for coal in a green economy.”

Whilst disagreeing with their methods, UK Climate Change Minister Ed Miliband said “the aims of the peaceful campaigners were right” [2].

The group of nearly 1000 protesters included activists from the Camp for Climate Action, Plane Stupid, Climate Rush, and Panda.


  1. “The Great Climate Swoop” followed the summer Climate Camps in Blackheath, London, and Mainshill, South Lanarkshire, both of which included peaceful direct action and educational workshops (
  2. Ed Miliband quoted on ABC (
  3. Photos available online (

G20: Our Record of Events

18 March 2019. Some Indymedia content has started to dissapear from the web, so I have copied remaining sources into the body of the article.

This is a collection of stories about the G20 actions on the 1st and 2nd of April created by Panda members.  Giving them a proper read if you can, as they need to be read.


Text updates and calls were sent from loads of you guys across the city, and can be found at . They make a compelling and at times chilling read. Combined with other reportings they were written up as these articles by Panda#02:

April 1st 2009, 7.30pm: ‘Peaceful Oasis of City Camp Battered by Riot Police’

Originally posted on Indymedia UK.

Police move in to violently break up a peaceful and jolly Climate Camp street party. They plan to resist through the night.

A diverse group of anarchists, environmentalists, peace activists, and world leaders descended on the City of London today, all concerned about the global economic crisis and seeking positive solutions. Those with less direct involvement in the day’s official meetings held their own in the streets, waving colourful flags and banners and dressed in imaginative costumes.

Of all the day’s gathering’s the Climate Camp crowd, who flocked in their thousands to occupy the road of Bishopsgate outside the European Climate Exchange, held the most peaceful vigil. Whilst some at the Bank of England had disagreements with the police and the banks they stood in front of, Climate Camp in the City has been a truly positive space offering tea, food, and workshops among its array of pop-up tents. Throughout the day this Panda #02 has had reports of jolly exchanges with peaceful police and a generally super atmosphere. All in all, a wonderful carnival of a street party.

At 7.15pm, someone high up decided this had to stop, and police began to assemble in riot gear before attempting to seal off the camp site. Over 100 riot officers moved in to stop protesters leaving or entering the camp, and then attempted to sweep inside, pushing sitting campers back into a squash as resisters sung “this is not a riot.” One told me that they were hit repeatedly with a baton whilst holding their hands up. Nonetheless, campers continue to hold the space, and have announced they will stay their for 24 hours. Last in was that “cops have sealed off the area and are standing waiting with weapons.” Campers remain defiant. Watch this space.

April 1st 2009, 10pm: ‘Sitting Protestors Attacked Outside Camp Cordon’

Originally posted on Indymedia UK.

Riot police trample shocked protesters caught outside Climate Camp, Bishopsgate.

Activists from Panda (connected with People & Planet) were clearly shaken when describing police brutality outside the Climate Camp on Bishopsgate.

Guy from Leeds said “I tried to text but I’m shaking too much… they cut us off from the camp so we sat here peacefully at the North end. All of a sudden they moved on to us.” Hannah from Oxford told: “We were sitting on the ground as we had been for hours. Unprovoked and giving no warning they forced their way forward swiping at us with batons. I’ve been hit over round my mouth.”

In contrast with some scenes near the Bank of England, the camp had been serene throughout the day, until police moved in surrounding the camp in the evening. Since then, despite complete non-violence, the police have repeatedly attacked protesters. The camp has promised to stay in place for 24 hours.

April 2nd 2009, 1am: ‘Climate Camp in the City Ends, Broken by Police’

Originally posted on Indymedia UK.

“Street empty. They beat us out and squashed our tents. But oh what a world we created! Shame on the powers that be.”
– Climate Camp London

Climate Camp in the City has come to a end as police aggressively cleared protesters from Bishopsgate. Several hours earlier campers agreed to move to the North to shore up their defences, but after heavily provocative policing, people began to try and leave.

Many campers head home with light injuries after a long evening of intimidation and violence from the police. At several points they moved in to snatch individuals from the crowd and sent lines of officers into sitting campers, unprovoked. Rachel C. from Stirling said “the police acted aggressively, goading protesters, but we remained peaceful and the aim remains strong.” By 2am their aggressive tactics succeeded with most of the campers doing their best to escape the cordon. Soon after the camp was broken.

Campers claim a victory having held their ground peacefully for so long, serving food, drink, a variety of workshops to the campers, and above all, creating a positive space for change. We also pay homage to the inventor of the pop-up tent, for making today possible.


David Cullen “Why I have a black eye” (Facebook post)

Harry Giles “Masked gang incites violence at peaceful protest” (Facebook post)

Molly Uzzell “Violent gang of masked thugs incite riot at otherwise peaceful demonstration

Ruth Cape “Climate Camp in the City: View from the Inside” (People & Planet website – article offline)

Sad to say that the demos were largely overshadowed in the media by reports of appalling policing and the subsequent death of Ian Tomlinson. But the real story of the day was mass resistance to the onward march of the catastrophic failure of capitalism. Let’s not forget that. And congrats to everyone for being a part of it.


This post was originally published on PANDA News.