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article imageSussex police defend Balcombe fracking arrests

By Mathew Wace Peck     Jul 28, 2013 in Environment
Balcombe - The superintendent overseeing the policing operation in West Sussex has defended the arrests of those trying to prevent an oil-exploitation company from exploratory drilling in Balcombe.
Sunday was the fourth day that local opponents to the unconventional method of oil and gas extraction had camped out at the site in Balcombe, where the company, Cuadrilla, intends to drill.
Previously, 16 people were arrested, under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 – Sec. 241. A further two arrests were made on Sunday.
Speaking to the Argus, Superintendent Steve Whitton explained: “I have officers at the site to ensure people can demonstrate peacefully and help facilitate the rights of those to go about their lawful business.”
However, despite a peaceful demonstration, only local community protectors have been arrested.
Specifically on the arrests, Whitton said, “Protestors are being asked to clear entrances to allow access to the site and where they have refused following repeated requests we have arrested them.”
Frack Off says, “Large numbers of police [are] being used to force through Cuadrilla’s fracking trucks against [the] will of [the] community.”
On Saturday, Digital Journal highlighted the residents’ attempts to protect their community from becoming one of the first places in the UK to have “fracking”* wells imposed on them.
In 2011, the Telegraph reported that Cuadrilla had admitted: “It is highly probable that the hydraulic fracturing of Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall-1 well did trigger a number of minor seismic events.” A tremor measuring 2.3 on the Richter scale was felt in Blackpool, Lancashire, followed by an event in May that year that measured 1.5 on the scale.
* Hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – is the controversial process that the industry uses, of creating fissures in subterranean rocks – often oil- and gas-rich shale – using huge quantities of water and toxic and corrosive chemicals at extremely high pressure – in order to extract it. This process has already led to the contamination of water and soil in Australia and North America and the outgassing of methane from the soil surface and water supplies.
Osborne’s shale-tax-cut bonanza
Last week, George Osborne, the British Chancellor, announced plans to slash tax bills of companies who wish to extract shale gas and shale oil from sites around the UK.
Osborne’s proposal is to cut the tax – from 62 per cent to 30 per cent – that these companies pay on the income they generate from producing shale gas.
The term “shale” is, in fact, a rather loose one, and covers any fine-grained (i.e. low permeability) sedimentary rock.
In the case of Balcome, it is a layer of organic-rich mudstone that Cuadrilla hopes to exploit. This mudstone – or Kimmeridge clay – runs the entire length of the Weald basin, down to Kimmeridge Bay (hence its name) in Dorset, where it becomes exposed.
According to Fracking Sussex, “Cuadrilla plan to drill and take samples of the rock in a vertical well drilled to approximately 3,000 feet […] targeting the shallower Kimmeridge clay [then] pull back and drill a 2,000-foot-long horizontal off the main wellbore at a depth of about 2,600 feet. The horizontal will target a layer of micrite (lime mud) within the Kimmeridge-clay formation.”
In May, the Mid Sussex Times reported that “Cuadrilla will stimulate the well by injecting hydrochloric acid – an ‘acid frack’.”
According to BBC reporter Juliette Parkin, Cuadrilla is hoping to begin drilling on Monday.
Meanwhile, one Balcombe resident, Georgia Lawe, told BBC Sussex that 90 per cent of villagers did not want the test drilling. And anyone wishing to lend their support to the community to halt drilling is being asked to just turn up each day.
More about Balcombe, Fracking, Cuadrillo, Hydraulic fracturing, Steve Whitton
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