The secretive chemical company Ineos has been leading the charge to bring the environmentally destructive method of drilling known as fracking to the United Kingdom (UK) and mainland Europe. The company’s goal is to produce cheap gas for its own plastics and petrochemical production. But the company is running into massive public opposition.
The first blow for Ineos came last year, when the Scottish Government voted for an indefinite moratorium on fracking – a proper, democratically supported move that has nonetheless prompted Ineos to launch a legal challenge. There is widespread opposition to Ineos’ fracking scheme throughout Scotland and England, and even Tory MPs have pointed out that shale gas would bring wholesale industrialization and change the countryside for decades.
The opposition is growing in the specific communities targeted for drilling in England. In October 2017, the Rotherham Borough Council voted to ban fracking and seismic testing on council-owned land. Then on January 25 of this year, the Rotherham Borough Council voted unanimously to oppose Ineos’ shale gas exploration plans at Harthill.
This decision will also impact Ineos’ application to drill an exploratory well at Woodsetts in the same licensed area. And Ineos isn’t the only company whose fracking dreams are under threat; at another site in North England, Cheshire councillors vote on the same day against the shale plans of a company named IGas. Ineos has a 50% share in the license.
Ineos is now obviously very afraid. Their arguments did not convince local communities, so now the company is looking to bypass local decisions on its fracking proposals by appealing to the Government's Planning Inspectorate for a decision on its proposed test wells at Harthill and Bramleymoor Lane. This didn’t please the local leaders; Rotherham Borough Councillors expressed disappointment at “the contempt shown by Ineos for local democracy,” calling the company’s decision to appeal “shameful.”
They are right about that, but it is not surprising that Ineos would seek to suppress local decision-making, since the company is actively seeking to suppress all democratic opposition to its projects. Ineos recently went to court to obtain an injunction against “persons unknown” for peaceful displays of protest by concerned community members. On top of that, Ineos wants to force its fracking way into National Trust’s Clumber Park, while at the same time the company has been exposed for apparently misleading the public over its plan to frack in Sherwood Forest.
Ineos is losing its battle to frack the UK, and we want to keep it that way. Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe have filed an objection against Ineos’s attempt to get around local opposition by appealing to the Planning Inspectorate. We urge them to uphold the local decisions, immediately reject Ineos’s applications, and protect the communities affected by the harms that fracking will inevitably bring.
As Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe, put it: “It is the duty of all communities and councils affected to oppose the plans of Ineos and to fight together against the destruction of their environment and the exacerbation of climate change.”
For quite a while, it seemed as if nothing and no one could stop this international petrochemical giant from transforming itself into a dominant UK fossil fuel firm, with oil and gas extraction, storage, processing and pipelines. But the fight is on, and Ineos is facing determined resistance.