The UK Bans Fracking Nationwide: It Can Be Done

The UK banned fracking nationwide and it looks like it may be permanent–a lesson to NM and the Nation. Where there is a will (and some semblance of sanity), there is a way. Another short, focused post, a trend to be repeated.


Trinity Test

Thursday, Nov. 7 – 5:30 – 8:00 PM. The Little Theater, Center for Fine Arts Northern New Mexico College – Espanola Registration at 5:30 Space is limited. The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC) is bringing Dr. Joseph J. Shonka to New Mexico to present his recent lecture “The First Dirty Bomb, Trinity”

Dr. Shonka worked extensively on the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment (LAHDRA) study and is an expert on the Trinity test of July 16, 1945. LAHDRA was a ten-year study conducted on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chapter 10 of the study focuses on the Trinity test. Click here to read the study. It is worth clicking the study and scrolling endlessly to Chapter 10. The criteria for site selection (10-2) will tell you all you need to know about US priorities and how, for the sake of convenience the Los Alamos researchers, the US was willing to sacrifice the health of countless indigenous people. 

The UK Bans Fracking: Here’s Why & What It Could Mean for New Mexico

Fracking Sunsets in England

Yesterday, I was heartened to read The Guardian’s report, Fracking Halted in England in a Major U-Turn. It described how the UK–with the swipe of a pen–banned fracking nationwide. Certainly, regulatory systems function differently in England than in the US, especially under the Trump administration, but this stunning success in England demonstrates the critical need to study any and all possible points of leverage for keeping it in the ground as soon as possible. From The Guardian:

Following the release of a damning study that concluded it could not predict the strength of earthquakes caused by fracking, the government said it would not agree to any future fracking ‘until compelling new evidence is provided’ that proves fracking could be safe. With this decision, The UK’s only active fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire was brought to an immediate halt this summer after fracking triggered multiple earth tremors that breached the government’s earthquake limits.”

The Guardian, Fracking Halted in the UK Makes a Major U-Turn

What struck me was that England began experiencing a few earthquakes and received one report identifying the risk of earthquake from fracking and the inability of the industry to predict the strength of future earthquakes and they instantly acted to protect those living near the fracking operations. What’s more, the Guardian report indicates that England sent a clear message that not only was this site shut down and immediately, but that no future sites would be considered until independent studies could better clarify the risks.

Contrast this action with the US approach to spent fuel rods, methane release, fracking-generated earthquakes, toxic fracking liquid–AKA “produced water,” the term preferred by the gas and oil industry, and other environmental impacts resulting from fracking operations.

The US is far more willing to trust that a solution will be found in the future or that a negative impact is worth the “gains” or profit possible by allowing risky corporate activity. All you need to do is look to the Downwinders above to see the tragic consequences of our willingness to create and endure “sacrifice zones,” to accommodate corporate actions.

It is worth considering that England’s Prime Minister in most ways is England’s version of Donald Trump. Boris Johnson is a fierce advocate for gas and oil extraction. And yet, the fracking ban was possible in England.

The moratorium marks a major U-turn for the Conservative party and the prime minister Boris Johnson, who once referred to fracking as ‘glorious news for humanity’ and urged the UK to ‘leave no stone unturned, or unfracked’ in pursuit of shale gas.”

The Guardian, Fracking Halted in the UK Makes a Major U-Turn

In New Mexico activists are pressing state leadership to find ways to respond to the urgent need to keep it in the ground. For now the focus of the advocacy is to press the Governor to declare a climate emergency, to put funding in the budget for a study of how NM could make a just economic and energy transition away from fossil fuel and to a sustainable renewable future and to do so as quickly as possible. While we will also be pressing the Governor to put Community Solar on the call, Community Solar will do nothing to limit the state’s production of gas and oil.

At the same time that activists are pressing legislative strategies, we are studying the legal ways that the nation and the state can use the regulatory system to ban or vastly restrict fracking in the US. Certainly, regulatory success is unlikely until Trump (or Pence) is ousted in 2021. But once that transpires, it will be important to have a ready set of recommendations for using executive privilege and the regulatory process to ban new leases and to regulate the industry in such a way as to make current fracking operations economically or operationally impractical.

Yesterday, Roxanne and I met with a group of activists and staff from environmental advocacy groups with the focus being how to challenge the hegemonic domination of the levers of power–election, legislative, regulatory–held by the gas and oil industry. In some ways, it was an initial foray into the issues posed in the series of posts over the past two weeks on What Next?

One of those in the meeting, Rebecca Sobel from Wild Earth Guardians, will be on Retake Our Democracy’s radio show on KSFR on Saturday morning at 8:30am, so plan to listen in as we will begin to share some of what was discussed on Wednesday. Click here to review The Guardian’s, Fracking Halted in the UK Makes a Major U-Turn. Click here to read the LANL Trinity Project study For the Trinity study, you will want to scroll endlessly to Chapter 10.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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2 replies

  1. I mailed the article about the U.K. banning fracking (from the Sunday NY Times) to our governor. She could lead the way but I am having my doubts that she would…she has been alauding the oil profits lately.

  2. Two factors were more telling for the UK’s ban on fracking than earth tremors and a report on the dangers of fracking.
    First, as you report, they had a SINGLE ACTIVE site. (How I envy them that.) More to the point, another report came out from a watchdog for government spending that pointed out the £32M the government had put into fracking plans for zero payback. One week after this report came out, fracking is finished.
    So all we have to figure out here is how to make fracking a drain on our economy first. Then we ban it. Easy peasy.

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