FRACKING opponents in Canada believe a landmark decision in Canada to extend a moratorium on controversial plans to extract shale gas offers hope to campaigners in North Yorkshire.
Their intervention comes after the provincial government in New Brunswick determined that applicants had not met five key criteria – including “clear and credible information” about the potential impact on public health and the safe disposal of waste water.
It comes as the Frack Free Ryedale campaign group consider its legal options after North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee gave their backing to proposals by Third Energy to begin a fracking operation at Kirby Misperton on the edge of the North York Moors.
More than 32,000 people have now signed an internet petition condemning the decision and challenging the Government to “develop a balanced long term energy policy that will achieve our globally agreed climate change targets”.
“We have supporters from all walks of life – local residents, farmers, doctors, scientists, concerned business people and major landowners,” said Ian Conlan of Frack Free Ryedale.
“They are from all political parties and all ages, many of whom have never been involved in a campaign before. Since the NYCC decision, our support has more than doubled. We are currently looking at ways in which we may be able to challenge the County Council’s decision and stop fracking ever getting off the ground.”
However Jim Emberger, spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, says residents should draw heart from Friday night’s surprising decision to extend the moratorium on fracking following a concerted campaign that began in 2010.
“As we consider that the industry will never be able to meet these conditions, the moratorium is essentially a ban,” he said. “This lends more credibility to our advice to all communities to stop the industry before it gets started – pull out all the plugs from the start. We are celebrating our victory as we join places like France, New York and Quebec, who have stopped this destructive and unnecessary industry.”
New Brunswick’s energy and mines minister, Donald Arseneault, made the announcement after a commission investigating the likely impact of fracking in the province on Canada’s eastern edge where the balance between economic and environmental considerations are comparable to the dilemmas facing North Yorkshire.
“We have been clear that we would not allow this activity to go forward unless our five conditions were met,” he said. “Creating jobs is our number one priority, but not at any cost. It is clear that our conditions cannot be satisfied in the foreseeable future.
“Additionally, the global market for natural gas has seen a precipitous drop in prices, which makes it further unlikely that industry will invest the necessary efforts to address the conditions in the short or medium term.”
He said fracking would not be considered by legislators until a number of safeguards had been met, including an independent regulator to monitor human health, and that “adequate resources must be assigned to properly plan for potential public infrastructure impacts”.
However Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom, writing in The Yorkshire Post on Saturday, sought to reassure Ryedale residents about fracking by stressing that safety would always be the top priority.