Ineos Obtains Injunction Against Fracking Protest
In advance of beginning to explore for shale gas in the UK, Ineos has won an injunction from the country’s High Court against “unlawful protests” at future drilling sites.
The order, which puts protestors in contempt of court if they obstruct operations, will increase the powers of police and the judicial system to detain and prosecute those regarded to be breaking the law. It is being called the most wide-ranging injunction ever issued for the benefit of the shale industry and the first ever issued pre-emptively. The Swiss-based group is only at the preparation stage to conduct preliminary seismic tests.
Anti-fracking activists have vowed to challenge the injunction, accusing Ineos and the court of undermining civil rights.
In obtaining the court order, Ineos is said to have submitted 17 ringbinders of documents detailing the threat posed by unlawful protest, including threats it received directly in abusive emails and social media messages. It said people who work for it and its suppliers have been intimidated.
The chemical group has a duty “to do all we can to ensure the safety of everyone on and around our sites, including the protesters,” said Tom Pickering, operations director of Ineos Shale. He said the injunction would “protect our sites, our people, our suppliers and the public from the militant activists who try to game the system and cause maximum disruption.”
Pickering stressed that Ineos does not intend to interfere with the right to peaceful protest and that it is still committed to engaging with local communities to address concerns about the environmental impact of fracking.
Ineos is the biggest owner of shale licenses in the UK, covering wide swaths of land across the northwest of England, Yorkshire and the Midlands as well as in Scotland’s central belt. Unlike Cuadrilla and Third Energy, however, it does not yet have permission to drill.
The group said it has been negatively impressed by intensifying protests at a site near Blackpool, Lancashire, where Cuadrilla is preparing to start drilling. Local reports cite disruption including “criminal damage” to equipment and sit-down protests to stop traffic at the Cuadrilla site or Third Energy sites.
According to the UK business newspaper Financial Times, there have been more than 180 arrests at the Cuadrilla site since January of this year, and policing costs are running at about £500,000 per month.
In the latest opinion survey on fracking conducted by the UK government, about half of those questioned (48%) neither supported nor opposed it, with a further 3% saying they did not know whether they supported or opposed it. Among those who did offer an opinion, more people were opposed (33%) to fracking than supported it (16%). Support for unconventional gas extraction has waned over the past year, the survey showed.