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Fracking: Decision day nears for Kirby Misperton

Opposition against fracking plans in Ryedale has been largely peaceful.
Opposition against fracking plans in Ryedale has been largely peaceful.

The government decision on whether fracking should go ahead at Kirby Misperton, near Pickering, is imminent.

Third Energy is awaiting approval to begin extracting gas at its KM8 well site at Kirby Misperton, as protesters outside the site continue their vociferous opposition.

The KM8 fracking well at Kirby Misperton.

The KM8 fracking well at Kirby Misperton.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves drilling vertically to a depth of upto 5km and then horizontally, blasting down a mixture of water, sand and chemicals to break open the shale rock and release natural gas.

Those against fracking claim it can lead to health, climate and environmental problems, and that the country should move away from fossil-fuel use.

The fracking companies say it is essential in providing the UK with gas for the next 50 years and alternatives such as solar and wind power are not yet viable to meet the demand.

North Yorkshire County Council gave Third Energy the go-ahead at its KM8 well at Kirby Misperton, near Pickering, in 2016. The final decision currently rests with Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Protestors have used tactics including 'lock-ins' to disrupt activity.

Protestors have used tactics including 'lock-ins' to disrupt activity.

The decision is due imminently, and would mean a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the first commercial fracking in the UK since 2011, when two earth tremors caused by drilling near Blackpool led to a one-year ban on the practice.

A BEIS department spokesperson said: “Shale gas has the potential to be a home-grown energy source which can lead to jobs and economic growth, contribute to our security of supply, and help us achieve our climate change objectives.

“We have been clear that shale development in the UK must be safe and environmentally sound and we have a strong regulatory system in place.” It is thought that Third Energy has satisfied the 13 Hydraulic Fracturing Consent conditions that must be met under the Infrastructure Act 2015, but Mr Clark will also take into consideration the prevailing public mood to fracking; figures show that support for drilling has declined over the past five years.

Fracking has been suspended in the UK by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved governments, and banned in countries such as France, Ireland and the Netherlands; although the industry has transformed energy provision in the US, where there are around one million wells.

The tiny village of Kirby Misperton – population around 370 – has been thrust into the forefront of the fracking debate for the past year as protestors have tried to delay and disrupt fracking preparation such as lorry movements, with each side constantly tracking and recording the activities of the other. Protesters have climbed on lorries and equipment – even up a drilling rig – as well as holding peaceful rallies and vigils. This week two people were arrested on suspicion of poisoning a guard dog, by throwing pellets into the compound.

The Kirby Misperton Protection Camp (KMPC) was formed after the High Court rejected a legal move to stop plans for fracking at the KM8 well to the south-west of the village.

KMPC says it is committed to peaceful, non-violent resistance and will remain until Third Energy withdraw its plans to carry out fracking.

Ryedale councillor Di Keal, from Frack Free United, said: “More and more people are waking up to the health risks of the fracking process and the potential damage to our economy it will bring. In rural North Yorkshire, currently at the forefront of the campaign against fracking, our agricultural and tourism industries face devastation if this industry takes hold and the countryside is littered with drilling rigs.”

Third Energy director Alan Linn said: “Over recent weeks, our employees and contractors have been subjected to a marked increase in intimidating and harassing behaviour from a minority of protestors.”