Risk Society and Anti-Politics in the Fracking Debate
2. Literature Review
2.1. Background to the Advantages and Disadvantages of Fracking
2.2. Planning Regime for Fracking in England and Wales
- A Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) is issued by the oil and gas authority
- The operator obtains landowners’ permission for an exploration well
- The Environment Agency (EA) assesses the risk to water, air quality, and waste management
- Planning permission from local authorities (LA) has to be granted. LA will seek local resident’s opinions
- The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) assesses the safety of the well design (DBEIS 2016a).
- The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) checks to protect against seismic activity
- A Hydraulic Fracturing Consent license is obtained from Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (DBEIS), confirming that fracking may take place
- At the exploration stage, £100,000 in community benefits per well-site where fracking takes place
- 1% of revenues will be paid out to communities.
- Operators will publish evidence each year of how they have met these commitments.
2.3. Deliberative Engagement
2.4. Risk Society, De-Politicisation, Post-Politics, and Anti-Politics
3. Methods and Study Approach
4.1. Government and Economic Redistribution
“I think that Rathlin energy have done a very good PR job in East Yorkshire. And the farmers don’t realise exactly what the intention is. I think they think, okay, so I’ll get twenty-thirty grand, I can lease this field for two years and that will be the end of it… but that’s not how fracking works.”(Interviewee 4)
“So, we have looked into it and all these fracking companies, they might be owned by Barclays or whoever, but they set them up as limited companies and limit the liability. And then what happens if there’s lake pollution because we know well integrity gets worse over time and then they are on farmers’ land, who have no insurance, no cover […] where does it leave us longer term?”(Interviewee 2)
“I found out, what was really stunningly clear to me, was that the experts didn’t actually agree about a lot of the contentious issues involved in fracking.”(Interviewee 1)
“And conventional gas extraction is something completely different when you look at hydraulic fracturing. The risks are completely different.”(Interviewee 12)
“So, it’s a risk and what your job is, as a Minister or politician, is to mitigate risk.”(Interviewee 12)
4.2. Local Opposition—Science, Risk, and Trust
“I don’t want to go out and look at flares all round my horizon... We bought the house because of the views… I don’t want that to be taken away.”(Interviewee 13)
“I’ve applied my research skills to the 2006 British Geological Survey on the Yorkshire aquifer, which is the main source document, which says that something like 55% of water used in the East Riding and Hull comes from that aquifer, which has got a borehole right through it. Not clever.”(Interviewee 10)
“The water pollution, between you and me, it’s out of this world, and the amount of stuff that they pump into it. They haven’t got a clue. Cameron [the British Prime Minister] and company don’t give a monkeys.”(Interviewee 4)
“And the younger people would be very concerned about water, …, in fact this is about part of a conspiracy to control populations by controlling resources, and that if you wanted to poison the water supply, you couldn’t think of a better way of doing it in fracking.”(Interviewee 10)
“We’re talking about it at a time when climate change is happening. 97% of the world’s top scientists say it’s happening and it’s manmade, you know, we can’t afford to take more fossil fuels out of the earth.”(Interviewee 9)
“…you can’t do anything about it [water], …and water because of climate change is becoming a much more scarce resource so the idea of gaily pumping poison into the ground with actually no idea what it’s going to do to the water table strikes me as particularly irresponsible”(Interviewee 8)
“I think that is the biggest thing that has affected me is just how important a job they [EA] do and how badly funded they seem to be. They don’t seem to have enough people and processes, ...Everything is self-regulated, all the information is provided by the person who wants to do the thing and someone just checks it over and either says well I’m not happy with it or rubber stamps it.”(Interviewee 1)
“I mean we feel in Ryedale really under the cosh, the road maintenance, everything has been run down to such an extent… We have no say in the agencies, the Environment Agency, everything is pared down.”(Interviewee 10)
4.3. Anti-Politics and Trust
“Barton Moss used to tip their effluent into the Manchester Ship Canal, very environmentally sound I thought, yes well regulated. Now the government couldn’t give a hoot.”(Interviewee 8)
“…and concentrate efforts on getting the best possible mitigations and financial compensation for the affected communities, and be looking for ways to maximise the business and job opportunities for local people”
“Ryedale is not a poor area in the strict sense the word, yes you know there are low-income agricultural jobs and things, but if you look at Ryedale it’s not a particularly deprived area there are more people employed here in things like tourism and retail.”(Interviewee 3)
“They [Jobs] won’t be for the local people; their skills are in farming. You need specialists, and you know, it’ll be highly skilled engineers and chemists and god knows what.”(Interviewee 6)
“You know the subsidies they are giving to the fossil fuel industries… If that money was for sustainable jobs—to have a clean secure future… but they [the government] are just not doing it.”(Interviewee 2)
“I don’t know what the politicians are playing at; apart from I know some of them are hoping to make a lot of money out of this.”(Interviewee 4)
“So, there’s a lot of connections between politicians of all the grey colours. The three leading parties and big business and fracking business.”(Interviewee 5)
“I think people who are involved [in opposing fracking] are on police lists and it’s like the Miners’ strike, the Poll Tax. Tories like this kind of thing.”(Interviewee 11)
“I don’t see this as being a party-political issue, it’s simply protecting the environment, and we should all be concerned about that, whether we’re conservative, blue, purple, green, yellow, red or whatever colour your political spectrum.”(Interviewee 4)
4.4. How to Move Forward?
“I looked at what the Government had done with the Royal Society report and then I looked at what the Germans had done, I was ashamed because what the German’s had done was a model of a democratic approach.”(Interviewee 7)
“There’s also the agenda of democracy. I’m a very firm believer in democracy, and have come at democracy from an anarchist background. And decided that anarchism was not necessarily the best way to change society and improve things.”(Interviewee 5)
“…we went on that anti-austerity march in London. Then you saw the sort of future of politics, the way things are going, because it was the people’s assembly, […] they would emphasise the need for community-based action or individual action, and more anarchists with a small ‘a’, possibly.”(Interviewee 10)
- Scientific risk did not dominate the discussion,
- Interviewees were concerned with the capital implications of fracking,
- Trust in politicians is eroding. In using risk society theory to examine fracking, care must be taken not to ignore capital and trust.
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|Interviewee||Gender||Age Group||Protest Group Affiliated to||Primary Protest Areas||Occupation||How Long Lived in Area||Greatest Concern|
|1||M||55–59||Ryedale||Ryedale||Chartered Surveyor||<3 years||Industrialisation of the countryside|
|2||F||50–54||Ryedale||Ryedale||Chartered Surveyor (retired)||<3 years||Climate change|
|3||M||50–54||Ryedale||Ryedale||Bid Manager||<3 years||Industrialisation of the countryside|
|4||M||50–54||York||Crawberry Hill & West Newton||Director of Transport Company||>20 years||Pollution of air and water|
|5||M||45–49||York||Environmental Health Officer now Entertainer||>20 years||Climate change|
|6||F||50–54||York & Ryedale||Crawberry Hill & West Newton||Care worker (retired)||Lifetime||Pollution of water (with fracking fluids)|
|7||M||65–69||Harrogate||Teacher (retired)||5 years||Water pollution (return waste fluids)|
|8||M||65–69||Leeds||Barton Moss, Manchester||IT (retired)||33 years||Pollution of water (with fracking fluids)|
|9||F||65–69||East Riding||Crawberry Hill & West Newton||Teacher (retired)||Born and grew up in area. Returned for job later in life.||Climate change|
|10||M||60–64||East Riding||Crawberry Hill & West Newton||Teacher & LA Senior Education Manager (retired)||5 years||Climate change|
|11||M||50–54||Ryedale||Ryedale||Sculpture||>10 years||Climate change|
|12||M||50–54||Ryedale & Preese Hall, Blackpool||Ryedale & Preese Hall, Blackpool||Managing Director Renewable Energy Company||5 years||Pollution of air and water|
|13||M||55–59||Not Affiliated||Ryedale||Policeman (retired)||Lifetime||Pollution of air and water|
|14||M||20–24||Sheffield||Student||4 years||Climate change|
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Drake, F. Risk Society and Anti-Politics in the Fracking Debate. Soc. Sci. 2018, 7, 222. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110222
Drake F. Risk Society and Anti-Politics in the Fracking Debate. Social Sciences. 2018; 7(11):222. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110222Chicago/Turabian Style
Drake, Frances. 2018. "Risk Society and Anti-Politics in the Fracking Debate" Social Sciences 7, no. 11: 222. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110222