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7 Oct, 2014 14:41

Britain's fracking trespass law flouts UK citizens’ democratic rights – Naomi Klein

Britain's fracking trespass law flouts UK citizens’ democratic rights – Naomi Klein

Recent legislative changes, which enable fracking firms to drill beneath UK citizens’ land without their permission, flout Britons’ fundamental democratic rights, author and activist Naomi Klein warns.

Speaking at an event chaired by Guardian columnist Owen Jones on Monday evening, Klein emphasized that the British government’s recent overhaul of trespass laws – orchestrated to make it quicker and easier for fracking firms to drill beneath Britons’ land – was fuelling nationwide resistance.

Speaking to an audience in London, the Canadian writer and campaigner said an underlying factor driving the anti-fracking movement was the necessity to defend democracy.

“The fact the government is colluding with energy companies to force the right to frack underneath people’s homes without their permission flies in the face of the most common-sense definition of democracy and self-definition,” she said.

In response to a government consultation on the proposed changes to Britain’s trespassing laws, over 40,000 formal objections were filed in late September against the Tory-led government’s plan.

An overwhelming 99 percent of respondents opposed the move, yet ministers prioritized the fracking industry over public opinion and pursued the legislative overhaul.

The British government argued, at the time, the capacity of citizens to obstruct shale gas drilling development on their land had led to lengthy delays, and the subsequent legal process firms adopted to pursue their fracking plans was expensive and time-consuming.

“Having carefully considered the consultation responses, we believe that the proposed policy remains the right approach to underground access and that no issues have been identified that would mean that our overall policy approach is not the best available solution,” the government said in a formal statement.

Local resident Kip Parker demonstrates as police escort a lorry to the drill entrance of a site run by Cuadrilla Resources, in the village of Balcombe in southern England. (Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

Klein, whose most recent book addresses the manner in which our current global economic system is a gross impediment to tackling an ever-growing climate crisis, said fracking and oil companies were being contested by a vibrant global movement opposed to the energy extraction technique.

“The movement against fracking has been heroic,” she told Owen Jones.

Klein’s scathing criticism of an increasing democratic deficit that underlines the UK government’s approach to fracking comes as UK ministers in favor of shale gas drilling are accused of ignoring the interests of rural farming and agricultural communities in favor of big business.

British farmers fear they face financial ruin as a result of government plans to push through shale gas drilling on their land without compensation, the National Farmers’ Union warned on Monday. The farmers are concerned that fracking could bring about a catastrophic depreciation in the value of their land.

The government has insisted that compensation will not be issued for UK homeowners or landowners forced to tolerate fracking on their land, claiming that gas and oil extraction will not depreciate its value.

Responding to the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s (DEEC) announcement that it would strip UK citizens of the right to object to fracking beneath their land, Friends of the Earth senior campaigner Jane Thomas suggested the government’s pretense of public consultation on the matter “was a sham”.

Police scuffle with a demonstrator outside a drill site run by Cuadrilla Resources, near Balcombe in southern England. (Reuters / Paul Hackett)

Thomas warned shale gas and oil drilling would reap “more pollution” and “catastrophic climate change”, yet the UK government seems “hell-bent” on the energy extraction technique in the face of stringent public opposition.

“You’d think with a general election approaching politicians would listen to public opinion and get behind the popular energy solutions of cutting waste and backing renewables,” she added.

Tackling the global climate crisis

In an effort to highlight a growing global awareness of the scale of the climate crisis, Klein referenced a series of coordinated global climate marches on Sept. 21, which reportedly drew over 400,000 people onto the New York streets, as a source of hope for the future.

The global day of action also saw tens of thousands of campaigners and climate justice advocates pour onto the streets of Paris, Melbourne and London to highlight climate change.

Klein said “the only way you can win against forces with a huge amount to lose is to build a movement of people – many more people – with a huge amount to gain.”

She also suggests that public action taken to tackle climate change could be a powerful way to fight austerity policies. Building a case for investing public funds in environmentally sound infrastructure and addressing Britain’s core six energy firms’ monopolization of the market would go a long way in liberating Britons from “the brutalizing logic of austerity,” Klein said.