Nana Against Cuadrilla
Friday 24th June saw Cuadrilla’s outstanding “community engagement” efforts result in a Crown Court hearing in Blackpool against anti-fracking and environmental campaigner from the Nanas, Tina Louise Rothery. Cuadrilla are attempting to claim in excess of £55k in “costs” from one woman. Flanked by a crowd of over 150 supporters standing alongside her before the hearing, Rothery gave a rousing and powerful speech where she declared:
“I will not pay, even if I could, now or ever. This is my line in the sand.”
Tina Rothery has always been a strong and concise objector to fracking, from the very early days following Cuadrilla’s self-caused earth tremors. Her approach has offered a powerful and unique voice to the ever-growing movement which serves to educate, inform and help equip communities to rise and take a stand against the unconventional gas industry. Her campaign for clean air and safe water for generations to come is one which we should all be on board with.
Rothery also went up against the big guns last year. She ran opposite George Osborne in the 2015 General Election, in Osborne’s home territory of Tatton as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for The Green Party. Rothery, whilst no match for Osborne, who was nestled safely in a Tory stronghold, successfully edged The Green Party’s gain up 3.8 percent from the 2010 results in Tatton constituency.
Cuadrilla’s Court Action
The case follows two years of legal pursuit that was initially heard in Manchester Crown Court in 2014, where Cuadrilla and other ‘claimants’ grouped together to target one individual following the large Reclaim the Power protest that was held on the field earmarked for fracking in Little Plumpton, on the Fylde Coast. The protest drew over 1000 environmental campaigners camp for three weeks, occupying a field and leaving the land unharmed before any eviction was actually necessary.
Cuadrilla, along with adjacent farmers, Wrea Green’s The Villa Hotel’s owners and the Roseacre fracking site farmers, joined together to form a ‘claimant coalition’ against Rothery, who selflessly stepped forward just ten minutes before the Manchester hearing, when the court demanded a named person for the case. Rothery felt she had the least to lose out of the group of campaigners known as the Nanas.
Cuadrilla’s own website states:
“Cuadrilla sees itself as being part of the communities it operates within, and as part of this, is keen to make a contribution to community life in Lancashire.”
Could bringing a malevolent and trumped-up charge against a member of that community really be seen as a “contribution”? An interesting consideration.
Cuadrilla’s main champions for shale in Lancashire appears to be the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and the North West Energy Task Force. The Task Force was largely discredited last year, with over half of their supposed supporters being located outside of Lancashire. The Task Force claims to be:
“…supported by Centrica Energy and Cuadrilla Resources, however our activities and views are independent of our financial supporters.”
The intertwined North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive and Cuadrilla-funded advocate Babs Murphy said in 2014, ironically, “Local businesses are against the proposed protest camp as we are concerned that it will damage trade in the busy summer season.”
So what impact might Ms Murphy think a good sprinkling of fracking rigs will have on Fylde tourism? Attract visitors by the busload, to be greeted along the Blackpool-bound M55 skirted with drill rigs and flare stacks?
Although, to be fair, Ms Murphy is not terribly au fait with fracking in the slightest, remaining happily cossetted away from any real scientific evidence, and blindly supporting industry bluster and promises. She stated:
“There is no evidence to suggest that the shale gas industry affects health.”
Evidently, she missed the 600+ pile of scientific studies advising otherwise.
Again, another Cuadrilla-backed industry supporter, Claire Smith, a bed and breakfast proprietor from Blackpool stated: “We are a tourist destination and the last thing we want is people disrupting what we do.”
(Image screenshot from North West Energy Task Force‘s website)
So again, why are these business leaders backing fracking that will likely disrupt tourism and trade, aside from the obvious incentives one might consider?
Is this why the industry has decided to target one individual within the massive cog that turns the movement? Hoping to take out a powerful piece of the diverse jigsaw that is the anti-fracking community? If so, then this is a set-to-fail strategy and one that will only aid to highlight a greedy company’s attempt to silence whilst riling the growing support for Rothery from the very community they intend to fracture.
This is not a new tactic by the oil and gas industry however. In December 2015, vocal anti-fracking campaigner Ian Crane was taken to court by Rathlin Energy in attempts to bankrupt him. Costs of over £33k were applied to Crane, who was issued with a bankruptcy order in May this year in excess of £40k in costs. Crane also believes there had been an abuse of process by Rathlin Energy.
Could environmental campaigners see more of these persecution prosecutions in the future?
Worldwide Support for Rothery
Within days of the latest court summons, a new hashtag went viral: #IAmTinaRothery. Social media timelines across the world were quickly filled with waves of solidarity for the targeted campaigner. Images and messages were sent from groups and campaigners, including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and the respected Medact.
Medact, the health professional’s charity, stated:
“Medact’s own position is that any exploration for and extraction of new fossil fuel resources, including natural gas, threatens human health via the effect of contributing to climate change. Climate change poses a risk to health via multiple pathways including the effects of extreme weather events, food and water insecurity, altered disease patterns, ocean acidification, and as a threat multiplier that increases the risk of conflict and population displacement.
“Medact does not believe this court action against Tina is in the public interest given the scale of the challenge posed by climate change, and the apparent lack of consistency between government pledges to reduce carbon emissions, and the reality of UK energy policies – including fracking – being pursued. In this context is is unsurprising that people are moved to conduct direct action to try to catalyse meaningful political action.”
Also supporting Rothery in her cause is the North West Green Party, who last week passed the following resolution:
“The North West Green Party expresses its unwavering support and admiration for Tina Rothery and her unswerving stance against the fracking industry. The party has been enriched by having a member of the calibre of Tina. Her ethics, campaigning, enthusiasm and vision for a better, greener future for us all continue to be the inspiration for many. We support her moral stance against the shortsighted dogmatism of this government where they put transitory gains for the few in place of the common good. We therefore support her refusal to accede to the demand for costs in her current legal action.”
The summons for this case arrived in the form of an aggressive bailiff from Eversheds Solicitors, instructed by Cuadrilla, who followed Rothery on her journey across to Ryedale Community in Yorkshire to serve her the legal papers. The bailiff was wearing a stab-vest to try and serve these papers to Rothery during a family-atmosphere event. Rothery rightly refused to accept these papers under these inappropriate circumstances and demanded a suitable arrangement to accept them, which after several attempts of contacting Eversheds, they finally responded and agreed.
Could this particular case have an underlying motive of vexatious litigation? Its very definition certainly smacks of a deliberate attempt at oppression by Cuadrilla:
“Vexatious litigation is legal action which is brought, regardless of its merits, solely to harass or subdue an adversary. It may take the form of a primary frivolous lawsuit or may be the repetitive, burdensome, and unwarranted filing of meritless motions in a matter which is otherwise a meritorious cause of action. Filing vexatious litigation is considered an abuse of the judicial process and may result in sanctions against the offender.”
This whole persecution won’t be bettering Cuadrilla’s already-deficient public reputation. After having the need to use a whopping seven PR companies over the space of just three months last year following Lancashire County Council’s unexpected rejection of both of their exploratory applications, one might assume they’d be better off crawling back into the fracking void rather than pursue a well-respected and popular environmental campaigner.
Rothery’s statement following yesterday’s hearing was both eloquent and potent, highlighting the disgraceful misuse of the justice system by Cuadrilla pursuing this case:
“With respect to the District Judge and the courts I have huge admiration for a system of justice that is fair, but I feel in this case that our law courts are not being used to seek justice but instead being applied like a weapon and a threat against peaceful protest.
“The fact that Cuadrilla has the finances, power and vindictiveness to pursue this through our courts is an abuse of one of the most valued aspects of our democracy.
“So please accept my apologies if this seems rude but as this case has nothing to do whatsoever with justice, I will not be complying with any requests for information or payment.
“I make this statement on behalf of myself and an entire movement who will not be bullied.”
The next step in this civil prosecution will be for Cuadrilla’s lawyers at Eversheds to respond to Rothery’s statement of respectful non-engagement that she provided to the court officer. They could odiously choose to pursue her for contempt of court and seek to recover the costs, or drop this whole victimising charade.
Whatever they decide, the passion and determination behind the rapidly growing anti-fracking movement will meet them head on.