Many of you will have previously read about the shocking case of one environmental campaigner from Lancashire – ‘Nana’ Tina Rothery – and how she has been relentlessly targeted by oil and gas minor, Cuadrilla, for a rural field eviction that never happened. They are pursuing her for in-excess of £55,000 or a two-week jail sentence in HMP Styal.
Where they quite think Ms Rothery will magic such an extortionate amount from is anyone’s guess, but Rothery has already previously stated:
“I will not pay, even if I could, now or ever. This is my line in the sand.”
The legal 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 a 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.
Today, an open letter, signed by many high-profile names and NGOs including Vivienne Westwood and actress Emma Thompson, called on Cuadrilla’s Chief Executive Officer, Francis Egan, to drop the ridiculous oppression of one woman campaigning against the fossil fuel industry. The letter also condemned the firm’s “unjust and bullying” attitude in a community where they had already received strong refusals from parish, borough and county council for their fracking applications.
Following Lancashire’s refusal, Cuadrilla then scampered back to the pro-fracking Tory government for desperate crumbs of intervention and elbow power to dangerously overrule a county council’s solid ‘no fracking’ decision. Predictably, the government genuflected upon command, demolishing Lancashire’s right to say no to further fossil fuel abuse and gave Cuadrilla free-rein to frack.
Paul Ridge of Bindmans Solicitors, said:
“I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla.”
The letter is as follows:
Dear Mr Egan
We are writing to urge you to end Cuadrilla’s legal action against Tina Rothery, a peaceful anti-fracking campaigner facing over £55,000 legal costs and a possible two-week jail sentence following the supposed eviction of campaigners on 27thAugust 2014 from a site you hope to frack.
The bailiffs in fact ‘evicted’ an empty field. As Cuadrilla, the landowner and the public were made aware, the protesters were always going to leave on 26th August. They did this, having fully cleaned the site after their three-week stay and caused no damage.
In the light of this, the decision to incur large legal costs for eviction and to pursue one individual for these looks like a deliberate strategy to deter other protesters. Tina now faces a potential two-week jail sentence for refusing to comply with the Court Order, which she did because she considers Cuadrilla’s case against her to be unjust, bullying and an abuse of perfectly legitimate campaigners to deter protest. The intention to vacate the site was communicated to Cuadrilla and so there was no need for the action you took.
Tina has shown extraordinary bravery. When this legal action was brought and a named defendant was needed, she volunteered to prevent one of her fellow Lancashire Nanas, perhaps someone caring for children or elderly parents, being victimised.
Tina is an ordinary citizen seeking to exercise her right of protest against an industry which, according to Government opinion polls, is more unpopular than ever because of the risks it poses to our health, to our local and global environment and to our communities.
Lancashire County Council supported local people’s objections and refused Cuadrilla’s application to test-drill, frack and flow-test shale gas wells at two sites. Following an appeal, the Government has decided to overturn one refusal and probably both.
You may have won a legal argument, but, as far as we the undersigned and the people of Lancashire are concerned, you have not won a democratic or moral argument. You may have the permission of the Government to frack in Lancashire, but you do not have the permission of the people of Lancashire. Fracking is being imposed on Lancashire against its will.
You have described the fracking opportunities in the UK as ‘an absolute game-changer’. We agree: fracking could be a game changer — for the climate. According to Oil Change International, potential carbon emissions from oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields (without new fracking) and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming, let alone the 1.5°C which the Paris climate agreement requires us to pursue efforts towards. If we cannot afford to burn the gas we currently have, what is the point of looking for more?
We urge you to drop Tina’s case, allow peaceful protest and halt the drilling – for all our futures.
Josh Fox, Filmmaker
Raoul Martinez, Artist, writer, filmmaker
Francesca Martinez, Comedian
Anthony Tombling, Filmmaker
Suzanne Jeffery, Campaign against Climate Change
Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven, Greenpeace
Ellie Groves, Reclaim the Power
Danielle Paffard, 350.org
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Caroline Lucas, Green Party
Jonathan Bartley, Green Party
Natalie Bennett, Green Party
Manuel Cortes, TSSA
Chris Baugh, PCS
Matt Wrack, FBU
Tony Kearns, Communication Workers Union
Ian Hodson, Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union
Graham Petersen, Greener Jobs Alliance
Will the letter fall on the deaf ears of an arrogant company with little regard for the “community engagement” that they regularly purport to believe in? Most likely. But Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners will not take too kindly to this kind of oppression and attempts to silence. Predictably, further pursuit of this behaviour on Cuadrilla’s part will result in their already-poor reputation being tarnished further.
The added irony of Friday’s threat of doing porridge in HMP Styal, is the apt wording on its signage:
“HMP Styal: Building Hope, Changing Lives.”
This is the exact crime that Rothery is guilty of and one that she should be proud of. We need more peaceful and remarkable people just like her, to rise up and be a voice for our children and future generations to come.