ANTI-FRACKING campaigners living on a protest camp near Chester have been criticised by an energy company.
Dart Energy, which has secured permission to check for coal bed methane in a field at Duttons Lane, Upton, said it would not even use the controversial ‘hydraulic fracturing’ procedure.
Frack Free Upton set up camp on the site on April 5 in a pre-emptive move to block any drilling, which they say could go as deep as 1,700m.
The group, which has reportedly attracted nearly 1,000 supporters, fears the process could lead to cancer-causing chemicals leaking into the city’s water supply and even spark earthquakes.
But Dart spokesman Peter Reilly said there were no plans to start testing for gas, and slammed the group for misinforming local people.
He said yesterday: “It’s pure scaremongering. We’ve got nothing to hide here. These groups are taking exaggeration and misrepresentation to extreme lengths. It’s completely the wrong protest at completely the wrong time.
“We live in the UK and we have a very strong regulatory environment. The industry knows its responsibilities and the regulators know their responsibilities.”
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett visited Frack Free Upton’s tent village last week, and praised the group’s facilities and determination.
Mr Reilly would not comment directly on her appearance at the site, but added: “The term fracking has been hijacked and demonised by those opposed to fossil fuel development.”
The Leader was given a tour of the protesters’ site, which includes a family tent, solar panels, a kitchen area and a new tree house by the entrance to the field.
Campaigner and business owner Matt Bryan, 27, said: “We've been teaching people how to use ropes so as many people as possible can get into the trees safely if the camp is stormed.”
He warned that drilling procedures were dangerous, a point proved by several incidents in the USA where fracking is rife.
“There was a recent catastrophe in North Dakota,” he said. “Half a town had to be evacuated. If they made the same mistake here it would be a disaster. There are eight schools within a mile of the site.”
US media reported that a train carrying fracked oil to a refinery derailed in North Dakota on December 30, sending a plume of toxic smoke into the air and leading to the evacuation of part of Casselton town.