It’s amazing what citizens can do when they get together, whether it is to make an event happen or to respond to a concern they share. Frack-Free Dorset is one such local example.

Oil companies have been issued with new licences that, subject to county council planning permission, give them the right to explore and develop oil and gas reserves in an area stretching from Portesham to Christchurch. This allows for the use of unconventional methods to extract gas from shale or sandstone that includes hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

 Fracking for these hard-to-reach oil and gas resources is quite different from the conventional exploration activities we are familiar with. It means well-pads dotting the countryside every square mile or so, millions of gallons of clean water blended with chemicals and sand, hundreds of lorries on rural roads and the disposal of huge amounts of hazardous waste.

 In the past decade, mainly in the United States and Australia, there have been serious incidents affecting the environment and the health of people living near wells. Wells, streams and soil have been contaminated and aquifers put at risk.

The health of people living near wells has been affected by local air pollution. The release of the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere contributes to global warming.

In May 2012 the Co-operative Group hosted an event in the Corn Exchange showing the movie Gasland. Galvanised by this, Frack-Free Dorset formed early this year. Several stalls have been run in South Street and a website and Facebook page developed. Two public meetings have been held in the United Church and the Dorford Centre, with about 80 people attending each event.

In the recent county council elections, Frack-Free Dorset wrote to parties fielding candidates asking for their views on fracking. Results have just come in and will be put on the website. It was clearly an issue that split the political parties.

What next? It is hoped to support events in towns and villages in the licensed areas so their residents can be better informed.

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