INEOS had previously stated that they would exclude the historic site from their tests, however, an FOI request by Friends of the Earth (FOE), revealed the company had been in correspondence with the Forestry Commission since August 2016.
The FOI unveiled plans to carry out tests within a few hundred meters of the Major Oak. This historic tree, which is between 800 and 1,000 years-old is said to have been the place where Robin Hood and his Merry Men slept.
INEOS has since been accused of misleading the public. The company had submitted planning documents to the council stating they would exclude Sherwood Forest from the tests, however, soon after, they applied for permission directly from the Forestry Commission with maps detailing the opposite.
The license was agreed to by the Forestry Commision and has since been signed off by the environment secretary, Michael Gove.
Local people have gathered at the Major Oak to stage protests against the planned tests. Many took to Twitter to share the petition with the hashtag #DontFrackSherwood.
While the Forestry Commission gave the go-ahead, The National Trust’s stance on fracking is one of opposition, due to the potential damage fossil fuel extraction has on the environment. Naturally, they disproved of seismic testing in the area of Clumber Park, which the trust owns, and which lies in the northern part of Sherwood Forest.
In response to this, INEOS threatened to take legal action against the National Trust, accusing the conservative NGO of being “overtly political”. In a statement, INEOS argued their government licenses gave them free reign over the park and said: “At INEOS we are developing a shale gas industry that is safe and essential for the UK and the economy.”
Clumber Park’s general manager Beth Dawson has since sent a heartfelt letter to INEOS, pleading for the company to reconsiders their fracking plans. Dawson appealed on a personal level to Lyne Campbell, INEOS’ planning and environment manager, inviting her to witness the “nature rich oasis” for herself.
Dawson argued the park is “nationally significant for its priority habitats and the most important site in the region for wildlife”. She highlighted the rare species that thrive in the area including but not limited to, the woodcock, otter, bat and viviparous lizard.“We cannot prevent you from taking legal action, but I do also believe that you are reasonable people who recognise how much we as a nation love our countryside and heritage.”
INEOS ignored the letter, continuing to push the narrative that the National Trust is politicising the issue and in a further statement they argued, “court is always a last resort”, in the statement they stressed that the National Trust had previously refused to discuss the seismic tests with them, thus forcing them to take further action.
“The elected UK government sets energy policy, not the National Trust (…) If we thought that our surveying work would cause environmental damage to the park we would not be undertaking it,” INEOS said.
Protesters are also under attack from INEOS. In July 2017, the company won an injunction against anti-fracking activists, claiming they had faced threats and aggression from protestors. This injunction means that anyone who unlawfully interferes with the firm’s fracking activities could face going to jail, be fined, or have their assets seized.
This injunction is the most far-reaching of its kind and many have called it a breach of human rights. Two activists have attempted to overturn the injunction and have argued that INEOS’ evidence provided concerning harassment by protesters is weak.
For many anti-fracking campaigners, this injunction could lead to similar action to be taken by other major fossil fuel giants, there is a fear that this tactic will be exploited and used to oppress those who want to speak out against fracking.
This has to lead to an uproar on social media with the use of hashtag #INEOSvThePeople.
INEOS did not give Artefact a comment.
Fracking is controversial for numerous reasons. There are fears it can contaminate groundwater in the surrounding area with poisonous chemicals, it requires drilling into the earth thereby ruining the landscape, fracking requires immense quantities of water, it can cause earthquakes and tremors, interrupting the surrounding wildlife and it is a big step away from a future of renewable energy.
A report by the Environment America Research & Policy Center claimed that within one year, fracking produced around 5.3 billion pounds of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
The historic home of iconic Robin Hood looks to be the latest battleground for Britons vs Fracking.
FOE campaigner Guy Shrubsole told Artefact: “It’s clear that INEOS will stop at nothing to explore for more shale gas, even in Sherwood Forest, home of Robin Hood and one of our most cherished woodlands.
“They have misled everyone, promising publicly to spare the most ecologically sensitive parts of Sherwood Forest from their intrusive seismic surveys – while negotiating behind closed doors to press ahead with them.
“INEOS’ increasingly desperate tactics – from seeking a draconian injunction against protestors, to threatening to sue the National Trust – show that the fracking industry is running out of options as public opinion sours against it.”
Artefact asked Shrubsole how confident he is in their campaign to stop INEOS. “With over a quarter of a million people having signed our petition so far demanding that Sherwood Forest is saved from the threat of fracking, we’re confident that this is a campaign that can be won. But we need everyone’s voices to convince the Environment Secretary to intervene.” (FOE)
Other campaigners have taken to YouTube to extend the campaign’s reach:
Friends of the Earth’s petition to save Sherwood Forest can be found here.
Featured Image – Friends of the Earth