‘We support fracking’ says union

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A leading steelworkers’ union has backed plans for fracking, saying it could boost the steel industry and support thousands of jobs.

Community signed a partnership agreement with UKOOG, the body that represents the UK onshore oil and gas industry, to promote domestic production of oil and gas.

The agreement says the UK will have a key role in securing future energy supplies and create skilled jobs.

Community is affiliated to the Labour Party, which has a policy of scrapping fracking if it wins the general election.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, said: “The UK currently imports 50 per cent of its gas needs, and is forecast to increase to 75 per cent in the next 15 years, costing the UK £10 billion a year.

“Importing gas across continents and oceans by tanker also has a serious environmental impact compared with producing it in the UK.

“We are looking forward to working with Community to provide the public with affordable, home-grown energy and give them the confidence that the industry works in a safe, transparent and environmentally responsible manner.”

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said: “As the union for steelworkers and many other traditional manufacturers, our mission in working with UKOOG is to ensure that UK industry has stable, reliable and affordable energy sources as well as providing job security and maintaining the highest possible levels of health and safety across the sector.

“The future development of home-grown oil and gas has the potential to support thousands of jobs through its supply chain, including in the steel industry, as long as it is part of a joined-up industrial strategy for the UK.

“We look forward to working with UKOOG as this vitally important industry continues to develop.”

Gas exploration firm Cuadrilla has been given the go-ahead by the Government to frack for shale gas at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, next year.

Another site at Roseacre Wood, near Elswick, could also be approved if traffic issues are overcome.

But not everyone is convinced about the benefits of a shale gas industry, and opponents have vowed to carry on.

Protesters claim fracking can cause earthquakes, water pollution and highways issues blighting the lives of people living nearby.

Representatives from anti-fracking groups across Lancashire gathered at a solidarity photo shoot only a short distance from the Preston New Road site at which Cuadrilla is hoping to begin its Lancashire fracking project.

Frack Free Lancashire groups vowed unwavering support for the Preston New Road and Roseacre groups as they weigh up their legal options to challenge the pro-fracking government and Cuadrilla.

Barbara Richardson from Roseacre Awareness Group said: “We are determined to show our unity and solidarity to Lancashire and across the country wherever this travesty arises.

“Communities no longer stand alone.”

Claire Stephenson from the Preston New Road Action Group said: “We’ve been literally overwhelmed and empowered by the many hundreds of pledges of strong support from across the country.

“One of the biggest surprises has been several messages from pro-fracking supporters – even though they stated they believed in fracking as a possible option, they have been disgusted with the blatant dismantling of democracy in Lancashire.”

As the first part of an increased campaign of fracking awareness, Frack Free Lancashire, along with other groups and Manchester Trades Union Congress, have organised a mass National United Against Fracking Rally, today.

It starts at 11am from Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, where thousands from across the UK are expected to attend.

A host of guest speakers, music and a march are lined-up for this family-friendly event.