Blackpool hosts major fracking conference

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Days after a decision over fracking on the Fylde was deferred, Blackpool today is the centre of an international conference on shale gas.

Speakers from all over the world were due at Blackpool Football Ground today to discuss the pros and cons of 
hydraulic fracturing.

Members of the GMB union have lobbied union bosses to find out more about the industry which could provide them with work in the future.

Union bosses, recognising the divisive nature of onshore gas, decided to invite speakers from both sides of the argument to present a case at the conference, hosted by Paul McCarthy. Among the speakers will be Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, Ken Cronin from onshore industry body UKOOG, Sean Sweeney, director and founder of Global Labor Institute from Cornell University, New York State, Lytham-based oil and gas engineer Mike Hill and Tony Bosworth from Friends of the Earth.

Neil Smith, from the GMB, said: “Our members have been asking us for a while for more information about fracking so we decided to invite speakers from all sides and we have contacted more than 24 groups.

“The deferral of the planning applications for the two fracking sites by Lancashire County Council has focused attention even more on fracking this week.

“Blackpool being the 
epicentre of activity at the moment, we decided to hold the conference here.

“We have some great speakers: Sean Sweeney, Ken Cronin, Peter Styles from Keele University and GMB Regional Secretary Paul McCarthy will be opening and closing proceedings.

“We have a lot of members in the oil and gas industry so it is only right that we take a close look at what is going on.

“It is a one-day conference but, to be honest, there has been so much interest that we could have sold it out twice over.

“We don’t have an official policy on fracking, but at the moment the country is importing gas from places such as Qatar, which has no regulation and does not have the working conditions we have here. If there is to be an alternative it would be good to be British if safe and properly regulated.”

Lytham engineer Mike Hill said: “It has been given extra significance this week because of the national GMB’s involvement in ensuring Labour did not back a moratorium on fracking. But that is the union doing what it should do and looking at the interests of its members.

“But I will be talking about jobs in onshore gas and how there could be, if it takes off, a net loss in jobs from tourism an agriculture. I will also be talking about how the regulation for onshore gas in this country is not robust, off shore is, but not onshore and jobs should not be at the expense of the environment and local people’s health.”