Over the course of the last week the boss of fracking company Celtique Energie, Geoff Davies, has undergone a prolonged and very public meltdown. He has attacked locals who don’t want him to frack in their area, praised the rolling hills and woods of Sussex as perfect for hiding his fracking sites and confessed that his company has never even attempted to frack a gas or oil well before.
In an interview with The Times this weekend, Mr Davies personally attacked a member of the local community in Fernhurst and said that those who oppose his projects are “selfish and unpatriotic”. Let’s leave aside the irony of being lectured on patriotism by the CEO of a company that is bankrolled by a US based private equity firm and a ‘wealthy European family’ and focus on why he is chucking his toy drill-rig out of the pram.
It appears that Mr Davies’ plans to frack Sussex aren’t going very well. At all. His site at Fernhurst is surrounded by locals who have refused him permission to drill under their homes – meaning that he will be taken to court for trespass if he goes ahead as planned. While the planning applications he has submitted for Fernhurst and Wisborough Green have both been put on hold by the planning authorities because Mr Davies didn’t submit enough information. Not to mention the fact that the Fernhurst application received more than 2000 local objections - crashing the South Downs National Park website.
Perhaps the lack of detail is because Celtique has never actually done this before. Despite assuring the public that his company knows what it’s doing, Mr Davies last week admitted that Celtique has no experience of fracking for shale gas or oil. In response to a question from a concerned parish councillor he confessed that: “we have not engineered any hydraulic fracturing in any well, but our engineers have experience off shore.”
The residents of Sussex are right to be concerned. The man leading the charge to frack in their county has contempt for local concerns; admits he doesn’t know what he’s doing; can’t fill out a planning application form properly and thinks that the “rolling and undulating” hills of the Sussex countryside are fit for one thing only – “screening for noise and visual pollution” from the fracking sites he wants to pepper them with.<br><br>This doesn’t exactly amount to a strategy to win over hearts and minds.</span>