Which Mayoral candidate will protect Bristol from fracking?

A nuclear meltdown at Hinckley Point or contamination of Bristol’s water supply would be major emergencies for the city of Bristol – and both could be triggered by fracking. The Greater Bristol Alliance is challenging the Mayoral candidates to state publicly before the election on 5th May whether they are willing to confront the Government to demand protection for people living in Bristol.

Hilary Saunders, speaking for the Great Bristol Alliance, commented: “We know that fracking can cause minor earthquakes, but the Government is planning to build an £18 billion nuclear power station at Hinckley Point, which is situated in an area recently designated for potential fracking!

“The threat to our water supply comes from Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence PEDL 226, which covers the area from Parson Street in Bedminster down to the reservoirs in the Chew Valley. There is also the danger that drilling at Keynsham in the licence area PEDL 228 could contaminate the River Avon which flows into Bristol.

Living close to a fracking well carries health risks because of the highly toxic chemicals used to fracture shale rock and release natural gas. Coal Bed Methane extraction, another technique for releasing gas, involves drilling into coal seams closer to the surface and there is the risk of methane leaking from the well into the ground water. Health risks identified by research in the US include headaches, nausea, breathing difficulties and breast cancer.

As fracking involves drilling a well vertically or at an angle for 1 or 2 miles and then drilling horizontally for 1 mile or more, this process could be taking place under homes in South Bristol. Local homeowners may have difficulty in obtaining buildings insurance. They may also find it difficult to sell their home or may have to accept a substantial drop in price. This is already happening in Lancashire.”

At present we have an opportunity to protect Bristol from fracking. The company, UK Methane, has relinquished the licences PEDL 226 and 228, but these licences could be awarded again, most likely when the oil price goes up.

 The question for each Mayoral candidate is: Would you be willing to use your influence as Mayor of Bristol to demand publicly that the Government permanently removes PEDL 226 and PEDL 228 from any future licensing round?

PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release Open Letter to Phil Smith MD, Business West, Re TTIP Leaked Documents

Dear Phil Smith,

I represent the Greater Bristol Alliance, a local organisation with concerns over the ratification of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and CETA.

The texts of the TTIP negotiations have been kept strictly secret until last Monday’s leak, which reveals European Commission negotiators preparing to trade away key sectors of the European economy in order to win contracts for multinational corporations in the USA. [https://www.ttip-leaks.org/]. The leaked documents, which represent 13 of the 17 chapters currently in ‘consolidated text’ form, also confirm that TTIP will open the door to US producers of genetically modified food and other products banned in the EU for public health and environmental reasons, confirming fears that European regulatory standards will be abandoned in the deal.

Additionally, they show that the USA is refusing to accept any ‘reforms’ suggested by the EU to the hugely controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) ‘corporate court’ mechanism, which allows big business to sue governments for lost profits.

We have long warned that TTIP is a danger to democracy, food safety, jobs, small and medium size enterprises and public services. Now we see it is even worse than we feared. Today’s leak shows the European Commission preparing to sell us down the river, doing deals behind closed doors that will change the face of European society for ever. It is simply unacceptable that a group of unelected officials should be allowed to contemplate such a thing without any public scrutiny.

The Greater Bristol Alliance, in concert with other community organisations, have already called on Bristol Mayor, George Ferguson, to make Bristol a TTIP free zone. This was backed by a petition of over 4000 signatures, debated by the full council, requesting an impact assessment on the ability to give preference to local companies in procurement by local authorities. It was pointed out that in giving local companies preference,  local authorities could risk being sued by multinational corporations with almost infinite resources to spend on litigation.

To date, we are unaware of any challenges made by Bristol Chamber of Commerce or Business West to this toxic deal. Can you please confirm the position Business West intends taking to defend the interests of local business, particularly those in food manufacture, during this, Bristol’s Food Connections Festival.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Allan

Chair – Greater Bristol Alliance



It’s a fatal combination – In the EU Referendum campaign there has been little discussion of climate change or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the massive trade deal that is being negotiated in secret by the EU and the US. Yet these issues, taken together, have the power to wreck our future and destroy our planet, and this will happen if we do not act quickly and decisively. The International Energy Agency warns that if we do not get our emissions under control by 2017, our fossil fuel economy will “lockGin” extremely dangerous global warming. Already we have seen widespread flooding in the UK, but this is nothing compared to the catastrophic climate change that our children may face in 30 or 40 years time.  What does this have to do with TTIP?

Like other free trade agreements, TTIP contains measures which enable multinational companies to sue governments whose policies limit their future profits. How can governments seek to control carbon emissions by regulating, taxing and penalising companies which produce or make heavy use of fossil fuels, if this inevitably triggers thousands of huge compensation claims? (A free trade agreement has been used to challenge a fracking ban in Quebec, and this could happen here if TTIP is agreed).

TTIP will also enable multinational corporations to bid for our public services. Further privatisation will make it harder for governments to promote renewable energy and to expand lowGcarbon transport to get us out of planes and cars. Yet, a British poll in November 2013 found two thirds of “voters of all politics united in their support for nationalisation of energy and rail.” Worse still, TTIP will undermine safety regulations which protect the environment e.g. the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive which aims to reduce the climate impact of high carbon oil and the EU’s regulations on hazardous chemicals, including pesticides which have been found to kill off bees and birds (a ban that has been partially overturned by our government).

Will defeating TTIP stop climate change?

No, already there is so much carbon in the atmosphere that we are bound to have more severe storms and floods, but saying no to the multinationals will help us to avoid catastrophic climate change. The good news is that we can seize this existential threat to transform our failed economic system and build a happier, more equal society.

Is our economy at war with the climate?

Yes! As Naomi Klein states in her book, This Changes Everything (p19), the aim of the corporate globalisation process, which took off in 1988, was always to “lock in a global policy framework that provided maximum freedom to multinational companies to produce their goods as cheaply as possible and sell them with as few regulations as possible – while paying as little in taxes as possible.”

Deregulated capitalism and fossil fuels have enabled multinational corporations to plunder the finite natural resources of the planet, wrecking the environment especially in Third World countries and creating a throwaway culture based on the overGproduction and consumption of cheap goods right across the world. This is not making us happy! The dire consequences of rampant consumerism are revealed in http://www.storyofstuff.com

We cannot change the laws of nature but we can change our economy and we need to start now. To compensate for 20 years of political stalling, developed countries should aim for cuts in emissions of 8 – 10% a year.

How can we protect our children’s future?

  • Consume less and buy things that last (a return to the level of consumption common in the 1970s would make a big difference);
  • Buy less plastic;
  • Make limited use of cars and planes;
  • Eat food that is produced locally;
  • Encourage a sense of community in your local area;
  • Share this infrmationwith other people and protest loudly about TTIP;
  • Watch Naomi Klein’s documentary, This Changes Everything;
  • Take every opportunity to discuss these issues publicly;
  • Support organisations that are campaigning about TTIP and/or climate change (38 Degrees; War on Want; Global Justice Now; Greenpeace; Friends of the Earth);
  • Ask your MP to contact Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, asking her to explain how her department plans to achieve the substantial cut in emissions needed by 2017;
  • Explore possibilities for generating renewable energy in your local area;
  • Demand subsidies for ‘green energy’ and the creation of ‘green energy’ jobs;
  • Remember the advice of Pope Francis:

    “Concern for the environment needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.”

Robbing Peter to pay Paul – Bristol City Council and the Council House Sell Off

It sounds as though Bristol City Council is already selling off council houses in order to raise the money needed to pay the massive discounts that the Government has promised to housing association tenants wanting to buy their homes. If this is true, it should be possible for Labour councillors to obtain tangible evidence of the social injustice that lies at the heart of the Housing and Planning Bill.

How many of the 14,000 applicants on Bristol’s Housing Register know that whenever a housing association home is bought under the Right to Buy, two properties will be taken out of social housing? This Bill will not only diminish their chances of being rehoused but will also crush the hopes and aspirations of future generations who need affordable housing.

In the twelve months to September 2014, homelessness in Bristol increased by 74% according to statistics published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Two years ago there were about 15 homeless families in bed & breakfast in Bristol – now there are about 300 families in bed & breakfast and huge numbers of young people are ‘sofa surfing’ or sleeping on the streets. What will homeless people say if they realise that councils are being forced to sell off the homes that they need so desperately?

The Housing and Planning Bill will make this situation worse. It removes the current obligation on developers to provide, or pay for, units of social housing in order to obtain planning permission for new housing schemes. Housing association tenants with an income of £30,000 or more will either have to buy their house or pay a market rent. And to top it all, the Government is imposing rent reductions on housing associations, which will make it difficult for them to develop new housing, despite a voluntary agreement to replace any homes sold under The Right to Buy.

The Government’s message is clear: we are going to be a nation of home owners (whether we like it or not) and people on housing waiting lists really don’t matter. In these circumstances perhaps the most useful thing that Labour can do is to enable those who are being dispossessed to have their say.

Labour councillors can raise awareness of this social injustice by:

  1. a) asking for details (including the address and price) of any council housing in their ward that BCC has sold off or will sell off instead of renting to a new tenant;
  2. b) asking what is the average number of applicants bidding for council and housing association properties in their ward;
  3. c) being photographed with Housing Register applicants or homeless families outside a property that has been or will be sold off by BCC;
  4. d) publicising this in the local media, on Facebook or in their monthly column, and
  5. e) encouraging people to say what they think about the Government’s approach to housing while the Housing and Planning Bill is still being debated in parliament.

If it is difficult for people in housing need to obtain a deposit bond for a private tenancy from BCC, this could perhaps also be contrasted with the massive discounts (up to £103,999 in London and up to £77,999 elsewhere) soon to be offered to housing association tenants who want to exercise their Right to Buy. How can this be justified as an appropriate and equitable way to spend public money?

What exactly is fair or equitable about how this Government is choosing to spend our money?


A Letter to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on the dangers of Fracking

Dear Ms Rudd,

Re: Fracking

I am writing to you on behalf of the Greater Bristol Alliance. We were dismayed to discover that when your Government passed regulations to ensure the safety of fracking you did not ban fracking in areas where water is collected. We would be grateful if you could please explain why your Government apparently concluded that the toxic chemicals used in fracking will not cause irreparable damage to drinking water supplies.

This question is of direct concern to people living in Bristol because PEDL 226 covers the area containing the reservoirs which supply the city’s water. Could you please tell us whether the Government consulted Bristol Water before issuing this licence?

We understand that licence PEDL 226 has been relinquished. Does this mean that a licence for fracking or coal bed methane extraction will not be issued in this area again?

The appalling events in Flint, Michigan, may encourage your Government to rule out the granting of PEDL licences in areas used for the collecting of water. We would appreciate it if you could please let us know how you view this public health issue.



TTIP Good for Multinationals – Not Good for Small Businesses

TTIP (The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) is a massive EU-US free trade deal. Scarcely anyone knows about it, but those who do are asking why should anyone believe that TTIP will be good for business and good for our economy? And who exactly is likely to benefit from TTIP?

Could your business compete on these terms?

The main aim of TTIP is to downgrade or remove regulatory ‘barriers’ so that US businesses will be able to access European markets without complying with our regulations and vice versa. This gives a big advantage to US businesses, because their production costs are much lower due to less strict regulations, fewer employment rights and cheap energy. US big business can also make huge economies of scale in order to offer products at much cheaper prices than European small-and-medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

How will your business survive, if TTIP forces you into unfair direct competition with some of the largest multinational corporations in the world?

Good for our economy?

In the UK, SMEs represent over 99% of UK businesses and they provide jobs for 15.6 million people. The Government has acknowledged that small businesses (those with fewer than 50 employees) are “a major source of job creation as well as being critical in driving economic growth through innovation and competition”.

But even the European Commission has calculated that TTIP will lead to the loss of at least 680,000 jobs in the EU. Our exports to other European countries could also be severely damaged by TTIP, with an estimated 40% drop in the value of UK exports to Germany, Italy, Spain and Ireland.

Does this sound like justice?

The most controversial part of TTIP is the proposed Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which allows multinationals to sue governments in private tribunals if their profits are affected by policy changes. ISDS offers no such benefits to small businesses, which could be bankrupted by the average cost of $8 million per case.

How can you protect your business?

Thousands of businesses in Germany have signed an ‘SMEs against TTIP’ petition. Companies such as Lush and Spar have spoken out against TTIP, and Jamie Oliver has expressed concern that TTIP will damage the quality of our food.

The UK campaign Business against TTIP was launched in January by several high-profile businesspeople including the 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year, Titus Sharpe. It calls on the UK government and the European Commission to stop the TTIP negotiations. UK registered businesses and trade associations can obtain information and sign up to this campaign via the website www.businessagainstttip.org.

Across Europe hundreds of local councils and municipalities (35in the UK including Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle) have declared themselves TTIP Free Zones as a way of putting pressure on government to oppose this massive trade deal.


Join Bristol’s Fight Against Big Business

How can you represent the concerns of local people, if you have to put the interests of big business first? This is the question that the Greater Bristol Alliance and Global Justice Now will be putting to local councillors at the next full meeting of Bristol City Council at the Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, Nevil Rd, on Tuesday 15th March, starting with question time at 5pm.

Speaking on behalf of the Greater Bristol Alliance, Sue Kilroe commented: “This is not a hypothetical question. If the massive free trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (otherwise known as TTIP) is agreed by the EU and the US this year, local councils will have to make sure that none of their decisions can be legally challenged by a transatlantic corporation. This is because TTIP will give transatlantic corporations the right to sue any EU or US government or local authority in secret courts, if they make any decision that adversely affects their future profits.

“All sorts of decisions could become harder or impossible under TTIP. For example, Bristol City Council may want to boost the local economy by giving contracts to local businesses, but that could be challenged as ‘anti-competitive’. If a private corporation fails to provide an adequate public service, the council may face a huge compensation claim if they try to terminate the contract. Councillors may want to regulate the use of dangerous pesticides or carcinogenic substances such as growth hormones in meat, but TTIP would sweep aside many of the regulations that currently protect public health. The council may want to refuse planning permission for fracking under south Bristol, but Quebec is currently being sued under a similar free trade agreement (NAFTA) for imposing a ban on fracking – and that is what could happen here.”

Global Justice Now has been leading the campaign to encourage local authorities to declare themselves TTIP Free Zones as a way of highlighting their opposition to this secret free trade deal. Martin Powell from Global Justice Now says, “TTIP is not an ordinary trade deal. It is an agreement designed to benefit transatlantic corporations, who want to take over the NHS and other public services and to reduce safety regulations in the EU and the US. Already 35 local authorities in the UK, including Birmingham, Bradford, Glasgow and Edinburgh, have declared themselves TTIP Free Zones. We hope that Bristol will do the same. Indeed, this would be appropriate for Bristol as the 2015 Green Capital of Europe, because the threat of huge compensation claims under TTIP would make it impossible to phase out fossil fuels – something we urgently need to do in order to tackle climate change.

“Over 3 million people have signed a European Citizens’ Initiative opposing TTIP, and even Peter Lilley, a former Conservative trade minister, has described TTIP as a threat to democracy. It is time for all the political parties to unite against this corporate power grab. We need to defend our future and stand up for our democracy now.”

Notes for editors:

For further information see the Global Justice Now briefing, The EU – US trade deal: How TTIP could cripple local government.


Images from the Stop TTIP demos in Bristol’s Bearpit

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On Friday 21st August, Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, joined local group, Greater Bristol Alliance, in the Bearpit outside Debenhams to raise awareness that free trade is driving us towards catastrophic climate change. Greater Bristol Alliance is putting up new billboards in the Bear Pit about global warming and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the massive trade deal which is currently being negotiated in secret by the EU and the US.

This initiative was supported by 38 Degrees, The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, The Bearpit Improvement Group and The People’s Assembly.

On Saturday 22nd August supporters of 38 Degrees, the online campaigning group, marched down Whiteladies Road to the Bearpit to demonstrate against TTIP.

These protests are occurring at a critical time, as the International Energy Agency has warned that if we do not get our emissions under control by 2017, our fossil fuel economy will ‘lock in’ extremely dangerous global warming.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change conference is due to start in Paris on 29th November, but the protesters fear that if TTIP is agreed it could weaken decisions on climate change to the point of irrelevance.

Molly Scott Cato, who was only allowed to view TTIP documents after agreeing not to share the information with her constituents, commented: “I left without any sense of reassurance either that the process of negotiating this trade deal is democratic, or that the negotiators are operating on behalf of citizens. It is a corporate discussion, not a democratic one.”

She has also criticised the British government’s decision to impose the Climate Change Levy on renewable generators as “illogical and punitive”, pointing out that their “ideological opposition to renewable technologies is destroying thousands of potential jobs”.

Speaking on behalf of Great Bristol Alliance, Hilary Saunders commented: “We are appalled by the Government’s announcement this week that they have awarded fracking licences in 27 areas, and that a further 132 areas including parts of the West Country could also be licensed for fracking. Drilling for oil and gas will inevitably increase our emissions, while the toxic chemicals used in fracking could also contaminate our water, land and air.

“This is directly relevant to the people of Bristol, because the area covered by fracking licence PEDL 226 includes the reservoirs which supply our drinking water – and this area extends as far as Parson Street in Bedminster! This licence has currently been relinquished but could easily be awarded again. Anyone who thinks this technology is safe should have a look at the film Gaslands.

“Like other free trade agreements, TTIP contains measures which enable multinational companies to sue governments whose policies limit their future profits. How can governments seek to control carbon emissions by regulating, taxing and penalising companies which produce or make heavy use of fossil fuels, if this inevitably triggers thousands of huge compensation claims? It is worth noting that a fracking company is using a free trade agreement to challenge a fracking ban in Quebec. That is what we would expect to happen here if TTIP is agreed.”

Alison Allan from the Greater Bristol Alliance commented: “As free trade will make it impossible to tackle climate change effectively, we hope that our Mayor will show international leadership by declaring Bristol a TTIP free zone.

“We also want to know how Bristol can reduce its carbon emissions substantially. We would like the Mayor to consider the possibility of generating our own electricity using renewable sources, as many towns do in Germany.

“Large parts of Somerset have already experienced severe flooding, but this is nothing compared to the catastrophic climate change that our children may have to face in 30 or 40 years time. All of us need to take action now to ensure that our children have a future – and that means the Government saying no to the multinational corporations who want us to sign up to TTIP.”

For further information, contact:

Hilary Saunders: h.saunders@clara.co.u

Alison Allan: alisonallan9@gmail.com

Notes for Editors:

Greater Bristol Alliance is working towards the establishment of a new politics based on the principles of justice, compassion and equality. It aims to enable co-operation between locally based and like-minded campaigning groups, unions and political parties in order to highlight root causes and key symptoms of environmental, economic and social abuses.


Steve Timmins : GreaterBristolAlliance@gmail.com

Facebook: Greater Bristol

Is democracy threatened if companies can sue countries?

This very comprehensive report comes from the BBC’s Michael Robinson.


Those protesting against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the proposed new trade treaty between the European Union and the United States, are part of a growing international opposition to pacts that allow multinational companies to sue governments whose policies damage their interests. Opponents claim this right, known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), poses a threat to democracy.

But what is ISDS and why does it provoke such controversy? Continue reading