It is scarcely credible that the government is including in the Queen’s Speech on June 4 the right for the shale industry to drill on your land without your consent.
Such a gross infringement of the rights of private property would be unthinkable, especially for a Tory government, were it not to secure a bonanza industry.
For the Tories private land is inalienable — until it is wanted by the oil and gas industry, at which point private property rights get trampled on all over the place.
After heavy lobbying from the shale industry the government is changing the trespass laws so that companies can drill without permission in return for only minimal compensation to landowners.
Following the demonstration at Balcombe in Sussex, this can be expected to become a focus for all-out resistance against the Tories, perhaps with a similar political impact to the poll tax riots which did for Thatcher.
Already a nationwide network is operating across Britain, well organised and effectively connected via social media as well as by a shared passion overriding political divisions.
Shifting the law to suit business is not new. That is what the whole deregulation drive under free-market capitalism in the last 30 years has been all about.
Environmental, health and labour standards have all been honed down for precisely the same reason, to pave the way for highly profitable business.
In the same way the agrochemical industry enabled genetically modified crops to take off in the 1990s by getting the US Congress to accept the utterly spurious doctrine of “substantial equivalence” between GM products and their non-GM counterparts so that GM products did not need to be tested for their impact on the environment or human health and could be regarded as safe.
One unseen consequence however of this rush to drill, removing any obstacles in its path, could well be a surge in legal redress.
A month ago a case was reported in the US where a Texas family who fell ill after fracking operations began near their home were awarded $3 million in damages against Aruba Petroleum.
There could be widespread ramifications since 15 million US citizens live within a mile of a fracked well.
One of them, a 45-year-old woman, initially experienced headaches, nausea and dizziness, but then later had a rash spreading across her body with open sores that wouldn’t heal.
Her daughter suffered severe nose-bleeds, her husband developed memory problems, calves on their ranch were born malformed, and all their pets died.
The jury concluded that the illnesses were linked to contaminated ground water, solid toxic waste and airborne chemicals generated by natural gas fracking operations.
If fracking goes ahead as the government now recklessly intends, then what is happening in the US today to resist this curse can surely be expected to redouble in Britain in the near future.