Three young men have been given jail sentences for blocking a fracking convoy near Blackpool, England, ostensibly marking the first sentencing of environmental activists since 1932. The three activists were convicted of causing a public nuisance following their four-day blockade of trucks delivering drilling equipment to the Preston New Road fracking site. The site, which lies in the county of Lancashire county, has been the focus of environmental group scrutiny since 2016 when the local courts gave energy company Cuadrilla permission to extract shale gas from two wells near Preston New Road.
The defence team argued that the men protested peacefully and politically, while the prosecution cited disturbance of local commerce, a police cost of £12,000, and an estimated £50,000 loss for Cuadrilla. Civil disobedience and business autonomy have often been at odds regarding the environment throughout history, but prison sentences upwards of a year for three men marks a heightened government response in the UK. Did this protesters overstep the civil disobedience line? According to the local courts, yes, but what signal might this send to environmental activists and the general public elsewhere? Could this deter or spur civil protest regarding environmental affairs?