Anti-fracking graffiti painted on a wall in the town of Selaya in Cantabria. / L. H.
"Those scavengers are bleeding the Earth." That is how Manuel López describes his battle against energy companies involved in fracking in Cantabria. The controversial hydraulic fracturing technique, to obtain gas from depths of over 2,000 meters, has been denounced by environmentalists all over the world because of its possible health consequences on people in surrounding communities.
López, an environmental technician from Santander, has joined forces with Daniel González, a public works engineer who lives in the Cabuérniga valley, and Ángel Saiz, the mayor of the town of Villacarriedo, to stop fracking in their northern region, as well as throughout Spain.
Their campaign has pushed the Cantabria regional parliament to begin debating a bill to make this practice illegal, even though the technique has the endorsement of the Industry Ministry.
Since 2011, six shale gas exploratory permits have been granted in the small mountainous region: five by the Industry Ministry and one by the former regional government of Miguel Ángel Revilla. In the rest of Spain, the ministry has given permission to 22 companies to explore for gas by fracking in some 400,000 hectares of land, with most of the operations now taking place in the Ebro river basin.
The Industry Ministry has allowed 22 firms to explore for gas by fracking
Hydraulic fracking is an extreme water-intensive process for obtaining gas encrusted in small pockets of rock deep beneath the Earth's surface, at around 2,500 meters. Between seven and 15 million liters of water mixed with sand and chemicals - some reportedly carcinogens - are pumped below under high pressure to ensure the rock breaks and gas is released.
After months of protests in the region, the Cantabria government of Ignacio Diego, of the Popular Party (PP), last December drafted a bill to prohibit fracking. If passed in two to three months -- as the regional government expects -- Cantabria will become the first region in Spain to ban the method.