The spotlight is once again on the UK’s fledgling fracking industry as the government paves the way for shale gas exploration, allowing frackers to drill under homes without the owner’s permission.
In the face of fresh attempts to expedite shale development in the UK, yesterday MPs agreed a series of fresh environmental regulations on frackers and agreed a ban on drilling in National Parks.
But an attempt to get a full moratorium on exploration was rejected, despite renewed calls for such a ban.
In a new cross-party report, released ahead of yesterday’s crucial Infrastructure Bill vote, MPs delivered a damning verdict on controversial fracking, calling for a moratorium on exploration and extraction in the country.
It warned that the drive for shale is “incompatible” with the UK’s carbon targets and poses environmental and health risks.
Outside Parliament over a hundred protesters – including high profile campaigners Bianca Jagger and Vivienne Westwood – joined the call for a fracking ban, while thousands more signed a petition objecting to the government’s plans.
In a 90-minute debate in the House of Commons, MPs raised concerns over how the UK’s shale industry would be regulated and its potential climate impacts.
While they voted in favour of amendments to the bill which would introduced new environmental safeguards, they failed to agree on the much called for 18-month moratorium on fracking.
The 13 changes proposed by the Labour opposition party that were accepted by ministers included: independent inspection of the integrity of wells; monitoring for leaks of methane; and informing residents individually of fracking in their area.
The government proposal to allow “any substance” to be used in fracking wells was also overturned, while the government said it would cancel shale gas licences if their official advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, concluded that shale gas would damage climate change goals.
But it refused to release in full a heavily redacted government report on the impact of fracking on the rural economy, claiming it could “mislead” the public.
Sweeping new powers will still, however, be given to fracking companies, allowing them to run pipelines under private land without the consent of its owners – despite 99 per cent of the people responding to the government’s online consultation objecting to the plans, and 360,000 signing a petition against the move.
The Bill will now pass to the House of Lords for consideration.
Public opinion and increasing concern from MPs has forced the Government into retreat on fracking. Everywhere fracking is proposed, local communities say no. But these concessions do not go far enough. These changes would not prevent fracking getting the green light in Lancashire, despite overwhelming opposition from local communities.
The only way to safeguard our climate, local communities and their environment from the fracking threat is to halt shale gas completely.
In Lancashire the fight over fracking will rage again this week, as the UK’s first planning application for full-scale fracking is set be decided, with the council already advised to refuse the proposals.
Given the unacceptable health, environmental and climate threats of fracking and the huge benefits of renewables – including energy security, more jobs and cleaner air – it is little wonder that shale gas exploration gets little support from local communities.
Commentators and opponents are warning the government it should “stop believing its own fracking hype”, ban the controversial process and focus on “real solutions” such as cleaner, safer, home-grown energy solutions.