A fracking week in Westminster

Transcripts of this week’s parliamentary questions on

  • Drilling without consent,
  • Alternative energy strategies to fracking
  • Funding for the Environment Agency
  • Flaring on shale gas sites

With thanks to www.theyworkforyou.com

Question from Jim Cunningham (Coventry South, Labour)
What is the Government’s policy towards permitting fracking operators to drill under land belonging to homeowners?

Will the Government take steps to ensure that energy companies carrying out fracking cannot drill beneath homes without the homeowners’ consent?

Answer from Energy Minister, Michael Fallon
Shale gas and oil operations involve hydraulic fracturing in wells drilled over a mile down, which at that depth are highly unlikely to have any discernible impacts closer to the surface.

Like any other industrial activity, oil and gas operations require access permission from landowners.

Operators prefer where possible to agree this through negotiation with the landowner, but there is an existing legal route by which they can apply for access where this can’t be negotiated.

The Government is currently considering whether this existing route is fit for purpose, and what impact this could have on the development of shale gas.

Question from Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion)
In the light of the Prime Minister’s welcome recognition at last week’s PMQs that Brighton is indeed a superb and sunny place, will he come and visit the Brighton Energy Co-operative in my constituency, which demonstrates the real potential of community renewables, particularly solar power? Will he also acknowledge that if the Government’s new community energy strategy were to include the provision for energy providers to sell directly to consumers, it would have far more potential? Will he pursue that strategy instead of his evidence-free fantasies about fracking?

Answer from Prime Minister, David Cameron
I am sure that I will be in Brighton before long, and I look forward to hearing the renewable energy story there. I would say that we need both of those things. We have now set out the strike prices and brought in the Energy Act, so that we can be a real magnet for investment in renewable energy, but I also think that we should take advantage of shale gas, because it provides an opportunity to have clean gas, helping to keep our energy bills down. I would say to those in the green movement who oppose shale gas simply because it includes carbon that that is a deeply misguided approach. We want to have affordable energy as well as green energy. That should be our goal.

Question from Mark Menzies (Fylde)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what additional funding the Environment Agency will receive in order to meet the needs of the shale gas industry.

Answer from Environment Minister, Dan Rogerson
The issue of environmental licences and permits at individual shale gas sites is financed through the Environment Agency’s charges. The Environment Agency will ensure that it allocates sufficient resources within its overall budget to regulate a safe and sustainable shale gas industry.

  • Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson, also gave evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee investigation into shale gas. See our full report

Question from Mark Menzies(Fylde)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of the level of potential flaring on shale gas sites.

Answer from Energy Minister Michael Fallon
All flaring and venting from oil and gas exploration or production activities, including shale gas activities, is subject to existing DECC controls. DECC’s policy is that venting should not take place except where technically necessary, normally for safety reasons, and flaring should be reduced to the economic minimum.

The Environment Agency’s draft technical guidance for onshore oil and gas exploratory operations makes clear that operators should apply a hierarchy of controls to ensure waste gas is first prevented, then minimised and finally rendered harmless. The guidance makes clear that the operators should initially consider installing an engine to burn the gas and recover energy from it but that if this is not possible then a flare may be used. Operators must be able to show that their activities, including flaring during exploration, do not lead to emissions at levels higher than those set out in their environmental permits.

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