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Fracking Week in Westminster (7th-10th April)

10th April 2014

Transcripts of the last four days of parliamentary questions and statements on:

  • Environmental effects of the shale oil and gas industry
  • Meetings of ministers with industry representatives
  • Shale oil and gas extraction exclusion zones
  • Costs of regulation and monitoring
  • EU policy on fracking

With thanks to theyworkforyou.com

7/4/14
Question by Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(1) when he next plans to meet representatives of organisations that have made representations on the environmental effects of the shale gas industry.
(2) what plans he has to meet representatives of Cuadrilla and other members of the shale gas industry.

Answer by Dan Rogerson, junior environment minister
The Secretary of State has no such planned engagements at present but always welcomes meeting a broad range of organisations to understand their needs and concerns. The UK Government is committed to the development of the shale gas industry in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

Question by Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will establish shale gas extraction exclusion zones in sensitive areas for wildlife and water resources.

Answer by Dan Rogerson, junior environment minister
Each application for shale gas exploration and extraction will be assessed on its merits and operators will require planning permission from the local minerals planning authority. The Environment Agency will object to shale gas extraction infrastructure or activity within a source protection zone (SPZ) 1 (i.e. drinking water protected zone). Outside SPZ1, the agency will also object when the activity would have an unacceptable effect on groundwater based on a site specific assessment.

In England, an environmental impact assessment is required if a particular development is located wholly or partly in a ‘sensitive area’.

Planning authorities assess each application on a case by case basis. There is a general presumption against approving a permit in such areas

Question by Tom Greatrex, shadow energy minister
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the costs of the regulation and monitoring of exploration and extraction of unconventional gas (a) at each drilling site and (b) the exploration in England and Wales.

Answer by Dan Rogerson, junior environment minister
The Environment Agency raises charges for environmental permits and licences at the individual sites it regulates in England. The costs can vary depending on the nature of the site and the permits required. The shale gas industry remains at an early exploration stage and the agency will keep its charges under review in light of developments. The annual budget the Environment Agency receives is adequate to ensure that sufficient money is allocated to costs associated with regulating the industry and for monitoring of sites during the exploration phase. As the industry develops over the next few decades appropriate funds will continue to be available to ensure the safe and sustainable exploitation of shale gas.

Question by Tom Greatrex shadow energy minister
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make it his policy that costs associated with the regulation and monitoring of exploration and extraction of unconventional gas are levied on industry.

Answer by Dan Rogerson, junior environment minister
The issue of environmental licences and permits at individual shale gas sites is financed through the Environment Agency’s charges. The shale gas industry remains at an early exploration stage and the Agency will keep its charges under review in light of developments. In the meantime, the Environment Agency will ensure that it allocates sufficient resources within its overall budget to regulate a safe and sustainable shale gas industry

9/4/14
Question by Maria Eagle, Shadow Environment Secretary
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much income the Environment Agency expects to raise from fracking firms to pay for the regulation of the industry; and if he will make a statement.

Answer by Dan Rogerson, junior environment minister
The Environment Agency does not separately record the income it expects to raise from fracking firms. However, it does hold estimates of the charges it expects to raise from environmental permits and licences for the onshore oil and gas industry as a whole.

Over the next year, with the current charging scheme, the Environment Agency estimates income of between £300,000 and £350,000. This includes fees from permit applications and annual subsistence, for mining waste, groundwater, radioactive substances and water resources permits. It does not include any site surrender fees as no sites are expected to surrender their permits over the next year. As the onshore shale gas part of the industry grows over time, we would expect the income from permitting charges to change

Motion put by Stephen Crabb MP on Climate and Energy Policy 2020-2030 and High Volume Hydraulic Fraturing (fracking) in the EU
That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 5644/14 and Addenda 1 and 2, a Commission Communication: A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030, No. 5706/14 and Addenda 1 to 5, a Commission Communication on the exploration and production of hydrocarbons, such as shale gas, using high volume hydraulic fracturing in the EU, and No. 5700/14, a Commission Recommendation on minimum principles for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons, such as shale gas, using high volume hydraulic fracturing;

That this House takes supports the Government’s objective of securing an ambitious EU emissions reduction target for 2030 in order to support the EU in meeting its long-term climate and energy objectives;

That this House further supports the Government’s objective of maintaining maximum flexibility for Member States to choose their own energy mix, including by exploring the potential for domestic resources, in order to secure their emissions reductions in the most cost-effective manner, given their particular circumstances.

10/4/14
Question by Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what recent representations he has received on the regulatory regime associated with fracking.

Answer from Michael Fallon, energy minister
The Department has received a number of comments and has been made aware of recommendations by a variety of interested parties, including non-governmental organisations and members of the public, that are relevant to the UK’s shale gas regulatory regime. The UK has a strong regulatory system which provides a comprehensive and fit for purpose regime for exploratory activities, but we want continuously to improve it. The Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) works closely with regulators and others to ensure that regulation is also fit for purpose for production; and that it remains robust enough to safeguard public safety and protect the environment.

The Department is presently conducting a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) on further onshore licensing. The SEA consultation closed on 28 March. Some of the responses to this consultation are relevant to the UK’s shale gas regulatory regime. All responses will be carefully considered before any decision is made on further licensing.

Parliament is now taking an Easter break and will return on April 28th.

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