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Fracking Week in Westminster (June 30-July 4)

5th July 2014

Transcripts of parliamentary questions about fracking and shale gas

  • Cabinet committee on developing shale gas
  • Simplifying regulation
  • Fracking licences
  • Flood risks in fracking areas
  • Changes to the trespass laws
  • Community benefits

With thanks to Theyworkforyou.com


Questions to the Prime Minister
David Davies (Monmouth, Conservative)
To ask the Prime Minister if he will take steps to establish a Cabinet Committee chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to direct and co-ordinate policy on the development of shale gas.

David Cameron (The Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)
Issues relating to shale gas are considered at a number of Cabinet Committees including the Economic Affairs and Growth and Enterprise Committees.

Questions on Energy and climate change
David Davies (Monmouth, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps his Department is taking to simplify regulations applying to the UK’s shale gas industry.

Michael Fallon (The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change ; Sevenoaks, Conservative)
The Department works closely with the relevant regulators and industry to ensure that the regulatory system is as streamlined as possible, while remaining robust enough to safeguard public safety and the environment.

In order to help companies navigate our regulatory system, the Department published in December a Regulatory Roadmap setting out all the regulations that applies to shale at the exploration stage.

We have already reduced unnecessary duplication in the regulatory system for shale gas, clarifying and streamlining the regulation of exploration activity through the Environment Agency, including developing a single application form for permits. The average waiting time for environmental permits for onshore oil and gas is eight to nine weeks. We will introduce standard rules environmental permits later this year cutting permitting times for low risk activities to two to four weeks.

The Department of Communities and Local Government published planning guidance for onshore oil & gas projects last July, which makes clear that planning authorities when assessing applications should assume that the environmental and health and safety regulatory regimes operate effectively rather than duplicating effort.

We are also consulting on proposals designed to simplify current procedures for obtaining access to underground land. This consultation is open until 15 August 2014 and, subject to the outcome of the consultation, could lead to legislative proposals.

Graham Jones (Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons); Hyndburn, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change how many hydraulic fracturing licences are pending approval in (a) England, (b) Lancashire and (c) Hyndburn constituency.

Michael Fallon 
There is no “hydraulic fracturing licence”. DECC issues petroleum exploration and development licences (PEDLs). However, PEDLs are not specific to shale gas and do not give permission for operations, but grant exclusivity to licensees in relation to hydrocarbons (including shale gas but also other forms) within a particular area. All operations, such as drilling, hydraulic fracturing or production, however require planning permission, and applications are subject to public consultation. They also require access agreement with relevant landowner(s), Environment Agency permits, HSE scrutiny, and DECC consent before operations can commence. DECC is not currently considering any applications for hydraulic fracturing in the UK.

Mark Menzies (Fylde, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps he is taking to ensure that the risk of flooding is taken into account in any potential shale gas sites.

Michael Fallon 
Any development (including a shale gas site) that is planned near a main river or a flood defence (including a sea defence) will require a flood defence consent from the Environment Agency. The Environment Agency is a statutory consultee in the planning process and can object to any development that they consider to be at high risk of flooding. The Environment Agency will continue to assess each site on a case by case basis and work with operators and local planning to ensure sites are protected from flood risk.

Mark Menzies (Fylde, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps he is taking to ensure that the views of homeowners are taken into account before any change in existing trespass legislation to allow for horizontal shale gas drilling.

Michael Fallon 
We are currently running a 12-week consultation on proposals for underground drilling access for shale gas, oil and geothermal energy. Home owners are invited to take part in this consultation, and can respond by post, e-mail or by using our online portal. The Government will not make a decision on this issue until we have analysed the consultation responses. This feedback may help to refine the existing proposal, develop an alternative proposal or convince the Government that the existing system is fit for purpose.

In addition to the consultation, we have engaged with groups or organisations that represent home owners. We held workshops in February and March this year, which were attended by representative groups such as the Country Landowner’s Association, the National Farmers Union and a number of local authorities and elected representatives

Questions on communities and local government

Dennis Skinner (Bolsover, Labour)
The Minister referred to the fact that there was a multiplicity of ideas relating to local government and brownfield sites. Does he really think that people will want to build on a brownfield site if they know that fracking is likely to take place there in the future?

Nicholas Boles (Grantham and Stamford, Conservative)
It is not my belief that fracking is likely to take place in the centre of towns and cities, which is where most of these brownfield sites are. There is of course a question about the various uses that might be made of any site, but most of the brownfield land that should come forward for development, particularly housing development, is unlikely also to be used for fracking.

Questions on energy and climate change
Mark Menzies (Fylde, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps he is taking to ensure that the distribution of shale gas community benefit funds go to those households closest to potential drilling sites.

Michael Fallon 
We have welcomed a package of community benefits that was put forward by industry. It is encouraging that industry will offer £100,000 per fractured well site during exploration, so communities can benefit early, as well as 1% of revenues at production.

The UK Onshore Operators Group has provided more information about the community benefits scheme and will be partnering with the UK Communities Foundation for two pilot schemes during the exploration stage. The UK Communities Foundation will work with local residents to use the funding according to their needs and priorities. UKOOG also announced further consultation on payments at production stage.

Graham Jones (Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons); Hyndburn, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to which locations pending applications for hydraulic fracturing relate.

Michael Fallon 
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 30 June 2014, Hansard, column 426W:


2 replies »

  1. Michael Fallon here speaks of introduction of environmental protection flaunting ‘permiits’, cutting ‘exploratory’ desecration of eco systems to between two and four weeks….the truth is there are no ‘low risk activities’ with regard to the various forms of extreme fossil fuel extraction…and the public do not want it!
    Thanks for posting your updates Ruth and good to see you for my adjourned crown court appeal in Hove on 25th June…hope to see you in court on 10th September for one and a half days!

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