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Fracking week in Westminster (7th-11th July)

12th July 2014

Transcripts of this week’s parliamentary questions about fracking, shale and onshore oil and gas

  • Nato Secretary General’s comments about Russian infiltration of anti-fracking groups
  • Fracking in East Yorkshire and the Mendip Hills
  • Health effects of endocrine disrupter chemicals used in fracking fluids

With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com

7th July 2014
Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on NATO–Russian relations of the comments attributed to Anders Fogh Rasmussen in The Guardian about Russian involvement in anti-fracking protests; and whether they have asked him to produce evidence that Russia is funding British non-governmental organisations opposed to fracking in the United Kingdom.

Baroness Warsi (Conservative)
We have made no assessment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Secretary General’s reported comments on Russian funding of British non-governmental organisations and anti-fracking protests. We have not requested evidence from NATO to substantiate these claims.

8th July 2014
Greg Knight (East Yorkshire, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether any fracking, or explorative work relating to fracking (a) is currently taking place and (b) has recently taken place in East Yorkshire, and where; and if he will make a statement.

Michael Fallon (The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change; Sevenoaks, Conservative)
No applications have been received for hydraulic fracturing of shale gas in East Yorkshire. However, small scale testing to determine rock characteristics is planned; these are a routine part of oil and gas operations.

9th July 2014
Lord Hylton (Crossbench)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when hydraulic fracturing for natural gas begins in the north Somerset coal-field and the Mendip Hills; what safeguards will be enforced to prevent contamination of (1) the Bath hot springs, (2) the Cheddar Gorge caves and underground water-courses, and (3) all other local water supplies; and who will be responsible for such safeguards.

Baroness Verma (Conservative)
There are no current proposals for hydraulic fracturing operations in the areas of Bath or the Cheddar Gorge.

Planning applications for onshore oil and gas development (including shale gas) must be subject to consultation with the local community and with relevant statutory consultation bodies such as the Environment Agency before the mineral planning authority takes a decision. Any decision must take account of all relevant planning issues. In this context, the National Planning Policy Framework states that, when considering the impact of a proposed development on the significance of a designated heritage asset, local planning authorities should give great weight to the asset’s conservation.

The National Policy Framework also advises that any proposed development on land within or outside a Site of Special Scientific Interest, such as Cheddar Gorge, should not normally be permitted if it is likely to have an adverse effect on the Site (either individually or in combination with other developments).

I can also confirm that there are other regulatory controls which would need to be satisfied if any application for oil and gas development received planning permission. There are administered by the Environment Agency, the HSE and the Department. These controls will ensure that all prospective threats to the environment, or to safety, are effectively controlled. In particular, the Environment Agency will not permit any activity which might pose a threat to groundwater.

10th July 2014
Paul Flynn (Newport West, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will make an assessment of the implications for environmental safety in the UK hydraulic fracturing programme of studies published in 2013 by the University of Missouri on the problem of dispersal of endocrine disrupter chemicals from fluids used in the fracking process for natural gas.

Michael Fallon (The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change; Sevenoaks, Conservative)
The potential health impacts of chemical or radioactive exposure from shale gas activities have been considered by Public Health England, which published a draft report for comment in October 2013 and a final report in June 2014 entitled ‘Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposures to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of the Shale Gas Extraction Process’:

http://www.hpa.org.uk/Publications/Environment/PHECRCEReportSeries/PHECRCE009/

Public Health England considered the University of Missouri study as part of its review of the literature and data for the final report (see section 8.2).

The report concluded overall that:

“An assessment of the currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to the emissions associated with shale gas extraction will be low if the operations are properly run and regulated.”

It noted that

“Where potential risks have been identified in the literature, the reported problems are typically a result of operational failure and a poor regulatory environment.”

In the UK, all chemicals which are proposed for use in the hydraulic fracturing process are assessed in advance by the environmental regulators. Operators will not be able to use chemicals for well stimulation unless the Regulator considers them acceptable for use.

Allowing the use of a chemical at one site does not automatically mean the Regulator will allow it to be used elsewhere. This is because the environmental risks may be different, for example, due to local geological conditions.

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