Environmental campaigners and Scotland’s energy minister have criticised the government for ignoring opposition and going ahead with plans to change the trespass laws in favour of shale gas drilling. An industry group said the decision would pave the way for shale gas development in the UK.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has announced it will introduce legislation to give oil and gas companies the right to drill below 300m without landowners’ permission. This is despite a consultation on the proposal which attracted more than 40,000 responses, 99%+ of which were against. Our story on the consultation results.
Reactions to the announcement
Jane Thomas, senior campaigner for Friends of the Earth: “With 99% of the respondents opposing the Government’s plans to allow fracking under people’s homes without their permission – it is clear that this was a sham consultation.
“This Government seems hell-bent on fracking irrespective of widespread opposition. You’d think with a general election approaching politicians would listen to public opinion and get behind the popular energy solutions of cutting waste and backing renewables.
“Fracking for more fossil fuels will cause more pollution and bring about more catastrophic climate change – the Government should stop making things easier for the frackers and allow people a say in what happens beneath their property.”
Ken Cronin, of the UK Onshore Operators’ Group: This is an important day for the future of energy supply in the UK as this amendment will help pave the way for the UK to develop natural gas from shale for the benefit of households and businesses across the country.
“The amendments to the bill will give automatic access rights to underground land below 300 metres, bringing it in line with other essential services such as water, sewage and coal. The current system involves significant potential delays and costs without benefit either to the oil and gas industry or the landowner.
“Horizontal drilling for natural gas and oil from shale typically uses a well of 6-9 inches in diameter typically at least a mile below the surface. Landowners on the surface will not notice this underground activity, it will have no impact on their day-to-day lives and, at this depth, the land is not in use by the landowner.
Scotland’s Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, told The Daily Record: “UK Government proposals to remove the right of Scottish householders to object to drilling under their homes, without so much as debate in the Scottish Parliament, flies in the face of Scotland’s cautious, considered and evidence based approach on this issue. It is also fundamentally an issue affecting land ownership rights.
“Whatever your view on the issue of unconventional oil and gas – and it is clear that there are both opportunities and concerns – there is only one way that the people of Scotland can determine the approach in Scotland – including beneath their homes and land.
“That is with the devolution of the necessary powers to Scotland and the current devolution process for the “extensive new powers” promised in the vow should include these powers.
“Unconventional oil and gas developments should only ever happen under a robust regulatory regime, and the Scottish Government takes this issue particularly seriously.”
Simon Clydesdale, from Greenpeace, told The Guardian: “The roar of opposition to this arrogant policy is deafening, yet ministers are determined to blithely ignore what the overwhelming majority of the British public thinks and wants. There will be a hefty political price to pay for this massive sell-out to the narrow interests of the shale lobby.”