New fracking amendments to Infrastructure Bill released

A new set of conditions on fracking by Labour’s energy team and a group of backbench MPs were released this morning. The House of Commons is expected to vote on them later today during discussions on the Infrastructure Bill.

On Monday, the government in the House of Lords made changes to conditions on fracking, originally proposed by Labour and agreed in the House of Commons a fortnight earlier. Campaign groups accused the government of doing a U-turn on protection for fracking areas.

Today’s amendments by Labour seek to ban fracking from groundwater source protection zones. The amendments, signed by the Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint and Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex, also require environmental impact assessments for fracking, monitoring of fugitive methane emissions to air during and after a well’s operation, and individual notification of residents affected by fracking.

A group of five Lib Dem MPs and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas have issued other amendments to the bill, which would require the consent, as well as notification, of local people before fracking can go ahead.

Labour’s amendments to fracking conditions

  1. Environmental Impact Requires planning authorities to take into account the environmental impact assessment of the development, including a comprehensive environmental risk assessment. The House of Lords amendment required only that the environmental impact of the development had been taken into account.
  2. Independent well inspections Does not change the House of Lords wording
  3. 12 months monitoring of methane in groundwater Does not change the House of Lords wording
  4. Air monitoring Labour’s amendment requires “Appropriate arrangements have been made for the monitoring of fugitive emissions into the air”. Labour’s amendment includes monitoring after the site has been decommissioned. The House of Lords amendment mentioned emissions of methane into the air for the period of the environmental permit.
  5. Groundwater Labour’s amendment seeks to prohibit fracking in groundwater source protection zones, which are areas defined by the Environment Agency. The House of Lords amendment referred to groundwater source areas.
  6. Protected areas Labour’s amendment seeks to prohibit fracking in or under other protected areas. The House of Lords amendment referred only to “within other protected areas” and did not mention under.
  7. Cumulative affects Does not change the House of Lords wording
  8. Substances Does not change the House of Lords wording
  9. Restoration Does not change the House of Lords wording
  10. Consultation with “relevant undertaker” Does not change the House of Lords wording
  11. Notification Labour’s amendment requires notification of local residents “on an individual basis of relevant activity”. The House of Lords removed the requirement for individual notification.

The current version of the Infrastructure Bill requires the Secretary of State to submit regulations on the detail of fracking conditions to parliament by the end of July 2015. Another Labour amendment seeks to prevent any fracking until the regulations have been approved by both the House of Commons and House of Lords. Labour is also seeking to remove from the bill a clause that gives the Secretary of State the power to give fracking the go-ahead if he or she “is otherwise satisfied that it is appropriate to issue the consent”.

Other amendments

An amendment by Caroline Lucas and the Lib Dem MPs Julian Huppert, Norman Baker, Stephen Lloyd, Martin Horwood and Tessa Munt seeks to add to Labour’s amendment on notification. Their amendment would require operators to obtain consent to fracking from local residents.

The same group, along with the Conservative John Randall, also seek to ban fracking both within and under protected areas.

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