Regulation

Wildlife Trusts identify 188 nature reserves in oil and gas licence blocks

Whisby Nature Park included in a new oil and gas licence block. Picture by The Wildlfe Trusts

Whisby Nature Park included in a new oil and gas licence block. Picture by The Wildlfe Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts are urging the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, to extend the areas where fracking is banned.

The appeal comes on the final day for comments to a government consultation on the latest round of oil and gas licences.

The Wildlife Trusts, which has identified nearly 200 nature reserves in new exploration blocks, wants more protected areas to be frack-free.

The government has said fracking will not be allowed from National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (although operators will be permitted to drill underneath them).

But it has changed its mind on banning fracking from or under Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), which are among the country’s most sensitive wildlife areas.

Now The Wildlife Trusts, which represents county wildlife trusts, wants to include SSSIs on the list of banned areas for fracking. And it wants the operation to be ruled out both in and around:

  • Special Protection Areas – sites protected under the Wild Birds Directive
  • Special Areas of Conservation – sites protected under the Habitats Directive
  • Ramsar sites – internationally important wetland sites
  • Local Nature Reserves
  • Local Wildlife sites

It said:

“These wild refuges are recognised and valued at an international, national and a local level, and should be afforded protection”.

The organisation, along with the RSPB, wants people to email the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, and ask her to change her mind on SSSIs.

Nature reserves in potential fracking areas

The Wildlife Trusts also revealed that 188 nature reserves managed by county wildlife trusts are in the oil and gas licence blocks announced by the government last month.

The blocks were divided into two sections. The first tranche comprises 27 blocks, which are due to be confirmed soon. According to The Wildlife Trusts 42 nature reserves, managed by seven trusts, are in the first tranche. They comprise:

15 in Nottinghamshire
10 in Lincolnshire
5 in Derbyshire
5 in Yorkshire
3 in Lancashire
2 in Leicestershire and Rutland
2 in Sheffield

A second tranche of licences covers 132 blocks which were subject to a Habitats Regulations Assessment because they were within 10km of a wildlife site designated under European Union legislation. A consultation on these blocks ends today.

In this group, the Wildlife Trusts counted 146 reserves, managed by 19 trusts. Of the 146, nearly 100 of the reserves are managed by just six trusts:

30 in Yorkshire
17 in Cheshire
17 in Gloucestershire
17 in Lincolnshire
9 in Herefordshire
9 in Nottinghamshire

Earlier this month, the RSPB said nine of its nature reserves were in the new licence blocks. It also warned that 293 SSSIs were vulnerable to fracking. They were outside or partially outside areas from which fracking was banned. The Wildfowl and Wetland Trusts said four of its wetland centres were in licence areas.

Today, the RSPB submitted its response to the government’s consultation on the Habitats Regulations Assessment. The organisation told DrillOrDrop:

“We are broadly very pleased with the approach taken by the Oil and Gas Authority in the Habitats’ consultation and assessment, and we welcome European sites being essentially ruled out from fracking at the surface.”

“We do have a number of concerns regarding specific licences and sites, and we’ve laid all this out in a detailed consultation response. In addition, we remain extremely concerned that other protected areas, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), still haven’t been protected in this way and we’d call on Government to honour the promise they made in February this year to an outright ban on fracking in all protected areas, including SSSIs.”

“The RSPB doesn’t currently support fracking in the UK because it still hasn’t met two key tests that we set out in our ‘Are we fit to frack?’ reports in 2014: the regulatory regime around fracking is still inadequate and we’re yet to be convinced that fracking is compatible with the UK’s domestic and international climate change commitments.”

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