Shadow ministers call for debate on fracking regulations

NandyMcCarthyThe government has been accused of trying to push through rules on fracking under National Parks by calling a parliamentary vote with less than a day’s notice.

The shadow energy and environment secretaries called for a debate on the regulations in an open letter to their opposite numbers in government.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy (left, energy) and Kerry McCarthy (environment) raised the issue after last Tuesday’s vote by the Second Delegated Legislative Committee on the Draft Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations.

They told the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, and the Environment Secretary Liz Truss, that Labour believed:

“Such important issues should be subject to a debate and a vote of the whole House.”

The regulations allow fracking at depths greater than 1,200m under National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites. There is no protection in the regulations for fracking in Sites of Special Scientific Interest and there are currently no regulations to ban fracking from the surface of protected areas, despite a government promise.

The SNP MP, Callum McCaig, asked for a debate on the regulations but was turned down by the leader of the Commons, Chris Grayling.

Ms Nandy and Ms McCarthy said in their letter, published yesterday, they were disappointed that the government appeared to be against a debate.

“We absolutely believe these weakened regulations fail to provide critical environmental safeguards, which must be re-introduced before any further developments in fracking can take place. Nothing that was said in Committee has allayed our concerns.”

Under parliamentary etiquette, MPs have a chance to vote on, but not debate, the regulations when they are put before the House of Commons, provided enough shout ‘No’ at the right moment.

At the time of writing, the government had not put forward a motion to agree the regulations so there is no date for when they will come before MPs. Ms Nandy and Ms McCarthy said:

“Could you confirm whether the government intends to press ahead and if so, can you confirm when you will be bringing forward the motion and the date of when a vote will take place on them?

“While we would be delighted if the government have had a change of heart, we are concerned that you are trying to push this through at short notice giving MPs and the public very little notice ahead of a deferred division or attempt through parliamentary procedural trickery to have a vote with less than a day’s notice.”

4 replies »

  1. In a letter written in Nov 2011, by Baroness Hanham in response to a question about the new draft National Planning Policy Framework it was clearly stated that ”while many groups have welcomed the proposals, some have expressed concerns that they could lead to inappropriate development. We are determined that this will not be so. the policies will include rigorous protection for Green Belt, for National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific interest, and give local people the right for the first time to protect green space that is important locally.

    We need homes…..jobs…….But this must not-and will not–be at the expense of our natural and historic environment. The daft makes clear, for example, that sites of the lowest environmental value–including so called brownfield land–should be used as a priority.

    Similarly the presumption in favour of sustainable development is not a loophole to allow any development. ……………..the draft NPPF should guide decisions –including its requirement for development to be sustainable.

    ………we will consider…..we will ensure……that the policy the government adopts will continue to protect our much loved countryside ………………………..”

  2. The constant distraction of trying to deal with planning appeals and new SSi’s and regulatory frameworks allows the DWI to get away with murder it would seem..

    Who, I ask, is attempting to pull together a framework or regulatory system fit for purpose within the water industry developed and evolved by local support and rates and our taxes and now in the hands of mega corporates told by the 2013 Water Act to be more competitive and globally aggressive?

    How are our water resources going to be safeguarded? While ministers debate fracking in general, it is water in particular that is our basic right and need, and yet so vulnerable to profiteering exploitation.

    We need to be more critical in tackling objections to fracking and include not just objections about dangers to health, environment and violations of health and safety regulations, but learning from the US experience there is so much danger to our interconnected water supplies, with so little regulatory framework apparent or transparently articulated, and this is a cause for major concern.

    If we don’t start asking the right questions soon then this is the effect fracking will have as in the US where in Oct this year it was found by one lawyer:

    “While the EPA spent years conducting this study [into fracking effects on water] only to claim in their press releases that water contamination from fracking ‘is not widespread or systemic,’ I have been receiving calls on a regular basis from people across the state of Pennsylvania whose water and air has been polluted by this industry and who are paying the price with their health,” said Ron Gulla, an impacted resident from Hickory, Pennsylvania. “I have been trying to help people who are being poisoned by this industry for years, while our federal agencies who are tasked with protecting these people has failed them.”

    It was vital that the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board hear these voices from the front lines, from people who have to deal with their water being poisoned. Not only has the agency been unresponsive, and failed to uphold its own basic mission to protect human health and
    the environment, the EPA—or perhaps more accurately the Obama Administration—misrepresented its own study when it claimed that “hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important
    vulnerabilities to drinking water resources.”

    Vulnerabilities to drinking water demand:

    Tight regulations AND ENFORCEMENT on water abstraction limits in areas with low water availability;

    Hydraulic fracturing MUST NEVER be allowed to be conducted directly into any formations containing drinking water resources;

    Cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids must be checked, verified checked and officially verified fit for millennia safety if fracking is allowed anywhere in the UK, with serious and guaranteed criminal charges promised for any found to violate regulations pertaining to them.

    Similarly criminal charges should be brought against any person, company or corporate that inadequately treats wastewater or discharges it into drinking water resources, or any aquifer or pathway that would lead to contamination of natural or processed clean water resources, and this should extend to those guilty of spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

    Ministers opposition or otherwise urgently need to take a closer look at the fact the UK is tinier than US states, and our fragile water supply will so easily be damaged forever once fracking gets underway, leaving a legend of pollution our grandchildren will never forgive.

  3. From Hansard Infrastructure Bill debate 26 Jan 2015
    Amber Rudd: Let me add to my earlier comments that we have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks, sites of special scientific interest and areas of outstanding natural beauty. I hope that will reassure the right hon. Gentleman about the liability potential for any of the areas that I know he is particularly keen to protect.

    Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I know that my hon. Friend will shortly respond to some of the amendments tabled in my name, but will she complete the sentence? Is she saying that there will be an outright ban on any fracking in national parks? Have the Government removed the words “except in exceptional circumstances”?

    Amber Rudd: My hon. Friend is right. That is exactly what we have done. We have now put in place an outright ban and will effectively remove those words.


    Rudd is a dud.


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