In this Fracking Week in Westminster:
Questions and statements on
- Shale and national security
- Fracking in Ryedale
- Carbon capture and storage
- Divestment from fossil fuels
- Sovereign wealth fund
- Coal gasification
- Fracking in protected areas
With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts
19th November 2015
Question by David Rutley, Conservative, Macclesfield
Given the ongoing complex challenges in the world, particularly Russia’s recent action in the Ukraine, can my right hon. Friend tell us what steps she is taking further to strengthen this country’s national energy security?
Reply by Amber Rudd, Energy Secretary
There is a big, liquid global gas market and we are, of course, trying to bring on our own national gas through shale. I note my hon. Friend’s concerns, and I am happy to say that we get most of our imported gas from Norway. He raises a good point, and we will keep the matter constantly under review.
Question by Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative, Thirsk and Malton
There is an application to explore for shale gas in the beautiful area of Ryedale in my constituency. Assuming the application and the exploration are successful, what assurances can the Minister offer
Reply by Andrea Leadsom, Energy Minister
I can absolutely assure my hon. Friend that all onshore oil and gas projects, including shale gas projects, are subject to scrutiny through the planning system, which addresses impacts on residents such as traffic movements, noise and working hours, and that national planning guidance says that, in respect of minerals such as shale oil and gas, new developments should not just be appropriate for their location but take into account the effects of pollution, including the cumulative effects, on health, the natural environment or general amenity, and the potential sensitivity of the area. I am well aware of what a beautiful area he lives in and I assure him we are absolutely focused on that.
Question by Ian Lavery, Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)
If the Government are serious about meeting the targets on emission levels, instead of yesterday announcing the closure of the coal-fired power stations, would it not have been eminently sensible to come forward with a serious attempt at carbon capture and storage, which would enable us to burn the fossil fuels, coal and shale gas with near-zero emissions, providing secure, affordable energy for generations to come?
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
I agree with the hon. Gentleman in part, in that there is the opportunity for CCS to enable us to use fossil fuels for longer, but the reality is that the UK coal fleet is extremely old. All of those coal plants are due to come off in the next few years and we would not want to be building new coal-fired power stations now when there is the lower-carbon alternative of gas and the whole prospect of a clean low-carbon future.
Bill presented on the Paris Climate Change Conference
Extract of speech by Caroline Lucas, Green, Brighton, Pavilion
Within the investor community, the early adopters have already begun a substantial movement to divest from fossil fuels, a movement representing $2.6 trillion in assets under management. The world’s largest institutional investors, including the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth and Rockefeller Brother funds, have all expressed their concern about carbon-related investment risk, and they are already adjusting their portfolios accordingly by moving out of fossil fuel holdings.
I believe that Parliament should be taking a lead on this too. That is why I am engaged in an ongoing and, frankly, very lengthy correspondence with our own parliamentary pension fund managers. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us today that she will use her good offices to make them look at this more seriously and with more urgency because, to be frank, I have seen nothing to suggest that they are treating this with any urgency at all.
Divestment also models more broadly the kind of commitments we should expect to be taken by Governments, yet on the challenge of redirecting finance—both public subsidies and private capital—away from fossil fuels and into low carbon energy, our own Government’s policy too often involves doing exactly the opposite. We have seen the ending of subsidies for onshore wind, the slashing of solar subsidies, the awarding of tax breaks for fracking and for offshore oil and gas drilling, the application of the climate change levy to renewables, the ditching of zero carbon homes, the removal of community energy tax breaks and the funnelling of export credits into hydrocarbon projects abroad—the list goes on and on—yet not a penny is being put into the new public infrastructure fund for energy efficiency. Then yesterday, the go-ahead was given for a whole new dash for gas.
Foreign ownership of UK assets – motion in the House of Lords
Extract of speech by The Earl of Courtown
In the summer Budget 2015, the Chancellor announced that he would bring forward a proposal to establish a sovereign wealth fund from shale gas revenues to ensure that local communities share in the economic benefits of shale gas developments in their area. More details will be set out in the Autumn Statement.
Extract of a speech by Tom Blenkinsop, Labour, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland
We should be supporting coal gasification. The Tees area is right next to the Durham coalfields and there are years and years, if not decades, of coal still under there which can be gasified. That syngas is 50% cheaper than conventional gas. Make no mistake: the United States will turn off the tap of the current shale gas exports we receive at the moment. The only reason we get that gas is because the US does not have enough container vessels to contains its own shale gas. When it does, that tap will be turned off, which will have profound effects on our economy and our ability to keep the lights on. We should be using that syngas to prioritise the steel industry and other manufacturing.
Amber Rudd statement to parliament on energy and climate policy included three references to shale gas. See our report.
Question by David Morris Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what steps she is taking to prevent shale gas drilling at the surface in areas of the greatest environmental value.
Reply by Andrea Leadsom The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Southampton Test on 11 November 2015 to Written Parliamentary Question 15221:
Housing and Planning Bill – public bill committee examination of witnesses
Dr Hugh Ellis, head of policy at the Town and Country Planning Association
The most radical change in the Bill, I guess, is the end of English discretionary planning. The powers in the Bill on permission in principle are extraordinary. They apply to all land and all forms of development contained in the appropriate documents, which is all development plans. There has been a very strong narrative that this will only apply to housing, and only to a small number of houses, but the permission in principle idea, which is as close to zonal planning as we have got in this country, gives the Government the power at any time to introduce it to all forms of development. For example, fracking could easily be a part of it in a minerals plan.
What really puzzles me is, if you want to use this power in a restricted, focused way, why create such an extraordinary level of change in the plan? To give you an idea, the English discretionary planning system was developed in response to zonal planning. It was meant to be more flexible, particularly for the private sector, and more democratic. The zonal planning systems in the US have been extremely problematic. They have been in the Supreme Court 25 times since 1920 because of their explicit use for racist purposes. If you are going to introduce zonal planning, you really have to be careful about how you do it. A White Paper or a Green Paper would have been great.
Discretionary planning and zonal planning are two different cultures and two different systems, and the Bill does not work out how they will mesh together. If you try to drive those two cultures and systems together without an awful lot of forethought, you have a major problem. The balance between permission in principle in the plan and the technical detail later on is important, and the Bill makes it clear that you have to approve the technical detail in accordance. We have created a very, very powerful new mechanism.
Question by Jim Cunningham, Labour, Coventry South
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, pursuant to the Answer of 6 November 2015 to Question 13387, what information her Department holds on the number of sites approved for fracking in England and Wales; what the location is of each such site; and if she will make a statement.
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
There are currently no sites approved for fracking in England and Wales. Any operator would need a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) in place before commencing hydrocarbon operations. A PEDL does not, in and of itself, allow an operator to commence hydrocarbon operations. Rather, they grant exclusivity to licensees within a defined area. All operations would also require local planning permission, Environment Agency permits, Health and Safety Executive scrutiny, Oil and Gas Authority consent and access agreement(s) with relevant landowner(s).
The Infrastructure Act 2015 introduced a range of further requirements that must be met before an operator can carry out hydraulic fracturing in a responsible, sustainable and safe manner. A hydraulic fracturing consent will not be issued unless my rt. hon. Friend the Secretary of State is satisfied that the conditions are met. The Secretary of State must also be satisfied that it is appropriate to issue the consent.
Question by Thangam Debbonaire, Labour, Bristol West
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what steps her Department has taken to assess the impact of hydraulic fracturing in (a) national parks and (b) other environmentally sensitive areas.
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
The Government issued guidance on its planning policy on unconventional hydrocarbon development in National Parks, the Broads, AONBs and World Heritage Sites in July 2014, which clearly sets out the high level of protection accorded to these areas in respect to development.
In addition, in July 2015 the Government laid draft regulations that define protected areas in which hydraulic fracturing will be prohibited. These regulations ensure that the process of high volume hydraulic fracturing cannot take place at depths above 1200 metres in National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites and areas that are most vulnerable to groundwater pollution.
We have also separately committed to ensuring that fracking cannot be conducted from wells that are drilled in the UK’s most valuable areas and are minded to apply these in Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Ramsar and Natura 2000 sites, as well as the areas covered by the draft Protected Areas regulations.