After MPs backed fracking under National Parks, Labour immediately called for a moratorium.
The vote, by 298-261, approved the government’s Draft Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2015.
They will allow oil and gas companies to drill wells under National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage Sites at depths of at least 1,200m. More details
In a statement, Labour’s energy spokesperson, Lisa Nandy, said:
“We should have a moratorium on fracking in Britain until we can be sure it is safe and won’t present intolerable risks to our environment. Neither MPs or the public have received these assurances yet Ministers are ignoring people’s legitimate concerns and imposing fracking on communities.”
“It is frankly shabby of the Government to sneak through these weak fracking rules without any proper Parliamentary debate. Ministers had previously conceded that there should be the tougher safeguards that Labour has been calling for to protect drinking water sources and sensitive parts of our countryside like National Parks. Now they’ve abandoned those promises.”
Most Labour MPs abstained in a vote on a moratorium on a fracking during the passage of the Infrastructure Bill in the last parliament.
“Treating Commons with contempt”
The Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, tweeted:
“Government successfully sneak through (without debate) change to allow fracking under protected areas. Real shame 298 MPs voted for it.”
Labour’s Barry Gardiner (Brent North) described it as “an anti-democratic, downright bewildering back-door double.”
The former environment minister, Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, (Exeter), tweeted :
“Majority cut to 37 as Tories push through fracking in National Parks with no debate, breaking promise & treating Commons with contempt”
The Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, described the vote without a debate as “outrageous” and “tantamount to vandalism”
UK Onshore Oil and Gas, which represents the industry, said in a statement:
“UKOOG welcomes the secondary legislation passed today by Parliament. The onshore oil industry takes the protection of our natural world seriously, and we have a long established track record of developing oil and gas fields successfully and safely in environmentally sensitive areas.
“It is important to recognise that any future hydraulic fracturing for shale will take place several kilometres underground and as an industry we take all possible steps to minimise our impact on the environment and the surrounding communities.”
“Deceptive u-turn from the Conservative government”
The Preston New Road Action Group, which is campaigning against Cuadrilla’s plans to frack in Lancashire, described the vote as “a deceptive u-turn from the Conservative government, who already promised an outright ban on fracking in these areas”. Claire Stephenson from the group said:
“The oil and gas industry influences within Westminster are both underhand and without due consideration for scientific evidence implicating health and environmental dangers which are mounting every day against fracking. This reeks of all-out hypocrisy in the wake of the Paris Climate Summit just a week ago where the message of ‘keeping it in the ground’ in relation to climate-damaging fossil fuels was universally accepted.”
“Exposing nature to needless risk”
The RSPB said it was disappointed by the vote. Martin Harper, the organisation’s conservation director, said:
“We are concerned and disappointed to see today’s legislation voted through. These new laws will allow fracking 1,200m beneath Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), National Parks and Areasof Outstanding Natural Beauty. Given that we’re dealing with a brand new industry, with very little research to point to, the RSPB believes it would be in the best interests of people and nature to ban fracking entirely within and beneath these important sites and other protected areas”
“The RSPB is concerned that there is no clear evidence of what a safe depth is beneath these sites to protect water and wildlife. Permitting drilling beneath them could encourage fracking wells to be located nearby, with associated noise, light and chemical pollution posing a risk to wildlife”.
“Government’s consultation on plans to ban fracking at the surface in protected areas was a step in the right direction – although it remains a job half done. Today’s decision, permitting the extraction of gas and oil beneath these sites, exposes nature to needless risk”
Urgent need for more evidence on impacts
The National Trust said in a statement the vote did nothing to allay its concerns about the impact of fracking on the UKs most precious landscapes.
“The Trust stands by its call for the Government to rule out fracking in the most sensitive areas – protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks – and make them frack-free zones. There is a need to ensure that regulations offer sufficient protection to our treasured natural and historic environment.”
“There is an urgent need for more evidence about the impact of fracking on the hydrology, ecology and geology of landscapes. This is needed for informed decision-making about any future for fracking in the UK.”
“Government can’t be trusted on fracking”
Friends of the Earth said:
“New Government rules mean that fracking will be permitted in the protected areas that surround and feed water into our drinking water aquifers. Fracking will also be allowed under our national parks. This is despite a Government promise earlier this year to protect our drinking water and introduce an “outright ban” on fracking in national parks.
“This just goes to show that we really can’t trust the Government on fracking, and the only way to protect people and the environment is to make sure the UK stays frack free.”
“Yet again, the Government has revealed that it is firmly on the side of the fracking industry, and willing to do anything to get it off the ground.”
Greenpeace said more than 40,000 people had signed a petition against fracking under national parks.
The Campaign for National Parks, which describes itself as the only independent charity campaigning to protect National Parks, said the vote was “devastating news”.
“Damaging effect on tourism”
Opponents of fracking in North Yorkshire, where Third Energy wants to frack a well, feared areas on the edge of the North York Moors national park would see extra traffic, noise, air, light and water pollution. David Davis, of Frack Free Ryedale, said the outcome of the vote would damage protected areas and the local visitor economy.
MP “doing the government’s bidding”
Local campaigners also criticised their MP, Kevin Hollinrake, who they said had voted for the regulations. Sue Gough from Frack Free Kirby Misperton said:
“We are shocked that Kevin Hollinrake has voted to allow fracking under protected areas. Mr Hollinrake has consistently failed to represent his constituents’ views on fracking in Parliament, and it is now abundantly clear that he is happy to ignore public opinion in Ryedale and simply do the Government’s bidding whenever he’s told.”
Monica Gripaios, of Frack Free Ryedale, said:
“When Mr Hollinrake was elected, he said he was going to be Thirsk and Malton’s representative in Westminster, not Westminster’s representative in Thirsk and Malton. He has now shown his constituents that in fact the opposite is the case.”
Updated 17/12/15 to include National Trust reaction