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
Brilliant, Thanks Ruth. Re-tweeted u on 3 accounts today. I think we are winning, Such a close vote. It sucks, and I feel the tide turning with such a slim majority. People power will win the day. Loo
Looks like we can also interpret this as a government running scared, and wanting us all to vote them out asap! Could happen quite soon! Who knows how they got in, wheels oiled and new gas engines probably, but we may have to have two million marching on london to stop the war on the environment our water supplies and bio genocide of the indigenous population.
We already have grounds to sue them due to NO evidence being supplied to support the gov statement delivered by the EA that fracking is safe. Indeed ever increasing amounts of science coming out of the US says it is even more dangerous to frack in European land mass, the thick UK shale particularly which will encourage greater water migration and contamination, than it is on the large continent across the pond.
Labour were quoted in the Observer recently saying how the safeguards were already being removed, They need to get their act together as do the rest of those on woolsack opposition benches, and start pulling the government apart instead of each other. Or perhaps they just enjoy sitting on the benches. Many labour supporters I talk to know nothing about fracking, but once you tell them where the evidence is and what it is, they soon realise what mugs they are being made to be.
Maria’s comment is for all of us who are sick and tired of MP’s voting how the party dictates, not representing the views of their constituents.
Time to get a queue of angry voters outside the next MP surgery event equipped with scientific evidence to show them how they are being duped by erroneous facts and figures and bad science feeding government policy makers and decisions.
Quite something as the anti-fracker campaigners (who are not elected) claim that fracking is undemocratic – yet our democratically elected Parliament has voted.
Says something that our ‘elected government’ was only voted for by 1 in 4 of the voting population – not truly representative of the population.
Do you want a lot of UKIP MPs – I certainly don’t.
I was not impressed by the BBC coverage today. I listened to Radio 4 before the vote and watched BBC 1 after it…and only 1 geologist interviewed. That is not balanced reporting when the key issue is the geology!
Fracture height and propagation plus well integrity hardly covered anywhere, in particular casing and cementation. Also no drilling engineer or petroleum engineer interviewed. The chances of a shale gas related hydraulic induced fracture propagating vertically through 1,200m of rock to surface are zero. So there is no issue within the national parks / SSSIs etc. Since when has “1,200m under” equated to “in”?
The other point not made is that there are technical and economic limits to the length of horizontal well sections. It is not possibleto drill down to 1,200m and then drill 30,000m horizontally as some would want the general public to believe. I recall the record is in Qatar where Maersk drill horizontal sections of around 10km however the circumstances are significantly different in that the Qatar wells are highly productive oil wells and are drilled with equipment which is prohibitively expensive for onshore shale gas wells.
The main issues are access, traffic and water. All of which are part of the planning application process and can be managed. If not, permission will be refused as at one of the Cuadrilla sites in Lancashire.
The RSPB has a nerve commenting when they actively promote large wind farms and smaller bird chopping turbines.
Labour against fracking for shale??
What hypocrisy! ! They are the government that hand out shale license to Caudrilla and iGas and the likes in the first place when they were in government. Just posturing to get the votes from the green.