In this Fracking Week in Westminster:
- Caroline Lucas asks about flood risk in drilling areas
- Chris Matheson asks about the methane leak in Porter Ranch, California
- Peers debate whether an amendment to a new bill could promote fracking in National Parks
Thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts
Written environment questions
13th January 2016
Question by Caroline Lucas, Green, Brighton, Pavilion
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what proportion of onshore oil and gas (a) licence blocks and (b) wells with permission to be drilled are in areas with high or medium flood risk; what the Government’s policy is on permitting fracking in areas of flood risk; what assessment she has made of the effect of flooding on the risks of water contamination associated with shale gas extraction; and if she will make a statement.
Reply by Rory Stewart, Environment Minister
Prior to the launch of the 14th Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round, a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was undertaken for all areas offered for licensing applications, which addressed flood risk. The award of a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) does not itself give any permission for operations to begin. Before a licensee can commence any operations they must apply for and be granted a number of further permissions and consents for each specific site within a PEDL area. These include planning permission and environmental permits from the Environment Agency.
Flood risk will be considered on a case by case basis where relevant as part of the consideration through the planning system of proposals for onshore oil and gas development, including development involving hydraulic fracturing. National planning policy is clear that inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from areas at highest risk. Where development is necessary, it should be made safe without increasing flood risk elsewhere. The policy is also clear that development should not contribute to, or be adversely affected by, unacceptable levels of water pollution.
Flood risk is also taken into account by the Environment Agency before any environmental permits are issued to drill for oil and gas. If a company wishes to carry out works in, over, under or near a main river, flood defence or a sea defence, they must apply to the Environment Agency for consent. To carry out work on watercourses which are not regulated by the Agency, a company will need to apply to the relevant regulatory body responsible for that particular watercourse.
Written energy questions
12th January 2016
Question by Chris Matheson, Labour, City of Chester
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what initial assessment she has made of the implications of the incident at Porter Ranch, California, for safety and engineering procedures and standards in the UK onshore unconventional gas extraction sector.
Reply by Andrea Leadsom, Environment Minister
In the UK, we have an entirely different regulatory system to the US.
We have over 50 years of experience in safely conducting surface activities and constructing onshore gas wells, regulated by the Health & Safety Executive and Environment Agency.
Our tough regulations ensure on-site safety, prevent water contamination, mitigate seismic activity and air pollution. To reinforce our already robust regulations, 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. These include the assessment of environmental impacts, groundwater monitoring, community benefits and prohibiting hydraulic fracturing in specified protected areas.
The UK has one of the best track records in the world when it comes to protecting our environment while also developing our industries – and we’ve brought that experience to bear on the shale gas protections.
Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, House of Lords
12th January 2016
Extract of speech about an amendment on National Park Authority powers by Baroness Williams of Trafford, Communities and Local Government Minister
My Lords, there has been much speculation about what these powers might mean in respect of fracking and so on. The whole purpose of the amendment is to give park authorities the scope to be more innovative, rather than to act in an unduly competitive way with each other.
Extract of speech on Lord Beecham, shadow spokesperson on communities and local government
One matter that was raised in the House of Commons was clarified at the time by the Minister, but I invite the noble Baroness to repeat the assurance that nothing in this proposal would facilitate the adoption of fracking in any national park area—that is, that it would not be open to a national park authority to allow such a development. It would be good to have it on the record in your Lordships’ House as well as in the Commons.
Extract of speech by Baroness Williams
I can also assure the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, that nothing in the proposal facilitates fracking.