In this Fracking Week in Westminster
- Chris Matheson on chemical leaks and fracking in the countryside
- Alex Cunningham on licence block boundaries
- Baroness Featherstone on Government support for fracking
- Role of shale gas to tackling fuel poverty
- Community veto for fracking plans
- Nuclear and shale gas versus renewables
With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts
4th February 2016
Question by Chris Matheson Labour, City of Chester
Cheshire is about to enter into mineral extraction as well through fracking. The Government have gone back on their pledges on monitoring and preventing chemical spills from fracking rigs. While the Minister is considering the potential pollution of the Tamar, will he also consider whether there is sufficient monitoring to prevent chemical leaks from fracking in the headwaters of the River Dee, like that in the headwaters of the Tamar?
Reply by Rory Stewart, Environment minister
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for an ingenious connection, although the nature of the extraction in the two cases is quite different. The Environment Agency takes its responsibilities very seriously, whether in respect of quarrying or fracking. If there are particular concerns, I would be happy to sit down with him to discuss them in more detail.
Question by Chris Matheson
Can the Secretary of State confirm that it was her signature on a letter last July promising to drive forward fracking in sites of special scientific interest and national parks, in complete contradiction to assurances previously given? May I respectfully suggest to her that, since she is the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, she should be standing up for the interests of the environment and rural areas, and not the interests of big globalised fracking companies that want to frack in rural Cheshire?
Reply by Elizabeth Truss, Environment Secretary
As the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering made clear in their report, shale gas extraction is safe and has minimal impact on the environment, provided that it is correctly regulated. I am absolutely confident that we have very strong protections in place through the Environment Agency to do that.
2nd February 2016
Question by Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what criteria were applied when determining the boundaries of blocks offered in the 14th Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round by the Oil and Gas Authority.
Reply by Andrea Leadsom, Energy and Climate Change Minister
The boundaries of those blocks offered in the 14th Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round mirrored those covered by the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) assessment carried out prior to the launch of the 14th Round. The area of the SEA was determined by the areas with most potential for hydrocarbons in Great Britain.
1st February 2016
Question by Baroness Featherstone, Liberal Democrat
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how much money they have spent in this Parliamentary Session on support for fracking activities.
Reply by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Energy and Climate Change minister
I refer the noble Baroness to the answer my Hon. Friend the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change gave to the hon. Member for Huddersfield on 21 January 2016 to House of Commons Parliamentary.
The MP for Huddersfield is Barry Sheerman. We could not find a question asked by him on this subject on this date. However, on 19th January the Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom, gave the following holding answer to Michelle Donelan, Conservative MP for Chippenham:
“The Government supports the safe and sustainable development of unconventional hydrocarbons, but we will not subsidise shale gas development. Exploration and production are a commercial matter for developers.
The Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) has been established within DECC to lead on the policy area and co-ordinate work with other Government Departments and regulators. This is to encourage the development of the UK’s shale industry whilst ensuring that robust regulations are in place to safeguard public safety and protect the environment.”
Westminster hall debate on fuel poverty
3rd February 2016
David Mowat, Conservative, Warrington South
I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman’s arguments. He will be aware that the country that has reduced fuel poverty the most in the world over the past few years—indeed, it has also reduced carbon emissions—is the United States. That is because gas there is now one third of the price of our gas. Does he think that unconventional oil and gas in our country could make a big contribution to relieving the fuel poverty he is so concerned about?
Callum McCaig, SNP, Westminster Group Leader on Energy and Climate Change
I have had several conversations with people in the onshore and offshore oil and gas industries. Because of the nature of the European gas trading market, very few people seem to think that such options would reduce the costs here anywhere near as much as they have in the United States. They are also likely to be less cost-effective, so I do not believe that that is the answer to fuel poverty. It might be an answer to another question, but that is for another time.
Clive Lewis, Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)
The Energy and Climate Change Committee is clear that the most cost-effective option for decarbonising our economy is set out in the carbon budgets. We have made it clear in the past few weeks that if we intend to decarbonise our economy, renewables will play a crucial part. Our problem with Government policy is that it is going backwards on renewables. Renewables will play a crucial part in ensuring that this country meets its climate change commitments and carbon budgets cost-effectively. We must have a balanced energy portfolio; the dash for gas and going all out for fracking is not the way forward. The Opposition are calling for a more balanced approach as the best way to achieve our commitments.
House of Commons debate on the Energy Bill
2nd February 2016
Clive Lewis, Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister
Will he [Chris Heaton-Harris] be joining the community of Balcombe and other communities across the country who are opposing fracking in their areas? Will he be supporting them in the local decisions they are making, very powerfully, in opposing fracking? Fracking, as we have heard, will potentially have a national contribution to make, but locally, they do not want it. Will he respect their opinions as well?
Chris Heaton-Harris, Conservative, Daventry
We need to evolve our planning system so local communities benefit very much from any developments. I cited the French system which my fellow Eurosceptic colleagues will be very uptight about. There is a better way of dealing with planning when it comes to helping local communities to decide whether to take onshore wind, fracking or other things, but I do not think we are there yet.
House of Lords Debate on feed-in tariffs
2nd February 2016
Baroness Featherstone moved an amendment to annul secondary legislation on solar feed-in tariffs.
Viscount Hanworth, Labour
Why have the cuts [to the solar feed-in tariff] been so drastic? The reason is that the expenditure in support of the feed-in tariff threatens to pre-empt too large a proportion of the expenditure allowed under the so-called levy control framework, which limits the expenditure on subsidies that are levied from consumer bills. The Government wish to devote these funds to other purposes, which are their support of nuclear power and fracking. However, by some quirk of European Union legislation that could easily be disregarded, the funds devoted to supporting infant enterprises under the levy control framework are accounted as government taxation and government expenditure. This is a matter of statistical classification, which would be regarded as unimportant were it not for the Government’s obsession with the nominal size of the budget and the budget deficit.
Lord Robathan, Conservative
My Lords, for many years in the House of Commons I was the vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group because I happen to believe that renewable energy has a hugely important part to play in the future energy provision for this country. I hope that most noble Lords would agree with that. But it is only a part, and that is where the noble Viscount suggested that there is a contrast between nuclear, fracking and renewable energy. They all have a part to play in making a good policy to provide energy for this country.
The Bishop of Salisbury
There is a problem with the Government’s strategic approach. It is not clear how all these individual decisions fit within an overall energy policy framework. There are very different approaches being taken to continuing the use and extraction of fossil fuels; shale gas and fracking; nuclear; and renewables. There is no indication yet as to what will be in the national energy-efficiency policy. So this debate is a really good opportunity post-Paris for us to gather again and try to hold the Government to account, when there are some very mixed messages being given by a variety of initiatives, and to ask that we begin to see more clearly the strategic energy policy which would help us all have more confidence in the way in which we can engage with this.
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