Politics

Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 12th February 2016

Westminster

In this Fracking Week in Westminster

  • Imposing fracking on unwilling communities
  • Fracking’s north-south divide
  • Licence to frack in York
  • Call for fast-track fracking
  • Educating the public on shale gas

With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts

House of Commons questions on fracking and shale gas

11th February 2016

andrew Gwynne mpQuestion by Andrew Gwynne, Labour, Denton and Reddish, shadow health minister,
Can we have some consistency from the Minister? Why does she support the imposition of fracking on communities against their will? Why can she not extend the same courtesy to those communities that she has extended to those affected by wind farms?

Andrea LeadsomReply by Andrea Leadsom, Conservative, South Northants, Energy and Climate Change Minister
As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, onshore wind has already been deployed to a great extent. As I have just said, it is already at the level of deployment we expected to see by 2020, so it is right that local communities’ views should be taken into account. With hydraulic fracturing, however, absolutely no shale gas extraction is taking place anywhere in the UK at the moment. There are no wells, and there is not even any exploration, yet it is vital to the UK’s energy interests that we explore this home-grown energy, which could be vital for jobs, growth and of course energy security.

Graham EvansQuestion by Graham Evans, Conservative, Weaver Vale
Last month, I held a second successful fact-finding fracking meeting at Helsby high school, ably assisted by the Environment Agency, Public Health England, and the Health and Safety Executive. Over 400 constituents from Frodsham and Helsby left better informed. What steps is the Minister taking to encourage regulatory bodies to engage further in such public meetings?

Reply by Andrea Leadsom
I am impressed by my hon. Friend’s managing three F-words in one parliamentary question. It is vital for local communities to have access to the facts about fracking and our stringent regulations, and I congratulate him on organising those important events. We are working with the regulators to make sure that they have every opportunity and encouragement from the Department to engage with the public. The Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, the Oil and Gas Authority and Public Health England regularly attend public meetings such as the one he mentioned, and they will continue to do so.

Dennis SkinnerQuestion by Dennis Skinner, Labour, Bolsover
An application was made to start drilling at a little place called Calow in the Bolsover area. Most of the villagers were against the application, and it was turned down by the local planning committee. It then went to the Government inspector, because Cuadrilla wanted to appeal, and the Government inspector turned it down. Now I am told that it is possible that the Government are quite capable of overruling the decision of their own inspector and allowing fracking. Is that correct?

Reply by Andrea Leadsom
First, may I wish the hon. Gentleman a very happy birthday? I am sure that all Members would want me to do so.

Dennis Skinner
I spent it on the picket line yesterday with the doctors.

Andrea Leadsom
The hon. Gentleman is a real challenge to, but a role model for, the House in the work that he does. I genuinely congratulate him and wish him a very happy birthday. In terms of the appeal, he has set out exactly what is supposed to happen. Local communities have their say and feed into the process. Developers can appeal, of course—it is right that they should be able to—and the inspector can turn it down. There is an appeal process. I am not sure about the specifics of the case he mentions, but the point is that democracy is done, and is seen to be done. That is very important.

Dennis Skinner
Whatever happened to localism?

Andrea Leadsom
That is localism in action.

Rachael Maskell MPQuestion by Rachael Maskell, Labour, York Central, Shadow Defence Minister
Historically, all mining has been prohibited under the city of York. City of York Council passed a motion to say that no licences should be given for fracking, yet a licence has been given. What guarantee will the Minister give that the local voice now will determine what happens?

Reply by Andrea Leadsom
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me a chance to explain that the licence is not a licence to frack—that sounds a bit Bond-like; it is simply a licence to be able to consider the seismic opportunity of the shale gas that is potentially underneath. It is absolutely not a guarantee that anything will happen at all. There is then a whole planning process to go through, including environmental assessments, health and safety assessments and so on. And there is a very clear local planning process, which is very well communicated and with which she will be very familiar.

Parliamentary written questions

11th February 2016

Andrew Smith MP - CopyQuestions by Andrew Smith, Labour, Oxford East
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, if he will ensure that decisions on planning applications for fracking are taken within the local government planning process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what consultation he plans to undertake on changes to the planning process for applications for fracking.

James WhartonReply by James Wharton, Communities and Local Government Minister
The Government has in place a local government led process for the consideration of planning applications for shale gas exploration. As part of this, mineral planning authorities have a responsibility to consider such applications under the Town and Country Planning regime. The Government has taken steps to ensure this locally led regime is effective, as set out in Written Ministerial Statements made on 16 September, HCWS201 and HCWS202. This includes making available £1.2 million to ensure mineral planning authorities have adequate resource to reach timely decisions.

Community involvement in planning applications and people’s safety and the environment will remain paramount. No decision has been made to take shale gas exploration out of this local government led process and there are no plans currently to consult on such a change.

House of Lords oil and gas questions

9th February

Farrington

Question by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton, Labour
My Lords, I declare an interest as a Lancashire resident. Will the Minister care to take away and reflect on the fact that there is great concern and anger at government suggestions that local people should be taken out of the decision-making process for future fracking? Will he care to comment on the fact that all the fracking decisions this Government have taken tend towards the north? Does he envisage any fracking taking place for oil or gas in the south of England, where Conservative support is concentrated?

Lord BourneReply by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Conservative, Energy and Climate Change Minister
My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that decisions on fracking are taken by planning authorities; they are not a matter for the Government. She will be aware that there are potential fracking areas throughout the country. That, of course, will be something that planning authorities will take forward.

LordLawsonQuestion by Lord Lawson of Blaby, Conservative
My Lords, as I well recall from my time as Energy Secretary, the North Sea oil and gas has had a glorious past. However, is it not clear that its future can be only a shadow of what it has been, and that the future of our indigenous oil and gas industry must lie in the exploitation of our shale resources, which are quite substantial? Will my noble friend undertake to go ahead with that as fast as he possibly can?

Reply by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Conservative, Energy and Climate Change Minister
My Lords, I am very much aware that my noble friend has a very distinguished record as a former Energy Secretary. However, I do not think it is true to say that the oil industry is entering a period where its significance is diminished. It is certainly perhaps not what it was, but it is still of enormous importance. The two oil fields to which I referred will be able, when at maximum production, to supply energy to 2 million homes. However, he is absolutely right about the importance of shale and the Government are determined to go ahead with exploration for it.

1 reply »

  1. Have to laugh at pomposity ruling here, and the Lawson offshore drilling legacy which is still highly questionable. How much do sperm whales cost per pod I wonder, and where is Lawson’s data regarding the marine damage as a result of off-shore drilling? Where was his insistence that offshore oil drills incorporate an emergency switch to avoid explosions and spills due to meteorological assaults? 31st December a massive and repeat explosion rocked the offshore sites in the North sea, no wonder ceataceans are lying on beaches, stunned and shattered, and with empty stomachs. And no wonder 15,000 thousand pounds was padi for some wibbly wobbly think tank to push through a gov policy to stop charities using gov funds to lobby parliament…most marine orgs use money from gov to fund charitable clean ups of marine environment, but now have to keep shtum about how offshore drilling is killing our marine neighbours…….

    AND notice too how the chair at the Preston inquiry on DAY ONE instructed that the inquiry was NOT about offshore drilling…it is lady, I have made sure it is, so will everyone else who knows full well that offshore drilling is killing marine life…..big time around our shores………………..

    And just in case all those MP’s struggling with displaced non answers to their questions in Parliament are looking for further evidence of the worst regulatory framework on the planet….here is a little story about how radioactive is the United Utilities area along the Cumbrian coastline down into nuclear active zones from Sellafield ……

    Read and digest how incompetently our regulatory framework is in handling nuclear dumps and yet this gov want to ensure even more radioactive waste gets dumped anywhere except near number ten and eleven Downing street….

    http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2986745/cumbria_flooding_environment_agency_issues_alert_on_drigg_nuclear_waste_site.html

    ”The Cumbrian Drigg site has Radionuclides with highest activities in the inventory include 3H, 241Pu,
    137Cs, 234U and 90Sr, 238U and 232Th.”

    This represents a cocktail of relatively short-lived, intensely radioactive
    species such as the tritium, caesium, strontium and plutonium with half
    lives measured in years and decades, with daughters such as americium 241
    that’s dangerous for centuries, mixed in with uranium and thorium isotopes
    with half lives as long as 14 billion years.

    Serious degradation already under way

    But the waste has been dumped at the site with little or no regard to either
    short or long term hazards. From 1940 to 1988 chemical and radioactive
    wastes was simply ‘tumble tipped’ into trenches.”

    Such is the glorious UK ”safest regulatory framework in the world”’

    And to think this disgraceful degradation of land and environment costs us taxpayers billions of pounds a year……………………….

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