Regulation

Government is the “enemy of the people” on fracking– former UK climate envoy

JohnAshton

John Ashton

A former climate diplomat has accused the government of treating people with deception and cynicism over the regulation of fracking.

John Ashton, a Special Representative for Climate Change for six years, told a meeting in West Sussex:

“We are entitled to a government that is on our side, in return for the taxes we pay.”

“In the matter of unconventional oil and gas, we do not have a government that is on our side. We have a government that is the enemy of the people.”

Mr Ashton, who now campaigns against fracking, criticised the government’s definition of hydraulic fracturing in the Infrastructure Act, based on the volume of fracking fluid.

To count as hydraulic fracturing an operation must use 1,000 cubic metres per fracking stage or 10,000 cubic metres in total. At this level, a series of what are called safeguards in the act come into force, including environmental monitoring and exclusion areas.

Last week, researchers at Edinburgh University said the Infrastructure Act definition eliminated many wells that had been fracked in the US. They described the definition as a loophole that could allow operators to avoid regulations on fracking in the UK.

Mr Ashton said:

“All of a sudden, with a flourish of a Westminster pen, there will now be far less fracking than we thought, because what would have qualified as fracking – and still would if it were to take place in America – has rather conveniently been redefined as “not fracking.”

“Only if you know that fracking will be a burden to those who have to live with it do you try so hard to pull the wool over their eyes. Only if you see the people as your enemy do you play with words in such a cynical way.”

“This Orwellian piece of deception is so clumsy it would not deceive a child. But those politicians, civil servants, and business lobbyists who have connived at it should be ashamed of themselves.”

Mr Ashton’s comments were made as councillors in North Yorkshire prepare to decide on an application by Third Energy to frack an existing well at Kirby Misperton.

The Oil and Gas Authority has confirmed that this would not count as fracking under the Infrastructure Act. But, Third Energy has said if its plans were approved it would operate as if scheme was officially fracking.

Mr Ashton said campaigns against fracking were part of the same struggle to renew public services.

It was a struggle, he said, between two incompatible ideas of who we are. He asked:

“Do we live in a compassionate society where we care for each other? Or do we live in a selfish society where we strive only for our own gratification, and the gratification of our own families and social tribes, regardless of the consequences for others?”

“The speculative drillers and investors and the opportunistic politicians who seek advantage from the unconventional extraction of oil and gas do not make their homes in the places where it will actually happen if they get their way.”

“It will be you, not they, who will have to live with the consequences of this intrusive project: the industrialization of your countryside; the risks to your physical and mental health and to your environment; the dislocation of your communities and your social fabric.”

“And as for the climate, it is perfectly clear. You can be in favour of fracking and other methods for getting ever more oil and gas out of the ground. Or you can be in favour of dealing with climate change. But you cannot be in favour of both at the same time. Those who claim otherwise are either deceiving themselves or trying to deceive you.”

Mr Ashton’s speech was made at a meeting organised by Frack Free Sussex at Clair Hall in Haywards Heath on 16 April 2016.

New parliamentary group on fracking regulations

This morning (Wednesday 20 April) a new parliamentary discussion group meets to debate fracking regulations and planning. It is chaired by the Thirsk and Malton MP, Kevin Hollinrake, whose constituency includes Third Energy’s well at Kirby Misperton.

The speakers at today’s meeting include: the Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom; Tony Almond and Jim Neilson of the Health and Safety Executive; Mark Ellis-Jones and Charlotte Danvers of the Environment Agency; Dr Doug Parr, of Greenpeace; and Professor Richard Davies, of the Researching Fracking in Europe academic consortium.


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9 replies »

  1. The same issue of bending the regs to suit shareholders applies to the radioactive waste produced by fracking. The EA has been told to downgrade this toxic produce from an inconvenient highly radioactive to just radioactive therefore low level toxicity, and nothing to worry about!

    What is worrying about this is it leads the way for most of it drawn back out of the ground to be dribbled all over the roads, as happens in the US, creating mass pollution for everyone, as well as the environment, all in the interest of lowering costs for frackers.

    I fully expect, this tawdry irresponsible couldn’t care less about the quality regs look at the bucks to be made govenment, to thus roll out an ”in the interest of state security” spinbite, telling us that delivering a fracking WMD across the nation, is the best way to ”keep us safe”

    Fracking is a terrorist assault on land, water and all forms of life and very importantly is about dismantling democracy to hand rule over to gasigarchs, oiligarch and bankorial lords.

    • Your usual poor quality information Mar g. The EA TIGHTENED the levels after the PH1 well was finished. Please see http://notforshale.com/PDF/FlowbackwaterEA.pdf

      Your comment that it will spread on the ground is rather sad. It VERY clear that this will not be permitted, and it isnt even permitted in the US, although in drought hit California, cleaned up frack water (using reverse osmosis) has been used for irrigation, as a research project.

  2. John Ashton thankyou for speaking out. You and people like you who really care are heroes. If only such people held power.

  3. His comments are his entitlement becoz he pay tax is halfly flaw because the company and fracking supporters also pay taxes. Not just him. And paying tax doesn’t entitled him to force his opinion on other people.

    • He is an expert in his field and was previously an advisor the the Conservatives. I would say he is more qualified than the majority to speak about climate change and the impact fracking will have.

  4. Full statement by John Ashton:

    I’m so sorry I can’t be here today.

    My mother fell ill just after Christmas. She is now very poorly.

    At the daybreak of my life, my mother cared for me as only a mother can. In the evening of her life, my place is by her side, at her home in Newcastle, caring for her as only a son can.

    In 3 months of caring for my mother, I have learned more about the condition of our country than I ever did in 30 years as a diplomat.

    My mother is bearing her ordeal with fortitude beyond words. But her ordeal would not have been bearable at all without the compassion, dedication and competence of dozens of doctors, nurses, carers, and other professionals in public services that we all come to rely on sooner or later.

    My mother’s generation pioneered our proudest achievement as a nation, the greatest promise we have ever made, that when we are too sick, too frail, or too vulnerable to care for ourselves, we will in our moments of need be cared for by our country. From the cradle to the grave, we are one people together. We care for each other.

    The institutions we built to fulfill that promise are now stretched to their limits. Anyone who goes through what my mother is going through can see that. Many of you will have seen it for yourselves.

    Unless we urgently summon the will to repair those institutions, the generation that pioneered our greatest promise will also be the last on whom it is bestowed.

    This is not a matter of money. It is a matter of will. If we can rediscover our care for each other as one people we will find we can easily afford to renew the institutions that make our care manifest. We are one of the wealthiest nations ever to have existed on this Earth.

    The struggle to renew our public services is a struggle between two incompatible ideas of who we are.

    Do we live in a compassionate society where we care for each other? Or do we live in a selfish society where we strive only for our own gratification, and the gratification of our own families and social tribes, regardless of the consequences for others?

    The struggle to protect our country against the extraction of oil and gas by unconventional methods including fracking is not a different struggle. It is a different front in the same struggle.

    The speculative drillers and investors and the opportunistic politicians who seek advantage from the unconventional extraction of oil and gas do not make their homes in the places where it will actually happen if they get their way.

    It will be you not they who will have to live with the consequences of this intrusive project: the industrialization of your countryside; the risks to your physical and mental health and to your environment; the dislocation of your communities and your social fabric.

    And as for the climate, it is perfectly clear. You can be in favour of fracking and other methods for getting ever more oil and gas out of the ground. Or you can be in favour of dealing with climate change. But you cannot be in favour of both at the same time. Those who claim otherwise are either deceiving themselves or trying to deceive you.

    We are entitled to a government that is on our side, in return for the taxes we pay.

    In the matter of unconventional oil and gas, we do not have a government that is on our side. We have a government that is the enemy of the people.

    When is fracking not fracking? When you change how it is defined, with no regard for any objective measure of science or engineering, so that the new definition suddenly excludes many of the disruptive operations that companies like UKOG, Cuadrilla, INEOS-IGas and Celtique want to engage in up and down our country, including here in the Weald.

    Well, we now have a new law, the Infrastructure Act, that does exactly that. All of a sudden, with a flourish of a Westminster pen, there will now be far less fracking than we thought, because what would have qualified as fracking – and still would if it were to take place in America – has rather conveniently been redefined as “not fracking”.

    But a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and that’s not just true for roses. For all the sweet words of those who want you to welcome in the drillers, those are no roses they are offering you. And whatever name you give them, the stench they are giving off is unmistakable.

    Only if you know that fracking will be a burden to those who have to live with it do you try so hard to pull the wool over their eyes. Only if you see the people as your enemy do you play with words in such a cynical way.

    This Orwellian piece of deception is so clumsy it would not deceive a child. But those politicians, civil servants, and business lobbyists who have connived at it should be ashamed of themselves. Whom do they take us for?

    They will never get their way here in our Weald, nor anywhere up and down our country.

    It is in rooms like this that the struggle to repair our democracy and renew our great public services and institutions will be played out. It is people like you, making a stand for the communities and countryside you love, who will banish once and for all the hollow and pernicious lie that we can ever again stand tall as one people if we stand on selfishness and gratification alone.

    You are on the front line in a struggle for the soul of our country. It is a struggle we shall win, because when the chips are down we are and always shall be one people together, one people who care for each other. That is the country into which my mother brought me and it is the country I love.

    If I were not in Newcastle today, I would be proud to be here with you. So too would my Mum. Since we cannot be here, we send you all our warmest greetings and best wishes.

    Read by Helen Savage at a public meeting on fracking and health at Clair Hall, Haywards Heath on April 16, 2016

  5. Thank you John Ashton for your support and more importantly for your courage in vocalising that support. I live in Roseacre, a beautiful rural location which is today blessed by sunlight and blue skies and the only sounds in my garden are of birds, lambs and the occasional cow. This is also where, 26 months ago, Cuadrilla announced their intention to drill 400 metres from my home. Since that date I and my neighbours have fought with every fibre of our beings to block these plans. We have been incredibly fortunate to have had Barbara Richardson and Pat Davies leading the campaigns, their work has been as prodigious as it has been effective. This illiberal government however appear determined to force fracking upon us regardless of how the proper democratic process has been followed or how blatantly they find it necessary to move the goalposts. It is obvious our politicians care nothing for we the people or how negatively impacted our lives are so long as they look after their friends. I have personally had at least £40,000 knocked off the value of my house, provably by fracking whilst 2 other properties in the village were reduced by £80,000 and £85,000 respectively in order to achieve a sale. We have felt very alone in this fight, not because the government didn’t accept our assertions but because they ignored every communication and refused even to address the facts far less justify them. So thank you for your understanding of the plight of all of the population living under the shadow of fracking. It’s still not too late for Cameron et al to listen to the British people; if they continue to ignore us I genuinely fear the consequences. Fracking will be Cameron’s Poll Tax unless he hears our voice.

  6. Well said John Ashton – this government is the enemy of the people and I hope you have your ears pinned back Mr Hollinrake because that includes you. You are letting down your constituents and they will not forget or forgive.

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