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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