Politics

100,000+ demand government publishes fracking climate advice

38 degrees petition

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on ministers to publish advice on the impacts of fracking on UK climate targets.

A report by the Committee on Climate Change was delivered to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) more than seven weeks ago on 30 March 2016.

But so far the government has not laid the advice before parliament, despite a legal requirement to do so as soon “as practicably possible”.

The 2015 Infrastructure Act requires the Energy and Climate Change Secretary to request advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) every five years about fracking and onshore oil and gas. The advice should cover the impact of onshore oil and gas activities on meeting carbon reduction targets and the carbon budgets. Specifically, the advice should look at “combustion of, and fugitive emissions from, petroleum got through onshore activity”.

Infrastructure Act 2015

Section 49 of the Infrastructure Act: Advice on likely impact of onshore petroleum on the carbon budget

The act requires the Energy and Climate Change Secretary to lay a copy of the advice before Parliament as soon as practicable after each reporting period. The current reporting period ended on 1 April 2016.

Petition

The petition, by 38 degrees, was launched late last month. At the time of writing, the number of signatures had reached 101,048.

The petition is addressed to Amber Rudd, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary and asks her to:

“Please publish the report by the Climate Change Committee on whether shale gas development (also known as fracking) in the UK would mean the UK fails to meet its climate target.

“Please don’t withhold this crucial information from the public. Withholding this information makes a mockery of the investigation into whether this dangerous new energy source should be allowed in the UK. Decisions about our energy future should be made with the facts in hand.”

Parliamentary question

Barry GardinerOn 18 May, the shadow Energy Minister, Barry Gardiner, asked a written parliamentary question on the issue:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, when her Department plans to lay the Committee on Climate Change report on Compatibility of Onshore Petroleum with meeting UK carbon budgets and its response before Parliament.”

The Energy and Climate Change Minister, Andrea Leadsom, replied on 25 May:

“The Department [DECC] has received the Committee on Climate Change report. We are considering the report and will lay it before Parliament with our response in due course.”

A DECC spokesperson gave a few more details to DrillOrDrop:

“The Infrastructure Act clearly requires Government to consider the CCC report properly before responding, and that is what is happening.

“As such, if we had laid the CCC’s report before Parliament as soon as we received it we would not have met our legal requirements.

“We are carefully considering this report to ensure it is given the proper consideration it is due. It will be published as soon as that process is complete.”

Third Energy decision

Some opponents of fracking have argued that the advice should have been available to North Yorkshire County Council when it made its decision on 23 May 2016 about Third Energy’s plans to frack near Kirby Misperton.

The National Planning Policy Framework says “local planning authorities should adopt proactive strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change”. It also says they should “plan for new development in locations and ways which reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

Professor Nick Cowern, who spoke against Third Energy’s plans at the North Yorkshire meeting, had given evidence two months earlier to the Committee on Climate Change about its advice to the Energy Secretary.

“Major implications”

He argued that any leaks of methane from fracking had major implications for the climate because methane is 36 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

He criticised the KM8 planning application for making no reference to methane emissions. He questioned claims by the UK oil and gas industry that controls on emissions would be superior to those in the US. And he said proposals by York University to monitor methane from Third Energy’s site using a single sensor at a fixed location would not quantify emissions.

He also criticised DECC for using out of date figures on the global warming potential of methane. According to 2013 figures from the International Panel on Climate Change, methane had a 44% higher warming potential than the figure used by DECC. He told the council:

“This makes fracked gas worse than imported conventional LNG from the Middle East, even under DECC’s optimistic assumptions on emissions”.

He added:

“An in-depth version of the material in this talk has been presented in written and verbal evidence to the Committee on Climate Change, whose report will only be published by the government after your committee’s decision has been made.”

Professor Cowern said North Yorkshire County Council had a statutory obligation to consider climate change and for this reason the application should be refused.

Councillors approved the application by seven votes to four. In response to a question about how Third Energy’s plans fitted with measures to reduce carbon emissions, the planning officer, Vicky Perkin, told councillors:

“It is not the responsibility of the planning authority to expect an applicant to deal with matters of climate change in that context in such a wide scale. You cannot apply that to a specific planning application.”

Link to the 38 degrees petition


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6 replies »

  1. Just taking from the comments above, we see:

    “The Infrastructure Act clearly requires Government to consider the CCC report properly before responding, and that is what is happening.

    “As such, if we had laid the CCC’s report before Parliament as soon as we received it we would not have met our legal requirements.”

    Anyone know what these legal requirements are?

    “We are carefully considering this report to ensure it is given the proper consideration it is due. It will be published as soon as that process is complete.”

    Proper consideration by whome?

    “The act requires the Energy and Climate Change Secretary to lay a copy of the advice before Parliament as soon as practicable after each reporting period. The current reporting period ended on 1 April 2016.”

    Is this not a legal requirement?

  2. Vicky Perkins avoids the issue of climate change by saying ”“It is not the responsibility of the planning authority to expect an applicant to deal with matters of climate change in that context in such a wide scale. You cannot apply that to a specific planning application.” Thus deflecting from her/planners responsibility to take it into consideration, which clearly she hasn’t, and it would seem has no intention to do so.

    It’s regulatory framework on the hoof, while each planning application for fracking is rejected or reconsidered, government depts are rapidly responding to all complaints and issues raised by constituents or the public at large. At no planning stage of any fracking applications has all essential regulatory framework been fit for purpose or available due to each dept at government level not having guidance or evidence upon which to base it, or ready for planners to make use of. That is the most alarming feature of this roll out of a new, heinously high polluting industry we know is being used as a WMD on democracy, health and well being.

  3. I’m sure everyone reading this knows about the hundreds of reports on gas emissions connected to fracking, and will be ready to respond to the government report once it gets delivered out of Parliament for public scrutiny.

    This website gives more info about emissions and climate effects as well as a good long list of all research currently relating to the climate issue http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/02/17/3750240/methane-leaks-erase-climate-fracked-gas/

  4. [Edited by moderator to remove personal remark]
    Just from a common sense perspective, anyone knows that conventional gas shipped in the form of LNG from the Middle East is going to lead to more methane emissions than locally extracted gas.
    [Edited by moderator to remove personal remark]

    Fugitive emissions are not unique to the fracking process. They occur in any gas extraction operation.

    Further, the methane argument is massively overstated by the opposition. See these articles:

    http://energyindepth.org/national/noaa-study-bakken-methane-emissions-much-lower-than-previously-thought/

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/05/02/why-were-still-so-incredibly-confused-about-methanes-role-in-global-warming/

    http://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate2998.epdf?referrer_access_token=5nFV_lWyEPcr4xjD7lNFndRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0OqxOmcFLIkN0PlgzWOw_cNeeo67A1IHRo31fqEVd3uAeGaJmdRZcwjmtuJDhXjRX_OHFs4XEJAROylS8q3kR3P-1X4aSuuHJgHku9DjzWfr40Gb3X1HhOO0Z1sijy3zpekzaFjsnvK8096peEFCixdskQm8vXnOoNPCcv73DmtsCNRO55eQLcN4iLaBw3dQ3lJc34nnzQJlG_QVNcnX5-oVEY_Ub81NV4D5WqBvXyv8sTiGR6bhjdiq2OsxJYzxUNsFnBveJvSr49eo4XjWlNe&tracking_referrer=www.washingtonpost.com

  5. I think one has to be careful when looking at methane emission studies from the USA. I gather that most of these studies do not seperate emissions from the fracking process as such, from emissions during the transport of the gas, I guess largely by pipeline. The USA is a huge country and therefore the network of pipelines, often above ground, will be more likely to generate emissions. I’d be interested to know what the methane loss rate is from the existing UK network of underground pipework, I suspect tiny. Of course we don’t know what the loss will be from UK shale (if any) because no significant exploration has taken place. As I said extrapolation from the US may be misleading. In any event risk from shale will have to balanced against risks from the alternatives. As i’ve said here many times now, the question that all advocates of renewables has to answer is, how on a windlees night in February, we will generate enough electricity to keep the lights on and the CH systems running. In other words what is the practical back-up fuel. We then have to compare those potential back-up sources on a range of risks, short, medium and long term.

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