In this Fracking Week in Politics:
- Tom Pursglove on British steel and the fracking industry
- Antoinette Sandbach on protecting protected areas from fracking
- Graham Evans on threats to Frodsham Marshes
- Energy and climate change questions, House of Commons
- Fracking and Brexit
- Welsh responsibility for oil and gas licensing
With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts
Energy and Climate Change questions
14 July 2016
Question by Tom Pursglove, Conservative, Corby
As the Minister will know, the Corby steelworks plays a vital role in manufacturing steel tubes which can be used for fracking purposes. Does she agree it is very important that, wherever possible, we use British steel, not just because it supports the industry and the jobs it provides, but because the quality and safety of the product is far superior to that of foreign competitors?
Reply by Andrea Leadsom, then Energy and Climate Change Minister, Conservative, South Northamptonshire
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. I have had a number of meetings with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to discuss exactly this point. In its 2014 report “Getting ready for UK shale gas” Ernst & Young said there would be significant benefits for jobs and growth from a successful UK shale industry, including a projected need for over £2 billion-worth of steel.
Question by Antoinette Sandbach, Conservative, Eddisbury
What steps she is taking to ensure that protected areas remain protected from the development of shale gas.
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
Strong protections for sensitive areas are already provided by the existing regimes. Those regulations ban fracking in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other sensitive areas to a depth of 1,200 metres. In response to our consultation on 28 June, we have confirmed that fracking will not be permitted from wells drilled at the surface of our most valued areas, including sites of special scientific interest.
Question by Antoinette Sandbach
I am grateful for the Minister’s response. Petroleum exploration and development licences have been granted in areas with green-belt and nature conservation status in my constituency. Can she reassure me that her recent announcement about protection from surface drilling will extend to the green belt and sites of special scientific interest?
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
I can reassure my hon. Friend that the planning process will take into account all issues related to sensitive areas. I can also tell her that fracking will not be permitted from wells drilled at the surface of areas such as national parks, the broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty, world heritage sites, sites of special scientific interest, Ramsar sites and Natura 2000 sites.
Question by Graham Evans, Conservative, Weaver Vale
On the north side of the River Mersey, Fiddlers Ferry power station has closed down, while on the south side we have the blight of the new wind farm being built. Will my hon. Friend reassure my constituents in Frodsham and Helsby that the scientifically significant Frodsham marshes will not be blighted if fracking goes ahead?
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
We have more than 50 years of drilling experience in the UK, as well as one of the best records in the world for economic development alongside protection of the environment. All onshore oil and gas projects, including shale gas, are subject to the planning system, which addresses impacts such as traffic movements, noise, working hours and so on. National planning guidance states that any new development must be appropriate for its location and must take into account effects on health, the natural environment and general amenity, as well as any adverse effects from pollution. I hope that I can reassure my hon. Friend that his constituency will be protected.
EU referendum debate on energy and environment
12 July 2016
Extract of speech by Robert Syms, Conservative, Poole
The UK Government have to do our best to increase capacity, and that means nuclear power, more gas and fracking. I know a lot of people do not like fracking, but there is a natural resource that we have to make use of.
Extract of speech by Geraint Davies, Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West
We run the risk of being fined by big fracking companies. Loan Pine sued Canada for hundreds of millions of dollars when there was a moratorium on fracking in Quebec. I do not want that to happen in Wales, Scotland or elsewhere when companies are given the open door by the new Administration.
I am pleased and honoured to be a member of the Council of Europe. I am a rapporteur on both TTIP and fracking, and I hope that the advice from the thorough reports will be taken up by the Government.
Extract of speech by David Mowat, Conservative, Warrington South
If the world were to replace all the coal that we currently burn with gas, that would be equivalent to five times, or a factor of 500%, more renewables. To pretend that that is not part of the solution is just plain wrong. One reason that people regard it as not being part of the solution is that the pathway has been mistaken for the objective.
Yes, at some point we need to get to an emissions level below that which is afforded by gas, but the truth is that emissions are cumulative. Geraint Davies said that we may well be close to the 1.5% in terms of particulates and all that goes with them. That is true and it is a cumulative effect. Carbon does not go out of the atmosphere for a very long time. It is not just about pathway. For that reason, gas should have been far more of a factor in this than it has been.
On the related matter of where we are, is the hon. Member as concerned as I am about the leakages of methane from fracking, which are 5%, given that methane is 83 times worse than CO2 in global warming?
I recognise the issue that the hon. Gentleman raises. If methane were being released from fracking at that level, it would represent that percentage. However, I do not think that that is the case in the United States of America. I am prepared to be corrected on that, but I do not think anything like that amount of methane is being emitted by fracking in the United States of America.
I can provide the hon. Member with satellite evidence of this. The figure is somewhere between 3% and 8%, with the best judgment being that it is 5%. That makes it two and a half times worse than coal in terms of global warming.
I do not accept that that is true, but if it was, it would apply to fracked gas only and not gas generally. Most of our gas is liquefied natural gas from Norway and Russia. That said, various papers have been written on the amount of methane coming out of wells in the United States, and I do not think that the evidence is quite as the hon. Gentleman said. I think we should leave it at that for now, and maybe have a coffee afterwards.
Extract of speech by Phil Boswell, SNP, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
There have been about 18 legislative changes in the oil and gas sector in the past 15 years. Allied to that, there has been the withdrawal from green initiatives such as the zero-carbon home policy. The green deal home improvement fund was abolished. Solar subsidies have been cut and the onshore wind farm subsidy has been removed. The door has been opened to fracking and a cap for biomass fuel subsidy has been introduced. The UK Green Investment Bank has been privatised, the green tax target on renewable energy investment has been abandoned and green car incentives have been cut. Particularly significant for me, as I worked on one of the projects, was the cancelling of the competition for carbon capture and storage.
Stewart McDonald Scottish National Party, Glasgow South
My hon. Friend is illustrating the sorry place the Government have now taken the country. It is no longer Britannia rules the waves: it is Britannia waives the rules.
Extract of speech by Phil Boswell
The Government have instead put all their eggs in the dual basket of fracking and nuclear energy, neither of which looks to be progressing very smoothly, and that makes achieving the UK’s mandatory climate change targets highly unlikely.
Debate on the Wales Bill
11 July 2016
Extract of speech by Hywell Williams, Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Arfon
I welcome clauses 22, 23 and 24, which confer competence on Welsh Ministers in relation to onshore petroleum licensing, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, about which the Welsh people care a great deal. If the people of Wales do not want fracking, our Government should be able to ensure that it does not happen.
Given that the Welsh Government and the National Assembly as a whole voted unanimously against fracking in Wales, I hope that the Secretary of State will work with his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that until the Bill is passed, the United Kingdom Government honour that unanimous opposition in Wales and no new licences are issued there.
I hope that, at the end of the debate, either the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary will give some indication that that will be the case.
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