Politics

Fracking Week in Parliament – week ending 9 September 2016

Westminster

Top news in this Fracking Week in Politics:

  • Responsibility for fracking regulation
  • Shale gas emissions
  • UK energy policy and the Paris Agreement on climate change
  • Inquiry into Cuadrilla’s fracking plans
  • The SNP and shale gas

Thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts

UK PARLIAMENT

5 September 2016

Written question on responsibility for shale gas regulation

Mark MenziesQuestion by Mark Menzies, Conservative, Flyde
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what responsibilities his Department has for (a) formulating and (b) overseeing regulation of the shale gas industry; and if he will make a statement.

jesse-norman-mpReply by Jesse Norman, Business minister, Conservative, Hereford and South Herefordshire
Responsibility for formulating and overseeing regulation of the shale gas industry has been transferred to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The Department will fulfil the same role previously undertaken by the Department of Energy and Climate Energy. The Government has been clear that shale development must be safe and environmentally sound. The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering concluded that risks can be managed if industry follows best practice enforced by regulation. We already have one of the most robust regulatory regimes in the world for shale gas and we will look to continuously improve it as the industry develops.

6 September 2016

Questions on shale gas exploitation, emissions and climate change, House of Lords

baroness-mcintoshBaroness McIntosh of Pickering Chair, Licensing Act 2003 Committee, Conservative
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to ensure that the three tests set out by the Committee on Climate Change with regard to shale gas exploitation by fracking are met before any fracking work proceeds, and if so, how.

baroness-neville-rolfeBaroness Neville-Rolfe, Energy Minister
My Lords, shale could promote the opportunity of a new, domestic source of gas which adds to our energy security. Since 2000, UK gas production has decreased and import dependency has increased. This Government have been clear that shale development must be safe and environmentally sound. As our response to the Committee on Climate Change report states, we believe that each of the three tests for shale gas development will be met.

Baroness McIntosh
I am most grateful to the Minister for that answer. Will she explain to the House how the Government intend to meet those tests and, in particular, satisfy the Committee on Climate Change regarding greenhouse gas emissions, which would increase in intensity with the extraction of such a fossil fuel on a large, significant scale? Also, how do we intend to meet our carbon reporting targets in those circumstances?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe
We have made it clear that we will take steps to meet our carbon targets, particularly by 2050, and we agreed on the fifth carbon budget before the Summer Recess. In relation to the tests, the first test is met by our regulatory system; tests 2 and 3 will be met by the commitments we will be making in the carbon budgets.

lord-wigleyLord Wigley, Plaid Cymru
My Lords, does the Minister accept that one of the main considerations with regard to fracking is the geological stability of the land, particularly in those areas where there has been coal mining and the seepage of water can go many miles? Does she accept that, in these circumstances, any decision on fracking should be taken as locally as possible so that local opinions are taken into account?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe
I agree with the noble Lord that we need to be careful. I also agree that the permission should be dealt with by the relevant local planning authority. However, we are fortunate in having strong regulators. The Environment Agency focuses particularly on water and, of course, the Oil and Gas Authority has operated for many years and has very strong regulations in relation to seismic activity.

Baroness FeatherstoneBaroness Featherstone, Liberal Democrat
My Lords, gas is a fossil fuel wherever it comes from. Given that the Government are going to miss our legally binding targets on reductions in carbon emissions, would it not be better altogether if the Government simply banned fracking and got on with delivering reductions in emissions rather than increases?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe
I cannot agree with the noble Baroness. I believe that shale has the potential to make a strong contribution to the transition from a heavily coal-fired carbon-inducing energy mix to the vision that I think we all share for 2050.

Baroness Royall of BlaisdonBaroness Royall of Blaisdon, Labour
My Lords, in the Forest of Dean, to my sorrow, licences have been granted despite the opposition of all members of the community. There is great concern that the complex hydrology, local subsidence and faulting issues, as well as the shallowness of the carboniferous shales and coal-bed which the licence holder intends to explore, will be particularly prone to ground-water contamination through fugitive methane emissions and the chemicals used in the fracking and drilling process. Given that methane is 80 times more significant as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, what level of fugitive emissions —that is to say, leakage—would the Government define as an acceptable level?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe
The noble Baroness is right to draw attention to methane. That is, of course, one of the key focuses of the Environment Agency, which has control over the permitting process and environmental emissions.

Jones

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, Green
My Lords, in fact there is mounting evidence that the methane leaks associated with fracking are far dirtier than those associated with energy derived from coal. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible for us to have clean energy and fulfil all our commitments if we carry on fracking. Is it not time that we followed the devolved countries of Scotland and Wales and abandoned fracking in England?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe
I think the key thing is to have a proper regulatory system of controls. We have learned from US experience in setting up our system. We are also focused on all the Kyoto basket of gases, which includes methane. I assure the noble Baroness that that is an important part of our thinking. But I return to my first point, which is that we need a mix of energy in the transition to 2050.

Lord FoulkesLord Foulkes of Cumnock, Labour
My Lords, will the noble Baroness try again to answer the question of my noble friend Lady Royall: what amount of leakage is acceptable?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe
I think this is a matter for the experts concerned in the particular circumstances. Our regulatory system is site specific. You go to the particular site and work it out. Clearly, you want to minimise the emissions of all six of the Kyoto basket of gases. I think that would be an agreed objective.

lord-harris-of-harringeyLord Harris of Haringey, Labour
My Lords, is that why the Government do not have a view on what is an acceptable degree of leakage, or are they perhaps consulting the experts? If so, will the Minister share with us what advice has been received on what would be an acceptable level of leakage?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe
I can certainly write to noble Lords about what advice we have received, if that would be helpful. I return to my point that we have a strong regulatory system right across the board in this area and we should look to this as an opportunity.

baroness-farringtonBaroness Farrington of Ribbleton, Labour
My Lords, I declare an interest as a Lancashire resident. Would the Minister be prepared to inform the House, in writing if necessary, how many of the controls, considerations, regulations and judgments will be made by those external to the industry concerned and how many will be made by those involved in gaining profit, however low they choose to set the safety targets? My recollection is that the Government did not want all the regulation to be external, and that they wanted the industry itself to tackle this. Some of us are concerned about that.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe
I am the new Energy Minister, but I have been struck by the variety of independent outside agencies that are involved in this site-specific process. There can also be benefit to the community, both through the community benefit package, which involves an industry contribution, as the noble Baroness is suggesting, and from the shale wealth fund, on which we are consulting, which will allow some of the tax revenues to be shared with individual members of the community.

Debate on the Finance Bill, House of Commons

rebecca-long-bailey-mpRebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Labour, Salford and Eccles
Extract of speech
Over the past six years, they [the government] have consistently undermined support [for renewables and energy saving] by, for instance, cutting the feed-in tariff by 64%, scrapping tax relief for clean energy projects, and removing subsidies for new onshore wind farms. The £1 billion for investment in carbon capture and storage has also been scrapped. At the same time, safeguards to reduce the environmental risks posed by fracking have been stripped away, and fracking under national parks has been given the go-ahead.

7 September

Debate on Paris Agreement on Climate Change, House of Commons

Barry GardinerBarry Gardiner, Shadow energy and climate change minister, Labour, Brent North
Extract of speech
Not all parts of the energy nexus are being hit by this Government. In 2013, they announced that fracking companies would pay half the tax paid by conventional oil and gas producers. The then Chancellor called the tax regime the “most generous for shale in the world”. CCS, commercial solar, business rates on rooftop solar, onshore wind, offshore wind, biomass, the levy control framework, the green deal—is there any part of our energy sector that I have not mentioned? Oh yes, nuclear. Hinkley—oh dear. Dithering, delay, incompetence and an overpriced contract have led to a contract for difference that will now cost the bill payer, not the Government, not the £6.1 billion originally calculated by the Government but the £30 billion as determined by the National Audit Office.

david-davies-mpDavid Davies, Chair Welsh Affairs Committee, Conservative, Monmouth
Extract of speech
I cannot understand why Opposition Members and non-governmental organisations will not support fracking, when it is quite clear that if we get rid of our coal-fired power stations and instead use gas that is produced in this country, we can create jobs and cut carbon dioxide emissions. That is surely something that they should support

phil-boswellPhil Boswell, Scottish National Party, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
Extract of speech
I agree with the hon. Member for Brent North [Barry Gardiner] in criticising this Government’s approach to energy in the UK—their almost complete reliance on the rash dash for gas, fracking and nuclear. While I must applaud the current Prime Minister for pausing to reconsider Hinkley Point C, I condemn her party for the poor decision in the first place.

margaret-greenwood-mpMargaret Greenwood, Labour, Wirral West
Extract of speech
Last year, the Government cut feed-in tariffs for solar by 65%. Further attacks on that important industry are imminent through a proposed rise in business rates for businesses and other organisations, including state schools, that have installed solar panels on their roofs. The Government announced plans to privatise the Green Investment Bank, despite its real success in investing in more risky renewable projects. They also ended support for new onshore wind through the renewables obligation a year earlier than expected. In the face of huge public opposition to fracking, they are pressing ahead with encouraging that carbon-hungry technology. All those measures are undermining my confidence that the Government are serious about tackling climate change; I am sure they are undermining the confidence of a lot of other people.

bill-esterson-mpBill Esterson, Shadow Business Minister, Labour, Sefton Central
Extract of speech
Last year, we were going to lead the way in Paris with a £1 billion carbon capture and storage competition. The United Nations framework convention on climate change identified CCS as one of the interventions that could help countries worldwide meet emissions reduction targets, yet just a week before the Paris climate conference the Government scrapped their plan, despite the international praise it had received. After the Paris agreement had been signed, the Government abolished DECC, precisely when the Department’s expertise would most sorely be needed. They cut subsidies for green household energy initiatives by 65%, and then they increased subsidies for fossil fuel production at the same time as cutting investment in green technologies. While the cost of green energy has been falling, the Government have instead focused on fracking.

8 September 2016

Written question on the public inquiry into Cuadrilla’s Lancashire planning applications

CarolineLucasCaroline Lucas, Green, Brighton, Pavilion
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, pursuant to the Answer of 25 July 2016 to Question 42908, for what reasons he does not plan to release the Planning Inspector’s report before issuing his decision on those appeals; and if he will make it his policy to publish that report in advance of the decision being issued.

gavin-barwell-mpGavin Barwell, Communities and Local Government Minister, Croydon Central, Conservative
As is normal practice, the Inspector’s report on the Cuadrilla Appeals for sites around Preston and Roseacre and Wharles in Lancashire, will be published alongside the decision.

Motion to take note moved by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, House of Lords

That this House takes note of the role that charities, trade unions and civil society groupings play in a democracy, including the provision of advice and information to government, and of the case for regulating lobbying activities, including those undertaken by business and private interests.

lord-john-pattenLord Patten, Conservative
I believe that the present scale and organisation of the National Trust is inconsistent with the Government’s modernising agenda, which I strongly support, because devolution and accountability are increasingly part not just of regional rhetoric but of regional reality. Yet in 2016 the National Trust has set off on a totally new course with its additional lobbying activity, producing a new and positive blizzard of lobbying and a maelstrom of demands and advice, in relation to—just listen to the litany—global climate change policy, fracking, wind farms, and then, as if it was Defra, proposing a six-point national agricultural policy for post-Brexit rural times, with farmers, of course, to be denied subsidy or support unless they pursue particular environmental agendas.

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

6 September 2016

Debate on Scottish Government programme 2016-2017

Willie Rennie - Liberal Democrats - North East Fife

Willie Rennie, Liberal Democrat
Extract of speech
On climate change, the Scottish Government is still nailed to the fence on fracking; it will not commit. Its position makes no one happy. The SNP should take a stand against the new frontier of fossil fuels that fracking represents.

7 September 2016

Debate on Scottish Government programme 2016-2017

neil-findlay

Neil Findlay, Labour, Lothian
I have a question for John Mason before he moves off the subject of energy. If proposals to proceed with fracking in Scotland come before Parliament, will he oppose them?

John Mason  - SNP - Glasgow Shettleston

John Mason, Scottish National Party, Glasgow Shettleston
I very much agree with the Government’s current position, which is that we should be extremely cautious about fracking and should go ahead with it only if there is real and serious reassurance about it. I must say that cheaper fuel for some of my constituents would be the attractive side of it.

 

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