As predicted, Labour’s manifesto, published this morning, includes a promise to ban fracking.
The document states:
“Labour will ban fracking because it would lock us into an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels, long after the point in 2030 when the Committee on Climate Change says gas in the UK must sharply decline.”
It also said Labour was committed to renewable energy projects, including tidal lagoons, and transform energy systems, investing in “new, state-of-the-art low-carbon gas and renewable electricity production”.
The manifesto also said a Labour government would ensure that 60% of the UK’s energy came from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030 and electricity generation would be taken into public ownership.
So will Labour’s candidates get behind the ban? DrillOrDrop reviews the opinions of Labour hopefuls standing in constituencies in the fracking front line. We will look at the other party manifestos when they are published over the coming days.
Natascha Engel, North East Derbyshire
Fracking is a key issue in North East Derbyshire, where Natascha Engel is defending a majority at the last election of 1,883.
The area comprises five shale gas exploration licences, all held by INEOS Shale. This week, the company submitted its first planning application for a vertical well on the edge of the village of Marsh Lane (DrillOrDrop report).
This appears to have prompted Ms Engel to post a letter to constituents on her website:
“I am not against fracking as long as the industry stays highly regulated and controlled.
“If taking shale out of the ground in the UK means that we have fewer greenhouse gas emissions, that we can control our own energy and get prices down because we are not importing it, if it creates a whole new industry with good jobs, if it is good for Derbyshire, then I support it.”
Ms Engel’s position on the INEOS scheme appears to have changed markedly from January when it was first announced, and she was quoted by the Derbyshire Times:
“This is terrible news for the people of Marsh Lane and Eckington. Many residents have contacted me concerned for their safety and the security of their houses. I will be meeting INEOS and the county council to see how we can get a safety zone around areas where people live.”
Her office was photographed in January with an anti-fracking poster in the window.
But in her latest letter, she said opposition to fracking and the INEOS scheme would have “been an easy campaign to justify and may well be a vote winner”. But she added:
“Those of you who know me also know that I stand by my principles and would never campaign for something I don’t believe in. I have always put my constituents’ well-being above all else and would never support anything that I thought was unsafe.”
She said she hoped for a “proper debate” in which everyone could raise their “issues and concerns”.
“Spreading scare stories for which there is no reliable evidence about increases in cancer rates and low-birth-weight babies is unforgiveable. I have not seen credible evidence to support this and it should have no place in the debate about energy, climate change and shale.”
Ms Engel said she had been having discussions with INEOS about the Marsh Lane plans. In its application, INEOS said:
“Natascha Engel MP met the company as part of her research into issues around
shale gas extraction. INEOS hosted a visit by Ms. Engel to their four well gas
production facility near Warrington, Cheshire as part of her fact finding series of
visits to well sites and protest camps in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire.”
In January 2015, Ms Engel voted in favour of an explicit requirement for an environmental permit for hydraulic fracturing but in February she voted against requiring a more extensive set of conditions for fracking. She was absent in December 2015 for a vote on the protected area regulations and fracking.
Other candidates standing in the election for this constituency are Lee Rowley (Conservative), David Lomas (Lib Dem), James Bush (UKIP), anti-fracking campaigner David Kesteven (Greens).
John Mann, Labour candidate, Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire
John Mann is defending a majority of more than 8,000 in Bassetlaw, where IGas was given permission for a total of three shale gas wells at two sites, Springs Road, Misson, and Tinker Lane, between Blyth and Barnby Moor.
In January he told Lincolnshire Live:
“Local people must have the right to a final say on any location. I have always maintained the position that fracking should only go ahead with the full consent and involvement of local people, who should have the final say on any application and in securing any potential benefits or investment from fracking for their community.”
He objected to both the IGas planning applications, neither of which sought permission for fracking.
But his parliamentary voting record is mixed. In January 2015, he voted to require an environmental permit for hydraulic fracturing and for an 18-month ban on the exploitation of unconventional petroleum. But a month later, he voted against more extensive conditions for fracking and in December 2015, against greater restrictions on the process in protected areas.
Other candidates are: Leon Duveen (Lib Dem), Annette Simpson (Conservative) and Nigel Turner (Independent).
Jed Sullivan, Fylde, Lancashire
In Fylde, where Cuadrilla has permission for frack up to four wells at Preston New Road, Labour’s candidate, Jed Sullivan, is strongly against the process.
He told the shadow chancellor, John Mcdonald, last week:
“In my constituency, fracking is an absolute deal-breaker. People are on the streets. They’ve never voted Labour in their lives and they’ve phoned me up and said Jed, if Labour banned fracking, we’ll vote for you.
In a press statement this morning, Mr Sullivan said:
“Fylde’s residents are, quite rightly, very concerned about the prospect of fracking on their doorstep. Labour is the only party which will have the ability to ban fracking: a vote of Labour is a vote to stop fracking.”
The Conservative candidate, Mark Menzies, is defending a majority of more than 13,000. Other candidates standing this time are anti-fracking campaigner, Tina Rothery, for the Greens and Liberal Democrat Freddie Van Mierlo.
Alan Avery, Thirsk and Malton, North Yorkshire
The front page of Labour’s Thirsk and Malton constituency website shows Mr Avery with anti-fracking Labour supporters. He visited the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp, near where Third Energy has permission to frack its KM8 well in the constituency.
Mr Avery said:
“We are firmly against any fracking taking place anywhere in the UK and especially in North Yorkshire.”
The Conservatives’ Kevin Hollinrake is defending a majority of 19,456. Other candidates are Martin Brampton (Green), John Clark (Liberal), Toby Horton (UKIP), anti-fracking campaigner Di Keal (Lib Dem) and Philip Tate (Independent).
Other reaction to Labour’s manifesto
Labour’s pledge to ban fracking has been cautiously welcomed by environmental campaign groups and opposed by the onshore oil and industry body.
Friends of the Earth described the manifesto generally as:
“a compelling and practical vision for a sustainable energy system which bans fracking, keeps our homes warm and powers them with clean electricity “a compelling and practical vision for a sustainable energy system”.
Greenpeace said it was strong on vision but thin on detail.
“Backing community-owned energy projects and ditching the top-down imposition of unpopular fracking is a smart move, and a new drive to insulate millions of homes will help cut energy bills too. But setting targets is one thing: hitting them quite another. The jury will be out until the actual policies come in.”
The industry organisation, UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) said the promise to ban fracking would
“hurt the UK’s energy security, see potential UK jobs find their way overseas and keep the cost of energy bills rising.”
UKOOG’s chief executive, Ken Cronin, said
“The Labour Party’s position has changed dramatically in two years and shows a misunderstanding of how we use energy in this country. The only solution to our pressing energy needs is a balanced mix of nuclear, renewables and gas – produced here in this country, creating tax revenues and skilled jobs.”
Links to DrillOrDrop posts on the other party manifestos and candidates.