Landowners are demanding speedy action from the government about who should deal with the consequences if something goes wrong with fracking.
The Country Land & Business Association (CLA), which represents farmers, landowners and rural businesses, says the government has not made sufficient progress to tackle the risks of long-term liability.
In a letter to the Energy Minister, Richard Harrington, the CLA wants the government to give urgent reassurances over the risks of long-term costs to private landowners.
The CLA’s Deputy President, Tim Breitmeyer, said:
“Our members take a long-term view of land management and will continue to run businesses using land with shale gas developments on them long after an operator has left a site.
“It is critical that the right protections are in place to ensure the long-term integrity of well sites and remove any risk to future use of affected land.
“It is greatly concerning that despite the acknowledged risk, the Government continues to encourage the industry to increase the number of sites in development without an adequate solution to liabilities being in place.
“For a government whose stated objective is to establish a world leading shale gas industry in the UK, the lack of clarity on these important issues is a major failing.”
The CLA said it had consistently raised the concerns of liability for fracking operations with ministers, officials and the industry over the past four years.
The organisation said all had acknowledged the liability issue needed addressing. But it added:
“To date, no solution has been provided to private landowners despite the continued growth of the UK shale gas industry.”
The CLA says there is:
- No clear mechanism to address the risk of operators becoming insolvent and not fulfilling licence obligations to abandon a well
- No clear on-going mechanism for post-abandonment inspector or monitoring of wells to ensure well integrity is maintained
Barbara Richardson, of Frack Free Lancashire, said:
“Farmers and landowners are quite right to be concerned about the long-term impacts of fracking on their land. They should be concerned about the short-term impacts too.
“So far, the government and the oil and gas industry have failed to reassure landowners and the general public that fracking is safe.
“Public opposition to this industry is growing daily as more and more communities are threatened with fracking. It is certainly not a foregone conclusion that fracking for shale gas will ever progress to full scale production. It is extremely costly to produce and has many environmental impacts.
“Farmers should certainly think twice before they sign up, as short-term gains may well be offset by long-term losses. Accidents can and do happen and who will pick up the bill?