The Conservative MP, Kevin Hollinrake, and chartered oil and gas engineer, Mike Hill, will take opposite sides in a debate about fracking in North Yorkshire next month.
Mr Hollinrake, whose Thirsk and Malton constituency includes the fracking site at Kirby Misperton, will argue that UK regulation can make hydraulic fracturing safe. Mr Hill, who has worked in the industry for 25 years, will make the case against.
The event, in Pickering on Thursday 8 March, has been organised by Kirkbymoorside Town Council and aims to inform councillors and citizens about fracking.
It will be chaired by the retired bishop, the Right Reverend James Jones. He was formerly Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Hull. He chaired the Hillsborough Panel supervising disclosure of documents relating to the football stadium disaster and examined the proposed sale of UK state-owned forests.
Since December 2014, Kirkbymoorside Town Council has opposed fracking activities locally until, it said, there were satisfactory answers to its serious concerns.
Fracking has been expected in Ryedale since November 2017, when Third Energy said it was ready to carry out the operation at its KM8 well in Kirby Misperton. Yesterday, the company confirmed there could be “a further period” before the final decision was made by the government (DrillOrDrop report). This follows the announcement that the Business Secretary had ordered a review of Third Energy’s financial resilience.
Despite this, the issue of hydraulic fracturing remains a key one in Ryedale.
Later this month, a Government-appointed planning inspector will begin to examine the North Yorkshire joint minerals and waste plan, which will set policy on fracking into the 2030s. The day set aside for oil and gas submissions is a week after the debate on Tuesday 13 March.
The shale gas company, INEOS, is also expected to begin seismic testing for shale gas in its licence areas in North Yorkshire this year. Correspondence between the company and the North York Moors National Park suggests that INEOS is planning to host public meetings about its proposed operations.
The case of the speakers
Mr Hollinrake (pictured left), an MP for the area since 2015, has said shale gas would provide a bridge while the UK develops renewable energy sources, improves energy efficiency and builds new nuclear plants.
He has argued that reports by the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and Public Health England have concluded that shale gas can be developed whilst protecting the environment, provided that operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation.
He has said he would meet regularly with the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and other agencies to ensure that public health is not put at risk. He will endeavour to make sure that the taxpayer or landowner does not have to meet the longer-term cost of shale gas exploration, for site restoration and aftercare, even if the operator goes out of business.
Mr Hill (pictured right), a chartered engineer and member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, has contributed to some of the key reports on the regulation of fracking. He has also provided expert guidance on similar questions to the UK government, the European Commission, the Royal Society and others.
He questions whether UK regulators have sufficient expertise in relation to fracking, whether they have the capacity to be effective and whether the existing regulations are adequate.
Mr Hill argues that the UK’s well examination scheme is not fit for purpose for onshore activities, and says that it is essential that it should be made so if severe damage is to be avoided.
He believes that the current regime allows operators to decide for themselves whether to follow best practices and that the authorities are ill prepared to provide any supervision.
After initial speeches, the audience will be invited to ask questions. Each speaker will then sum up and a vote will be taken on the motion.
The debate is on Thursday 8th March 2018, from 7pm-9pm, in the main hall of Lady Lumley’s School, Swainsea Lane, Pickering YO18 8NG.
Tickets are now available for Kirkbymoorside residents. From Monday 12 February all Ryedale residents will be able to apply. They can be obtained from the Town Clerk: email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01751432217, or online at https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/kirkbymoorside-town-council. Tickets are limited to two per applicant.
8/2/18 Kirbymoorside town clerk’s email address corrected