Weekend long read: Is shale gas nationally important and should decisions be taken out of local control?

pnr 180501 ros wills 6

Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road near Blackpool. Photo: Ros Wills

The shale gas industry and its opponents had a rare moment of agreement in a committee room in Westminster this week.

Invited to give evidence to MPs, executives and campaigners agreed that – at least for exploration – shale gas decisions should be made locally.

But that was where the agreement ended.

The two sides had very different views on how significance of the industry, how it should be regulated and how decisions should be made.

They were giving evidence to an inquiry by the Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee. It is looking into whether planning guidance should be revised and whether fracking for shale gas should be considered a  nationally-important infrastructure project.

The committee also asked questions about the Government’s proposed changes to its planning policies for England through the National Planning Policy Framework.

In this long read, we look at a selection of the issues addressed by the committee witnesses.

180430 select committee

The select committee hearing, 30 April 2018. Photo: Parliament TV

National importance?

A government written ministerial statement in 2015 said there was a national need to explore and develop shale gas and oil resources in a safe and sustainable and timely way.”

More recently, in October 2017 a government-commissioned report said the UK’s gas supply was well-placed to be secure and robust for the next two decades without any contribution from shale gas. The witnesses were asked about how or whether national importance should be expressed in planning policy.

180430 select committee Ken Cronin

Ken Cronin, UKOOG. Photo: Parliament TV

Ken Cronin, Chief Executive, of the industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas

The issue of how strategically nationally important onshore oil and gas is needs to be redefined a bit and made stronger.

Matt Lambert, Director of Government and Public Affairs, Cuadrilla Resources

The current wording in the draft NPPF, or the proposal for changes to it, makes it clear that councils should give this great weight, but does not make it absolutely clear, as we would prefer, that shale gas is a nationally important priority because of energy security, primarily, and because of balance of payments.

Lynn Calder, Commercial Director, Ineos Shale

One thing it [the revised NPPF] misses out quite explicitly, in my opinion, is the pricing impact or the economic impact of having to import all our gas.

Kia Trainer, Director, Sussex branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England

We do not think there should be this great weight on the benefit of mineral extraction, particularly the benefits of onshore oil and gas development, without the Government fully making that business case. What are these benefits? They need to be understood before they go in here.

A lot of this, particularly unconventional hydrocarbon extraction, is speculative. You are giving great weight to a resource that we do not really understand. That is quite a difficult thing to ask decision makers to do.

Chris Hesketh, Frack Free Dudleston

We have security of supply. Indeed, the Government published a similar report and it was referenced earlier, quite rightly. That argument is fallacious.

National decision-making?

180430 select committee Lynn Calder

Lynn Calder, Ineos. Photo: Parliament TV

The Conservative manifesto proposed classifying fracking sites as nationally-significant infrastructure. This would take decisions away from local councils and give it to a government-appointed inspector. The inquiry has asked for evidence on whether this is a good idea and the witnesses were asked for their views.

Lynn Calder

Other than where we have felt that delays are unacceptable and have made appeals to the Secretary of State or the Planning Inspectorate, we have never sought to have these decisions taken out of local communities. We believe that they should be taken in local communities, and our submission talks about nationally-significant infrastructure projects. We have said that, at this early stage, we do not believe that is appropriate.

I am all in favour of local communities taking decisions. Unfortunately, we find that, in many of the cases, albeit that professionally governed planning officers are stating there are no planning reasons for these developments not to go ahead, local council members are voting against those professionally governed planning officers.

Matt Lambert

At present, exploration is managed through the Town and Country Planning Act. We are perfectly happy with that, provided it is operated efficiently.

Kate Gordon, Senior Planner, Friends of the Earth

Local impacts are best determined by the local decision-makers who know the area well, know the issues and would have to specify, and afterwards enforce, the conditions associated with development.

It would alienate communities and make no sense to put fracking schemes under the NSIP [Nationally-Significant Infrastructure Project] system.

By their nature, the schemes do not meet the principle of what might be national infrastructure, such as a motorway, an airport or a large railway station. It would make much more sense to keep them under the local planning system.

What could be gained by national decision-making?

Lynn Calder

For my core wells [proposed in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire], it would not do anything at all, because it would elongate the process even further. As we move forward into development, it would recognise the nationally significant nature of what we are trying to achieve here.

180430 select committee Matt Lambert

Matt Lambert, Cuadrilla. Photo: Parliament TV

Matt Lambert

It would give greater certainty about the timescale for everybody involved.

[At production] it would be better for local authorities simply because, for very large applications, they would, in most cases, not have the resources. It does not, in our view, take away from public consultation.

Ken Cronin

When you get to production sites, the energy equivalent of those production sites will be similar to what is already in national planning.

And what could be lost?

180430 select committee chris hesketh

Chris Hesketh, Frack Free Dudleston. Photo: Parliament TV

Chris Hesketh

What would be lost would be that sense of involvement, and this is an industry that is desperate to be accepted, desperate to be welcomed for a change, not being greeted by enormous amounts of constructive opposition.

If you alienate the local community by giving the impression that that decision is made 100 miles then that’s a step backwards for all of us. Local is where the decisions belong. It is a local impact.

So keeping the decision at community level, with greater clarity and guidance, is the right place. It stays with that principle that communities do have a say in their future. Also you get to build up on local knowledge.

Kia Trainor

We would have concerns about democracy and transparency if it was to go under that [NSIP] regime. Interestingly enough, even the industry does not agree it is the appropriate mechanism, particularly for the exploration and appraisal stages. If you went from those decisions being made locally, and suddenly jumped into another regime for the production stages, local communities would be outraged.

A lot of the production stage would need to be controlled. Local communities would be living around that. If those conditions were broken, they would be the ones who would be taking it back.

Definitions – fracking

The campaign witnesses talked about the short-comings of how fracking is currently defined by volume and the implications of this for planning.

Chris Hesketh

The Infrastructure Act defines it [fracking] in a very strange way. It is a retrospective definition. Given that the drilling company will not know how much fluid it will use until it gets to the end of the process, you could paraphrase the Infrastructure Act as saying, “If, when you get to the end of the process, you discover that you have used more than 10,000 cubic metres, that was fracking in hindsight”, by which time it is too late. You should have known it was fracking before you started the process.

The levels that are quoted have no basis in science. I would argue that the Infrastructure Act definition is unhelpful.

180430 select committee kia trainor

Kia Trainor, CPRE. Photo: Parliament TV

Kia Trainor

Under the hydraulic fracturing protected zones regulations from 2015, you are not allowed to drill down from the surface of protected areas, such as areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks.

A lot of the very good reasons for not fracking from the surface of protected areas apply to these other types of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction. It is important that we get those definitions right.

Ken Cronin

Whatever definition we use, we should have every single regulator using it. It would be very dangerous and silly for different regulators to have different definitions. Secondly, in terms of planning and land use, which is where planning authorities come in, regardless of the volumes that are used, the impact is primarily either on truck movements or on waste management, taking the waste away from site

When it comes to land use planning, particularly in the areas that the mineral planning authority looks at, such as traffic management, the definition of hydraulic fracturing is not that important, because it looks at the end position, which is the number of trucks and movements et cetera.

Definitions – conventional or unconventional?

The campaign witnesses also called for different definitions of conventional and unconventional.

Chris Hesketh

Unconventional can be characterised by a range of consequences, including the large number of wells that need to be drilled and health issues reported where it has been carried out

UC covers a range of techniques. The Infrastructure act only touches on high volume hydraulic fracturing into shale. There are several other technologies, including coal bed methane extraction, underground coal gasification, shale fracking, acid fracking. It is entirely possible to define the industry in a precise and scientific way, and we need that.

180430 select committee kate gordon

Kate Gordon, Friends of the Earth. Photo: Parliament TV

Kate Gordon

There is a lot of confusion about some activities and whether they are conventional or unconventional. Our concern would be where sites give rise to similar impacts yet might not be subject to such stringent regulatory requirements, which could be related to restoration, aftercare and that sort of thing. That needs to be looked at more closely so any definition can encapsulate activities that have similar kinds of impacts, to make sure the planning considerations and safeguards are there.

Kia Trainor

The definitions are really important.

One of the reasons this is important is that, under the hydraulic fracturing protected zones regs from 2015, you are not allowed to drill down from the surface of protected areas, such as areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks.

A lot of the very good reasons for not fracking from the surface of protected areas apply to these other types of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction.  It is important that we get those definitions right.

Changes to the National Planning Policy Framework

180430 select committee Clive Betts

Committee chair, Clive Betts MP. Photo: Parliament TV

Chris Hesketh

The regulations seek to support compliance with the legally-binding Climate Change Act targets that we have and the strongly expressed principles of sustainability and care for the planet.

Yet they are also required to support unconventional oil and gas extraction. Those two are not compatible. It is effectively asking the local authority’s minerals planners to engage in a form of doublespeak.

It is hugely controversial to ask council to support shale gas because of its role in transition to a low carbon economy. That is wrong in many respects.

Kia Trainor

The NPPF, at paragraph 144, gives great weight to the benefits of mineral extraction. Within that sentence, you are lumping together a lot of different things. We would argue that the economic benefits for oil and gas are very different. The business cases for them would be different. We are phasing out the use of oil to heat our homes. We are talking about very different resources.

At the moment, policy is asking decision makers to give great weight to the benefits of something in a very generic way, without really saying what they are. That is masking that there is a lot of difference.

The government needs to provide evidence on how the industry can achieve a transition to a low carbon economy.

Kate Gordon

We are appalled by some of the changes.

We would like to see a presumption against fracking. We would like to see an acknowledgement of the need to move away from fossil fuels – it would require that chapter to be re written.

The proposed paragraph 204 see shale gas as a transition a low carbon future. The evidence does not bear this out.

Key texts are being proposed for deletion in terms of locally distinctive plans and involving all sections of the community. These may not be legal changes but it is about the tone of the document.

There is a danger that this becomes more of a tick box exercise and things end up being imposed on communities. There is a danger of hydrocarbons being more centrally directed.

Ken Cronin

In terms of the local plan process, and in particular the connection with the NPPF, the issue of how strategically nationally important onshore oil and gas is needs to be redefined a bit and made stronger. At the moment, we are seeing local plans being made that cause national problems in terms of definitions and restrictions et cetera.

It all comes back, as my colleagues have said, to making the system more efficient. The overall construct of the various different documents should work, but just needs to be improved in terms of efficiency.

Is planning guidance out of date?

Kate Gordon

The guidance is pretty out of date. Some of it dates back to 2013 and 2014. We would like the guidance to take into account the clean growth strategy, the Paris climate agreement, and the Committee on Climate Change recommendations that fracking on a significant scale is not compatible with UK climate targets and that those three tests are met.

Ken Cronin

The guidance is relatively up to date. The problem we have as an industry is that the guidance quite often is not followed. We have a number of concerns around how long the process is taking with respect to the number of weeks against statutory guidance.

Kia Trainor

Ms Trainor mentioned to a planner’s report on a recent application for Cuadrilla’s well at Balcombe.

The officer refers to paragraph 124 of the planning guidance. Within that paragraph, it talks about the UK’s Annual Energy Statement 2013. That is one of the key considerations that the officer has. That energy statement is very old. It needs updating, particularly in light of our climate change commitments and the Government commitment to clean growth and the 25-year environment plan.

One document for guidance?

180430 select committee Matt Western

Select committee member Matt Western MP. Photo: Parliament TV

Lynn Calder

One request from us in our submission is that that is all captured in one document, so that it makes it a bit easier, rather than having people moving around in different places, trying to understand what the guidance states. I would argue that we are not seeking to change planning; we are trying to underline what is there already.

Matt Lambert

The disparate advice to councillors, the guidance, the ministerial statements and the lots of different documents that address the issues we face in hydraulic fracturing. It probably would be helpful if they were consolidated in one place in the guidance.

Kia Trainor

It would be good if we could bring in all these other forms of evidence. For example, going back to the business case, if there is one, that should be in that location as well, so it is really easy for people to navigate the system. We would like the guidance to be updated and centralised.

Who does what?

Ken Cronin

There are a number of changes that we would like. The first is more in-depth understanding about what each regulator does and, specifically, what planning is there to do and how it connects.

Matt Lambert

We frequently find councillors are either under pressure to or wish to concern themselves with generally subsurface matters that are dealt with by other regulators, typically the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.

Those are very often highly expert areas. It requires considerable expertise to understand the detail of how subsurface is regulated.

It would be helpful if it was clearer in the guidance what councils should concern themselves with in planning—surface issues or issues related to the activity of building a site and a pad—and what are subsurface issues that should be dealt with by other regulators.

Single regulator?

180430 select committee2

Select committee hearing, 30 April 2018. Photo: Parliament TV

The former Shale Gas Taskforce recommended a single regulator for the shale gas industry. The witnesses were asked about the benefit of a single regulator or point of contract for the public.

Ken Cronin

I would support a shale gas body that, in particular, helped the general public to understand the process. Part of the big challenge here for the industry and the regulators is to ensure that the public always have the right amount of information and understand the process, not just from a planning point of view, but from the other regulators’ point of view too.

Lynn Calder

I understand that the different buckets of those regulators, and what exactly they regulate, are confusing for the general public. Any means by which that can be alleviated will be helpful.

Matt Lambert

Mr Lambert favoured a single point of contact to answer questions about shale gas regulation. It would, he said, help the public understand the process better and get a better way of communicating with it in a two-way process. He also supported multi-agency arrangements between statutory consultees. But he added:

We are not in favour of a single regulator, but a single point of contact and a two-way process for the regulator to communicate more openly, hear concerns and answer them.

Kate Gordon

In the establishment of such a body, it would be seen to have a vested interest in promoting the industry and to be insufficiently independent.

We would be concerned about having an independent body set up to facilitate the industry. Why is this being singled out as a certain form of energy? That would also be our concern

Chris Hesketh

The difficulty is that this separate regulatory body could all too easily be seen as an offshoot of the industry body. It would become less trustworthy, so it would backfire on the industry anyway, because public opinion is already strongly against the industry. It would increase that.

It is not at all clear where the boundaries sit between the different bodies. When feedback was given, we injected into both the consultation around the permitting and the planning. We still were unable to get the two bodies talking to each other.

Kia Trainor

Instead of another body, which could cause more confusion, we would be looking for better joint working with the existing bodies and more support for them to be able to do it.

Duration of decision-making

When asked about problems with the planning system, the industry representatives called for faster decision-making.

Ken Cronin

Our problem is the fact that, from the beginning—that is, the scoping of an environmental impact assessment with councils—through to setting planning conditions, the whole process now takes about 18 months. Three or four years earlier, it was taking three to four months.

Lynn Calder

Ms Calder said planning authorities were not meeting statutory timescales for planning applications:

We are facing two to three years of planning applications to get a core well approved at the moment. I do not think that level of uncertainty for local communities benefits anyone

It is not the case at all that we do not want to hear from local communities in which we propose developments. … We absolutely want that to continue. We, as INEOS, have done many of the same types of consultation that Mr Lambert has articulated. We are keen, though, to stop the process of planning being used as a means to frustrate development. That is the key point.

Matt Lambert

A process in terms of approval and determination that is supposed to take 16 weeks, in the case of Preston New Road, took 28 months. With Roseacre Wood, where we have another site in the process of a current appeal, we are now in the 46th month of that process, including the appeal. Those are proposals for fracturing. I understand they need very close consultation. Everybody wants to understand them properly, but it is a question of proportionality.

Kate Gordon

In our understanding, a lot of the delays have been caused by a lack of information being provided, sometimes by developers as well, to local authorities. It is about sharing information and communication, so everybody understands the implications of a change in one stage of the process and its knock-on effects.


Full transcript of the committee hearing

Webcast of the hearing

Information about the committee inquiry and links to written evidence

21 replies »

  1. Thanks Ruth for this well documented report on this Westminster committee meeting on the shale gas industry status.

    Some interesting issues arise, namely ineos stating they think local planning authority determination is preferred, the proposals for a single regulating body, and the definition of what does, or does not constitute fracking in production terms.

    What I think becomes apparent from this,is that local planning authority may be preferred by ineos because it’s not a level financial playing field and money talks when a local planning authority can be overwhelmed and threatened with legal action in the event of planning refusal and that overturns objections and intimidates opposition and is hence a legal railroad situation to overturn objections and crush oppostion.

    That would not be possible with a central government planning authority, where ineos would be up against the entire government resources and would not be able to railroad the issues without significant lobbying which must be highlighted and declared by mps.

    That is a similar position with a single regulating body, since the present system is fragmented and responsibility for each part of the process is unclear, underfunded, and insufficiently staffed and motivated.
    So it is better for operators and government to keep the regulation fragmented and uncoordinated to get the desired result from several fragmented underfunded rubber stamp regulatory bodies.

    The definition of what constitutes fracking is also suitably vague regarding production and regulation.
    To keep the definition as a production limitation status is clearly irrational and unscientific since volumes cannot be predicted and the result of that is that production volumes would be either artificially kept to a minimum by stealth or somehow operationally limited per well to keep below that most emotive terminology and complex regulatory conditions.

    Much can be done if the term fracking is not used and sites that claim there will be no fracking can do so on purely volume production terms and hence claim they are not fracking? You can see why that is preferable to a single rational scientific definition.

    The upshot of this I think is that the present fragmented local planning authority systems and definitions is prefered by operators because it gives them many advantages to I return objections by whatever method.

    A centralised decision by a single regulator with a scientific rational definition of fracking would present the industry with too many concerted hurdles to jump over and they would have to concentrate on lobbying which would be declared and made public.

    • I agree whole heartedly with you Phil

      A centralised decision by a single regulator with a scientific rational definition of fracking should be the way ahead…


      • Well, pardon me if i pick myself off the floor kish? I shall treasure this moment?l

        i said ages ago, that all these issues should have been addressed openly and freely in government and in the public many years ago,

        There has been no public debate, what little parliamentary debate is limited to this year and only minimal cost references before that, it is all too late.

        When the public should have been fully informed from the start off, we have instead been left to the less than tender mercies of the little more than brush off totally biased and blinkered industry PR departments and frankly outrageous verbal abuse and intimidation on social media and web sites such as Drill Or Drop.

        it would be interesting would it not, in terms of local opposition and protest how that could be handled and equally funded centrally?

        Think of all the issues that would be freed up by a centralised process of regulation, definition and openly debated decision making? Climate change, the Paris Agreement, experience from similar operations abroad, the ability to call upon experts on any issue, declaration of private interests for MP’s and committee members and anyone else, a halt on industry lobbying due to the issue being decided by the same people?

        To think all this could have been sorted eight years or so ago now and we would not be in this private industry imposed “money talks and you cant afford to” mess of operators running rough shod over the public, they could not get away with that in a centralised publicly responsible and accountable central system of representation?

        In short, it would be a return to democracy and public accountability, not the deeply divided mess we find ourselves in now?

        Perhaps it would go to a referendum? Fraxit or Frackit?

        I wonder where we would be now? would we still be tearing each other apart or would we have a trustworthy representational system of free and open rational scientific debate and openness?

        I have just noticed whilst lying on the floor, that the carpet needs cleaning so i had better get on with that?

    • I fear that with central government decision making, every application will be rubber stamped by the current government. I believe that at all levels of government, including government departments, a proper understanding of the whole industry is somewhat lacking; I believe their views have been almost entirely gained from the industry itself, ignoring the many external experts both in the UK and elsewhere on the planet. It doesn’t matter how they’re organised, their knowledge and experience is limited and therefore potentially dangerous.

      • I could not agree more. The battle is with the government, departments and minister’s not at local level who are powerless
        As any refusal will go to public enquiry then if refused again to the minister. The national rules on planning may enforce that view.

    • “That would not be possible with a central government planning authority,” Phil, all INEOS has to do is shut down The Forties pipeline for ’emergency repairs’ for a few days and the government rolls over.

      • Yes that is the way the government will try to use central planning, and they have all ready demonstrated that it will be totally biased.
        My point was more that the present local planning committee system is also unbalanced and outfunded by the operators, and that coupled with the crippled regulators and wishy washy definition get out clauses of the very terminology of fracking.

        I still think the local system of planning committees is preferable simply because it gives local people a say and enables those councillors who do actually act responsibly a chance to oppose and reveal the railroading attempts of the operators.

        If you noticed I wasn’t actually advocating centralised planning, we have seen where that leads, but such a process may, if enforced open so many cans of worms for the industry, that they would not want it.

        The local planning system however is variable, dependent upon how deeply ensconced the political imperatives are with individual members, and relative funding and legal representation is plainly seen to be completely out of balance and unfairly biased towards the operator, and regulators are little more than rubber stamp agencies.

        The centralising of the process may, or may not address some of these issues, under this government it will be another railroading exercise, and hence will be counter productive.

        But handled intelligently from the outset, it may have addressed some of the fundamental flaws of the entire process?

        It’s too late now anyway, whatever happens it is far too emotive and deep seated from both sides now, and whatever happens from here on, this government and the operators have almost Carte Blanche to run roughshod over the entire process.

        It has only been local pressure groups and local councillors that have prevented the worst excesses of that flawed process from being realised, and there remains the financial threats to overcome yet.
        It appears some councils have already seen their personal vulnerability and are withdrawing their objections?

        That is not democracy, that is corporate dictatorship in action.

        I say return legal aid to it’s fullest protection of local people and enforce habeas corpus to ensure that secretive hidden injunction conditions cannot over turn 800 years of democracy.

        Keep the local planning process but level the financial and legal playing field and enable planning committees to address all below ground issues as well as above ground issues.
        Clarify the terminology’s so that everyone is reading from the same definition basis and fund and make independent from government and the industry all regulators to enable them to actually do the job we expect them to do, not the crippled false ghosts we see rubber stamping everything that gets thrown at them.

  2. Of course you have not taken in to account the fact that the public cannot say anything against an application due to the high court injunction on social media in action taken. The injunction has to be tested as this may include the frustration of a permission which delays the carrying out of fracking causing losses to inputs or the supply chain.

    • Odd isn’t it? It would be interesting to see ineos attempting to enforce an injunction against the entire UK government and against the press for reporting and discussing the pros and cons of fracking?
      The more this whole fracking debacle reveals it’s injunction laden impossibilities and the inherent legal and organisational irrational complexities, the more insane it looks?

      • Well its Sunday again and its a beautiful day, so its out for a walk and salad in the garden.

        With all this talk of traffic inquiries and the EA rubber stamp jobs so i thought this little song might be appropriate for our Sunday entertainment? One of those eighties cds knocking around my shelves.
        Maybe something for James Brokenshire to consider in there?

        With greatest apologies to the group “Yello”
        From the Yello Lyrics for



        Shale, gang, hate crime (should I know why)
        They’re in league with you
        Shale gang, smack your rights (should I justify)

        Out of the blue

        I’m the Rubberstampman with the rubberstamp touch
        Out of the blue, greed is such
        Rubberstamp man with the rubberstamp knack
        You’re the one, you’ll get them back on track

        Shale, gang, hate crime (should I know why)
        They’re in league with you
        Shale crack, smack your rights (should I justify)

        Out of the blue

        Everybody told me what they shouldn’t do
        I haven’t got the problem
        Haven’t got the blue
        I’m doing what I’m told to and I’m doing fine
        I’m the Rubberstampman, I don’t mind

        Shale, gang, hate crime (should I know why)
        They’re in league with you
        Shale crack, smack your rights (should I justify)
        Out of the blue

        I got the Rubberstamp dance
        It’s chewin’ the crack
        Cause I’m the Rubberstampman
        Down in the can
        Hoping I can fool you I’m crack on the lie
        The Rubberstampman doin’ fine

        Shale, gang, hate crime (should I know why)
        They’re in league with you
        Shale crack, smack your rights (should I justify)
        Out of the blue
        The Tory woman tells me what I shouldn’t do
        I’m jumping while i can, out of the blue
        I haven’t got the problem living in their can
        I’m doing alright, I’m the Rubberstampman

        To rubberstampers everywhere.

        Have a great bank holiday Sunday with family and friends and enjoy this wonderful spring weather.

          • Great song.
            As you said what are the parameters of the injunction? Will have to test in court. Will the point
            Will the police be involved as it may be a civil matter unless people don’t cooperate.

    • Wandering Dutchman
      We are exporting imports. Ie it just flows through the country on its way to somewhere else.
      The key figure is total use and total production.
      If there was an issue we may indeed not export to europe, as export business is based on price differentials ( ie bought cheap from Norway, sold expensive to Belgium maybe ). The Irish may be miffed as well as gas flows across the UK to them ( from wherever ) and shutting it off on a whim may look like a friendly thing to do

  3. The industry as always wants it all ways. An NSIP application is usually far lengthier and a more formal process. So for the so called exploratory wells the industry knows the local planning system is quicker, especially as they can refer the matter to a government planning inspector if they consider the local planning authority is not acting quickly enough/non determination. These “exploratory” wells costing several million pounds each undoubtedly will be fracked, so the industry prefers this approach because it is quicker. No doubt they will ask for more weight to be given to fracking in the NPPF and NSIP when it suits. The definition of fracking needs watching very closely the industry likes the Infrasrructure Act definition as it would allow them an enormous loophole. If you consider this definition based only on the volume of liquid used then 40% of the unconventional fracked wells in the US would not be classed as fracking. One suspects this was entirely the purpose of the definition in the Act, no doubt lobbied for by industry.

  4. Very interesting discussion here (link) about developments in law to define ‘ecocide’ in criminal law – as corporate and state sponsorship of ecosystem destructiveness/destruction, which otherwise has no other means for being addressed in terms of justice. Ecosystems cannot defend themselves. https://youtu.be/WNCmyQeVBwY

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