Fracking Week in Parliament.
The government has said it has no plans to establish a minimum distance between homes and shale gas sites across the country.
A 500m gap has been adopted in North Yorkshire and approved by a planning inspector, although the shale gas industry has promised to fight it in the courts. (DrillOrDrop report)
The Energy Minister, Lord Henley, replying to a question by the Green Party peer, Baroness Jones, said this week:
“There are no plans to establish national set back regulations for shale gas development.”
“National Planning Policy is clear that when planning permission is granted for shale gas, the cumulative impact of shale sites must be considered. Local Authorities therefore have the power to assess and restrict the cumulative effects of shale sites, including any adverse impacts on the natural or historical environment.
“Public Health England also work with the regulators to ensure potential health impacts of operations are properly risk assessed as part of the planning and permitting process.”
Baroness Jones also asked the Government:
“What assessment they have made of medical studies indicating that health risks are modified by the geographical distance of residences from active shale gas extraction.”
Lord Henley replied:
“Public Health England assessed the risk to human health of extracting shale gas in their June 2014 report. They evaluated available evidence on issues including air quality, radon gas, naturally occurring radioactive materials, water contamination and waste water. Public Health England’s review concluded that “… the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with shale gas extraction will be low if operations are properly run and regulated”.
“Public Health England continue to review evidence on the potential public health impacts of emissions associated with shale gas extraction and have not currently identified any significant evidence that would make it change its views stated in its Review of the Potential Public Health Impacts of Exposures to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of the Shale Gas Extraction Process (2014).”
DrillOrDrop will report on the continuing review by Public Health England in a separate post.
Cost of environmental damage from fracking
The Government was also asked this week about what would happen if a fracking company caused environmental damage but then went bust.
The Energy Minister, Claire Perry ( left), told her Labour opposite number, Alan Whitehead:
“Each shale gas licensee (and there may be more than one for each licence) is responsible for their well(s).
“The Government has been clear that it considers that the financial resilience of a company wishing to hydraulically fracture is a relevant consideration in the consents process. As set out in the Written Ministerial Statement of 25 January 2018, on Energy Policy, HCWS428, as a matter of policy we will look at the financial resilience of all companies wishing to carry out hydraulic fracturing operations alongside their application for Hydraulic Fracturing Consent to ensure companies have the financial capacity to meet their regulatory obligations, including protecting the environment.
“If environmental damage does occur, remediation of the damage will be dealt with under the main regimes for dealing with contamination, the Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2009 and Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.”
A similar question asked last week by the Green Party’s co-leader, Caroline Lucas, got a similar reply. But Ms Perry then added:
“BEIS (Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) officials are also working with the industry’s trade body UK Onshore Oil and Gas to ensure that liabilities for shale wells are addressed in the rare circumstance where all of the companies on a licence became insolvent, and where no rescue mechanism for those companies could be found.”
Number of fracking wells
The long-running debate continued this week over how many fracking wells the country could expect to see.
Dr Whitehead (right) asked about the timetable for publication of an up-to-date estimates of the number of fracking wells.
An estimate in an unpublished report suggested there might be 155 by 2025. But earlier this year ministers said this figure was out of date.
Ms Perry replied:
“The Government will continue to monitor progress of the shale gas industry and will revise its estimates as appropriate as the industry develops.”
Extending exploration opportunities in Chester
The Labour MP, Chris Matheson (left), asked a series of questions about changes to the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence around his City of Chester constituency.
We’ve reported separately on this question here
Links to transcripts