Politics

Minister quizzed on impact of fracking on UK climate targets

Fracking Week in Parliament.

palace of westminster

Palace of Westminster Source: By Superikonoskop [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

The Government was questioned this week on the impact that fracking would have on meeting the UK’s climate change targets.

Thangam DobbonaireLabour’s Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) asked what assessment had been made of the effect of fracking on the fourth and fifth carbon budgets for the period 2023-2032.

The Energy Minister, Claire Perry, said the Government’s strategy for meeting the carbon budgets was set out in the Clean Growth Strategy. This has no specific reference to shale gas in its 167 pages.

Ms Perry added:

“Continued use of natural gas from offshore and onshore sources is compatible with meeting our carbon budgets, and innovations in technologies such as Carbon Capture Usage and Storage have the potential to decarbonise this energy supply still further.”

The UK’s first National Infrastructure Assessment, published yesterday (10 July 2018), appeared to contradict this.

The assessment aims to be a long-term plan to achieve “high quality, good value, sustainable economic infrastructure. It also makes no specific reference to shale gas. But its proposals include 100% electric vehicles and 50% of UK power provided by renewables by 2030. The assessment also said:

“Even with emissions almost eliminated from power generation, the UK cannot achieve its emissions targets while relying on natural gas, a fossil fuel, for heating.

“Delivering a low cost, low carbon heating system is the major outstanding challenge. But the electricity system represented just such a challenge ten years ago. There are actions that the UK can and should take now”.

UK steel in the shale gas industry

Claire PerryMs Perry was also asked what the government was doing to maximise the use of UK steel in a shale gas industry.

Responding to a question by Labour’s Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge), Ms Perry said:

“I did hold a very effective shale industry roundtable, at which I was struck by the number of small companies that are making the pipes and specialty products that rely on UK steel and the opportunities for them.”

Angela Smith speaker

Extract from cached website for the Third UK Onshore Oil and Gas Summit

Ms Smith’s South Yorkshire constituency includes two shale gas exploration licences: PEDL272 held by Ineos and Pedl298 held by Warwick Energy. She was among the confirmed speakers at last week’s Third UK Onshore Oil and Gas Summit.

(The web link for the conference has since been removed but a cached version is still available).

What to do with fracking waste?

The former Thirsk and Malton MP, now Baroness McIntosh, asked how the Government intended to ensure waste water from fracking was disposed of safely.

baroness-mcintoshThe Baroness, whose former constituency includes Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton, also asked about Government policy on releasing waste into water courses and injecting it back into wells.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble

The Environment Minister, Lord Gardiner, said the Environment Agency does not allow the injection of fracking waste. He added:

“Hydraulic fracturing fluid that returns to the surface, known as flowback fluid, can be reused and recycled onsite if it meets environmental standards. Flowback fluid that cannot be recycled will become waste, and must be taken offsite for treatment at appropriately licensed waste water treatment facilities.”

Concerns about planning changes

JulianSturdyThe York Central Conservative MP, Julian Sturdy, who represents a constituency with shale gas licences, raised concerns about government plans to change the planning system for shale gas applications.

The proposals include classing shale gas production schemes as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, to be decided by a government minister, and non-fracking exploration as permitted development, without the need for a planning application.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Sturdy asked:

“Will my right hon. Friend update me on when the consultation will be open, and does he agree that these kinds of planning applications must come forward on the basis of local authority consent?”

david-lidingtonDavid Lidington, the Chancellor of the Ducy of Lancaster, standing in for Theresa May, replied:

“We are committed to consulting on further shale gas planning measures. Those consultations are planned to open over the summer, and I reassure my hon. Friend that these decisions will always be made in a way that ensures that shale use can happen safely, respecting local communities and safeguarding the environment.”


Transcripts

With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com

Question by Thangam Debbonaire, Labour, Bristol West, Opposition Whip

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of fracking on the UK meeting the targets of the (a) fourth carbon budget for 2023-2027 and (b) fifth carbon budget for 2028-2032.

Reply by Claire Perry, Conservative, Devizes, Energy Minister

Our approach to meeting the fourth and fifth Carbon Budgets is set out in the Clean Growth Strategy. Continued use of natural gas from offshore and onshore sources is compatible with meeting our carbon budgets, and innovations in technologies such as Carbon Capture Usage and Storage have the potential to decarbonise this energy supply still further.

Reply on 9 July 2018. Link to transcript


Question by Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, Conservative

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to ensure that waste water from fracking is disposed of safely; and what is their policy towards (1) releasing waste water after treatment into a water course, and (2) injecting waste water back into the fracking well.

Reply by Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Conservative, Environment Minister

The Government supports strong regulatory controls to ensure that fracking is carried out safely. Environmental permits issued by the Environment Agency (EA) set legally binding conditions to ensure compliance with requirements for environmental protection. Hydraulic fracturing fluid that returns to the surface, known as flowback fluid, can be reused and recycled onsite if it meets environmental standards. Flowback fluid that cannot be recycled will become waste, and must be taken offsite for treatment at appropriately licensed waste water treatment facilities.

Waste water treatment facilities must have the correct environmental permits in place to receive waste flowback fluid, and must meet strict environmental standards for any discharge into receiving waters. This is similar to any other industrial effluent. The EA does not allow reinjection of waste water back into a fracking well for disposal purposes.

Reply on 9 July 2018. Link to transcript


Extract of speech by Angela Smith, Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge

There are other aspects of UK manufacturing where a sector deal could play a real part. The development of the shale gas industry is one of those. Can the right hon. Lady update us on progress made in maximising UK steel content in the shale gas industry?”

Reply by Claire Perry

“That is an excellent point. The hon. Lady will know that I am keen for us to have an energy policy that delivers secure, affordable, low-carbon and innovative energy. I believe that onshore shale gas can play a part in that, and we are soberly going through the process of testing the wells. She raises an important point about ensuring that that work is done using UK steel content. I will take that away for my conversations with the companies, but I did hold a very effective shale industry roundtable, at which I was struck by the number of small companies that are making the pipes and specialty products that rely on UK steel and the opportunities for them, so the hon. Lady makes an excellent point.”

Westminster Hall debate, 10 July 2018. Link to transcript

Question by Julian Sturdy, Conservative, York Outer

There are growing concerns in my constituency about the proposed changes to planning powers for fracking applications being put forward for consultation by the Government and specifically the idea of treating non-fracking shale exploration as permitted development. Will my right hon. Friend update me on when the consultation will be open, and does he agree that these kinds of planning applications must come forward on the basis of local authority consent?


 

Reply by David Lidington, Conservative, Aylesbury, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

As my hon. Friend knows, shale gas has the potential to boost economic growth and support thousands of jobs across a number of sectors, as well as adding to this country’s energy security. The Government have outlined how we believe shale gas planning decisions should be made quickly and fairly to all involved. We are committed to consulting on further shale gas planning measures. Those consultations are planned to open over the summer, and I reassure my hon. Friend that these decisions will always be made in a way that ensures that shale use can happen safely, respecting local communities and safeguarding the environment.

Prime Minister’s Questions, 11 July 2018. Link to transcript

15 replies »

  1. I hear from a Green Party man this last Green Monday at PNR, that this current heat wave is not just Europe – It’s Global. I hear also in the Guardian recently that the Gulf Stream is slowing. Is this the start of Climate Armageddon?

    • It’s certainly a showdown Roy where nature will no doubt win. The only upside I can see is that the net is closing on those who, backed by O&G billionaire/profiteers, have perpetually lied about the impacts of carbon emissions and disrupted the change of hearts and minds needed to take real steps to do anything about it (along with the gullible who lap that stuff up and mindlessly repeat it) – right up to the highest political levels.

      The slowing gulf stream, now measurable, has been a prediction (as at least as a very real possibility) of climate/ocean circulation models for 7 or more years. In theory this should cool the northern part of Europe as its warming effect reduces – along with the extra ice melt entering the Nth Atlantic from Greenland etc. However that will only have a masking effect of what is happening globally and could prolong complacency.

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