A Conservative MP from a constituency with an Ineos shale gas site is seeking to introduce legislation to stop fracking companies causing earthquakes.
Lee Rowley, who represents North East Derbyshire, said he wanted to put into law the current regulations on fracking-induced seismicity.
His Ten Minute Rule bill, to be called the Fracking (Seismic Activity) Bill, will be introduced into parliament on 19 March 2019.
Under the regulations, known as the traffic light system or TLS, companies must stop fracking for at least 18 hours, if their operations induce seismic activity of 0.5ML (local magnitude) or more.
Two shale gas companies have lobbied for a relaxation of the TLS.
Ineos, which has permission for shale gas exploration at Marsh Lane, Derbyshire, and Cuadrilla, which has fracked in Lancashire, have said the industry will not be commercially-viable unless restrictions are lifted.
Cuadrilla caused a total of 56 earthquakes during fracking at Preston New Road from October-December 2018. It stopped operations at least five times, at a cost, reported by the company, of £94,000 a day.
Mr Rowley’s predecessor in North East Derbyshire, the former Labour MP, Natascha Engel, has called for a review of the regulations, in her role as the government’s shale gas commissioner.
Any relaxation of the traffic light system has been strongly opposed by anti-fracking campaigners.
Mr Rowley said:
“Recently, fracking companies have been warning that the industry could be unworkable in the UK unless regulations are relaxed.
“These regulations were put in place for a reason – to protect the communities who have to live with fracking. More importantly the industry themselves agreed to the regulations when first implemented so they can’t come back and demand a change whenever it suits them.
“I will be introducing a Bill to Parliament, which, if successful, will enshrine into law the seismic regulations that were created to protect us.
“This is just the first stage in a long process to create a law and I can’t make any promises that it will succeed.
“But, we need to make it clear that if fracking cannot succeed under current seismic limits then it’s tough luck.”
Ken Cronin, chief executive of the industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said:
“In 2012 it was recognised by the Government that the traffic light system to regulate micro-seismicity was cautious and would be reviewed as experience developed. This is backed up by guidance from the Oil and Gas Authority. These statements are the basis on which investors have invested.
“Leading geoscientists have commented that a review of the micro-seismicity rules can be accommodated safely. We now have the data and experience appropriate for such a review. The current rules for shale gas extraction are the strictest in the world and are much stricter than for any other industry involved in creating seismicity in the UK. We would question whether legislation for only one industry is right and indeed whether – as has been suggested recently – this is a matter for regulators, not legislators.
“Against a backdrop of nearly 75% of our gas being imported within the next 16 years, increasingly from countries that have both work and environmental regulations significantly below our own standards, there is a moral, economic and environmental imperative to be looking at our onshore oil and gas resource.”
Ten Minute Rule bills are a type of Private Members’ Bill which allow a backbench MP to make a case for a new bill in a speech lasting up to 10 minutes. An MP who opposes the proposal can make a speech for another 10 minutes, before the House of Commons decides whether or not the Bill should be introduced. If the MP is successful, the bill is taken to have its first reading.
Most Ten Minute Rule bills rarely become law because the government usually opposes them in the later stages or there is often not enough parliamentary time for debate.
According to parliamentary statistics, a total of 15 Ten Minute Rule bills have received royal assent, since 1983.
DrillOrDrop also invited Natascha Engel to comment on Mr Rowley’s bill. This post will be updated with any response.
- We’re also working on an article about a new proposal for assessing whether earthquakes are natural or induced by human activity.