Fracking companies can “railroad” through their interests because the Environment Agency has been “drained” of resources, a Labour energy spokesperson told delegates at the party’s conference.
Barry Gardiner, shadow energy minister, said of the Environment Agency [EA]:
“They are no longer capable of performing the functions that they are supposed to, set up in law, by statute.”
Senior EA figures, one of three main regulators of the shale gas industry, have repeatedly said they have sufficient resources to do its job.
But speaking at fringe meeting last night, Mr Gardiner said:
“The way that this government has drained capacity, drained resource out of organisations which are supposed to be there to protect our environment: that is a real part of this.
“If we don’t get that capacity back we will always find that big industrial companies and interests are able to railroad through.”
Another speaker at the meeting, Daniel Carey-Dawes, head of rural economy and communities at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, added:
“It’s not just about the money. It’s about losing people that have the skills who know about how things work, how they can be done safely.”
Mr Gardiner also said:
“Ineos and co, they can’t win, they are on the back foot and this is a fight that we are going to keep on and we are going to win.
“You really do need to take heart because everything now is beginning to stack up against these people.
“We are getting ever closer to a general election and if and when we have a Labour government then we will carry out our promise made three years ago at the Party conference and we will ban fracking.
“I stand by those words today, Jeremy stands by those words today and that is why we know that ultimately the victory is going to be ours.”
“Ineos holding back efforts to tackle climate change plastic waste”
Andy Gheorghiu, campaigner and policy advisor for Food and Water Watch Europe, told the meeting that Ineos, which has the largest number of UK shale gas licences, was now a major producer and user, with control of the whole supply chain.
“Their whole business model aims at holding us back from tackling global warming and tackling single use plastics.”
He said the plastics problem could not be tackled without addressing the supply chain.
The petrochemical sector was the largest industrial consumer of oil and gas globally, he said. 300 major investments in petrochemical facilities in the United States had been announced since 2010, worth $200 billion.
“The International Energy Agency expects a growth of 70% in the trade of fracked gas for petrochemicals, a large part for plastics, another part for fertiliser.
“Ships are coming from the US to Grangemouth and to Norway bringing fracked gas which will end up – at least the biggest share – as single use plastic.
“This all happens as we acknowledge the fact that we need to tackle global warming and at the same time there is a big plastic waste problem.”
Mr Gheorghiu said the Centre for International Environmental Law estimated that the full lifecycle of plastic by 2050 would generate 56 gigatonnes of CO2, equivalent to 10-13% of the overall budget to stay within the 1.5 global warming.
Ineos had no plan to start a transition from reliance on fracked gas, he said.
“This is crucial. It will either create either a fossil lock-in, which we cannot afford, or it will create massive stranded assets.
“We need to immediately stop any new investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, in particular infrastructure that results in producing more virgin plastics because the economic lifespan goes way beyond 2050 at the point where we need to be at net zero emissions.”
“Access to justice should not be just for the oil and gas industry”
Katie de Kauwe, lawyer for Friends of the Earth, said the civil courts allowed oil and gas companies to, in effect, “buy justice” through injunctions against protests. She said:
“There is a serious inequality of arms in terms of the financial resources of these multi-national corporations, as against the resources of local people to resist the injunctions.”
DrillOrDrop reported earlier this month that Friends of the Earth had been “priced out” of intervening in a challenge to the injunction awarded to Cuadrilla. A High Court judge refused the organisation’s application for cost protection. Friends of the Earth said it would have faced paying Cuadrilla’s costs of £85,000 if it lost the case.
Ms de Kauwe said:
“To challenge one of these injunctions, there are potentially very severe financial costs if you lose because there is no cost protection available.
“It should be possible for an organisation to stand up for fundamental human rights without facing crippling financial costs if they lose.
“At the bare minimum, we would advocate that costs protection should be made available as a right in persons unknown anti protest injunction cases because ultimately access to justice is something that should be available to everyone in society.
“It should not just be for private corporations and it should not just be for the oil and gas industry.”
“Communities left in limbo by fast-track fracking plans”
Daniel Carey-Dawes, from Campaign to Protect Rural England, criticised the government for failing to decide whether it would go ahead with proposals to fast track shale gas.
In May 2017, ministers first proposed classing shale gas exploration schemes as permitted development, without the need for a full planning.
Mr Carey-Dawes said:
“It is now 16 months since the government announced it would railroad fracking through the planning system. A public consultation came and went. There were two firey Westminster Hall debates.
“But still, to this day, the government has left communities in limbo. There has been no final decision on whether the fast track proposals should actually go ahead or not.”
In that 16 months, Mr Carey-Dawes said, “our collective awareness of the climate emergency has been transformed” by the latest data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UK Committee on Climate Change. He said:
“It was always a stretch of imagination to think that somehow fracking could be compatible with tackling climate change but now I think it is inconceivable.
“With one final heave it should be possible to put this industry to bed and 2020 could be the year that this happens.”
- The fringe meeting was organised by SERA Labour’s environment campaign, and Frack Free United, the anti-fracking campaign network.
DrillOrDrop’s reporting of the meeting was made possible by individual donations from readers.