Environment Agency “no longer able to regulate fracking” – Labour

190922 SERA panel

Speakers at Labour fringe meeting on fracking, from left Barry Gardiner MP, Daniel Carey-Dawes, chair Tom Anderson, Katie de Kauwe and Andy Gheorgiu. Photo: DrillOrDrop

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.”

190922 Barry Gardiner MP

Shadow energy minister, Barry Gardiner MP. Photo: DrillOrDrop

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”

190922 Andy Gheorghiu

Andy Gheorghiu, Food and Water Watch Europe. Photo: DrillOrDrop

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.

He said:

“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”

190922 Katie de Kauwe

Katie de Kauwe, Friends of the Earth. Photo: DrillOrDrop

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”

190922 Daniel Carey Dawes

Daniel Carey-Dawes, Campaign to Protect Rural England. Photo: DrillOrDrop

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.

19 replies »

  1. Was it not Katie’s organisation that recently pulled out of a court case, against Cuadrilla, who would have had to pay costs if they lost? Hmm.
    Wonder how much of the cost Cuadrilla will end up recovering?

    • Will need to be a lot to cover the £90 odd thousand a day that they are losing due to the quakes and self inflicted stoppages but I doubt they will get a sniff of that.

    • Fascinating, but irrelevant drivel as per usual from that particular source. But none of us can even get remotely close to what Greta Thunberg said today at the UN 2019 Climate Action Summit.

      And that was this:

      That beats anything i can say….or anyone else.

    • Thank you Ruth and Paul for this report, actually this is exactly what we have been saying for years now, and thanks to your investigative research and reports.

      Fascinating that all this is suddenly being said when there is a likelihood of a national general election on the horizon isn’t it. But perhaps we must be grateful for being better late than never, at least the fact of the EA crippled state has become common knowledge at last.

      We have all known that the EA are not fit for purpose for several years now, but i hardly think that this latest incarnation of the Tory party will be much of an improvement, rather the opposite, not when Liz Truss has been to the USA to look at the sort of deregulation that Donald Trump has railroaded and criminally enforced there.

      Ineos has attempted to prevent any regulations on plastic products for years as has all the other plastic producers, there are some interesting videos on Ineos and Coca Cola culpability in that respect that illustrates that only too clearly.

      Ineos, Plastic and fracked shale gas

      Coca-Cola’s plastic secrets – DW Documentary

      What very interesting times we live in.

  2. Organisation maybe a bit of a loose term on this occasion, it glosses over the fact that it was Friends of the Earth Ltd. that wanted to take the legal action against Cuadrilla Resources Ltd’s injunction.

  3. Were the EA ever able to regulate the industry? The expertise (?) on unconventional oil & gas exploration was established outside of the UK, and I doubt any of the EA staff have had direct experience. Given their track record, one wonders if Cuadrilla’s people have ever had such experience. It seems to me that we have had the inexperienced trying to regulate the inexperienced.

    • Malcolm- it might be worth doing a bit of research before posting – the new technical director has considerable experience in this subject outside the UK!

  4. Malcolm Kenward

    The EA have had only one fracked well to regulate at a time so far, so I think that Berry Gardiner is a bit wide of the mark.

    Maybe he was conflating proposed exploratory drilling with actual,fracking?

    • And the EA and other regulatory bodies have struggled with the one partially fracked well….how on earth could the cope with hundreds if not the thousands required to make this commercially viable?

      • M Cox

        Yes, as any industry or activity grows, the regulations and regulator tend to grow with it ( and often the regulations grow without any change in the size of the industry ).

        If fracking had taken off then there would be a need to expand a number of gov departments to cope with the additional activity. Just as happened for offshore oil and gas, and the opposite for mining.

        I think Barry has an overall concern re the funding for the EA and regulators in general.

  5. Surprise, surprise, M cox, when motor cars grew in numbers so did car mechanics! Create a demand and there will be a supply.

    Job creation!

    Careful, you might be excommunicated for leading the discussion into that area.

  6. “Barry Gardiner, the son of Olympic footballer John Gardiner,[3] was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His mother trained as a surgeon and was the first woman to win the gold medal for surgery at Glasgow University.[4] He was educated at the High School of Glasgow, Haileybury and Imperial Service College and the University of St Andrews where he received an MA. He then served for two years as full-time Scottish Regional Secretary of the Student Christian Movement. As a young man, he planned to become an Episcopal priest and began identifying politically with democratic and christian socialism, identities he still holds to this day.[5][6]

    In 1983, he was awarded a Kennedy Memorial Trust scholarship to study Philosophy at Harvard University[3] under John Rawls, returning to research at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge for three years from 1984. He also worked as a senior partner in shipping insurance and arbitration before his election to parliament.[3]

    He was elected as a councillor to Cambridge City Council in 1988 becoming the mayor of the city in 1992,[7] the youngest mayor in the city’s 800-year history.[8] He left the council in 1994.[7] ”

    Very qualified to comment on the EA and energy……has he ever had a proper job? Oh yes, there was a stint in shipping insurance….

    • Remember this on Cuadrilla’s website a few years back.

      ‘Members of Cuadrilla’s management team have each played leading roles in the drilling and/or hydraulic fracturing of more than 3,000 natural gas and oil wells across the world.’

      I have repeatedly asked pro frackers on this site to supply a list of other Cuadrilla fracking sites. They have supplied none. My research has not found a single site.

      Experienced company? You are having a laugh.

      Might be worth pro frackers doing a bit of research. Maybe they could advise Cuadrilla. They could start with suggesting that when a seismic threshold of 0.5 magnitude is in place, causing a 2.9 magnitude earthquake is not a very clever move.

        • Surprising that none of the ‘experienced’ team knew about cement bond logging. If they had they would not have needed to write to the HSE in 2011 with a question that received this reply,

          “Cuadrilla were looking for some guidance on when a cement bond log was required and who was responsible for the interpretation of the logs”

          Then of course we have the only active officer of 11 Cuadrilla companies stating publicly

          “at a time when were running out of gas when were importing half of our gas by pipe line from Russia”

          It’s not even misleading. It’s a complete lie.

          And we were given to to think they know what they are talking about.


          • I knew you would bring the CBLs up again John. You couldn’t help it could you? Still waiting for you to tell us how they work / which type Cuadrilla should run etc etc and why they are fairly useless…..is this the 94th time you have brought this up? We should be told….2011 – wow!

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