The new Conservative MP for the Rother Valley in south Yorkshire is calling on the government to extend its moratorium on fracking to include drilling for shale gas.
Alexander Stafford, who was elected at the 2019 election, said environment damage and disturbance of residents could be caused by exploratory drilling, as well as fracking.
He has two proposed shale gas sites in his constituency, where Ineos wants to drill and test, but has not yet applied to frack.
Mr Stafford told DrillOrDrop:
“If the purpose is to frack, there is no point in letting companies drill in this area. The moratorium should extend to exploratory drilling for shale gas.
“To my mind there is no business case. If you cannot frack I do not see why you would want to drill. It would be madness.”
“I hope they will not go ahead. Exploratory drilling can cause huge damage and disturbance to local residents and the environment.
“We want to make sure this does not happen.”
The MP, the first Conservative ever to represent Rother Valley, asked a series of parliamentary questions last month which sought to clarify the government’s position on the moratorium.
Replying to the questions, the energy minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, said the government had no plans to review the moratorium. Its position would be “maintained unless compelling new evidence is provided which addresses the concerns around the prediction and management of induced seismicity”, he said.
The minister also confirmed that only operations which met a strict definition of fracking were covered by the moratorium.
His answer made it clear that the moratorium did not apply to operations, such as drilling, injection of acid or fracking with volumes of liquid below the threshold in legislation.
Mr Stafford said:
“The answers set out the government’s position in a bit more detail. There is more clarity that they are against fracking and they want to make sure that fracking does not happen.
“I want to make sure that other negative effects, from exploratory drilling, don’t happen either.
“I want to meet the minister to press that case. It is not just the fracking process. It is all the other environmental damage from drilling.”
Mr Stafford visited the Ineos site at Harthill site with villagers who had campaigned against it. He said:
“You see how close it is to beautiful fields and agricultural land. It will be a blight on the lives of people living in Harthill.
“I was driven round the roads that the lorries will take – and they are country lanes. We were in a small car and we had to stop frequently to give way for oncoming traffic.
“I was struck by the number of bicycles, people on horseback and walkers, enjoying nature and the environment.
“I cannot imagine what it will be like if you have hundreds of lorries on these roads. It will have a detrimental effect on the amenity of the village and the well-being of the people living there.
“I fear for people who want to use these roads. This is not an appropriate site. One person has a kitchen right next to the road. The pollution of diesel engines in the area will be a disaster.”
Ineos has done no site work at Harthill but it has submitted a construction management plan for approval to Rotherham Borough Council. The plan sets out how Ineos will build 23 passing places on 4.3km of the lorry route.
Mr Stafford said:
“I think it is disgusting that the parking spaces are being cut into the hedgerows. There are deer, bats, dormice in this area. It will have an impact on biodiversity.
“These laybys are not for local traffic. These convoys will force residents and small business people into the side of the road.”
The other Ineos shale gas site in the Rother Valley, at Woodsetts, is waiting for a decision on planning permission. The local government secretary, Robert Jenrick, will decide on the scheme on or before 8 April 2020.
DrillOrDrop invited Ineos to respond to Mr Stafford’s comments.
Harthill Against Fracking said:
“As a group we will not take our eye off the ball. We will keep fracking in the public domain and keep pressure on the government to honour the moratorium.”