Fracking moratorium minister fired in reshuffle

200213 reshuffle

Reshuffle ministers (from left): Alok Sharma, George Eustice, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa Villiers. Photos: UK Parliament

The cabinet minister who announced the moratorium on fracking last year has been sacked in today’s reshuffle.

Andrea Leadsom was replaced this afternoon by Alok Sharma as secretary of state for business, energy and industry strategy.

Mr Sharma (52), a former international development secretary, will also be president of the COP26 climate talks in November. This follows the sacking of the former energy minister, Claire Perry O’Neill earlier this month

A former accountant, Mr Sharma advised clients on cross border mergers and acquisitions, listings and restructurings.

He was elected MP for Reading in 2010. He also held ministerial posts at housing, employment and the foreign office.

Mr Sharma supported shale gas in a letter to constituents in March 2019. This was five months after more than 50 induced tremors caused by the first fracks at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, near Blackpool. Alok Sharma letter on fracking

He said:

“I understand that there is a very low risk that shale gas extraction could cause any noticeable tremor at the surface. Operators must now use all available geological information to assess the location of faults before wells are drilled and monitor seismic activity before during and after operations.”

He said there were on average 166 naturally-occurring seismic events of magnitude 2.9 or below each year in the UK, most of which go unnoticed.

Five months after the letter, fracturing on Cuadrilla’s second well at the site caused a 2.9ML event, the largest fracking-induced seismic event in the UK. It was felt across the Fylde and led to the suspension of fracking at the site. There were several hundred reports of damage to the British Geological Survey.

Mrs Leadsom declared an immediate moratorium on fracking on 2 November 2019 following a study on Cuadrilla’s operations for the Oil & Gas Authority.

Data from the website They Work For You shows that Mr Sharma voted in parliament for greater restrictions on fracking in national parks and other protected areas and for a more extensive of set of conditions before fracking was approved.

But he voted against explicitly requiring environmental permits for fracking and against a ban on unconventional petroleum exploitation for 18 months.

Eustice replaces Villiers at environment

Theresa Villiers has been sacked as environment secretary and replaced by the former farming minister, George Eustice.

Ms Villiers was regarded as a supporter of fracking. During the passage of the Infrastructure Bill with measures on fracking, she posted a statement on her website:

“We need to strike the right balance between the legitimate concerns of landowners, and the benefits to society as a whole of permitting development.”

The environment secretary is responsible for the Environment Agency, one of the main regulators of onshore oil and gas.

Mr Eustice (48) is a former PR executive. He has been MP for Camborne and Redruth since 2010.

In 2015, he voted for more extensive conditions on hydraulic fracturing and for greater restrictions on fracking in national parks and other protected areas. He was absent for two votes on Infrastructure Bill in January 2015.

No change at local government

The other key minister for the onshore oil and gas industry has not changed.

Robert Jenrick remains as local government secretary, with responsibility for deciding the appeals at Ellesmere Port and Woodsetts.

22 replies »

  1. Why is the Business Secretary in charge of COP26 and not the Environment Secretary? Has Alok ever visited the residents where fracking induced tremors occured?

  2. It does seem Alok Sharma is not too committed to the fight against the Climate Crisis. He has not only voted 15 times against Climate Change measures. He also received £15,000 from Offshore Group Newcastle who make platforms for oil, gas and wind companies.

  3. Mr. Maynard’s condescending use of ‘dear’ in addressing Pauline is of considerable help in enabling us to assess the value of his contributions to this forum.
    On another level, what a pity Johnson in his nomination of a new president for Cop26 ignored the opportunity to demonstrate that he is aware that the fight against anthropogenic climate change calls for an approach that transcends party rivalries as well as for a ‘big hitter’ who has demonstrated the nous, the integrity and the commitment, as well as the charisma, to lead the charge.
    This nomination immediately downgrades the UK commitment to the task in hand, irrespective of the merits of the nominee. I think many of us had hoped for more and better.

    • Iaith – the fact that I’m dismissive of people who present totally illogical arguments has nothing to do with the technical content of what I contribute. The fact that you draw such a link has far more to say about your thinking process than it does about my knowledge of this subject.

      I also don’t see you’re arguments regarding Mr Johnson’s appointment to the chair of the COP – it’s good to appoint people who get stuff done

  4. What a strange comment from iaith.

    “Irrespective of the merits of the nominee”!!

    No. The merits of the nominee is the key element.

    These antis want it all ways. Let’s just avoid the reality that the nominee may have merit, and that then allows those who want to whinge to do so. Bit like suggesting that “irrespective of Messi’s merits, he hasn’t played for our team before.”

    So, assessing the value of your contributions was pretty easy, iaith.

    • Glad you found it easy, Martin. I’m afraid I have to admit that the force of your analogy escapes me. Perhaps a more suitable one in the light of what I clearly failed to convey accurately might have been ‘irrespective of Messi’s merits, his appointment as goal keeper has disappointed many.’ But perhaps I do Messi an injustice. I really am not au fait with his career!

  5. Yes, I thought it might escape you, iaith. But, I suspected it would not escape the majority who live in the real world. They recognise that positions on a football field are not appointed, but gained through MERIT. So, a player who starts as a midfielder can play anywhere if he/she shows to the coach they are the best player-some even end up in goal as a result.

    However, in respect of COP26, whoever runs it will have no sway upon whether countries adhere to whatever is decided. The best they can do is make sure it is well organised and some decisions are thought to have been taken, and that all those tens of thousands are returned by ‘plane from where they came. It will be a PR exercise for the UK, and that is why a Minister is required.

    Interesting that the recent reshuffle, as a whole, has generated far more comment about the background/sex/colour/religion of individuals rather than their MERIT for the job to be done. Yet, the main piece of clarity to come from the recent election is that the voters want things to get done. Seems that the antis are still interested in identifying a minority position-or just not in contact with reality. Perhaps they need a Cummings to sort them out?

  6. Cobalt and The renewable revolution –
    Net Zero 2035!

    The car industry is by no means the only one implicated: the electronics manufacturers Apple, Google, Dell and Microsoft, as well as Tesla, were named in a US lawsuit last month by families who say their children were killed while mining cobalt used in their products.


    I would like to hear the end game from XR!, Rather than protest against government affecting jame and joe bloggs lives, what miracle are they willing to achieve? Well on the other hand some don’t want a drill pad on their view… but the EV revolution really is affecting the human race!,
    Has anyone got a conscience?

  7. Meanwhile, in Germany environmentalists have managed to get a stop on the building of the Tesla plant!


    Worries about it damaging the environment and a danger to local water quality!

    Oops. Seems the biter bit.

  8. The Greens had the clearance works stopped because Tesla had proceeded with the destructive clearance of woodland without planning permission for the factory having been granted. The Greens do not object to the factory but do not want to be left with a wasteland should permission not be granted.

  9. You forgot the sand lizards, iaith!! And the water quality.

    Funny how Greens routinely miss out the bits they think others will not have seen.

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