The UK government formally lifted the moratorium on fracking in England this morning.
In a Written Ministerial Statement, the business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said it was in the national interest for people living and working near fracking sites to “tolerate a higher degree of risk and disturbance”.
He suggested the government would review the regulations on fracking-induced earthquakes.
He also said ministers would look to better support the shale gas industry, “from initial exploration to large-scale production”.
More shale gas sites were needed, he said. The North Sea Transition Authority and other regulators should be “proactive in extending existing consents and permissions where practicable, to support the development of energy resources in the National interest”.
Fracking in England was halted in November 2019 after the government concluded that induced earthquakes were difficult to control and predict.
A review of fracking science by the British Geological Survey, commissioned by the government, has also been published.
It concluded that forecasting large earthquakes and their expected magnitude remained a scientific challenge. More on this soon on DrillOrDrop.
The prime minister announced on 8 September 2022 that the moratorium i, England would be lifted. But the details were delayed because of the death of Queen Elizabeth.
Mr Rees-Mogg said today much had changed since the moratorium was imposed in 2019. He said:
“Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting restrictions on gas supply to Europe have impacted on global energy prices and the energy security of our neighbours and allies. This emphasises the need for ‘home grown’ sources of energy to reduce our reliance on imports.
He said the government remained committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But the UK needed oil and gas to get there. He said:
“HM Government considers it appropriate to pursue all means for increasing UK gas production, including shale gas extraction. The Government is therefore lifting the pause on shale gas extraction and will consider future applications for Hydraulic Fracturing Consent with the domestic and global need for gas, and local support for developments, in mind.”
The business secretary said:
” While HM Government will always try to limit disturbance to those living and working near to sites, tolerating a higher degree of risk and disturbance appears to us to be in the national interest given the circumstances described above.
“With this in mind, it is important that the policy relating to shale gas extraction reflects this. HM government will be reviewing this aspect of shale gas policy as part of a wider reflection on how to better support the industry throughout the whole life cycle of the investment, from initial exploration to large scale production.
“We will look to the North Sea Transition Authority and other licensing authorities to be proactive in extending existing consents and permissions where practicable, to support the development of energy resources in the National interest.
“It is clear that we need more exploratory sites in order to gather better data and improve the evidence base and we are aware that some developers are keen to assist with this process. We look forward to seeing these proposals in detail.”
The statement also said the government would offer 100 new offshore oil and gas licences.
Opponents of fracking have vowed to fight the industry. Yesterday, a founder of Cuadrilla Resources, told the Guardian , fracking would be impossible at any meaningful scale in the UK and would not help the energy price crisis.
This morning, Claire Stephenson, of Frack Free Lancashire, said:
“Fracking is a failed technology in the UK and should absolutely be confined to the past. We’ve witnessed more than 10 years of attempts to jack gas out of the ground in Lancashire, with no progress. There have, however, been uncontrollable earthquakes and structural damage – almost 200 reported claims.
“There’s also been colossal methane leaks, community disharmony, and most notably: zero commercial gas produced.
“We’re in a climate crisis with a desperate need for a clean, green energy future. Fracking will not make any positive impact on the UK’s energy needs or fuel bills, and any attempt to suggest it will, is blatant spin.
“For the government to use the tragic situation in Ukraine as an excuse to allow a risky and fruitless procedure to go ahead where it has repeatedly failed, and with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s belief that communities “must tolerate a higher degree of risk and disturbance” for “the national interest” is an appalling trade-off.
“We stand strongly opposed and united against fracking anywhere, and we will fiercely challenge this misguided administration’s attempt to backtrack on their Conservative Manifesto promise.”
Susan Holliday, of the Preston New Road Action Group, which opposed Cuadrilla’s operations said:
“The BGS report concludes that forecasting seismic events is a ‘challenge’. “Based on this how can anyone say that fracking can be done safely?
“The science does not appear to have changed since the moratorium was put in place in 2019, neither has the geology in Lancashire. The WMS says that there is a need for more exploratory sites to gather data, which means that a number of new communities will become fracking guinea pigs. It seems very short sighted to be resurrecting the fracking industry which will also impact on Climate Change when we could be focusing more on renewable technologies”.
Earlier this month, the prime minister said fracking would need clear public consent to go ahead.
This morning, Mark Menzies, the Conservative MP for Fylde, which includes Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road, site, asked in the House of Commons how community consent for fracking would be demonstrated.
Mr Rees-Mogg replied:
“We want to work with local communities.
“It is up to the companies to come up with packages that will make what they are proposing look attractive”.
Labour’s energy spokesperson, Ed Miliband, said his party would “hang these broken promises around the neck of the government between now and the next general election”.