I have been talking to many of you recently about shale gas extraction and the debate
and votes on the issue on Monday January 26th
the Government’s Infrastructure Bill. A number of constituents wrote to me about a
number of the different amendments (New Clauses). I shall deal with them all.
First, as you are probably aware, if you have studied this issue closely, there is no
shale gas near Exeter. I’m attaching a map of the distribution of shale gas in the UK,
in case you haven’t seen it.
However, as far as those parts of the UK are concerned where there is shale gas, I
am delighted that, faced with a Parliamentary defeat, the Government did a complete
U-turn and accepted all of Labour’s demands in full. These were contained in New
Clause 19, which prevents all shale gas development in the UK unless and until a
series of stringent conditions are met.
These conditions and protections have been developed by Labour contained
working with organisations including the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and the Local
Government Association and drawing on work by Royal Academy of Engineering and
other bodies. They:
1. Prohibit shale gas extraction in groundwater protection zones.
2. Require shale gas operators to individually notify residents of activity, rather
than publishing a generic notice.
3. Put the payment of community benefit onto a statutory footing.
4. Introduce a presumption against development in Protected Areas.
5. Prohibit the use of “any substance” in the frack fluid, as in current legislation.
6. Ensure that decommissioned land is returned to a state required by the
7. Place an obligation on operators to monitor and report fugitive emissions.
8. Empower local planning authorities to consider the cumulative impact of
multiple developments in their area.
9. Ensure that there is independent inspection of well integrity.
10. Require 12 months of baseline assessments.
11. Require all shale gas sites to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments
12. Make water companies statutory consultees in the planning process.
13. Extend the depth at which fracking could take place from 300m to 1000m.
Some of you wrote to me about New Clause 68 – tabled by my Labour colleague,
Joan Walley, who chairs the Environment Audit Committee. Her committee published
during the final (Report) stages of
a report on shale gas extraction on the day of the debate. Joan did not push her New
Clause to a vote, but Labour’s New Clause 19 delivers in practice everything that
was contained in New Clause 68.
New Clause 51 on trespass, was not selected for debate and vote by the Speaker.
We believe New Clause 19 deals with the concerns that motivated this New Clause
in a more effective way.
Labour abstained on New Clause 9 because we considered it weaker than New
Clause 19. New Clause 9 simply called for an 18 to 30 month moratorium during
a “review”, with no conditionality attached as to what would happen after that and
would have delivered no improvement at all in the regulatory framework.
Labour has always said that shale gas extraction should not happen unless we have
a system of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection. This Government has
consistently ignored people’s genuine and legitimate environmental concerns.
I’m extremely grateful to you and my other constituents who have contacted me
about this issue and helped us keep the pressure on the Government.
The main danger now is that if the Tories win the election they will scrap all these
safeguards. The only thing that can ensure this doesn’t happen and our environment
remains protected will be the election of a Labour Government on May 7th
Finally, it goes without saying that UK energy policy needs a massive shift towards
low and zero carbon generation. I have been dismayed by the decline in the growth
of the renewables sector under this Government. Labour is committed to revitalising
the renewables sector and to a binding carbon reduction target by 2030.
I hope this is helpful, but if you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t
hesitate to get in touch.
With very best wishes,