The past week has been the busiest ever for news about unconventional gas extraction in the UK. As we continue to prepare to fight the appeal, these wider events are very significant for our future here in Dudleston. You will note that this email alternates between using the terms fracking and unconventional gas. The terms are used in the text below for maximum accuracy. We have written to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) to ask that in future they assess all unconventional gas extraction, rather than concentrating just on shale fracking.
Great news is that Scotland has now defied the UK government and used it’s devolved powers to create a moratorium on all unconventional gas exploration.
They intend to investigate fully the impacts of extraction on health, the environment and its effect too on communities, before allowing any further exploration by the gas companies. This is exactly what is needed for the rest of the UK.
We’re on the radio again!
On Saturday 24th January we were interviewed by BBC Radio Shropshire. It was recorded at 07.38 and then repeated throughout the morning program. To listen again within the next couple of weeks visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02gx4g7 and then move the slider to 1:37.
Drama at Westminster
The EAC is a cross party group of MPs who published their report into fracking on the same day as all MPs were due to vote on the Infrastructure Bill. The EAC report highlighted the fact that fracking is incompatible with the UK’s Climate Act commitments that limit the amount that we damage the environment. It also highlighted the fact that, contrary to politicians statements about us having the best ever regulatory regime, there are three Government departments involved and very little effective coordination. All members of the EAC proposed an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill that would create a moratorium on fracking.
Also on Monday 26th January there was the anonymous leaking of a letter written by the Chancellor George Osborne to his cabinet colleagues. It was leaked to Friends of the Earth (https://www.foe.co.uk/blog/revealed-secret-government-industry-plans-circumvent-fracking-opposition) and the story was covered by the Guardian. The letter makes clear that democracy is irrelevant compared to Mr Osborne’s determination to help Cuadrilla Gas succeed in Lancashire.
Later that same day MPs debated and voted on the Infrastructure Bill. The bill is hugely complex because it covers a very wide range of subjects. It had been rushed through parliament at breakneck speed and even on its final day was presented with 60 amendments that MPs were given 20 minutes to debate whether or not to include. Labour proposed a range of amendments to make fracking safer which were all sensible but will make relatively little difference here. These were all accepted without a vote. The amendment proposed by the EAC to impose a moratorium and another amendment that proposed an outright ban on fracking were defeated and not included.
The Conservatives and Lib Dems decided that a 3-line whip was needed to ensure that their MPs voted against the proposed moratorium. The number of their MPs that took the brave step of defying the whip meant that if Labour had voted for the amendment, it would have been included. The only parties to fully support the moratorium were SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens.
Decision delayed in Lancashire
On Wednesday it was decision time in Lancashire. The councillors were advised that they had no choice but to delay their decision because at the last minute Cuadrilla was volunteering to spend over £5m reducing the noise impacts on local people, rather than risk going to an appeal. Noise and traffic impacts were the core basis on which the two fracking applications were likely to be turned down. It is interesting to note that the Dudleston application could have been made significantly less noisy for local people without spending any additional money simply by redesigning the site layout.
Well done Scotland
And finally, on Thursday, Scotland voted for a moratorium on all unconventional gas exploration. Their excellent decision means that all existing Scottish CBM planning applications will be refused and they have promised a comprehensive and democratic review of the industry before the moratorium can be lifted.
For a succinct round up of the news on unconventional gas extraction, this site is probably the best around: http://drillordrop.com/news-update/ If you click on the January news round up page you will find further detail on the above plus lots more.
Regarding the Dudleston application appeal, we are still waiting for the process to formally begin.
More details on that as soon as we have them.