The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has called on the Government to do more to bring forward development of the UK’s shale gas and oil resource.
In a report, a cross party group of Peers say they are disappointed that the exploratory drilling with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) needed for shale gas development has hardly begun and express concern that complex regulation may be causing unnecessary delays.
In response, Caroline Lucas MP for Brighton Pavilion said, “It’s disgraceful that this Lords Committee has casually dismissed legitimate public concerns about health and environmental impacts of fracking.
“This is contrary to a recent British Medical Journal editorial warning that downplaying the health risks of drilling for shale gas would be a leap of faith unsubstantiated by scientific evidence.
“The Committee has also ignored public interest by backing the Coalition’s deplorable plans to change the law to allow fracking companies to drill under people’s homes and land without their permission.”
“From my mailbag it’s clear that many Brighton residents have serious concerns about fracking and the risks it poses to water resources, wildlife, our countryside and our climate.
“People want to see investment in renewable energy and energy conservation – not more fossil fuels.
“Politicians know that the window of action on climate change is closing fast and that the risks to the UK are immense. Of course we need to create jobs and improve the UK’s energy security – but we can do all this and more by going all out for home-grown renewable energy and energy efficiency, and helping communities generate their own heat and power locally.”
“The conclusion that shale gas could help the UK meet its climate change obligations is based on incredibly shoddy analysis and does not stand up to even mild scrutiny.
Caroline added, “Shortly after the winter floods, we had a series of scientific reports that underlined the huge risks that climate change presents to society and economy and the dangers of delay in switching to clean energy.
“Developing a new fossil fuel industry is insane and incredibly irresponsible. The Government must stop putting the short-term profit interests of oil and gas companies above the interests of our children and grandchildren’s future.”
“The report’s fanciful suggestion that shale gas could help tackle high energy prices is contradicted by economists, energy experts, and even some Ministers and fracking firms who have admitted that shale gas won’t have any significant impact on energy costs.”
“Select Committees carry out a crucial scrutiny role in Parliament. But on this occasion, the Economic Affairs Committee seems to be behaving more like an oil and gas industry lobbyist rather than an expert parliamentary body operating in the public interest.
“It’s a reminder of the need for radical form of the unelected and unaccountable House of Lords.”
(1) Heath risks: Lords Committee report states: “We find persuasive the conclusion of PHE’s (Public Health England)preliminary report that the risks to public health from shale gas exploration and production are low with proper regulation.”
However, a British Medical Journal editorial “Public Health England’s draft report on shale gas extraction: Mistaking best practices for actual practices” dated 17 April 2014 states that:
· the suggestion that many of the environmental and public health problems experienced in the US would not probably not apply to the UK is a leap of faith unsubstantiated by scientific evidence
· the conclusion that shale gas operations present a low risk to public health is not substantiated by the literature
· the draft report ignores many of the inherent risks of the industry that no amount of regulation can sufficiently remedy, such as well casing, cement failures, and accidental spillage of waste water
· recent evidence suggests a higher prevalence of some adverse birth outcomes for those living in closer proximity to active shale gas extraction
(3) Caroline’s comments on a report “Are we fit to frack?” produced by organisations including the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust are available here.http://www.carolinelucas.com/media.html/2014/03/13/caroline-welcomes-new-fracking-report-from-leading-nature-conservation-charities/ This report warning that drilling for shale gas could cause severe harm to our countryside, wildlife and the climate and concludes that the current regulatory framework is not fit for purpose.
(4) Caroline’s previous parliamentary work on fracking include an Early Day Motion calling for moratorium on fracking:http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/181 and a major speech on fracking last year: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2013-07-18a.307.0#g307.1