Labour forces Government back-down on Fracking

30th January 2015 

This week, Labour secured a vital victory to toughen the regulatory framework for fracking.  In the debate on the Infrastructure Bill on Monday, Parliament agreed to Labour’s 13-point checklist for safeguards to protect the environment.  The measures would ensure that fracking could not go ahead without environmental protections and safety assurances in place.
Labour tabled an amendment to close 13 loopholes in current regulation to protect the environment. 
The amendment would:
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 planning authority.
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 can take place from 300m to 1000m.
Labour’s plans are supported by Friends of the Earth, the RSPB and Water UK as well as other groups. 
The Amendment would also mean that protected areas, like the National Park, would have a presumption against development.
Copeland MP and Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, Jamie Reed MP said:
“It cannot, and should not, be fracking at any cost.  Fracking cannot go ahead without proper environmental safeguards in place and it must not come at the expense of our carbon reduction obligations.
“The current regulatory framework isn’t fit for purpose which is why Labour sought to close 13 loopholes to ensure proper environmental protections are in place.  Fracking can’t take place until the regulatory framework is up to scratch, this is common sense and it is welcome that the Government supported Labour’s plans to put environmental protections in place.  People in Keswick and across Cumbria are concerned of the environmental impact of fracking and these safeguards must be put in place before any drilling.
“We need to take a long, hard look at Fracking. Many companies tell me that the government has inflated the UK Fracking market and that the benefits are hugely overstated. A Labour Government won’t allow fracking to degrade our natural environment.
“Up until this U-turn, the Government have repeatedly turned a deaf-ear to people’s genuine concerns around the extraction of shale gas.  It is only right that they have backed Labour’s plans for real, meaningful regulations and proper safeguards.

“People will be relieved to hear that no fracking can take place without rigorous protections being met.  The potential, but unproven benefit from the use of shale gas cannot be pursued at any cost and Labour’s victory will mean that robust environmental safeguards are now in place.”
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