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Labour Calls for Tougher Fracking Measures

gas storageWith support for fracking falling once again the labour party are calling for tougher measures on controlling excessive shale gas drilling activity in tabling a series of amendments to the controversial infrastructure bill.

According to the latest public opinion tracker from DECC support for fracking has dropped to just 24% (level with positive support) with the remaining 50% being undecided or neutral on the issue.

These findings stood in stark contrast to the results of the latest survey by fracking trade body the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG) that reported that a majority of those polled (57%) were in favour of fracking with just 16% polling against.

Referring to their public opinion tracker, a DECC spokesperson said:

“71% of people either support or are neutral to the idea of shale gas extraction. Shale gas has the potential to benefit local communities and the country; providing a relatively clean home-grown source of energy that would reduce our reliance on imports and create thousands of jobs and new business opportunities.”

Even in our ‘first past the post’ political system where a minority of voters can choose the government of the day it is a real stretch for DECC to connect the don’t know and neutral voters to explicit support for fracking.

Indeed A further poll by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers revealed that 47% of people would not be happy to have a fracking site within 10 miles of their home whilst just 14% would be happy.

Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace responding to the DEEC and IME surveys said:

“Less than a quarter of the British public now support fracking generally, and there is even less support when drilling happens locally. Shale drilling is far less popular [and] the government’s official numbers contrast sharply with the … figures from the industry released yesterday [by UKOOG]”

Tom Greatrex, the shadow energy minister, weighed into the debate saying:

“Shale gas extraction must only be permitted to happen in the UK with robust regulation and comprehensive monitoring. Too often, David Cameron’s government has ignored genuine and legitimate environmental concerns in pursuit of a rhetoric-led policy,”

“With eight out of 10 homes still reliant on gas for heating, and with declining North Sea gas reserves, shale may have a role to play in displacing imported gas. The type of relentless hype from many Tories not only overplays the likely impact of shale, but also leaves many feeling their concerns have not been properly addressed.”

Among the measures being called for by Labour include:

  • Water companies to be given more say in the planning of shale wells and wants baseline monitoring to take place over a 12-month period.
  • The provision of well-by-well disclosure of the fracking fluid being pumped into the well
  • Baseline monitoring of methane levels in the groundwater and
  • Environmental impact assessments for all fracking sites

DECC however have countered that:

“The disclosure of chemical composition of frack fluids is required for an environmental permit [and this] is available for review in the public domain”

And that “appropriate” baseline monitoring of methane levels in groundwater will be conducted at every shale fracking site.

DECC also confirm that UKOOG has committed to conducting an environmental impact assessment when any fracking is proposed.

Labour however believe that commitments alone are insufficient and easily broken with an opposition spokesman saying:

“If the government agrees these measures are a good idea they should sign them into law, simple as that,”

It would be difficult not to agree with Labour that these safeguards should be written into law as part of the infrastructure bill, the impact of Labour’s proposed amendment on the legislation however remains to be seen.

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