Labour will force a vote on Monday to prevent shale gas developments in the UK unless loopholes in the environmental regulation are closed.
Cllr Mick Lerry said; “Labour have repeatedly sought to overhaul the regulatory regime for shale gas. It is simple common sense that shale gas extraction cannot go ahead in the UK without a proper system of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection. But the Coalition has chosen to ignore genuine and legitimate concerns about the current framework – David Cameron appears to be prepared to accept shale gas at any cost”.
Labour first pointed out flaws in the current regulation back in March 2012 – since then we’ve won concessions from the Government on proper seismic monitoring, well-by-well disclosure of frack fluid and protections for water supplies, but significant gaps remain. The Tories and Lib Dems are stubbornly opposed to further regulation, despite the clear evidence that it is necessary.
13 necessary conditions
We have worked with organisations including the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and the Local Government Association, drawing on work by Royal Academy of Engineering and other bodies, and produced a list of 13 necessary conditions to reform the regulatory regime for shale gas. Labour will vote to prevent any fracking in the UK, until these conditions are in place.
The conditions cover independent inspection of well integrity, mandatory monitoring for fugitive emissions, a presumption against development in protected areas such as National Parks and other issues. They represent a comprehensive approach, based on scientific evidence, to bring coherence to the UK’s regulatory framework.
The Tory and Lib Dem opposition to these measures stems from a near fanatical faith in the potential benefits of shale gas. These have been misleadingly overhyped at every turn. Just one well has been fracked in the UK – in Poland, they drilled almost 100 wells, only to discover that the resource was not economic to extract. Like many gold rushes, Poland’s shale gas turned out to be a fantasy, their estimated reserves cut by 90%. The lesson from Poland is that by trying to turn shale gas into a silver bullet for all our energy problems, David Cameron is banking on a resource whose potential in the UK is unknown.
More expensive to extract
Nor would UK shale gas deliver the benefits seen in the US, where widespread production led to falling prices. The geological, regulatory and market conditions of the UK mean that any gas produced will be more expensive to extract and will be sold at the current European price. David McKay, then the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, rubbished the argument for lower prices.
Cllr Mick Lerry said: “if we can deliver a regulatory regime that is fit for purpose then shale gas could have a positive impact on our security of supply. 8 out of 10 homes still rely on gas for heating – this is not a fuel that we can do away with overnight. In the context of a declining North Sea, a new, indigenous source of gas could therefore help to reduce our dependence on imports. And because shale gas would simply displace imports, rather than increasing the overall amount of gas consumed, its development is compatible with our climate change commitments. The Committee on Climate Change concluded that the development of shale gas could actually lead to a slight decrease in UK emissions, since it is likely to be cleaner than imported Liquefied Natural Gas from Qatar”.
“But those potential benefits cannot come at the expense of our environmental standards. That is why Labour will vote to prevent any developments of shale gas in the UK unless the Tories and Lib Dems concede to the much needed and fundamental reforms of the regulatory regime that Labour have proposed”, said Mick.
Cllr Mick Lerry – Leader of the Labour Group on Sedgemoor District Council
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Bridgwater and West Somerset Constituency
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