Row in House of Commons over EIA for shale gas

12th February 2015

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Energy ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Renewable ,
  • Generation


Ettete Ndaessien

Labour accused the government of backtracking on a commitment for mandatory environmental impact assessments (EIA) for shale gas operations during a debate on the Infrastructure Bill in the House of Commons yesterday.

The bill was passed back to the commons following disagreements in House of Lords over a new clause added by the Labour party. One of the provisions in the clause stated: “no hydraulic fracturing activity could take place unless an environmental impact assessment has been carried out.”

However, the government claimed that the wording of the clause needed to be changed in order to make it legally viable. It replaced Labour’s clause with one stating that the secretary of state will not give permission for any shale gas operations unless the relevant local planning authority states that “environmental information was taken into account” in deciding the planning application.

Energy and climate change minister Amber Rudd said that this was no different in practice to the aim of the Labour amendment. “The term ‘environmental information’ is used in the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011. It captures the information that must be taken into account by the relevant planning authority before planning permission is granted, including, but not limited to, an environmental statement. This process is commonly referred to an as environmental impact assessment,” she argued.

But shadow environment minister Tom Greatrex said the government’s clause “stops short of a full commitment to an environmental impact assessment.”

He also claimed the government’s position was inconsistent on several areas of shale gas policy, including community consultation, fugitive emissions, environmental permits and site inspections by the Health and Safety Executive.

“With this kind of confusion, it is not difficult to see why people accuse the government of not taking the regulations for shale gas seriously, and why there is a lack of confidence in what the government are saying this evening and what they have been saying over the past couple of weeks,” he said.

The government also refused to back down on producing its own definition of the designated land and groundwater protection zones that would be excluded from shale gas operations. A definition will be provided for secondary legislation by July, Rudd said. Labour had proposed a complete ban within all groundwater protection zones and within or under protected areas.

She added: “We must not rush this now, because we would risk putting in place restrictions in areas in a way that does not achieve the intended aim of the condition, or that goes beyond it and needlessly damages the potential development of the shale industry.”

The debate on the bill was limited to one hour, which prompted several complaints from MPs. Conservative MP Andrew Percy declared himself in favour of shale gas, but said: “What concerns me about tonight’s debate is the restricted time, our inability to vote on all the amendments, and what has happened between the lords and the commons with regard to what I thought we agreed in the commons a week or so ago.

“It leads many people to conclude that the government are in league with the extraction companies or that there is something to hide. I do not believe that is the case at all, but given our concerns, I think there is a very strong argument indeed for pausing and thinking again on this issue.”

Two hundred and fifty seven MPs voted in favour of the bill, with 203 against. Yesterday’s debate was the final stage in the passage of the bill, which has now been given Royal Assent.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

New guidance maps out journey to digital environmental assessment

IEMA’s Impact Assessment Network is delighted to have published A Roadmap to Digital Environmental Assessment.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Lisa Pool on how IEMA is shaping a sustainable future with impact assessment

27th November 2023

Read more

IEMA responded in September to the UK government’s consultation on the details of the operational reforms it is looking to make to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) consenting process as put forward in the NSIP reform action plan (February 2023).

24th November 2023

Read more

Members of IEMA’s Impact Assessment Network Steering Group have published the 17th edition of the Impact Assessment Outlook Journal, which provides a series of thought pieces on the policy and practice of habitats regulations assessment (HRA).

26th September 2023

Read more

In July, we published the long-awaited update and replacement of one of IEMA’s first published impact assessment guidance documents from 1993, Guidelines for the Environmental Assessment of Road Traffic.

1st August 2023

Read more

Are we losing sight of its intended purpose and what does the future hold for EIA? Jo Beech, Tiziana Bartolini and Jessamy Funnell report.

15th June 2023

Read more

Luke Barrows and Alfie Byron-Grange look at the barriers to adoption of digital environmental impacts assessments

1st June 2023

Read more

Susan Evans and Helen North consider how Environmental Statements can be more accessible and understandable

1st June 2023

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close