Row in House of Commons over EIA for shale gas

12th February 2015


Related Topics

Related tags

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

Author

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.


Transform articles

National climate plans could see fossil fuel demand peak by 2025

Demand for fossil fuels will peak by 2025 if all national net-zero pledges are implemented in full and on time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast.

15th October 2021

Read more

The Green Homes Grant is set to deliver only a fraction of the jobs and improvements intended, leading to calls for more involvement from local authorities in future schemes.

23rd September 2021

Read more

COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries, and have been a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the global energy transition.

23rd September 2021

Read more

Half of the world's 40 largest listed oil and gas companies will have to slash their production by at least 50% by the 2030s to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, new analysis has found.

9th September 2021

Read more

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

The oil and gas industry is set to burn through its allocated carbon budget 13 years early unless decisive action is taken immediately, new analysis has found.

22nd July 2021

Read more

The UK will no longer use unabated coal to generate electricity from October 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has announced.

2nd July 2021

Read more

Media enquires

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

Find an expert