Tories pledge new environmental regulator for shale gas

19th May 2017

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  • Mitigation ,
  • Generation ,
  • Conventional


Stacey Downes

A new body combining the expertise of the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and the business, energy and industrial strategy department would be created to regulate the shale gas industry if the Conservatives retain power.

Publishing its general election manifesto, the party said that shale gas had improved energy security in the US, while reducing costs and helping to drive economic growth. The Tories said they believed these benefits could be mirrored in the UK.

But the manifesto states that public trust would only be won if environmental regulations were upheld and the profits from exploiting shale gas deposits were shared by affected communities. It says the proposed new regulator would provide guidance, accountability and expertise, and allow decisions to be made ‘fairly but swiftly’.

A separate regulator for shale gas was one of the recommendations of a government taskforce commissioned to consider the environmental and economic impacts of fracking in a report published in 2015.

The Conservatives also said they would amend legislation to allow applications to drill for shale gas to go ahead without the need for planning permission, as long as operations did not involve fracking. The party also pledged to change its proposed shale wealth fund to give a greater share of tax revenues directly to communities located near extraction sites, and possibly directly to local people.

Industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) welcomed the renewed commitment by the Conservatives to shale gas technology. Chief executive Ken Cronin said: ‘The UK onshore oil and gas industry has always been committed to strong regulatory oversight and the pledge to create a combined shale environmental regulator is an important step in securing and increasing public confidence in our operations.’

But Friends of the Earth campaigner Dave Timms said: ‘The mantra of “take back control” will ring hollow for communities who face having fracking forced down their throats and their rights stripped away.’

On renewable energy, the manifesto maintains the Tories’ opposition to any increase in large-scale onshore wind power in England. However, the party said it wanted the UK to remain a global leader in offshore wind and said it would support the development of onshore wind projects on remote Scottish islands.

Once the UK has left the EU, a Conservative government energy policy would be linked to the outcome rather than the means of generation, the manifesto states. It defines this as ‘reliable and affordable energy, seizing the industrial opportunity that new technology presents and meeting our global commitments on climate change.’

Other commitments in the manifesto include:

  • Continue the deregulation process known as the Red Tape Challenge and the pledge to remove two regulations for each new one created. It claimed this would save £9bn. The party would also assess how to improve regulation of utilities and the transport sector to deliver a ‘better deal’ for customers and investors.
  • Launch an independent review into the cost of energy to identify ways to keep costs as low as possible and meet climate change targets. The party also said it would establish an industrial energy efficiency scheme to help large companies take measures to cut their energy use.
  • Continue public investment in transport projects, including High Speed 2, the Northern Powerhouse rail scheme, and the expansion of Heathrow Airport.
  • Take measures to help Britain become the world leader in electric vehicle technology and use, with almost every car and van on the road a zero-emissions vehicle by 2050.
  • Develop a ‘agri-environment’ system with Natural England to help farmers deliver environmental improvements to the wider landscape after Brexit. This would include enriching soil fertility, planting hedgerows, improving natural flood management and the quality of watercourses.
  • Retain the pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited. The manifesto reiterates the outgoing government’s commitment to publish a 25-year environment plan. The plan has reportedly been written, but publication delayed.
  • Improve the energy efficiency of existing homes, especially for the least well off, by upgrading all fuel-poor dwellings to energy performance certificate band C by 2030. The Conservatives would also review requirements on new homes.
  • Strengthen the Modern Slavery Act.


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