Politicians line up to oppose fracking

A drilling rig onsite for three months during a fracking operation.
A drilling rig onsite for three months during a fracking operation.
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Plans to develop a shale gas industry on the Fylde has come under fire politically.

The Liberal Democrats have voted at their Spring conference to ban fracking because it would go against the country’s duty to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

And Blackpool South Labour MP Gordon Marsden has said the public inquiry into Cuadrilla’s two bids to test frack at Roseacre and Preston New Road should be rejected and not railroaded through by the Conservative Government.

The Lib Dem motion was moved by county councillor Bill Winlow (Preston West)who said it was a myth that shale gas could act as a bridging energy before the country moved to renewable systems.

He said although the Lib Dems had previously given cautious support to fracking, the Government’s cuts to renewables, the lack of any credible regulation on fracking, plus the recent Paris agreement on cutting CO2 and methane meant it was time to change.

He said: “The regulatory powers for this emergent industry are diffuse and dispersed with three external regulators: DECC, Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency as well as the local authority – all of whose budgets have been radically cut”.

“By now we should have had an industry specific regulator for hydraulic fracturing with, assurance that local planning control would be maintained. But, there is no adequate regulatory control in sight.

“The local planning system is problematical because local decisions on fracking can only be made on strict planning grounds. What is more, county councils have responsibility for public health, but must defer to national regulators (the Environmental Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, both of which are underfunded) on health and environmental grounds when considering fracking.

“So fracking can be forced upon us against local opinion and often against advice from our public health colleagues.

“As a nation we need to adopt an energy policy based primarily on renewables and energy efficiency, which supports the implementation of the Paris agreement.”

But the Lib Dem move was criticised by a prominent Blackpool businessman and member of the North West Energy Task Force which is backing fracking.

Steve Pye, chief executive, of Small Business TV, said: “The Liberal Democrats stood on a platform at the last election supporting development of shale gas. The Royal Society, which was commissioned by a Lib Dem energy secretary of state to look into this issue, found that shale gas can be developed safely in the UK.

“As Sir Ed Davey, the former Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary said this weekend, the UK must continue to develop its domestic natural gas resources as we make the transition to renewable energy technologies and a lower carbon future. Sir Edward also added that the risk of not developing means ‘[we might] have to ask Vladimir Putin for gas and I don’t want to depend on the Kremlin’.”

MP Gordon Marsden said in an open letter – to mark this Wednesday as the last day of the public inquiry at Blackpool Football Club – that the fracking appeals must be rejected by minister Greg Clark.

He said: “The public inquiry must respect the wishes of people living in Lancashire and categorically reject Cuadrilla’s plans to frack on the Fylde Coast. Anything else would make a mockery of the Government’s claim to champion localism and devolution to areas like ours. Large numbers of local people including farmers, business owners, health professionals, and myself have publically voiced their disapproval to fracking. Concerns about safety, the impact on our countryside, people’s public health and our local tourism industry.

“That’s why Coun Jennifer Mein, leader of the county council, was absolutely right to point out to the Government the democratic decision of people in Lancashire, and to override it would deeply undermine local democracy and the people of Lancashire. And after a new bill on fracking from my colleague Geraint Davies MP, there are now further concerns emerging with data on fugitive methane emissions that shows fracking is two-and-a-half times worse than coal from a climate change perspective.”