The environment bill is back on the floor of the House of Commons on Wednesday. This is an opportunity to improve environmental protections, you might think. Well, let’s hope so. Labour will be supporting a new clause, designed to simply revoke existing fracking licences and prevent the issue of any further fracking licences.
Fracking is a big deal in Lancashire. In 2018, this is precisely what Cuadrilla were given permission to do – by the Conservatives – and against the wishes of local people and local councils. When Cuadrilla started, in just two months, 57 earthquakes were detected in Lancashire.
Cuadrilla actually stopped fracking five times because it triggered earthquakes bigger than government rules allowed. Even more disturbingly, a year later an earthquake measuring 2.9 on the Richter scale led to a review by the Oil and Gas Authority. Worryingly, it concluded it was not possible to predict the probability or size of tremors caused by fracking.
A few months later, the government launched a moratorium halting fracking and exploration with immediate effect. The campaign group Friends of the Earth was naturally delighted, saying: “This moratorium is a tremendous victory for communities and the climate. For nearly a decade local people across the country have fought a David and Goliath battle against this powerful industry. We are proud to have been part of that fight. We must now ensure that legislation is passed so that the ban is made permanent.”
Where is that legislation, two years on? It’s certainly not in this environmental bill. Why? We now know from the Lancashire experiment that fracking is a risky way of extracting dirty energy. France, Germany, Ireland, Bulgaria, New York state, the Netherlands, Scotland and Wales all agree. There are many risks surrounding fracking – the government knows this or else it wouldn’t have called a moratorium.
According to the British Geological Survey: “Groundwater may be potentially contaminated by extraction of shale gas both from the constituents of shale gas itself, from the formulation and deep injection of water containing a cocktail of additives used for hydraulic fracturing and from flowback water which may have a high content of saline formation water.”
In England, groundwater is used to supply a third of our drinking water. The assertion that fracking will lead to a jobs boom is just not true. According to Cuadrilla, in its Lancashire licence application, it stated that just 11 jobs would be created at each of the two sites. Most importantly, scientists agree that if we’re to avoid dangerous levels of global warming, fossil fuels need to stay in the ground.
With every licence application comes huge environmental concern, local opposition and widespread protest. It is time, once and for all, to tell the fracking companies their time is up – and to make the future of the planet and the future of all life on earth our greatest priority. I hope that means we can see all MPs support Labour’s New Clause 12 to the environment bill on Wednesday.