MPs vote to approve fracking under national parks

MPs have voted by 298 to 261 to allow fracking to take place under national parks, despite the government previously pledging an outright ban on fracking in protected areas.

MPs voted on the secondary legislation on Wednesday afternoon (16 December), without a debate.

Shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy said it is “shabby” of the government to “sneak through these weak fracking rules” without a parliamentary debate.

“Ministers had previously conceded that there should be the tougher safeguards that Labour has been calling for to protect drinking water sources and sensitive parts of our countryside like national parks. Now they’ve abandoned those promises,” she added.

Labour has called for a moratorium on fracking in Britain until we can be sure it is safe and won’t present “intolerable risks” to the environment.

“Neither MPs or the public have received these assurances yet ministers are ignoring people’s legitimate concerns and imposing fracking on communities,” Nandy said.

Climate agreement

Green groups have slammed the decision, which closely follows a global agreement in Paris to keep global warming “well below 2C.”

WWF UK chief executive David Nussbaum said: “The ink is barely dry on the Paris climate change agreement, yet MPs are considering allowing special places to be exploited for fossil fuel extraction.

“In their own words, this Government wants to set the “gold standard” on protecting special places. There appears to be an embarrassing gap between the government’s rhetoric, and the policies being proposed.”

UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, welcomed the vote, insisting the onshore oil industry “takes the protection of our natural world seriously”.

“It is important to recognise that any future hydraulic fracturing for shale will take place several kilometres underground and as an industry we take all possible steps to minimise our impact on the environment and the surrounding communities,” the group said in a statement.

In July, the government set out a series of draft guidelines to protect groundwater sources from the impacts of fracking, saying activity could only take place at depths of below 1,200 metres near groundwater sources and in national parks.

At the time, energy minister Andrea Leadsom said the government was still keen to follow up on the prime minister’s pledge from last year to “go all out for shale gas” despite the industry suffering the setback of having two projects rejected by Lancashire Council the previous month.

Lois Vallely

This article first appeared io edie’s sister title, Utility Week.

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