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My Views on Fracking

Lots of local residents have written to me with their concerns about shale gas extraction – or fracking.

Firstly, I am absolutely clear that shale gas extraction – or ‘fracking’ – should only go ahead in the context of robust regulation, comprehensive monitoring and strict enforcement, and in a way which is consistent with decarbonising our electricity supply by 2030.

Labour has always said that shale gas extraction cannot go ahead unless without these safeguards in place. But David Cameron has repeatedly ignored people’s genuine and legitimate environmental concerns over shale gas. Despite clear evidence that existing regulations for shale gas are not fit for purpose, the Conservative-led Government has just been pushing ahead with fracking at any cost,

I oppose any shale gas exploration in the UK without a proper environmental and safety framework in place.  That is why, as one of Labour’s Shadow Ministers working on Infrastructure Bill, I backed Labour’s amendment to prevent shale gas developments in the UK unless loopholes in the environmental regulation are closed. We wanted tough protections and proper safeguards in place before fracking can go ahead – these included a ban on developments in National Parks, properly independent well inspection and a duty to report on emissions. This would have been the largest single overhaul of the shale gas regulations to date.

So I was pleased when we forced the Government to u-turn on their position, and accept our amendment to the Infrastructure Bill. But then, the Government tabled their own redrafted version of this amendment in the House of Lords. The Government amendment implemented most of our conditions, but weakened a number of the protections too, There were particular concerns about protections for national parks and drinking water.

That’s why, in February, Labour again voted to prevent shale gas developments in the UK unless these protections are re-introduced. We tabled additional amendments in the House of Commons to reverse the Government’s changes and to ensure that they are held to their previous commitments.

Our amendments aimed to ensure that no fracking takes place under drinking aquifers or protected areas such as national parks, that Environmental Impact Assessments are mandatory for all sites, that residents are notified individually of any developments and that all fugitive emissions are recorded and reported, to ensure that any activity is coherent with our climate change commitments. The Government U-turned once to accept Labour’s overhaul of the regulatory regime – we would not accept another U-turn from them again to abandon it.

My position on fracking – like the Labour Party’s – remains as it has for three years. Before any drilling to explore or extract unconventional gas can be permitted we must fill these regulatory gaps and ensure the right conditions, safeguards and protections are in place.