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Fracking ban still necessary

The authoritative Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says moratorium on fracking must remain unless and until there is an in-depth study into climate impacts.

 

A moratorium on fracking for shale gas must remain in place until there has been an in-depth review of its climate impacts, UK Government advisers have warned.

The authoritative Committee on Climate Change (CCC) also warned a new target to cut emissions from UK offshore oil and gas production by 50 percent by 2030 was much less than their recommendations and stronger policies should be introduced.

Weak policies on tackling domestic oil and gas emissions would hinder efforts to cut the UK’s greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050, and risk damaging Britain’s authority as president of the Cop26 international climate summit, a letter from the committee said.

Trees

Planned reviews ahead of new licensing rounds for offshore oil and gas to see if they were climate compatible would have to “present a transparent and coherent case to justify proceeding” with new rounds, it added.

Lord Deben, the chairman of the CCC, has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on the compatibility of UK onshore oil and gas with climate efforts, as part of the committee’s advisory role to government, and also looked at offshore production.

There is a moratorium on onshore exploitation of oil and gas through fracking, a controversial process that prompted public opposition over minor earthquakes and fears about traffic and pollution from operations.

And the government has a legal target to cut greenhouse gases to net zero in the UK by 2050, which requires cutting emissions as much as possible and taking steps such as planting trees to counter remaining pollution.

Gas

The three tests previously set out by the Climate Change Committee are now more difficult to achieve with the net-zero goal: to limit emissions from fracking wells; keep gas consumption in line with targets for carbon cuts; and offset production emissions with reductions elsewhere in the economy.

Oil consumption must fall by nearly half by 2035 and gas needs to be reduced by nearly two thirds by then to meet net zero, the letter warned.

But the UK will still need supplies beyond declining sources from the North Sea and Norway for decades, and shale gas could be a cleaner option than imported liquified natural gas (LNG), the letter said.

In the face of climate action, gas could be used with CCS technology to capture carbon emissions and store them permanently underground, but the tech would still not be zero-emissions, and it has made little progress so far.

Locking

Fracking is unpopular – and if the public link it to the development of hydrogen, a potentially important, clean fuel but one which could be made from natural gas extracted by the process, it could risk acceptance of hydrogen.

The letter urges the government that if concerns over seismic activity caused by fracking are overcome, “the moratorium on UK shale production should not be lifted without an in-depth independent review of the evidence on the climate impact”.

The review should take the UK’s net-zero and international plans into account, assess the emissions from domestic shale versus other alternatives such as LNG, and look at progress in deploying hydrogen made from renewables instead of gas.

Progress on CCS technology and how much it cuts emissions should also be examined, and the impact of fracking on public acceptance of shifting to net zero, as well as the risk of locking in fossil fuel infrastructure should be assessed, the letter urged.

This Author

Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.

Ministers quizzed on fracking, climate change and conflicts of interest.

Politicians have asked ministers about new fracking licences, the role of shale gas in UK energy and potential conflicts of interest for climate advisors.

The Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Greaves, asked whether the government planned to issue new exploration licences for shale gas and what advice was provided to existing licence holders.

The energy minister, Lord Callanan, said licences were issued by the Oil & Gas Authority. He also said the government’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in England was set out in a written ministerial from November 2019. He said:

“the shale gas industry should take the Government’s position into account when considering new developments.”

In response to another question by Lord Greaves on the contribution of shale gas to UK energy needs, Lord Callanan said the most recent report on security of energy supply did not include hydraulically fractured shale gas in any of its assessments.

The Lib Dem MP, Wera Hobhouse, asked the energy secretary what steps he was taking to ensure there were no conflicts of interest on the Climate Change Committee, the government’s advisor, and on other official advisory boards. This question is due to be answered early next week.

FRACKING COULD BE AT AN END AT BALCOMBE

More than seven years of controversial oil exploration in the West Sussex village of Balcombe could be at an end after councillors blocked plans for a well test.

 

The county council’s planning committee today unanimously refused proposals for the site which saw mass daily protests and arrests during drilling in the summer of 2013. The vote, against the advice of planning officers, decided the application for a one-year well test was not in the public interest and would have minimal benefit to the local economy. More than 800 people had objected to the proposal by the site operator, Angus Energy.

In a statement, Angus Energy said it was disappointed with the decision. “The company is presently evaluating all the options available with its partners”.

At 2.15pm, the share price was down 8% at 0.825p.

Today’s decision is the latest chapter in the saga of oil development in the village. The 2013 protests increased awareness of fracking in the UK and helped to launch a nationwide campaign against the process. This is the sixth time in just over 10 years that oil companies have sought permission to test the viability of oil production at Balcombe. So far, only a short test has been carried out, in 2018, when unexpected water was found in the well.

Last year, Angus withdrew an application for a three-year test after council planners recommended refusal. Then officials said the proposal would compromise the protected landscape of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There were no exceptional circumstances that would be needed in planning law to justify consent, they said.

The application decided today shortened the duration of the test to one year and Angus Energy proposed to install a new membrane on the well pad. But councillors said nothing had changed since last year and there were still no exceptional circumstances to approve the plans. Unless Angus Energy appeals against the decision, the Balcombe site should now be restored to its previous forestry use.

 

Red alert: Anti-fracking protest

ANTI-FRACKING campaigners, along with Extinction Rebellion Northern Ireland, have pleaded with politicians to not make Fermanagh a “sacrifice zone” to fracking.

 Their call comes as groups met on the shore of Lough Melvin in Garrison on Monday, where the iconic ‘Red Rebel’ of the Extinction Rebellion movement made an appearance to draw attention to the threat of fracking. Garrison is one of the areas which is under threat from fracking in Fermanagh.

Tom White, of Belcoo Frack Free, said that politicians need to take action against fracking as the evidence is conclusive with regards to fracking and its risks to public health, the environment and the climate. He continued: “We need the Executive to take the actions the Assembly gave them a mandate to do, namely, to enact the motion of October 13 and have an immediate moratorium on all petroleum licensing, while we wait for the legislative process to prohibit the granting of petroleum licences here. It’s crucial that our political leaders reflect the will of the people, act on our behalf, and remove the threats posed by this [fracking] industry here in Fermanagh, and across other areas of Northern Ireland.”

“We need the issuing of licenses to stop immediately. We are asking the public to get on to their politicians and ask for this [to stop],” said Dr. O’Dolan.

Continue reading Red alert: Anti-fracking protest

The ASSIST surveys found Opposition to fracking reached 66% in July 2020

Support for fracking has declined over the past decade and opposition has become more deeply entrenched, a new study of public attitudes in the UK has concluded.

Findings of studies on public attitudes to fracking. Source: ASSIST project

The research, by academics at Exeter and Edinburgh universities, found that high awareness of shale gas, now about 80%, had not led

to greater support for the process.

Trust in the shale gas industry has been very low and the debate about fracking had become increasingly polarized, the authors found. The more knowledgeable people were about fracking the more likely they were to hold stronger views, both for and against.

But while strong factions have become entrenched, the authors found, a significant minority of people remain undecided.

The study, by the ASSIST (Attitudes to Shale Gas in Space and Time) Project, examined four sets of national surveys carried out between 2012-2020. They included the government’s quarterly Wave Tracker, the most recent set of results of which were released today (see section below headed Latest government survey finds 34% oppose fracking). The researchers also used a multi-year survey for ASSIST. Unlike other surveys, this questioned the same people each time.

Key findings

Continue reading The ASSIST surveys found Opposition to fracking reached 66% in July 2020

UKOG abandons injunction on slow walking protests

The company behind oil drilling in southern England said today it would ask the court to remove slow walking, a well-used protest tactic, from the injunction order, first issued nearly three years ago.

In a statement, UKOG said the revised interim injunction would apply soley to Horse Hill in Surrey and would cover only trespass and obstruction of the site entrance.

Click on link below to see full report

UKOG abandons injunction on slow walking protests

 

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Ryedale MP U-TURN

MANY of us in North Yorkshire have strong feelings about fracking, which is unsurprising as we would be living with the consequences for decades to come. In the past our Conservative MP, Kevin Hollinrake, actively supported fracking; something that dismayed many of his constituents who care about the environment and the legacy we leave for future generations.

So, I was delighted when Mr Hollinrake revealed his fracking U-turn, at a recent public meeting hosted by Ryedale Environmental Group, stating that he thought that “the time for fracking has passed”. I wholeheartedly agree with the view expressed by Mr Hollinrake at that meeting: that renewables are now a more economically and environmentally viable alternatives to fossil fuels.

Can we now look forward to hearing our MP express his support for a formal ban on fracking in Parliament? We hope so. However, I remember his dismissal of Marcus Rashford’s appeal for the Government to provide free school meals in the holidays only to then welcome the idea when the Government U-turned and provided money to local authorities.

I urge Mr Hollinrake to honour his words and hope that he will campaign and then vote to ban fracking once and for all.

Angela Cole, Westow.

 

 

Kristina Marusic discusses the health effects of fracking on “In This Climate”

“People in communities with fracking are fearful about the exposures they’re facing from the industry.”

EHN’s Pittsburgh reporter Kristina Marusic recently appeared on the podcast In This Climate to discuss the impacts of fracking in southwestern Pennsylvania and beyond .  She shared the story of a community in Braddock, Pennsylvania, that’s been fighting to stop a fracking well from being drilled on the property of a U.S. Steel mill. 

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