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.


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.

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