Government encouraging exploration for shale gas. County Council buries head in sand...
One of Hampshire’s Members of the European Parliament has called for the county to remain ‘frack free’ after media reports suggested that exploratory drilling could be on the horizon.
In December 2012, the Department of Energy & Climate Change announced that exploratory fracking can be resumed in the UK, subject to some new controls. Prior to this, the process of fracking had been suspended in the UK, following some minor earth tremors in Lancashire.
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling technique which involves injecting toxic chemicals, sand, and millions of gallons of water under high pressure directly into the ground to release natural gas in shale deposits. Besides the risk of triggering earth tremors, this mixture of toxins and sediment, along with any natural gas released, can leak to the surface and enter rivers and groundwater.
Speaking at the first meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Unconventional Gas & Oil in the House of Commons on 15th May, Energy Minister Michael Fallon further said:
“The Government is creating the right framework to accelerate shale gas development in a responsible way.”
“We announced fracking could resume with robust regulation last December and there is nothing now stopping licensees from bringing on new drilling plans.”
“It is up to licensees to come forward with plans to explore the shale potential, engaging with local communities and gaining the necessary planning permissions and permits.”
“There are already 176 licences for onshore exploration and development, conventional and unconventional, a fifth of which are substantial. We expect to launch a new round of licence applications next year and I am announcing that AMEC will carry out the necessary Strategic Environment Assessment for what will be the UK’s 14th onshore licensing round.
“Shale gas has great potential and we have the right regulation in place so the UK benefits as quickly as possible in terms of energy security, investment and jobs.
“But development must be done in partnership with communities. We are working hard with industry on a package of community benefits and to ensure that their concerns are properly met.”
Licences have previously been issued for oil and gas exploration within the county of Hampshire, including one for an area to the North and East of Southampton, thus incorporating parts of the Borough of Eastleigh. As oil has been discovered at a site in Hedge End, this area could possibly be of further interest to energy companies, now searching for shale gas.
However, the area that is thought to have the best potential for shale gas follows geological strata across the UK, across Local Government boundaries through the South Downs and across much of Hampshire, not just around Eastleigh….
Keith Taylor, a Green MEP for South East England, has been supporting the anti-fracking campaigners across the South East region and has recently added his voice to existing calls for Hampshire to reject applications for fracking.
Keith Taylor MEP said:
“It’s no wonder that a number of campaigns have already sprung up across the South East as concerned residents realise the potential dangers of fracking. I am doing all I can to raise awareness of these controversial plans and I will support Hampshire residents who are concerned about this happening on their doorsteps and across the region.”
“Despite what the fracking firms are communicating this new ‘dash for gas’ is misguided and potentially very costly. The evidence from the USA suggests that fracking can pollute water sources and cause significant disruption to local communities. Fracking has also been linked to earth tremors in Lancashire, which became the first location in UK to under go fracking 2011. To top it off the evidence suggests that fracking won’t even help cut our energy bills.”
“If we really want our energy needs met, for our generation and those to come, we really do need to let common sense prevail here. We shouldn’t accept corporations drilling for gas in our communities. Instead we must focus our efforts on reducing energy demand and providing people with locally owned, sustainable energy harnessed from the sun, sea and wind.”
Campaigners in West Sussex have successfully stalled an exploratory drill near Balcombe recently, after Friends of the Earth drew the company’s attention to them failing to have the correct permits from the Environment Agency.
Lib Dems at Hampshire County Council have also called for the process of ‘fracking’ to be banned within the county of Hampshire. At the HCC meeting of 23rd May, the matter was referred to committee .
Meanwhile, the Hampshire County Council website is currently ‘frack free’, with no official statement on the subject. The only reference to fracking that we could find on Hantsweb, is a broken link to the South Downs Green Fair, an event which was held at the Sustainability Centre in East Meon on 12th May and which featured a film entitled Fracking Hell – The Untold Story, a short and somewhat one-sided introduction to shale gas extraction…