Government ‘all over the place’ on the future of fracking, MPs hear


David Lynch
Tuesday 15 March 2022 14:16 GMT

The Government is “completely all over the place” on the future of fracking and has “ignored” companies who want to carry out hydraulic fracturing, ministers have been told.

Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband made the claim as MPs tried to “smoke out” the official position on the future of fracking in the UK.

Conservative MP Lee Anderson (Ashfield) also urged the Government to be clear on whether energy firm Cuadrilla still needs to carry out the abandonment process of their wells in Lancashire, which at the moment are set to be concreted over.

Business minister Greg Hands stressed that any future fracking sites needed to have the support of local communities.

Asking an urgent question as households across the UK face rising energy costs, Mr Anderson said: “This House was assured last week that both the Business Department and Number 10 agree that these wells should not be filled.

“However, Government rhetoric is not being matched by action on the ground, and Cuadrilla, the company that owns the wells have spent the last six days trying to get hold of anyone at BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) or the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) to receive confirmation that they no longer need to carry out this abandonment process.

“But they are being ignored. Officials are dragging their heels and now with just days to go, Cuadrilla are still legally obliged to plug the wells by June 30 and the OGA keeps confirming this.”

He added: “Either the Government thinks these wells should be filled or it doesn’t. Concrete or not to concrete is the question. Frack or not to frack.

“If we don’t want to see concrete being poured down our only viable shale gas wells in the middle of an energy crisis, the Business Secretary needs to act quickly.”

Business minister Greg Hands replied: “In response to Putin’s barbaric acts in Ukraine and against the Ukrainian people, we need to keep all of our energy options open.

“We have always been clear that the development of shale gas in the UK must be safe and cause minimal disruption and damage to those living and working nearby sites.”

He added: “This is not a new position. Shale gas and new approaches could be part of our future energy mix but we need to be led by the science and have the support of local communities, and that was in our general election manifesto, which he and I stood on at the last election.”

Mr Hands also said: “I can tell him (Lee Anderson) that the Oil and Gas Authority, the independent regulator, has proactively approached Cuadrilla as recently as this week to ask if Cuadrilla will apply for an extension.

“However, Cuadrilla hasn’t made a straightforward application to do so. As with any licensee, if Cuadrilla want to extend this deadline, they can apply for a straightforward extension from the Oil and Gas Authority.”

For Labour, Mr Miliband welcomed the question on fracking and said Ashfield MP Mr Anderson was “right to try and smoke out the Government’s position”, adding: “It’s no wonder he’s confused, but he’ll still remain confused I think after the minister’s replies today… They are completely all over the place on this.”

He added: “This does matter, it’s about our energy security, it’s about communities deeply worried about the impact of fracking and about the climate crisis.”

Elsewhere in the debate, Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard told MPs: “We have eight out of the 10 most deprived neighbourhoods in the country, all of who are deeply, deeply fearful of higher costs of energy.

“Does he not agree that this debate about fracking is a complete distraction from the task at hand of find speedy, effective and efficient measures to reduce energy costs in the short run, not a further long term gamble on unproven technology that is many, many years away from delivering anything meaningful to my constituents?”

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