Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has spoken out in Parliament against proposals by the government to make fracking easier.
During a debate on permitted development and shale gas exploration, the MP described fracking as a “new fossil fuel front” that must not be opened up if the UK is to meet its climate change obligations.
The MP, whose constituency borders Altcar in West Lancashire, where energy firm Aurora have indicated it will apply for planning permission to frack, said local authorities and the communities affected should have their concerns taken on board about the impact of fracking in their areas.
The MP said in the debate: “We should not open up a new fossil fuel front and increase the contribution to climate change.
“On planning, my local authority has now twice voted overwhelmingly against fracking in nearby West Lancashire, which affects my constituency as well, but the authority’s views are completely ignored by the approach the Government are taking.
“Does that not demonstrate that significant local interests should be taken on board? It cannot just be a national Government issue in respect of permitted development rights.”
Last year the Government launched a consultation on whether to allow shale gas exploration under permitted development rights and on classifying sites as nationally significant infrastructure.
If progressed, permitted development rights would mean that local authorities would not be able to stop shale gas exploration.
If extraction of gas was to be classified as nationally significant infrastucture projects, fracking companies would bypass normal local planning requirements and projects would be managed by the Planning Inspectorate.
Following the debate, Mr Esterson said: “The Government began this consultation and I can only assume that it has not had the response it hoped for because they now seem to have kicked this issue into the long grass.
“Permitted development rights and classifying sites as nationally significant infrastructure would deprive local communities of a voice and would inevitably lead to more shale gas extraction overall at a time when we should be investing in renewable energy not more fossil fuels.
“The threat of global warming should urge us all to rethink completely how we produce our energy.
“This Government has gone ‘all out for shale’ while making it more difficult for renewable energy to be developed. They have slashed subsidies for renewables while trying to make it easier to frack. This government has an appalling track record about fracking and about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Under the coalition Lib-Dem/Conservative government, the then minister promised they would frack the desolate north. These new powers to ignore local people show that the Conservatives are gearing up to do just that, no doubt because so many of their politicians have financial interests in the oil and gas industries. It is a disgrace.
“Fracking will only make it harder for the UK to become zero carbon by 2050. How committed is the Government to this target if they support fracking?”
Last year, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that global CO2 emissions must be nearly halved by 2030 to prevent a global warming disaster.
Mr Esterson said he had received more than 60 emails from constituents in the past month alone opposing fracking. He said: “Residents have raised concerns with me about the environmental impacts of fracking, earth tremors, gas leaks and the huge water consumption the process requires. Wasting water in this way is totally irresponsible and there has been evidence that water supplies can be contaminated by the process.
“Carbon zero is a massive challenge and we must start today.”
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, which is chaired by the Labour MP Clive Betts, recently concluded: “Shale gas development of any type should not be classed as a permitted development. Given the contentious nature of fracking, local communities should be able to have a say in whether this type of development takes place, particularly as concerns about the construction, locations and cumulative impact of drill pads are yet to be assuaged by the Government”.
Mr Esterson added: “Fracking is not sustainable. Investing in fracking would produce as many carbon emissions as 300 million new cars.
“This Government should be favouring renewable energy over fracking but it is clear that the opposite is true. Subsidies for onshore wind and household solar have been slashed.”
Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee recently found that investment in renewable energy had fallen by 56% in 2017, which was the greatest decline of any country that year. In May 2018, investment in renewables was at its lowest in 10 years.
The recently released IPCC report stated that the world must become carbon zero by 2050 if the global temperature rise is to be limited to 1.5°C.
Bill Esterson MP said, “We need to de-carbonise the economy and we need to make massive changes in how we produce energy. That means more wind, solar, tidal and nuclear energy for electricity and a switch to hydrogen for gas. Fracking is not the answer and the Conservatives are condemning future generations to a very hostile and uncertain future. We should ban fracking and the Labour government, which hopefully will be elected soon, will do so.”