Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Infrastructure Bill, trespass law and fracking ............... .... Parliament votes in favour

Yesterday, the Commons met to discuss measures in its Infrastructure Bill:
Futures Forum: The Infrastructure Bill, trespass law and fracking ... Parliament votes Monday 26th January

The Commons votes have yet to go to the Lords, however.
Meanwhile, here are reports from today's press:

7 things farmers need to know about the Infrastructure Bill

Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament© Rex Features
Heated debate and public protests surrounded last night’s (26 January) votes on the Infrastructure Bill, which will have big effects on the countryside. 
The bill, one of the most far-reaching of the past few years, covers everything from fracking rights to the reintroduction of beavers.
It is controversial because of its wide-ranging measures and the introduction of many late amendments, which critics argued means MPs haven’t had enough time to properly consider it.
The bill now goes for final consideration of amendments by MPs and the House of Lords. 
Here’s what farmers and landowners need to know:
1. Fracking firms will be allowed to drill without a landowner’s permission
Trespass laws will be changed to allow fracking companies to drill under people’s land and homes without their permission, including horizontal drilling. They will also be allowed to “leave any substance or infrastructure in the land”. 
This controversial change was not put to a vote during the debate, despite it being the object of huge public opposition.  
A vote to put a moratorium on fracking activities was lost by 308 votes to 52, with many abstentions. 
Fracking activities will not be allowed unless they meet 13 conditions that go some way to protecting the local environment, water sources and health of local communities.

UPDATE - IGas Energy boosted as MPs reject fracking ban

MPs voted against a ban on fracking, and passed a new bill that clarifies laws for UK shale companiesMPs voted against a ban on fracking, and passed a new bill that clarifies laws for UK shale companies

UK shale pioneer IGas Energy (LON:IGAS) has been lifted by Parliament’s decision not to impose a moratorium on fracking, the controversial process used to extract shale gas.
The new Infrastructure Bill provides clarity which enables both new and existing players to invest in shale, IGas says.
Share price gains were, however, capped by apprehension over the small print of the new legislation. IGas’s shares were up just 4% by late morning on AIM, despite an initial rally of some 18% in early deals.
Under the threat of the moratorium, IGas fell around 30% ahead of Monday’s votes.
A group of MPs had called for fracking to be banned. The voting, however, rejected the proposed moratorium by a considerable majority - 308 MPs were against the proposal, while 52 were in favour. 
Other amendments were passed and the new legislation will see fracking allowed, with some additional conditions relating to environmental assessment and closer consultation with individual residents. Also certain areas, such as those in national parks, will be off limits to gas companies. 
The Infrastructure Bill, which now moves to the House of Lords, also clarifies planning and trespass laws in relation to deep drilling (below 300 metres) beneath properties.

UK Parliament Environmental Audit Committee calls for fracking ban

27 January 2015

Fracking UK
A group of UK legislators have proposed a moratorium on shale gas fracking in the country, saying that there are huge uncertainties about its impact on water supplies, air quality and public health.
The UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee in its report said that the hydraulic fracturing for shale gas is 'incompatible' with targets to fight climate change and could pose significant localised environmental risks to public health.
Environmental Audit Committee chairman Joan Walley said: "Ultimately, fracking cannot be compatible with our long-term commitments to cut climate changing emissions unless full-scale carbon capture and storage technology is rolled out rapidly, which currently looks unlikely.

38 Degrees Logo

Bad news - last night MPs voted to give the green light to fracking across the UK. 50 MPs broke ranks to vote against the plans, but it wasn’t enough. [1] Trespass laws have changed: now dirty energy companies can apply to drill for oil and gas under our homes.

Days like today are difficult. But we urgently need to channel our frustration into hope - because tomorrow, Lancashire County Council could vote to block fracking in Lancashire. [2] Local councils still have the power to block fracking, so this is a test case. Council by council, we could start to turn the tide.

38 Degrees members in Lancashire are pushing their council hard to do the right thing tomorrow. In the wake of yesterday’s vote, let’s stand with them - and prove that across the country, we’re not done fighting yet.

Losses like yesterday’s prove that we’ve got a long way to go to get MPs to stand up for the environment. But without pressure from 38 Degrees members, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and thousands of grassroots groups, it could’ve been much worse. [3]

Yesterday’s vote had some positives: fracking is now banned in national parks. [4] And it wasn’t an easy vote for the government to win. Slowly, because of everything 38 Degrees members and climate change campaigners have done together, support for fracking is wavering - and MPs are feeling the heat.

Now let’s take the fight to a local level: council by council, let’s push fracking back. Three of the MPs who voted against fracking yesterday were from Lancashire - so the pressure is on for Lancashire Council to block it. [5]

Please add your name to the message to Lancashire, to show that we’re standing with them in the fight against fracking:

[1] 38 Degrees blog: How MPs voted on fracking:
[2] Lancashire County Council: Shale gas developments in Lancashire:
The Guardian: Controversial Lancashire fracking plans 'should be refused’:
[3] Over 170,000 38 Degrees members signed the petition calling on MPs to vote against changes to trespass laws for fracking companies. The petition was delivered to MPs across the country, and also taken into parliament yesterday. 52,000 38 Degrees members then emailed our MPs, and thousands of ua also tweeted or called them yesterday morning to pile on the final pressure.
[4] The Telegraph: Fracking to be banned in national parks, Government concedes:
[5] Drill or drop: Two Lancs Tories joined MPs voting for a fracking moratorium:

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38 Degrees | people. power. change.

In depth: Infrastructure bill amendments on fracking, fossil fuels, and zero carbon homes

  • 27 Jan 2015, 12:15
  • Mat Hope
  • MPs vote to increase restrictions on fracking.
  • Conservatives and Labour claim credit for creating a positive investment environment for UK shale gas industry.
  • Government agrees to obligation to outline how fracking fits within the UK's climate targets.
  • Industry react positively to amendments. Environmental groups fear changes are superficial.
  • Opposition fails to remove a clause obligating the UK to "maximise" oil and gas extraction.
  • Infrastructure bill leaves House of Commons with watered-down proposal for building new zero-carbon homes.
MPs yesterday voted to increase restrictions on fracking while continuing to try and maximise exploitation of the UK's oil and gas reserves. They also voted to water down a commitment to provide zero-carbon homes.
All three items were contained in the mammoth infrastructure bill. The energy and climate provisions were the focus of what has become an increasingly partisan fight to dictate the future direction of the UK's energy and climate policy.
The most high-profile amendments to the bill were around the issue of whether the UK should go "all out" for shale gas. After several hours of debating, amendments were included to increase the stringency of regulations dictating where shale-gas companies can explore, and place further obligations on the government to explain how fracking fits with the UK's broader climate-change goals.
Before the debate, the parties made clear their positions on whether the government should support the nascent industry. Conservatives MPs, and the chancellor in particular, are very keen. Labour is willing to permit fracking with some additional checks. Some Liberal Democrats and the Greens remain staunchly against any fracking.
A cross party amendment for a fracking moratorium was rejected by 308 votes to 52. The government accepted an opposition amendment to allow fracking with "appropriate regulation and monitoring", broadly in line with recommendations from an Environmental Audit Committee report released yesterday.
That amendment says:
"Any hydraulic fracturing activity can not take place:
(a) unless an environmental impact assessment has been carried out;
(b) unless independent inspections are carried out of the integrity of wells used;
(c) unless monitoring has been undertaken on the site over the previous 12 month period;
(d) unless site-by-site measurement, monitoring and public disclosure of existing and future fugitive emissions is carried out;
(e) in land which is located within the boundary of a groundwater source protection zone;
(f) within or under protected areas;
(g) in deep-level land at depths of less than 1,000 metres;
(h) unless planning authorities have considered the cumulative impact of hydraulic fracturing activities in the local area;
(i) unless a provision is made for community benefit schemes to be provided by companies engaged in the extraction of gas and oil rock;
(j) unless residents in the affected area are notified on an individual basis;
(k) unless substances used are subject to approval by the Environment Agency
(l) unless land is left in a condition required by the planning authority, and
(m) unless water companies are consulted by the planning authority."
A Green and Liberal Democrat amendment to prevent changes to trespass laws to allow fracking under people's homes was rejected. Labour abstained from the vote in light of the government accepting its amendment forcing shale-gas companies to comply with more stringent environmental and planning regulations.
Energy minister Amber Rudd, who was charged with guiding the bill through the Commons, also agreed to an "outright ban" on fracking in "national parks, sites of special scientific interest and areas of outstanding natural beauty."
Rudd further promised to add a new amendment that requires the government to outline how its support for fracking aligns with the UK's broader climate change goals.
The energy and climate secretary will now be required to consider research from government advisor the Committee on Climate Change. If the committee deems shale gas extraction to be contrary to the UK's climate targets, the secretary will either have to remove companies' licenses or explain why they are allowing fracking to continue. Rudd explained:
"We will introduce a further amendment in the Lords to place a duty on the Secretary of State to consider in every carbon budget period advice from the Committee on Climate Change as to the impact of UK shale development on the UK's overall climate change objectives. If the Committee on Climate Change advises that shale development adversely impacts on climate change objectives, the Secretary of State must either choose to deactivate the right of use provisions or to make a written statement to Parliament explaining the reasons."
The Committee on Climate Change said in a statement that shale gas exploration "is a new and emerging area and it is important to ensure that future exploitation is consistent with existing carbon budgets and our 2050 target for reducing emissions. The Committee on Climate Change is able to provide that advice to Government and Parliament." Its previous work "suggests that some shale gas exploitation may be consistent with meeting carbon budgets, if suitable regulation is in place", it added.
The amended bill showed the government was taking steps to "develop the best shale gas environment we can, for the benefit of the UK generally", Rudd said.
Maximising oil and gas
MPs were allotted two hours to debate the energy elements of the infrastructure bill, with the shale-gas amendments swallowing the lion's share of time. That meant other important amendments were either overlooked or rushed through.
In particular, one clause that has come to symbolise the chasm between the parties' views on climate change was barely mentioned. Clause 37 obligates governments to produce strategies for "maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum".
The position was first recommended by Sir Ian Wood in his government-commissioned report on how to maximise the returns from the UK's ageing North Sea oil and gas industry. Environmentalist George Monbiot calls the clause "a legal obligation on current and future governments to help trash the world's atmosphere".
A Green and Labour amendment to remove the clause was rejected by Rudd, who said:
"The Government feel that oil and gas recovery makes an important contribution to the national economy by supporting jobs and growth. In June 2013, we commissioned Sir Ian Wood to review UK offshore oil and gas recovery and its regulation, and we have been making good progress implementing the recommendations."
So, unless the Lords remove the clause, the government will have a legal obligation to "maximise" oil and gas extraction, though it remains unclear what that may entail.

In depth: Infrastructure bill amendments on fracking, fossil fuels, and zero carbon homes | Carbon Brief

See also:
Futures Forum: Climate change: 'stranded assets' and 'unburnable oil' ...... or the pressures to leave oil and gas in the ground

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