The Government has confirmed it is to introduce proposed legislation to allow fracking companies to drill under homes without the property owner’s permission despite 99% of respondents to the consultation opposing the plans.
Following a three-month public consultation, Energy Minister Matt Hancock today confirmed the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will press ahead with the controversial law change.
Of the 40,647 respondents, DECC admitted that more than 99% were opposed to the proposal to legislate to provide underground access to gas, oil and geothermal below 300 metres. Only 44 so-called “stakeholders” were actually in favour of the plans.
However, DECC chiefs claim 36,582 responses from individuals did not address the consultation questions correctly but instead gave their “views in a more open format”.
In its response to the public exercise, the Government said it agreed that the current regulations were “costly, time-consuming and disproportionate” for shale gas companies looking to drill underground.
The statement added: “The Government is supportive of developing our own indigenous energy sources in a safe and sustainable manner. We believe shale gas and oil, and deep geothermal energy may hold potential for adding to the UK’s energy sources, helping to improve energy security, create jobs and meet carbon targets. In order to explore this potential, the Government wishes to ensure that the existing regulatory system is fit for purpose.
“Both industries access underground deposits by drilling deep underground wells, and we consider the existing procedures for gaining this underground access to be costly, time-consuming and disproportionate for these industries.”
As the law currently stands, shale gas companies must obtain the legal consent of the owner of the land under which they plan to drill.
Following years of intense lobbying by the onshore drilling operators, the Government has finally bowed to the pressure and sided with the “stakeholders” instead of reacting to public opinion.
The Government response added: “We recognise that there is opposition to hydraulic fracturing and the use of fossil fuels in general. The consultation was not intended to address this wider issue, and focussed specifically on underground access. Mechanisms already exist whereby companies can obtain access rights for oil and gas.
“Responses simply stating an objection to hydraulic fracturing, use of fossil fuels or changes to trespass laws did not provide sufficient commentary to enable us to change or refine the proposals in the consultation.”
The statement added: “We acknowledge the large number of responses against the proposal and the fact that the proposal has provided an opportunity for the public to voice their concerns and raise issues. However the role of the consultation was to seek arguments and evidence to consider in developing the proposed policy. Whilst a wide range of arguments were raised and points covered, we did not identify any issues that persuaded us to change the basic form of the proposals.”
The Government says it will now introduce legislation through Parliament that will provide shale gas and oil companies a statutory right of access to the ground from at least 300 metres below the surface.
Business and Energy Minister Matt Hancock said: “Exploring the natural energy resources beneath our feet, within a robust regulatory framework, is important for our national energy security and helps create jobs.
“These new rules will help Britain to explore the great potential of our national shale gas and geothermal resources, as we work towards a greener future – and open up thousands of new jobs in doing so.”
A spokesman for Greenpeace said tonight: “The roar of opposition to this arrogant policy is deafening, yet Ministers are determined to blithely ignore what the overwhelming majority of the British public thinks and wants.
“This move to rob people of their right to oppose fracking under their homes is the signature policy of the Government’s dash for shale gas. The country needs and wants clean, democratic, safe energy – and Ministers are trying to impose more dirty, corporate-controlled, risky fossil fuel-based power.
“There’ll be a hefty political price to pay for this massive sell-out to the narrow interests of the shale lobby.