A new proposed amendment in the UK would make a mockery of existing European shale gas regulation. If the new regulation would pass, it would allow fracking companies to put “any substance” under people’s homes and property and leave it there, as part of the Infrastructure Bill. The wording of the bill would also allow storing nuclear waste.
Europe has much stricter regulations than the US, and the UK has long bragged that they have the best shale gas regulation in all of Europe. But apparently, the UK wants to take steps to “kickstart” shale gas exploration in the country. The government said the changes were “vital to kickstarting shale” gas exploration. However, the opposition claims that this law is preposterous and would cause massive environmental and social problems. Simon Clydesdale, a campaigner at Greenpeace UK declared:
“Ministers are effectively trying to absolve fracking firms from responsibility for whatever mess they’ll end up leaving underground. This amendment makes a mockery of the government’s repeated claims about Britain’s world-class fracking regulations. Far from toughening up rules, ministers are bending over backwards to put the interests of shale drillers before the safety of our environment and our climate.”
[Also Read: Shale gas isn’t a ‘clean bridge fuel’, study finds]
The law permits “passing any substance through, or putting any substance into, deep-level land” and gives “the right to leave deep-level land in a different condition from [that before] including by leaving any infrastructure or substance in the land”. Currently, that is viewed by British law as trespassing, and rightfully so. The UK government conducted a survey to see the public opinion on this and the results were evident. There were a total of 40,647 responses to the consultation, and 99% opposed this change. Now, it has to be said that 28,821 responses were submitted as a result of two NGO campaigns, but that still leaves us with almost 12.000 responses, 92% of which were negative. It couldn’t be any clearer – the public is against this. But apparently, that doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, as the government seems adamant to push this forth. A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said:
“Shale and geothermal have the potential to bolster our energy security, create jobs and growth and provide a bridge to a greener future. These changes are vital to kick starting shale and make sure it’s not delayed by one single landowner. These new rules are all part of our robust regulatory framework [making] sure public safety is always our number one priority.”
This approach, putting the industrial needs above the needs of the individuals has been prevalent throughout the entire mandate of the British government, and has drawn much criticism. Ralph Smyth, a barrister at the Campaign to Protect Rural England is one of the many critics of the amendment:
“This seems another example in the Infrastructure Bill where the rushing to remove obstacles has led to officials making it up as they go along, without thinking through the consequences,” he said. “Powers to alter deep-level land in any way under people’s houses or ‘putting any substance’ under schools or homes is surely going too far.”
Certainly the matter is debatable on both sides, but should a government really push forth with such an unpopular decision? There’s basically a consensus among the British that this measure shouldn’t pass, and yet it seems poised to do so. Something is clearly not going the right way in the UK.