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Labour demands moratorium on fracking after MPs' vote

Published 16/12/2015

Labour said 'ministers are ignoring people's legitimate concerns and imposing fracking on communities'
Labour said 'ministers are ignoring people's legitimate concerns and imposing fracking on communities'

Labour has called for a moratorium on fracking in the UK after MPs approved p roposals to allow the controversial process under national parks and other protected areas.

The move to allow fracking to extract shale gas three-quarters of a mile (1,200m) below national parks, world heritage sites, the Broads and areas of outstanding natural beauty was passed by a majority of 37 in a vote on Wednesday.

Shadow energy and climate secretary Lisa Nandy accused the Government of sneaking the rules through without proper parliamentary debate, labelling it "frankly shabby".

"Ministers had previously conceded that there should be the tougher safeguards that Labour has been calling for to protect drinking water sources and sensitive parts of our countryside like national parks. Now they've abandoned those promises.

"We should have a moratorium on fracking in Britain until we can be sure it is safe and won't present intolerable risks to our environment.

"Neither MPs or the public have received these assurances yet ministers are ignoring people's legitimate concerns and imposing fracking on communities," she said.

Rose Dickinson, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the new rules, which also allow fracking in certain groundwater areas, put drinking water and national parks at risk from fracking.

"People will rightly be concerned that the Government is not following through on its commitment to have strong regulation on fracking.

"It is time for us to follow in the footsteps of Scotland and Wales by halting all plans for fracking, which is completely incompatible with tackling climate change and the agreement reached in Paris."

The environmental group said it was campaigning for a full ban on fracking because 80% of fossil fuels have to remain in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change.

The rules show the Government has broken its promise on protecting special landscapes, Greenpeace said.

Hannah Martin, energy campaigner at Greenpeace, said: 'What we have seen today is the Government breaking its promise and forcing through regulations which will allow fracking underneath some of the most fragile and treasured landscapes in Britain.

"These areas have been protected for a reason: stunning areas like the Peak District, the North York Moors and the South Downs."

She warned the Government could not even convince some of its own MPs, with some openly saying they were voting against the regulations.

She said the rules could see protected areas ringed by drilling rigs, floodlights and compressors and playing host to thousands of lorry movements, as the wells are driven down just outside the protected areas and then horizontally underneath into them.

Protected areas could be blighted by air, noise and light pollution, she warned.

The vote comes just days after the Government joined more than 190 other countries to agree a global climate deal to keep temperatures from rising to dangerous levels - a pact which many commentators said spelled the end of the fossil fuel era.

"The UK Government has just participated in a historic climate agreement in Paris, but if it is to hold up its end of the bargain it has to rethink its support for fracking and back safe, cheap, clean energy instead," Ms Martin said.

Fiona Howie, chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks, said it was "really disappointing that the regulations had been approved, especially as Parliament had not been given the chance to consider the concerns that had been raised".

"F racking should not be allowed to take place under national parks and other protected areas.

"We don't yet know what the longer-term effects of this would be on these protected areas, so given this uncertainty the Government should have kept to their word and prevented hydraulic fracturing in protected areas at any depth," she said.

Paul Wilkinson, of The Wildlife Trusts, said: "This Government's aggressive drive for fracking is showing blatant disregard for our precious protected places and the need for urgent action on climate change. This is a risky, unnecessary and shameful decision."

The regulations approved by MPs apply to England and Wales, but Wales has a moratorium on fracking applications.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron - whose constituency includes parts of both the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks - said the move "poses a huge risk to our landscape, to our heritage, to our tourism industry" and showed the Government was "giving up on renewables".

"If you juxtapose it with the fact that in the Autumn Statement George Osborne essentially undermined any positive environmental case for shale gas by effectively ending carbon capture and storage, you are now looking at a form of extraction and indeed a form of fossil fuel at the end of that extraction which is hugely damaging environmentally both in terms of the landscape and in terms of climate change," he told BBC Radio 4's PM.

"All of this builds a picture of this Government choosing to do exactly the opposite domestically to what it signed up to at the weekend in Paris."

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