As 2016 gets underway I wanted to set out what actions I propose to take with regards to possible shale gas extraction in Thirsk and Malton this year.
I am aware, from the correspondence I have received, that many people still have concerns about the effect fracking might have on our countryside and on the environment. I remain convinced, however, that fracking should be part of the UK’s energy mix but only if it is done in a balanced and measured way. This means robust regulations in place to protect the environment, minimise the impact on communities, groundwater monitoring, community benefits and exclusion of surface activity relating to hydraulic fracturing in protected areas.
Therefore I am taking the following measures to ensure this happens.
Firstly, I arranged a Producers Summit on February 8th 2016 to discuss a regional plan. Invited were Cuadrilla, Third Energy, Ineos and IGas Energy, which are all shale gas extraction companies with an interest in production in the North of England. Northern Gas Networks also attended. The aim of this meeting was to create a model of what shale gas extraction would look like in terms of visual and environmental impact and how this can be communicated. I believe this is important because, until now, there has not been a clear picture of the visual impact on our countryside so that we can assess how it will affect us.
Secondly, I intend to keep up the pressure I began in 2015 to get some clear answers and commitments to key issues such as the independent supervision of regulations; a robust ‘local plan’ for fracking covering a five year rollout; detailed solutions for concerns such as traffic plans, distance from schools, town and villages and impacts on other important parts of our economy; real time, publicly available environmental monitoring; assurances that community financial benefits will go directly to communities affected. I will raise questions verbally in Parliament, table written questions and take part in backbench debates and speak to ministers regularly until I get the answers to these key questions.
Thirdly, to add weight to this commitment I am setting up an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Shale Gas Regulation and Planning so that I can bring together other MPs (from both sides of the House) who have potential shale gas extraction in their constituencies or who have an interest in it. Together we will push for robust environmental and planning regulations to ensure that our constituents’ concerns are addressed and that fracking is conducted in the balanced and measured way we are all seeking.
Fourthly, I have had a very interesting meeting with Northern Gas Networks. They told me that they have transportation devices which could take the gas from the shale field and distribute it directly into the network via plastic pipes. This would therefore mean that there would be no need for gas transportation by tankers. What’s more they told me that it is possible to put a network in a village and supply it directly with low cost and, in some cases, completely free gas to those with a particular need. I am looking forward to discussing this with them in more detail to find out how our communities can benefit.
I will keep you posted on all these developments and will be updating my website regularly. As soon as we have a visual plan, a local plan and further commitments on environmental and planning regulations I will share them with you.