Fracking legislation divides opinion

Fracking protest at Balcombe Sunday, August 18 ENGSUS00120130820074932
Fracking protest at Balcombe Sunday, August 18 ENGSUS00120130820074932

The government’s amendments to proposed legislation about fracking has divided opinion on how much the changes may impact Mid Sussex.

The Infrastructure Bill has been passed to the House of Lords. It now blocks fracking in areas of outstanding natural beauty, national parks and areas used to collect drinking water.

But some campaigners fear this will not do enough to protect Mid Sussex.

Brenda Pollack, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Public opinion and increasing concern from MPs has forced a retreat on fracking but these concessions do not go far enough. It would not prevent fracking getting the green light in parts of Sussex, despite overwhelming opposition from local communities.

“The only way to safeguard our climate, local communities and their environment from the fracking threat is to halt shale gas completely.”

But others speculate the changes may make fracking ‘impossible’ in Sussex.

Independent Mid Sussex parliamentary candidate Beki Adam said: “Are ancient woodlands included? If they are it has effectively been banned for Mid Sussex. The ban on national parks has a lot of significance.”

This week the Environmental Audit Committee stated shale fracking should be put on hold because it is incompatible with climate change targets and could pose significant environmental risks to public health.

The committee of MPs called for a moratorium on fracking, which was denied at parliament on Tuesday.

MP Caroline Flint, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: “This is a huge U-turn by the Government and big victory for the protection of Britain’s environment.”

UK Onshore Oil and Gas chief executive Ken Cronin welcomed the development.

He said: “It is good news that MPs have rejected the misguided attempts to introduce a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. Most of the amendments agreed are in line with best practice in the industry or codify the directions of regulators, which the industry would naturally comply with. We now need to get on with exploratory drilling to find out the extent of the UK’s oil and gas reserves.”

Campaigns supported by Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace UK, Reclaim the Power and 38 Degrees rallied at Westminster on Monday, calling for the moratorium, and a 250,000 strong petition was handed to Downing Street asking David Cameron to abandon his ‘all-out’ push for fracking.

Balcombe resident Juliette Harris said she fears pollution, birth defects, earth quakes, radioactive waste and climate change.

And Beki Adam added: “We have other alternatives for UK energy supply and security, and, quite clearly, it is time to turn our undivided attention to them.”