Margaret Greenwood MP has raised concerns over ambiguity in the government’s position on fracking.
The government placed a moratorium on fracking in 2019 following the publication of a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) which found that it was not possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations.
However, in recent days, following the announcement that the UK is to phase out Russian oil imports by 2023, a Downing Street spokesperson has said that “all options” will be considered before the government’s forthcoming energy strategy is completed.
Compounding the worries is the fact that there has been strong public support for fracking from a number of Conservative MPs in recent weeks, with more than 30 openly calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lift the moratorium.
Margaret Greenwood, the MP for Wirral West, highlighted in Parliament this week that there is currently a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) in place covering an area of North-West England which includes West Wirral.
A PEDL allows a company to pursue a range of oil and gas exploration activities, subject to necessary drilling and development consents and planning permission.
Margaret Greenwood has previously led a campaign against Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) – a process similar to fracking – in the Dee Estuary after the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government granted a five-year conditional licence for UCG there in 2013.
Last month, the Wirral West MP was assured by the government’s Minister of State for Energy that the government does not support the development of UCG in the UK because the emissions from the process would be too high to be consistent with the UK’s commitment to a low-carbon future.
In Parliament, Margaret Greenwood asked the minister if he could confirm, in light of recent uncertainty, whether that position is still the case, and she called on him to commit to a ban on both fracking and UCG.
Speaking after her intervention in Parliament, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “The government’s ambiguity over fracking is a real concern for people in Wirral West and for communities right across the country.
“Given the risks involved in fracking and the fact that we are facing a climate emergency, Conservative MPs should not be lobbying the government to end the moratorium on fracking.
“People in Wirral West remember only too well the threat of Underground Coal Gasification which arose when the Conservatives and Lib Dems granted a conditional licence for UCG in the Dee estuary in 2013.
“This would have presented a risk to marine and bird life and would have changed the Dee and Hilbre Island into an industrial landscape. I was proud to lead a successful campaign against UCG in the Dee.
“The public response to that campaign made it absolutely clear: people do not want to see drilling for fossil fuels in Wirral West.
“The government should be focussing on renewables instead of toying with the idea of fracking. We are facing a climate emergency, yet the government is not treating it with the urgency that is required. It has effectively banned new onshore wind projects.
“Labour would double both onshore and offshore wind capacity and commit to new solar, tidal and hydrogen.
“The government needs to end the uncertainty and ban fracking and UCG once and for all.”
What is fracking?
Fracking is a process used to extract shale gas or shale oil. Both are fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases when burnt, contributing to climate breakdown
Shale rock has to be fractured to get to the gas or oil – this is known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking for short. A mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped down the well at very high pressure. This fractures the rock and when the pressure is released, the gas or oil flows back up the well.
Fracking has also triggered many small earthquakes in the UK.