UK Energy Minister lays out shale gas no-go areas

Andrea Leadsom, UK Junior Energy Minister
Andrea Leadsom, UK Junior Energy Minister

The UK government – pressing ahead with its plans to support a home-grown shale gas industry – has now announced ‘exempted’ areas in which it will not permit drilling or ‘fracking’.

Newly-appointed UK junior Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom has now set out further protections for groundwater and National Parks, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage Sites, ensuring the process of hydraulic fracturing can only take place below 1200 metres in these areas.

Drinking water is not normally found below 400m. Ministers also set out their clear commitment to ensure that fracking cannot be conducted from wells that are drilled in the surface of National Parks and other protected areas in such a way as to not impact on conventional drilling operations.

But Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom added: “The UK has one of the best track records in the world when it comes to protecting our environment while also developing our industries – and we’ve brought that experience to bear on the shale gas protections.

“We need more secure, home grown energy supplies, and shale gas and oil have a vital role to play – much better that we use what we have at home than relying on supplies from volatile foreign imports.

“This industry will be developed safely with world class environmental protections, creating jobs and delivering better energy security while safeguarding of some of our most precious landscapes.”

The UK government response is in clear contrast to the Scottish Government, which imposed a moratorium on any applications for fracking, as well as any exploratory drilling, earlier this year.

Fergus Ewing, MSP, Scottish Energy Minister
Fergus Ewing, MSP, Scottish Energy Minister

In his last parliamentary statement in Holyrood on shale energy in Scotland, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing told MPs that the temporary ban would remain in place until the Scottish government had carried out a full public consultation.

He added: “We should have a national debate about the topic, especially since we are to acquire, we hope, powers in respect of the unconventional oil and gas issue before very long.

“So this is the right time to have a national debate informed by evidence.”

COMMENT: Let’s get the fracking facts right

Scottish Energy News entirely agrees with Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing. This is the right time to have a national debate – informed by evidence – on shale energy in Scotland.

Facts are sacred. And as our National Poet Rabbie Burns also said in his 1786 poem, A Dream:

“Facts are chiels which winnae ding

An downa be disputit’

This translates into English as: Facts are fellows that will not be overturned and cannot be disputed’. With his legal training, Ewing kens full well the importance of facts.

Scottish Energy News also welcomes the facts – which is one of the reasons we are holding The UK Shale Energy Conference 2015.

Some religions – both today and at varying times from history – say, in effect: “Our god created the world and it is therefore perfect. We should not change it in any way – and we do not need to listen to <your scientific> facts.”

Consequently, those people and organisations who say, in effect, we do not need to know facts to make a decision (say, on shale mining) because we believe it is not safe, are substituting faith for facts. Which is bad.

But what is worse is that it not logically possible to have an evidence-led national debate on ‘faith’.

Energy is too important to be based on ‘faith’.

We need facts, and nothing but the facts. We will continue to play our part in reporting the facts – so that decisions are based on factual evidence.  So it may be worth reflecting here on a few chiels which winnae ding:

Shale and Safety: get the fracking facts right from the Royal Society of Edinburgh

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