Secretary of State questioned on Shale Gas announcement

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On Thursday 13th December, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change answered departmental questions in the House of Commons. 

Mark Menzies MP, along with a number of other interested colleagues, used the opportunity to question the Secretary of State about the recent decision to permit Cuadrilla Resources to begin the process of Hydraulic Fracturing again.

The transcript of Mark Menzies’ question can be found below:

Mark Menzies (Fylde, Conservative)

What steps his Department is taking to ensure that safety and environmental concerns regarding shale gas exploration and extraction are addressed before shale gas reserves are developed.

Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton, Liberal Democrat)

Shale gas may prove to be a useful addition to the UK’s diverse portfolio of energy sources, and would be particularly valuable in replacing declining North sea supplies, with benefits to energy security as well as to the economy and employment—but its exploitation will be acceptable only if it is safe and the environment is properly protected.

Hydraulic fracturing operations for shale gas were suspended last year, pending consideration of seismic events in Lancashire. Based on the latest evidence and expert advice, and having considered the responses to a public consultation on that advice, I have concluded that, in principle, fracking for shale gas can be allowed to resume— subject to new controls to mitigate the risk of seismicity. I have made full details available to both Houses by means of a comprehensive written statement tabled this morning.

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire, Conservative)

I want to see proper environmental safeguards and generous community benefits for the areas where fracking will take place, but does my right hon. Friend agree that shale gas has the potential not only to lead an industrial renaissance in this country but to play a serious part in dealing with fuel poverty?

Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton, Liberal Democrat)

I agree that shale gas has an important part to play in our energy mix and in our economy, and I also agree that we must ensure that communities benefit and that there is proper environmental regulation. I have been very impressed by the way in which Members in all parts of the House have contributed to the debate and to the Department’s thinking, but I pay particular tribute to Mark Menzies, who, along with the independent experts, has really influenced our thinking. It is very important for us to take the public with us as we explore the potential for shale gas in the United Kingdom.

Mark Menzies (Fylde, Conservative)

I welcomed the announcement of the formation of the Office for Unconventional Gas last week, and I thank the Secretary of State and Ministers for all the work that they have done in that respect. However, some of my constituents have subsequently expressed concern about the possibility that the office is not fully independent. What assurances can the Secretary of State give that it will both improve regulations and be robust, transparent and able to respond to any concerns that Fylde residents may express?

Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton, Liberal Democrat)

I repeat my thanks to the hon. Gentleman. The way in which he has stood up for his constituents provides a model for all Members. I can reassure him that the Office for Unconventional Gas will be a strong office, and that it will be in my Department and accountable to Ministers, so that Members can hold us to account in the House. One of its jobs will be bringing together the various regulatory bodies so that they are properly co-ordinated, and our work as we approach potential commercial development in a few years’ time will include ensuring that we have all the regulatory controls that we need.

 

The full departmental questions can be found at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2012-12-13a.430.3&s=speaker%3A24804#g431.1

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