June 24: Would insurance firms risk covering fracking industry?

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From: Mr M Potter, Undercliffe, Pickering.

MOST people reading this will be drivers. I’ll assume you approve of compulsory third party car insurance. It’s preferable that any innocent party doesn’t have to pay the high cost of inevitable collisions. While you, of course, will be an excellent driver, you will know people you would barely trust to safely boil a kettle, or are woefully inconsiderate to others, yet hold a driving licence.

Now let’s compare this with the risks of the fracking industry. Following several years of erratic, gung-ho and frequently dangerous driving in the US and Australia, the industry now has its sights set on the UK.

Much of their previous driving history is in vast remote expanses, safely hidden from view, although the sorry facts are fast coming to light, despite determined attempts to safeguard the data. However, they do have a good lawyer. We are repeatedly told that unlike elsewhere, these drivers will be safely regulated, although how this will happen given the savage cuts to all the regulators and enforcers is a mystery.

The industry is adamant they’ll drive safely over here, which sounds promising, but there is neither precedent nor proof. Meanwhile, the risks and consequences are much higher due to vastly greater traffic and population densities and complete lack of remote expanses (despite what certain London-based politicians may think).

Quite bizarrely given those risks and consequences, there are no plans for compulsory insurance of this industry in order to pay for or rectify any damage it causes. Let them drive on your property and even your current insurer will refuse to cover the cost of any damage. This issue potentially affects everyone in Northern England.

Here’s an idea. Our Government has an unshakeable belief in private industry (see NHS, utilities, East Coast main line, etc). Therefore, allow market forces to assess the risk from the fracking industry and enforce compulsory insurance in line with the degree of risk and the cost of repair. After all, insurers have genuine expertise in this field. If safe regulation and operation reduce the risks to an acceptable level, the premiums will be affordable. A little judicious “leaning” by those in power to persuade insurers to provide cover would be interesting – surely they couldn’t agree to cover anything that would potentially bankrupt themselves if they had to pay out? I first suggested compulsory insurance to my MP over two years ago, so they’re obviously thinking long and hard about it.