Needless to say, I am resolutely and absolutely opposed to fracking in any form, as are the majority of residents across the North and the Midlands.
That’s why I have called for a cast-iron ban as part of an essay collection published by the Conservative Environment Network, entitled North Sea Transition.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of drilling down into the earth and injecting the rock with a high-pressure water, sand and chemical mixture to release the gas inside.
We have seen the harmful effects of fracking elsewhere, especially in the United States, and we are rightfully horrified. We have had the advantage of seeing the dangers from across the Pond – and we need to avoid repeating the same mistakes, by continuing to oppose this backward-looking technology.
Fracking is overwhelmingly bad news for my constituents in Rother Valley and people across the UK. There are, of course, the safety arguments pertaining to contamination of local groundwater by chemicals which escape in the drilling process.
The Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive do not have the capacity to watch over every fracking site in the country, and few of us would trust the fracking companies to self-regulate.
Equally disturbing are the seismic activity concerns. Professor Peter Styles, a geophysics expert, presented a report in the House of Lords on the difficulties of carrying out fracking beneath previously mined areas, which stretch up the spine of England and into Scotland.
His findings were compelling: even minor faults have the potential to cause small earthquakes which would trigger the Seismic Traffic Light System threshold and call works to a halt.
Further, it is a colossal imposition on people’s lives, causing much distress to local residents due to noise and pollution. Fracking sites are hives of industrial activity and, as such, the traffic movement associated with fracking can peak at up to 60 HGV movements per day.
These rural lanes simply would not be able to cope with the vastly increased traffic demand. It would put an undue cost on the public. In March 2019, the Public Accounts Committee highlighted substantial fears that the taxpayer will be left to foot the bill for clean-up costs if the operator goes out of business. This would clearly be objectionable given the wealth of the fracking companies.
Meanwhile, the value of homes of Yorkshire residents who have worked hard all their lives would be decimated by a new fracking site.
Despite the Government’s clear moratorium against fracking, and public support being at record low levels, fracking companies still circle around potential sites like vultures, biding their time and waiting for the moratorium to be eased. They will be sorely disappointed.
The Government has been unequivocal in its opposition to fracking. The then-Communities Secretary declared in May 2019 that fracking was no longer relevant for planning purposes. Later, in his response to my September 2020 debate in the House of Commons, the Minister confirmed that fracking had no future.
Accordingly, local authorities must stop wasting taxpayers’ money and their own time on pointless traffic management plans and surveys of the proposed fracking areas. There is no prospect of fracking taking place in our country, so they should instead focus their efforts on providing vital services to residents and on supporting projects that drive forward the net zero transition.
I have campaigned stridently for the UK’s green recovery. Renewable energy enjoys a strong economic and environmental rationale and public support. I am particularly enthused by clean hydrogen as the fuel of the future which can power our cars, buses and homes.
I am supporting the opening of a hydrogen electrolyser factory on the border of Rother Valley, and I am urging the Government to release a bold hydrogen strategy. We should not be focusing on yesterday’s fossil fuel-based technology, such as fracking. We must accelerate the decline in gas and end the fracking companies’ delusions once and for all by making our already cast-iron moratorium a permanent ban.
Alexander Stafford is the Conservative MP for Rother Valley.
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