Government to Change Trespass Law to Help Fracking Industry

In an effort to kick start the fledgling fracking industry, the government is set to change the trespass law to allow for unconventional oil and gas companies to drill underneath your home without seeking your permission. [1]  The announcement is set to made in a new infrastructure bill to be introduced in the Queens’s speech.

The change to the law may seem like a drastic measure but it is in direct response to Greenpeace’s Wrong Move [2] campaign.  The campaign website advises visitors if they live in or near a licensing block and then encourages to sign up to a legal block if they do not want drilling to take place under their homes.  In February, the village of Fernhurst successfully set up a legal blockade around Celtique Energie’s planned drilling site. [3]  In a letter to Celtique and Energy Secretary Ed Davey, they explicitly denied the energy company permission to drill under their land.

Normally, Celtique would have to challenge such a block through the court system. This would be very costly and could take years to resolve.  There is also fear that this legal blockade could be used near drilling sites around the country.   However on 4 June, the government is expected to use the Queen’s speech to announce the intention to change the law which would effectively take away the right for individuals and communities to have a say in what happens underneath their land.

This announcement is also designed to send a key message to investors that the British government is supportive of the industry.  This is despite massive public opposition to the industry.  In a recent poll, it was found that less than 1 in 4 people would support having a fracking rig next to their home. [4]  This has not deterred ministers, many of whom have ties to the industry, from supporting the dash for gas.

Although the law change is being announced in the Queen’s speech, it does not mean that the law will automatically be changed.  The government is expected to include the law change in a newly introduced infrastructure bill.  The bill would then still have to go through several readings in the House of Commons and the House of Lords before receiving royal assent and become law. [5] So there are still plenty of opportunities to lobby your MP to demand that the law remain in tact.

It is a testament to the strength of the anti-fracking movement that the government is desperate enough to change existing laws and are using a beloved figure such as the Queen to do so.  Whether or not the law is changed, the anti-fracking movement will continue to fight back against this destructive industry.






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