CC BY-SA 3.0 by Ruhrfisch

The Infrastructure Bill has been making its way through Parliament since June this year.  The Bill was launched in the House of Lords on 5 June, where it had its third reading on 19 November.  It was then quietly moved to the House of Commons, with its first reading on 20 November.  But how does it relate to fracking and why should you care?

 

Drilling Under Your Home Without Consent

In particular, this is the Bill that the government is using to allow companies to frack underneath your home without your consent. For a bit of background, under current UK law, any oil and gas company that wants to drill on your land or underneath your home must first inform you and seek your permission.  Greenpeace became aware of this ancient land right and started their WrongMove (1) campaign. Through the campaign, the village of Fernhurst successfully blocked (2) Celtitque Energie’s proposed drilling site.  This was a major victory for the UK anti-fracking movement and provided a way for landowners to protect their land from oil and gas exploration.

However in June, the government announced that they were thinking about changing the trespass laws.  Under the newly proposed laws, oil and gas companies would not have to seek permission to drill under anyone’s land.  Cuadrilla’s CEO Francis Egan said that this change to the trespass law was needed otherwise, fracking companies would find it very difficult to operate (3).

A public consultation was held on the proposed change to the trespass law.  Despite 99% of respondents saying that they were against the change to the law, the government added this additional legislation to the Infrastructure Bill. To add insult to injury, an additional amendment has been added that allows fracking companies to install infrastructure and deposit “any substance” in the earth – again, without a land/home owners consent or knowledge.

 

Lack of Environmental Regulation

Fracking in the current form that is coming to the UK is a unique process.  It involves horizontal drilling and uses vast quantities of water (millions of gallons per well) and forces it into the ground at incredibly high pressure.  There is currently no regulation for the extraction of oil and gas onshore using this process.  During the Infrastructure Bill’s reading through the House of Lords, an amendment was tabled by a Labour peer to demand that there be baseline monitoring of the water table near any proposed fracking site on year before and a year after exploration.  However this amendment, which included various other environmental regulation, was defeated.  We need to demand, at the very least, baseline water testing before and after exploration and production of onshore oil and gas, in addition to an assurance that the “gold standard” environmental regulations that are being promised can actually be upheld, otherwise we risk being subject to the many of the evironmental catastrophes that we see currently occurring in the United States.

 

Continues Fossil Fuel Addiction

The Infrastructure Bill also legally binds to the UK to extract as much oil and gas as it can.  This not only encourages onshore oil and gas extraction, but is completely incompatible with our commitments to reduce our carbon emissions.  All of this comes on the heels of the IPCC’s latest warning (4) that we cannot tackle climate change if we continue to extract new fossil fuels.  Yet our government has yet again buried their head in the sand and is keeping us locked into a fossil fuel future.

 

Take Action!

We need to demand that our government divests from fossil fuels.  We also need to demand that the trespass laws not be changed to allow for fracking companies to operate without our consent.  To that end, please be sure to write your MP today.  You can find your MP’s contact details here (5).

On Wednesday 14th January, individuals from a coalition of grassroots groups plan to lobby Parliament, meeting with MPs at the Houses of Parliament to discuss the bill. To participate in the mass lobby, ask your MP for an appointment at their parliamentary office on Wednesday 14th January.

For further information about how you can get involved with the day of action at parliament see https://www.facebook.com/events/1526572850952660/

In the meantime, sign the 38 Degrees petition asking for the removal of these parts of the bill: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-infrastructure-bill?bucket=&source=twitter-share-button

 

References

(1) http://www.wrongmove.org/
(2) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/fracking/10613466/Fracking-landowners-form-legal-block-against-drilling-in-South-Downs-National-Park.html
(3) http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/industries/naturalresources/article4105221.ece
(4) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29855884
(5) http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mps/