Today the Church of England issued the following Press Release on its newly-released briefing paper on shale gas and fracking (hydraulic fracturing).
New shale gas and fracking briefing paper released
17 January 2017
The Church of England announced the publication today of its Briefing Paper on Shale Gas and Fracking.
The Paper assesses shale gas and fracking as they relate to local communities, the environment, UK energy policy and the UK’s commitment to carbon reduction targets under the COP21 agreement. It draws on the report into shale gas and fracking published by the independent Committee on Climate Change in July 2016.
The Briefing Paper concludes that any development of shale gas reserves in the UK must not distract or delay efforts to expand low-carbon renewable energy (including community-owned energy) or other efforts to meet the UK’s long-term 2050 carbon reduction targets.
The key to whether or not fracking is an acceptable practice turns on three points:
- the place of shale gas within a transitional energy policy committed to a low carbon economy
- the adequacy and robustness of the regulatory regime under which it is conducted
- the robustness of local planning and decision-making processes
The Briefing Paper accepts that a robust planning and regulatory regime is possible. Ongoing research into, and monitoring of, any impact on health and the environment is needed as part of that regime.
The Paper recognises and sympathises with the concerns of individuals and communities who are directly affected by fracking activities in their neighbourhoods and asks that their legitimate concerns are heard. Where developments go forward it is essential that appropriate protections and compensation are put in place.
The Paper can be found here.
Our February 2014 post Fracking and the Church of England concluded:
“The development of a position and policy on fracking is a now a priority for the Church in view of: the potential impact of exploration and extraction operations on a number of parishes; the need to inform local groups, in the light of the growing opposition to the process; and the expected DECC consultation paper. It also has an important role to play as a significant landowner, and during the passage of any proposed legislation through the parliamentary process”.
Sero sed serio. Nevertheless, the Church has come a long way since its early uncertain forays into this area, (see Fracking, the Facts and the Church), and we will review this new briefing paper in detail in a subsequent post.
Contemporary with the Church of England document, on 4 January 2017 the House of Commons Library re-issued an updated version of its Briefing Paper 6073, Shale gas and fracking. Also, on 13 January, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy re-issued an updated version of Guidance on fracking: developing shale gas in the UK (first issued by the Department of Energy and Climate Change).
The Church will always take the money….and run.
Landowners, such as the CofE, do not own the rights to hydrocarbons beneath their land. All rights to petroleum resources are vested in the Crown, and Government issues Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) which allow companies to explore and develop unconventional gas (as shale gas is referred to).
But what about surface access to/on church land?
Whilst that used to be the position, significant changes to access (and the associated law of trespass beneath one’s land) were made through the Infrastructure Act 2015, to remove potential veto of landowners.
Further information on the Act is available in the House of Commons Library, Briefing Paper 6073, 4 January 2017, Shale Gas and fracking
This is excellent but it has been a long wait!!
As I commented, “sero sed serio” – “late but in earnest”! However, I’m still reading through briefing with particular reference to benefits of fracking.
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