The Infrastructure Bill – The Fight Continues

A great deal of sense was talked outside the House of Commons yesterday afternoon at a rally organised by Friends of the Earth, 38 Degrees, Greenpeace and others.

infrastructure bill rally

It’s great to feel part of the solidarity that’s developed between anti-fracking groups across the UK, NGOs like Friends of the Earth & Greenpeace and grass-roots networks like Reclaim the Power, Fuel Poverty Action and TalkFracking.

We heard from speakers including Caroline Lucas, Norman Baker, Vanessa Vine, Tine-Louise Rothery, Julian Huppert, Bainca Jagger and Vivianne Westwood, Asad Rehman.

The message could not be clearer: we say NO TO FRACKING!

After a bit of R&R in the Red Lion some of us went to watch the voting from the public gallery.

It did not give us cause to celebrate.

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MPs voted on three clauses.

– The first of these was to include more detailed fracking regulations.

– The Second was about devolving licensing and mineral access rights to Scotland – essentially proposing that Scotland would be able to make its own decisions on fracking.

– The third was for a moratorium on fracking while an independent assessment would be carried out into the impact of unconventional petroleum on climate change, the environment, health and safety and the economy.

All three of these clauses were rejected.

However Labour’s clause proposing new regulations for fracking and shale gas sites was accepted without a vote.

This clause sets conditions for hydraulic fracturing to take place. The conditions include –

  • Environmental Impact Assessments
  • Independent inspections on well integrity
  • Monitoring on the site for the previous 12 months
  • Site-by-site measurement, monitoring and public disclosure of existing the fugitive emissions

No fracking can take place in

  • Groundwater source protection zones
  • Protected areas
  • On land under 1,000m

Also required:

  • Planning authorities consider the cumulative impact of fracking activities
  • Provision of community benefit schemes
  • Residents in affected areas notified individually
  • Substances used subject to approval of the Environment Agency
  • Land is left in condition required by the planning authority
  • Water companies are consulted by planning authorities

Labour are making much of the inclusion of these conditions in the bill. Some of the claims I’ve seen are outrageously exaggerated. The idea that Labour forced the Conservatives into a U-turn, for example, is insulting to anyone who has been following developments.

Perhaps most revealing in terms of Labour’s environmental credibility is that in the debate preceding the vote Labour MPs argued against the removal of Clause 37 which commits the UK to “maximising the economic recovery of UK oil and gas”. As the Environmental Audit has made clear, this clause is totally incompatible with the UK’s legally binding commitments in terms of reducing emissions.

The kind of spin we saw from Labour yesterday is consistent with Labour’s attempt to court the green vote ahead of the elections in May. Yesterday afternoon gives us good reason to be wary of Labour’s promises on environment and climate. Remember David Cameron’s husky hugging exploits in 2006? From an environmental perspective I suggest there is only one party to vote for in May.

The fight continues

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About hughchapmansblog

Poet and performance maker based in Cambridge and London

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