Just over a week ago, I wrote about the government’s announcement of a moratorium on fracking1 .
The Oil and Gas Authority had reported that it could not guarantee further fracking “would meet the Government’s policy aims of ensuring it is safe, sustainable and of minimal disturbance to those living and working nearby”.
Three weeks ago, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom announced:
“…I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect.”
In response, I wrote:
“I’m neither cynical nor inappropriately suspicious, but I do have to draw your attention to two aspects of this announcement.
First, despite all the relevant information having been available for some time, the announcement was only made when it had already been decided to call a general election.
Secondly, the announcement did not refer to the ‘end of fracking’ – although that was how it was spun to the media by No 10 – it referred to a ‘moratorium on fracking’. Of course, a moratorium can be lifted just as quickly as it has been imposed.
Given Mr Johnson’s fracking predilection, his assiduous use of fake facts, and his tenuous connection with truth and consistency, we are allowed to be suspicious.”
And, now, what was foretold has come to pass.
Just two days after the ‘moratorium announcement and, this time with no publicity, another document was quietly slipped out. This was government response to a consultation which proposed loosening fracking regulations. Far from a ban on fracking, the government reaffirmed its commitment to a “faster” process for reviewing fracking applications, and that those applications will continue to be “considered on their own merits”.
The document also hints at future changes to the law that would allow frackers to “drill at will”. It says that proposals to give frackers “Permitted Development Rights” – which would allow drilling to take place without planning permission – have “considerable merit” and may be adopted in future, while conceding that they cannot be brought forward immediately due to public opposition.
Permitted Development Rights have previously been described by green and community groups as “drill at will” powers, which would make fracking “as easy as building a conservatory.” This extreme “frack-at-will” policy is imported from Trump’s USA. It gives some clear signals about the Conservatives approach to environmental standards. Add fracking gas to chlorinated chicken.
Boris “We must stop pussy-footing around and get fracking” Johnson obviously doesn’t intend to let the facts or public opinion get in his way.
It clearly signals that a future Conservative government is intent on continuing fracking as soon as the election campaign is finished and out of the way. No wonder environmental and residents’ groups are up in arms again.
In just a few days, a ’ban’ has become a ‘moratorium’ then a ‘temporary pause’ and now it’s revealed that a future Tory government has every intention of giving the green light to new fracking applications.
It’s a phoney ban. Just who do you trust?