Committee meeting next Tuesday – ask your MP to help stop fracking in protected areas

imgID13492353[1]What’s this all about? I thought fracking was already banned in protected areas. 

Sadly, you are wrong, but it’s easy to understand why people think this. Here’s a bit of history …

In January, the Government accepted an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill (now Act) that would have banned fracking in all groundwater source protection zones (SPZs), which are the areas that are designated to protect drinking water aquifers.

During the House of Commons debate on the Infrastructure Bill on 26th January, Amber Rudd also made the following commitment: “We have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks, sites of special scientific interest and areas of outstanding natural beauty.”

However, the government released secondary legislation in July, the day before the summer recess, tearing up these promises. The proposed new rules – which are contained in something called a ‘statutory instrument’ – would allow fracking in and under all SSSIs and groundwater source protection zones at a depth of over 1,000m, as well as under National Parks and AONBs below a depth of 1,200m. In short, none of our special places are protected from fracking, despite the government’s hollow promises at the beginning of the year.

This egregious U-turn was widely reported in the press, as you can read in the Telegraph and the Guardian.

If you want to read the text of this statutory instrument, please click on the link below.

Fracking (protected areas) Statutory Instrument 2015

So why do Conservative MPs keep claiming that fracking is banned in National Parks?

This is because in the press release that accompanied the release of the Statutory Instrument, it says, “Ministers also set out their clear commitment to ensure that fracking cannot be conducted from wells that are drilled in the surface of National Parks and other protected areas in such a way as to not impact on conventional drilling operations. More details on this will follow shortly.”

This was back on 16th July … but no legislation preventing fracking from being conducted from wells that are drilled on the surface of National Parks and other protected areas has been introduced.

Given the U-turn and broken promises by the government on whether fracking should be allowed in SSSIs and GPZs, are we to take the word of an unnamed minister quoted in a press release?

So is the statutory instrument law already?

No, it isn’t – and we have one chance to stop this happening. It’s a bit complicated, but this is how it works:

First, the secondary legislation needs to be discussed and approved at a so-called ‘delegated committee’ before going to a vote at the House of Commons. Usually secondary legislation just gets nodded through and there is no fuss about it. That’s where you come in!

It was announced this week that the delegated committee will meet on Tuesday, October 27th, at 2.30 pm. Like parliament, the committee will have a Conservative majority. Your MP can attend the debate in committee, and is allowed to speak there (but not to vote). You could encourage them to attend the committee, and defend your special places.

The changes agreed in committee then have to be formally approved by the Commons and the Lords. This could be scheduled for the next day or soon afterwards. No time will be allowed for debate. The new rules will be nodded through on the committee’s say-so, unless enough MPs object.

This involves asking MPs to shout ‘No!’ at the appropriate time (yes, seriously, this is how our democracy works). If enough MPs shout, the issue will have to be put to a vote (but sadly not a debate) by the whole House.

You can read more detail on this on the Friends of the Earth briefing. which was written before the date of the delegated committee was announced.

So how can I help?

Please email, phone, tweet or write to your MP to ask him or her to attend the delegated committee hearing on Tuesday to speak against the legislation and oppose fracking in and under SSSIs, National Parks, AONBs and GPZs. Also ask him or her to shout ‘No!’ when the legislation arrives on the floor of the House of Commons the following week [which may be on Wednesday or the following week], and then to vote against it when it returns for a final vote.

When Kevin Hollinrake (MP for Thirsk and Malton) returned from Pennsylvania, he called for tight regulation of fracking in the UK. Those tight regulations must surely begin with banning fracking in areas that are protected in order to safeguard our water supplies, and to protect our most precious places and wildlife habitats.

We have written Mr Hollinrake an open letter, which you can read here.

Please call Mr Hollinrake’s office TODAY on 01347 666 880 and ask if he is going to attend the Delegated Committee and speak against fracking in our protected places.

You can also email him at kevin.hollinrake.mp@parliament.uk and office@kevinhollinrake.org.uk.

As always, we strongly urge you to write the email in your own words, as that will be much more powerful, but here’s a draft if you’re in a rush.

If you have a different MP, please contact him or her and do the same.

Dear

I am writing to ask you to attend the Delegated Legislation Committee on 27 October at 2.30pm, to speak out against the Government’s draft Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2015, which put our drinking water, protected areas and wildlife sites at risk.

In their current form, these draft regulations would allow drilling through drinking water aquifers and fracking in areas that are designated to protect drinking water. Fracking would also be permitted in Sites of Special Scientific Interest, as well as under National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as long as the drilling is over 1,200m deep.

This is despite the Government’s commitment earlier this year to prevent fracking in water protection areas and wildlife sites. In January, the Government accepted an amendment to the Infrastructure Act that would have banned fracking in all groundwater source protection zones, which are the areas that are designated to protect drinking water aquifers.  Amber Rudd MP also made the following commitment on the floor of the House of Commons: “We have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks, sites of special scientific interest and areas of outstanding natural beauty.”

However, these draft regulations clearly break both of these commitments.

I therefore urge you to speak out against these draft regulations and ask that the Government brings forward new regulations that will ban fracking in drinking water areas and all designated protected areas.

I would very much appreciate it if you could let me know if you will attend the Committee and call for a vote, and vote against the regulations if/when they do come to the floor of the House.

Yours sincerely

And of course, please share this alert with everyone you know. We need a massive show of oppositions or within a couple of weeks fracking in our protected places will be written into law. THE TIME IS NOW, PEOPLE – LET’S GET ACTIVE!