Caroline Lucas to Seek Complete Ban on UK Fracking Under the Infrastructure Bill

A moratorium on fracking in the UK – or even a complete ban – will be sought by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, it has been confirmed to DeSmog UK.

Lucas is expected to propose the fracking ban as an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill that is currently being debated in the House of Commons.

This will likely lead to her coming head to head with climate denier Lord Nigel Lawson, an avid supporter of shale gas exploration.

The expected amendment is the latest effort by Lucas to reform the controversial bill after she launched a proposal last month to remove clause 36 from the bill entirely. This clause would introduce a new legal obligation on the government to maximise the economic recovery of UK oil and gas.

But as Lucas’s spokesperson told DeSmog UK, we can expect “lots more” from her when it comes to the Infrastructure Bill.

Evil Twin

Described as the 2008 Climate Change Act’s “evil twin”, environmental journalist George Monbiot argues that the Infrastructure Bill – and clause 36 in particular – “undermines every claim [the government] has made about preventing dangerous climate change”.

Clause 36 directly contradicts the UK’s aim to become a low-carbon economy as required under the Climate Change Act.

This bill is “a hotchpotch of random issues”, author and environmentalist Jonathon Porritt writes. “It reads like a sweetie shop for corporate lobbyists, and for all those still intent on their neo-liberal deregulatory crusade.”

It also conflicts with University College London’s findings – released yesterday while the bill was debated – showing that the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves are “unburnable” if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.

This new legal duty to maximise oil and gas comes “just when we’re duty-bound to reduce it”, Lucas wrote in the Guardian yesterday. “Science is clear on that: to avoid catastrophic climate change, about 80% of our existing fossil fuel reserves must stay good and unburned.

But the government’s on a shale crusade. And the infrastructure bill paves the way for a whole new fossil fuel industry.”

Eliminating clause 36 from the Infrastructure Bill will be no easy feat.

During yesterday’s second reading of the bill by the House of Commons Public Bill Committee members, it was decided that the clause should remain in the bill.

And Lord Lawson also appears – unsurprisingly – to support the clause.

Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday Lawson sought reassurance of the government’s priorities in an obvious reference to clause 36. He asked: “Can my noble friend the Minister confirm that it is the Government’s policy to encourage the most rapid, practicable exploration of our UK shale gas resources?”

Another Amendment

In a separate proposed amendment, Lucas, along with Lib Dem MP Norman Baker, is also seeking to remove clauses 38–43 of the Infrastructure Bill. These deal with drilling for oil and gas in deep level land, and include the proposed changes to the trespass laws that would see fracking allowed under people’s homes.

This amendment, along with others, will be debated by the committee next week. Following this, the bill will move to the report stage sometime after the 15th of January.

This is when Lucas will table her proposal to remove clause 36 and when many more amendments can be expected both from her and others. For example, Labour will be seeking to ban fracking near aquifers to protect drinking water in a proposed amendment to the bill.

However, leading environmental groups have argued that when it comes to fracking, MPs cannot be expected to vote on the Infrastructure Bill if they don’t have the full picture. This is because the government has yet to release an unredacted version of its Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts report detailing the impact of fracking on house prices.

Despite the Prime Minister saying last month that he would look into it, the report remains redacted as the bill moves closer to royal assent.


Photo: via flickr