Whilst serving as your MP I organised and held countless meetings with experts and Ministers as co-chair of a Parliamentary Energy and Climate Change Committee. I also asked Parliamentary Questions on the issue and campaigned forcefully in Wells and Westminster, to try and halt David Cameron's 'dash for gas'.
Since May, I've continued to raise concerns about plans to frack Somerset. My Anti Fracking Petitionis has no almost 2,500 signatures. If you want to help me protect Somerset, sign and share it now.
Monday’s proceedings in Parliament were more chaotic than usual!
Yesterday I joined 51 colleagues and, confirming my opposition to fracking in Somerset on principle, I rebelled against the Government, voting for a moratorium - or 'freeze' - on fracking.
Unfortunately, the Labour Party sat on its hands and didn’t vote for the moritorium, although it claimed it was supporting this as endorsed by the Environmental Audit Committee’s Report published yesterday morning.
Interestingly, it was reported in the Times on Monday that two of Britain’s biggest unions – the GMB and Unite - weighed in yesterday morning, begging Labour MPs not to support a ban on fracking. This may go some way to explaining the confusion over what was happening in the House of Commons and Labour’s 180˚ about-turn.
Over the last years, months, weeks and days, I have been completely clear that I could not support fracking. I have tried to force a rethink and as a result of many conversations and negotiations, a new clause strengthening the rules and regulations around fracking was accepted by Government Ministers and has been included in the Bill.
My petition was launched last Friday. This kept the pressure up over the weekend as it attracted almost 2,000 signatures in just over 48 hours, demonstrating the enormous opposition to fracking in Somerset. I presented this, together with another petition, to Number 10 Downing Street yesterday, with a total of 8,688 Somerset signatures calling for a fracking freeze altogether.
When it became clear that the Government would not move any further, I voted for the moratorium along with 51 other members of the ‘awkward squad’. The Government won by 308 to 52 votes.
Disappointingly, Labour called for two other votes during the short debate on the ‘fracking’ part of the Bill, the effect of which was not to allow time for any votes on the proposed changes to the trespass laws.
At the end of the evening, Labour again sat on its hands and didn't call a vote on Third Reading. As a result, the Bill finished its course through the House of Commons without challenge.
I remain firmly opposed to fracking and will continue to campaign against it in Somerset and elsewhere.
I will be asked to vote on the Infrastructure Bill on Monday.
The Infrastructure Bill which contains changes to trespass laws which will enable High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing, known as ‘fracking’.
You will know I have been a staunch and vocal opponent of fracking in Somerset. Nothing has changed.
I disagree with the extraction of fossil fuels on principle. It doesn't fit with our objective to tackle climate change.
High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing involves millions of gallons of toxic waste water and there is a real risk of spills, leaks, ground water contamination and air pollution.
Our regulatory regime is weaker and less independent than it needs to be for this new process to be considered safe.
This is completely unacceptable.
Countries like Germany and Bulgaria have banned High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing. New York State and Denton in Texas have also implemented bans. France and the Netherlands have announced a moratorium, as has Quebec in Canada.
The UK Government should announce a moratorium on fracking, not “go all out for shale” as David Cameron insists.
I have used my Government position as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Vince Cable to push hard for a halt and a rethink. I will spend this weekend studying the many amendments which have been submitted to try to improve the Bill ahead of Monday’s vote.
I will update my blog on this important matter as the situation develops.
Today, I met with leading anti fracking campaigners, Independent Chartered Engineer Mike Hill, Balcombe, resident and campaigner Kathryn Mcwhirter and Phillip Penning who leads on Energy and Climate Change for the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
We met to discuss fracking and the shortcomings of the regulatory system in the UK as well as a deep and concerning lack of understanding of the risks posed by fracking, both among the public and within Government.
After the meeting, I used my position as Chair of my party's committee on Energy and Climate Change to secure a meeting between Mike, Kathryn, Philip and Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey.
See what I've said and done in the fight against fracking previously at my archive page.
19th November 2014
I recently wrote to Secretary of State Ed Davey to voice disappointment following the decision to press ahead with changes to laws which will make it easier for companies to perform Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)
If you would like to be kept updated on environmental issues, please drop me an email on [email protected] with ‘Environment’ in the subject line.
Tessa’s letter is below: