Gas Will Remain Crucially Important In Meeting Britain’s Future Energy Needs Says GMB
If exploratory drilling reveals UK shale gas reserves is it not a moral duty for Britain to take responsibility for providing for our own gas needs from those supplies rather than importing gas from elsewhere asks GMB.
GMB, the union for gas and energy workers, commented on the announcement today (13th August 2015) by DECC that shale gas planning applications will be fast-tracked through a new, dedicated planning process. See notes to editors for copy of DECC press release.
Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary for Energy and Utilities, said “Gas will remain crucially important in meeting Britain’s future energy needs. The simple truth is that the UK will be using gas for many decades to come. Over 80% of homes in the UK are heated by gas.
The issue for Britain isn’t therefore whether we will use gas or not. We will. The real issue is where we will get our gas from, and who should take the moral responsibility for extracting and supplying the gas we use.
As both the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the independent UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) have recognised, gas has an important part to play in Britain reducing our carbon emissions.
In fact, the future role of gas could be even more crucial in lowering CO2 emissions in Britain, through the development of micro combined heat and power units to produce heat and electricity for homes. Fuel cells which have zero carbon emissions will have a huge role to play in the future, and these will need gas too.
Our energy intensive industries need access to affordable, secure energy supplies. They need the certainty that Britain’s energy mix will meet their needs. They, like Britain’s households, need gas to be part of that energy mix.
The debate about fracking must be based upon complete honesty about the economic realities of gas. A number of questions arise as follows:
- Is it acceptable for Britain to import gas from countries where the safety, environmental and regulatory standards are lower than in Britain?
- Should gas be imported from states where there is no civil society, no right to protest and where workers are denied basic trade union rights?
- Is it kinder to the environment for gas to be transported for thousands of miles across continents and oceans before we use it here in Britain?
If exploratory drilling reveals a plentiful supply of UK shale gas reserves, is it not a moral duty for Britain to take responsibility for providing for our own gas needs from those supplies, rather than importing gas from elsewhere?
GMB’s position on fracking must therefore be consistent with the need to organise the shale gas industry if it does develop, as well our duty to protect the future of the UK gas industry and the thousands of GMB members it currently employs.
If onshore fracking for shale gas does develop from its current exploratory status into an industry which will be supplying a significant proportion of the gas that Britain needs, GMB will need every ounce of our organising expertise and commitment to safeguard the workers in the industry.
The GMB Central Executive Council believes that anything less than protecting these workers from exploitation in a fledgling industry, as we did with gasworkers 126 years ago, would be a betrayal of our history and moral responsibility.”
Contact: Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary on 07710 618909 or GMB Press Office on 07921 289880 or 07974 251823.
Notes to editors
FASTER DECISION MAKING ON SHALE GAS FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH AND ENERGY SECURITY
Shale gas planning applications will be fast-tracked through a new, dedicated planning process, under measures announced today.
Amber Rudd and Greg Clark today announced plans that will ensure local people have a strong say over the development of shale exploration in their area – but will ensure communities and the industry benefit from a swift process for developing safe and suitable new sites.
Today’s measures include identifying councils that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within the 16 week statutory timeframe, with subsequent applications potentially decided by the Communities Secretary.
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said:
“As a One Nation Government, we are backing the safe development of shale gas because it’s good for jobs giving hardworking people and their families more financial security, good for our energy security and part of our plan to decarbonise the economy. We need more secure, home grown energy supplies – and shale gas must play a part in that.
“To ensure we get this industry up and running we can’t have a planning system that sees applications dragged out for months, or even years on end. Oversight by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency of shale developments makes our commitment to safety and the environment crystal clear. We now need, above all else, a system that delivers timely planning decisions and works effectively for local people and developers.”
Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:
“There is huge potential right across the country for safe and sustainable use of shale gas, to provide a clean long term energy source and create British jobs and growth.
“People’s safety and the environment will remain paramount and communities will always be involved in planning applications but no one benefits from uncertainty caused by delays in planning decisions. By fast tracking any appropriate applications today’s changes will tackle potential hold ups in the system.”
Boosting the planning system for shale gas
The Government has made clear shale is a national priority, helping to move the UK to a low-carbon economy.
But Ministers want to ensure shale applications can’t be frustrated by slow and confused decision making amongst councils, which benefits no one.
If planning applications for shale exploration developments take months or even years it can create uncertainty for communities and prevent the development of a potentially vital national industry.
Today’s measures will mean Ministers will consider calling in any application for shale exploration, and will recover appeals on a case-by-case basis.
Local communities will remain fully involved in planning decisions with any shale application – whether decided by councils or government. And demanding planning rules to ensure shale development happens only at appropriate sites remain unchanged.
On top of this, strong safety and environmental safeguards are also already in place through the regulatory regime to ensure shale exploration and extraction is safe and only happens in appropriate places.
As a quasi-judicial process planning applications will always be considered with due process and a fair hearing – but today’s measures will prevent the long delays that mean uncertainty both for business and for local residents.
Today’s measures include:
· The Communities Secretary actively considering calling in on a case by case basis shale planning applications and considering recovering appeals;
· Identifying councils that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within the 16 week statutory timeframe requirement (unless applicants agree to a longer period). Underperforming councils’ gas and oil planning applications could be determined by the Communities Secretary;
· Adding shale applications as a specific criterion for recovery of appeals, to ensure no application can ‘fall through the cracks’;
· Ensuring planning call ins and appeals involving shale applications are prioritised by the Planning Inspectorate; and
· Taking forward work on revising permitted development rights for drilling boreholes for groundwater monitoring.
The Government also believes that communities hosting shale gas developments should share in the financial returns they generate, and will be presenting proposals later in the year on the design of a new sovereign wealth fund.
Notes to editors:
The government also stressed the need to focus decision making on planning matters and for local authorities to make full use of funding available for resourcing to enable timely decision making in in 2015/16 through the £1.2m shale support programme.