Liz Truss to lift fracking moratorium
By Ruth Hayhurst on September 8, 2022
The prime minister has given the go-ahead to fracking in England.
Image: Parliament TV
The moratorium, which has been in place since 2019, will be lifted.
Opening a parliamentary debate on energy this morning, Ms Truss said fracking would be allowed where local communities supported it.
She told the House of Commons:
“It is vital that we take steps to increase our domestic supplies of energy
“We will end the moratorium on extracting our huge reserves of shale, which could get gas flowing as soon as six months from now where there is local support for it.”
Hansard report of debate
She gave no details of how support would be demonstrated or whether fracking would be fast-tracked through the planning system. There was no indication of whether the moratorium had actually been lifted. A government spokesperson later said the moratorium would be lifted “imminently”.
Earlier in her speech, Ms Truss said:
“This is the moment to be bold”.
“Energy policy had not focussed enough on securing supply”, she said. This had left the country vulnerable to volatile markets, she said. This should not happen again”, she said.
She said she was setting a new ambition for the country:
“We will make sure that the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040.”
At the start of the debate, the House of Commons speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said he was disappointed that a Written Ministerial Statement setting out government plans had not been published earlier. It was only just available. This is a discourteous to the house, he said.
Image: Parliament TV
Responding to the prime minister’s announcements, the Labour leader, Kier Starmer, said:
“Fracking and a dash for gas in the North sea will not cut bills, nor strengthen our energy security, but they will drive a coach and horses through our efforts to fight the looming climate crisis.”
Sir Kier quoted comments made in March 2022 by the then business secretary, now chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng.
Mr Kwarteng said at the time:
“Even if we lifted the fracking moratorium tomorrow, it would take up to a decade to extract sufficient volumes – and it would come at a high cost for communities and our precious countryside.
“Second, no amount of shale gas from hundreds of wells dotted across rural England would be enough to lower the European price any time soon.
“And with the best will in the world, private companies are not going to sell the gas they produce to UK consumers below the market price.”
There have been media reports that fracking could begin within weeks.
But there are currently no sites in England with planning permissions for fracking or drilling for shale gas. See our review of the past decade of fracking.
The moratorium was imposed on 2 November 2019 on after fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool induced earthquakes.
The industry regulator, then called the Oil & Gas Authority, concluded that it was not possible with current technology to predict accurately whether fracking would cause tremors and how big they would be.
The government said at the time:
“Fracking will now be paused unless and until further evidence is provided that it can be carried out safely here.”
Later that month, the Conservative’s 2019 general election manifesto said:
“We will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely.”
Yesterday, Liz Truss’s press officer told journalists the manifesto “still stands in full”.
There was no information in the prime minister’s speech about whether the science has changed.
A review of the science of fracking, commissioned by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), was delivered in early July. It has not yet been published. The prime minister’s statement did not refer to it but BEIS said later that the review, by the British Geological Survey, would be published “imminently”.
High volume hydraulic fracturing has taken place at only three wells, all operated by Cuadrilla in Lancashire (at Preston New Road in 2018 and 2019 and at Preese Hall in 2011). All the fracks induced earthquakes.
A shale gas well has been drilled at Misson in Nottinghamshire but it has not been fracked and no longer has planning permission.
No shale gas produced in England has been supplied to homes and business in the past decade.
Fracking has not received majority support at any point in the past decade.
A poll by Survation this week found that 34% supported gas from onshore fracking while 45% opposed.
The prime minister also announced:
Energy bills capped for two years with an average cost of £2,500 a year
This is in addition to the £400 energy bill support scheme
Support for businesses, charities and public sector organisations
Fiscal statement to set out expected costs later this month
Created a new energy supply task force.
Negotiating new contracts with electricity and gas suppliers
New licensing round for North Sea extraction, which could lead to 100 new licences
Speed up deployment of new renewable technologies
Review of energy regulation
Pro-business/pro-growth delivery of Net Zero
She said the would be no windfall tax.