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. This would include places in Nottinghamshire such as Attenborough Nature Reserve. 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 here.
If you want to read the text of this statutory instrument, please click on the link below.
What will happen?
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.
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.
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.
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!