New Clause 3 - Well consents for hydraulic fracturing: cessation of issue and termination

Part of Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 24th November 2020.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 10:30 am, 24th November 2020

I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend about a regime of substantial fracking. All that has happened at the moment is that fracking has been paused. All the infrastructure requirements and legislation allowing fracking on a reasonably unrestrained basis are still in place, so it is more than possible that a future Government, or indeed this Government, might decide that they no longer wish to pause fracking. Everything is ready to go. As she said, this raises the question not only of what happens to the fracking fluid but of the escape of fugitive emissions between the well being produced and the gas being conveyed. Indeed, it is the practice, when fracking has been completed, to have a so-called flare-off to clean the well’s tubes, as it were. Enormous amounts of gas mixed with elements of the fracking fluid are released into the atmosphere and simply flared.

We understand that fracking sites will have multiple wells drilled with a very large amount of transport involved, with traffic coming to remote countryside areas, the levelling of an area several football pitches wide to make the pad, and a host of other things that result in environmental despoliation in pursuit of fracking. There are also the long-term consequences when the well is depleted: will it be re-fracked? If it is depleted, will it be properly capped off? One of the problems in Texas now is that the fracking wells have not proved to be as bountiful as had been thought––what a surprise––and several have simply been abandoned with little done to cap them off. There can be a regime for doing that properly, but in the countryside where the fracking has taken place, there is continuing danger and concern in respect of surface water and water in seams underground.