UK Government Makes a Quick Lane Change in the Fracking Agenda
by mfyfe on September 25, 2015 - 4:55pm
Shocker alert: the British government, specifically the Department of Energy and Climate Change, has gone back on their word and opened up previously protected sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) to fracking operations (without consultation of concerned citizens, may I add). Editor of the Guardian’s environmental site, Adam Vaughan, wrote Government makes ‘outrageous’ U-turn over fracking in precious wildlife sites highlighting this decision by the government.
It was promised in January of this year that fracking operations would be excluded from these sites along with national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, the Broads and world heritage sites, but these SSSIs have been removed from the list as of July. These SSSIs are described by some government officials in this article as the “best of our wildlife, geological and physiographical heritage” and so operations, which may affect thousands of these SSSIs, could put wildlife at risk. Green party MPs state that this lack of information and warning illustrates the dishonesty of ministers, especially when it comes to fracking.
The government seems to be doing everything they can to expand fracking operations and make exploration and extraction ever easier for the shale gas industry. But to what end? If it does come to be that fracking occurs in some of these SSSIs, one can only imagine where else they would consider extending it to. At the present time, fracking is still excluded from natural parks, but shale companies are permitted to drill horizontally underneath the park from sites outside of its boundaries; fracking has also been permitted under protected groundwater source areas, risking water contamination. They are ever encroaching on all of these specially protected areas.
There is still no sign of any official reports on the environmental impact of these operations. An industry-funded UK shale gas taskforce did however conclude that it is still too early in the game to conclude whether fracking is good for the UK; just another elusive statement to avoid exposing potential harms before licences are distributed. Decision makers seem to have an ulterior agenda when it comes to protection of the land.
There are clearly conflicting motives here for the protection of the land; different groups value the land for different reasons. The government values the land area for its potential for resource extraction from an economic standpoint and for the likely creation of jobs and income for many citizens. On the other hand, many concerned citizens, scientists and environmentalists value the SSSIs and the land in general for its natural beauty and wildlife habitat, and have concerns about potential negative effects of fracking. This also presents possible cognitive conflict; different understandings of the situation and associated data. Official reports have not been made public about the potential impact of operations in the SSSIs, so maybe the Department of Energy and Climate Change has information suggesting that operations are not as harmful as what the general public is aware of, or maybe not; involved groups are not all uniformly informed.
There is still so much uncertainty about the effects of fracking, which is likely what concerns people the most. Without strong evidence and non-biased reports (as in, research needs to be conducted by independent scientists, not industry-funded teams), I don’t believe citizens will ever jump on the fracking bandwagon. The government didn’t so much as use their turn signals to indicate they were making this lane change when it came to this significant natural resource policy decision. The people of the UK deserve an explanation at the very least and a chance to voice their opinions.