The UK's fracking sector breathed a sigh of relief last night, after an attempt to suspend its progress was voted down in parliament.
A moratorium, which would have blocked fracking activity for up to two-and-a-half years, was defeated by 308 votes to 52 after Labour failed to back the move.
Ed Miliband’s party put forward 13 separate amendments which were accepted by the government and will result in heavier regulation of the controversial shale gas industry. The government said it had agreed to an “outright ban on fracking in national parks...and areas of natural beauty.”
Companies that are planning on extracting shale gas through hydraulic fracturing – known as fracking – were pleased with the outcome.
“A moratorium would have been a disaster for the UK,” Ineos director Tom Crotty told City A.M.
“This country is running into an energy crisis,” he continued. “We have got very, very low gas supplies and very low storage space. It would not take much to tip us over the edge.”
Ken Cronin, the head of fracking industry group UK Onshore Oil & Gas, added: “It is good news that MPs have rejected the misguided attempts to introduce a moratorium of hydraulic fracturing. Most of the [Labour] amendments agreed are in line with best practice in the industry or codify the directions of regulators, which the industry would naturally comply with.”
The moratorium had been put forward by Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert, and supported by a report published by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).
Earlier in the day Crotty had lashed out at the report. “This was an opportunistic piece of politicking. A fair committee needs to take months and months [to deliberate] and take evidence. This one took eight weeks from start to finish.” He said Ineos had offered to provide evidence to the committee but had been refused the opportunity to do so.
Criticism of the EAC was also voiced within parliament. Former Welsh secretary David Davies complained in the Commons that “this report was rushed through, without taking evidence from most relevant interests”.
Chair of the committee Joan Walley said it “was simply operating in such a way as to ensure that our report was helpful in terms of the legislation coming forward”.
The Labour party heralded the vote as a political victory, yet environmentalist groups were angered by the outcome. Campaigner Bianca Jagger tweeted “Shame on the Labour party”.
CLASH OVER CONTROVERSIAL DRILLING PRACTICE
Instead of investing in fracking, we should be investing in renewable energy.
BIANCA JAGGER ANTI-FRACKING CAMPAIGNER
We’re running into an energy crisis. It’d not take much to tip us over the edge.
TOM CROTTY DIRECTOR AT INEOS