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26 Sep, 2014 16:46

UK to allow fracking drilling under people's land without their consent

UK to allow fracking drilling under people's land without their consent

The UK plans to allow fracking companies to drill under people's land without their agreement, despite public opposition.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said it will press ahead with proposals to simplify underground access for oil and gas developers despite the objection of 99 percent of respondents to a consultation.

The UK-wide plan would give companies the right to drill at depths of 300 metres or more under private land without negotiating a right of access.

The UK government argued that the current ability for people to block shale gas development under their property would lead to significant delays and that the legal process by which companies can force fracking plans through was costly, time-consuming and disproportionate.

In a consultation on the proposal, 99 percent of a total of 40,647 responses opposed the legal changes to give oil and gas companies underground access without having to seek landowners’ permission. Setting aside the 28,821 responses submitted via two NGO campaigns, 92 percent of the remaining responses objected to the proposals.

A statement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “New laws will now be passed giving automatic access for gas and oil development below 300m and a notification and compensation scheme will be run by the industry on a voluntary basis.

“It is essential that we make the most of home-sourced energy and start exploring the natural energy supplies beneath our feet. As the cleanest fossil fuel shale gas provides a bridge to much greener future.”

The Conservative energy minister, Matt Hancock, said: “These new rules will help Britain to explore the great potential of our national shale gas and geothermal resources, as we work towards a greener future – and open up thousands of new jobs in doing so.”

AFP Photo / Lindsey Parnaby

He argued that since 2003, North Sea Oil has declined, and as a result the UK has become a net importer of oil and gas and is now increasingly dependent on international energy resources. “It is essential that we make the most of home-sourced energy and start exploring the natural energy supplies beneath our feet,” he added.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas told the Guardian it’s a “sham consultation,” which exposes “the government’s disregard for the growing public concern about the major environmental and health risks of fracking. The decision to deny people the right to say no to fracking under their own homes is outrageous. It shows that ministers are putting the greed of oil and gas companies above the public interest in tackling climate change.”

Jane Thomas, senior campaigner of Friends of the Earth, said in a press release: “This Government seems hell-bent on fracking irrespective of widespread opposition. You’d think with a general election approaching politicians would listen to public opinion and get behind the popular energy solutions of cutting waste and backing renewables.”

“Fracking for more fossil fuels will cause more pollution and bring about more catastrophic climate change - the Government should stop making things easier for the frackers and allow people a say in what happens beneath their property.”

The Scottish Government also quickly condemned the announcement. Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing said decisions on oil and gas drilling in Scotland should be made by the people who live there. Ewing said: "UK Government proposals to remove the right of Scottish householders to object to drilling under their homes, without so much as debate in the Scottish Parliament, flies in the face of Scotland's cautious, considered and evidence based approach on this issue.”