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Greater Manchester considers fracking ban

07/01/2019
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One of the UK’s largest combined authorities is setting out plans to ban fracking in its new green strategy. Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities intend to put a ‘presumption’ in planning laws against the use of fracking to extract shale gas.
Anti-fracking protestors assemble in Parliament Square, UK.
(Anti-fracking protestors assemble in Parliament Square, UK. Image via Flickr user David Holt).

The plans, which form part of a new spatial framework for the city, were announced by Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham during an interview with The Guardian newspaper.

Although the combined authority does have the power to directly ban fracking, it is “doing what we can within the legal structures that we have got at our disposal”, said Burnham.

According to the report in The Guardian, ‘About 2.6 million people live in Greater Manchester, large parts of which are within “shale-prospective areas” identified by the British Geological Survey and the Oil and Gas Authority. Energy companies have been granted licences to pursue oil and gas exploration in the west and north of the region, with iGas the first to drill a combined coalbed methane and shale gas exploration well in Barton Moss in Salford in 2013-14’.

Commenting on the current shale fracturing operations at the nearby Preston New Road site near Blackpool, Burnham said:

“It’s hard to know what damage is being done and the effect that is having on groundwater and all of those other issues that emerge”.

“It’s even more worrying in Greater Manchester, which is a much more urban place, where there is more contaminated land, more mine shafts. This is an industry which hasn’t proven its case. In fact, the opposite”.

Not everyone has welcomed the authority’s attempt to ban fracking however. 

On the contrary, Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), hit back saying that Burnham’s remarks “show a fundamental misunderstanding of the role gas has in both his region and the wider UK”.

“It is disappointing to see the Mayor of Greater Manchester once again reiterate his stance against new skilled jobs and investment in the North West”.

“93.5% of Greater Manchester households are connected to the gas grid, relying on it to heat their homes and to cook with. Nationally, 84% of homes are heated with gas and this vital fuel provides around 40% of our annual electricity demand. Since the early 1970s, UK oil and gas production has generated over £328 billion in UK tax revenues. In neighbouring Lancashire, shale gas development has already generated over 70 jobs, £11 million of local investment and over half a million in community funds”.

Cronin also pointed out the long term forecast for UK gas consumption in his response to Burnham:

“Every major forecast says that we’ll still need gas into the 2050s. If we don’t develop our own homegrown resource, nearly three quarters of our supply will be imported by 2035, which will be environmentally more impactful than producing it here in the UK. This means offshoring our environmental responsibilities and economic benefits to countries like Qatar and Russia”.

The Greater Manchester combined authorities are not the first to consider banning or limiting fracking. Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London has already stated that he “does not support fracking in London”, whilst several other authorities- including Leeds, Wakefield, Hull and York- have expressed opposition to fracking. 

In Scotland, a moratorium outlaws the practice and the SNP is consulting on a permanent ban.

With a variety of local opposition continuing to crop up across the UK, the future remains uncertain for Britain’s burgeoning shale industry…
Tags: Oil & Gas
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