Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

UK needs to explore for shale says Energy and Climate Change Secretary

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd will this week write to planning authorities to make clear the national need to explore for shale gas. Writing in the Sunday Times Rudd said that the current system where planning decisions were delayed could spell the end of a potentially vital national industry.

"We can’t continue with a system in which applications are dragged out for months or even years on end, a system that doesn’t give certainty to industry and that could spell the end of a potentially vital national industry. We need a system that delivers timely planning decisions and that works effectively for local people and developers," she said. "As part of this work, the government will be writing to planning authorities this week to make clear there is a national need to explore shale in a safe, sustainable and timely way to help meet our objectives for secure energy supplies, economic growth and lower-carbon emissions."

Rudd's comments come just weeks after energy firm Cuadrilla had its applications for hyrdraulic fracturing at two sites in Lancashire refused. It took a year for a decision to be reached and the process involved several delays. Planners advising the Development Control Committee in Lancashire had recommended that one of the sites at Roseacre Wood be refused on basis of unacceptable traffic impacts, but said that a second site at Preston New Road should be approved. The committee rejected this advice however and refused permission despite advice from the council's legal expert that refusal could result in an appeal.

"Having a choice of where we get our energy, including producing our own at home wherever we can, is the best way to make sure we’re secure. It’s down to us to make the most of our own energy reserves and to get the best deal for Britain" - Amber Rudd

Cuadrilla has now confirmed that it will challenge the decisions. “We have given careful consideration to appeal the planning decisions taken by Lancashire County Council. This is a natural step in the democratic process for deciding any planning application," said Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla. "We recognise that onshore shale gas exploration still feels relatively new in the UK and we remain committed to engaging with local communities to reassure them that exploratory operations can and will be carried out safely and in an environmentally responsible way. I understand that some people would prefer that we did not appeal but I am confident that we will demonstrate to Lancashire and the UK that shale gas exploration and fracking is not only safe but represents a very real opportunity to create jobs, fuel businesses, heat UK homes and stimulate significant local economic growth.”

In her letter in the Sunday Times, Rudd reitterated that energy firms would pay local communities £100,000 plus 1% of production revenue and pointed out that councils would be permitted to keep all business tax revenues. She also said that the government would create a "Shale Sovereign Wealth Fund" for the north of England to support building the northern powerhouse.

Cuadrilla's planning applications were the first to be made since the government lifted the fracking moratorium in December 2012. At the end of July Third Energy announced that it had applied to North Yorkshire County Council for permission to hydraulically fracture at a site in Kirby Misperton. The company has nine traditional gas wells in the area. "Our application for operations at the existing KM8 well at Kirby Misperton will receive more scrutiny because of the high public interest. However, operations will be for a shorter duration and involve less noise and less traffic than many of the wells we have already drilled and completed safely in the area. The fracking process itself only lasts for a few hours, and then the well will perform in exactly the same way as our existing wells which have operated safely and unnoticed for the last two decades," said John Dewar, operations director at Third Energy.

Energy firm IGas has also confirmed plans for exploration wells in Lancashire and Nottinghamshire.

Rudd underlined the importance of natural gas in meeting UK energy demand explaining that it accounts for a third of generation. She said with UK set to import 75% of oil and gas by 2030 the country needs more home-grown energy supplies and shale gas must play a part in that. "Having a choice of where we get our energy, including producing our own at home wherever we can, is the best way to make sure we’re secure. It’s down to us to make the most of our own energy reserves and to get the best deal for Britain. Just as 60 years ago there were concerns about going into the North Sea to explore for oil and gas, today we are faced with a similar debate around shale gas. But we are in a different place from 60 years ago, we are building on the record and experience that comes with decades of developing our industries while also protecting the environment and the safety of our workforce."

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