Giving cash to allow fracking ‘tantamount to bribery’

Green MEP Keith Taylor
Green MEP Keith Taylor

Paying residents affected by fracking some of the profits would be ‘tantamount to bribery’, according to one of Sussex’s MEPs.

The Government first announced plans for a Shale Wealth Fund back in 2014, where ten per cent of tax returns from shale gas production would be used to benefit communities that host sites.

But now it is consulting on a number of options including one where money could be paid directly to individual households.

Keith Taylor, a Green MEP for the South East, said: “These proposals are immoral and tantamount to bribery.

“Catastrophic climate change doesn’t take bribes.

“Of all the measures the new Prime Minister should be undertaking to tackle catastrophic climate change, it is astounding that Theresa May has rested on this wrong-headed policy – just days after climate experts warned that Britain, and the world, is on course to miss key climate targets.

“The scientific consensus on climate change has never been greater and we have been told that the best chance of limiting potentially catastrophic temperature increase is by leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

“The proposals also beg the question; what price clean water? I’ve visited homes in Pennsylvania where the water is too contaminated to drink because of fracking. That same danger is now being fast-tracked across Britain.

“Campaigners, communities, and some councils have already made their voices heard: they don’t want fracking.

“In fact, a recent Government poll revealed that just 21 per cent of people support fracking, while 76 per cent of people support renewable energy.”

“The UK has enormous renewable energy potential – and we have seen evidence that people across the South East have the passion, willingness, and know-how to create clean, people-powered energy in spite of the Government’s continued onslaught.

“The British public will not be swayed by a naked attempt at using bribery to divide and conquer communities. It is time for the Government to stop circumventing democracy and, finally, listen to the public.”

West Sussex has been one of the main battlegrounds in the country for hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, which involves pumping water and chemicals underground to split apart porous shale rock to release trapped energy deposits.

Cuadrilla’s plans for exploratory drilling at a site near Balcombe, and subsequent protests, gained national attention in the summer of 2013, while Celtique Energie’s proposals for two sites, one near Fernhurst and another between Wisborough Green and Kirdford were both rejected by the South Downs National Park Authority and West Sussex County Council respectively.

However UKOOG, the trade body for the onshore oil and gas industry, welcomed the consultation.

Ken Cronin, chief executive at UKOOG, said: “The onshore oil and gas industry in the UK continues to believe that local people should share in the success of our industry and be rewarded for hosting sites on behalf of others in the country.

“That is why we launched the industry’s community benefits scheme and community engagement charter in 2013. These are additional to the proposed Shale Wealth Fund.

“The overarching objectives of secure, affordable and low carbon energy continue to be a driving force for our industry.

“Just 12 years ago, Britain was a net exporter of gas, but imports now make up nearly half of our gas demand, at a cost to this country of around £10 million a day.

“Recent estimates by National Grid are that, without shale, the UK could be importing over 90 per cent of its gas by 2040.”

According to the Government’s website the consultation seeks to explore the following:

- What the government’s priorities should be for the Shale Wealth Fund,

- The allocation of funding from the Shale Wealth Fund to different stakeholder groups,

- The extent to which the industry community benefits scheme and the Shale Wealth Fund should be aligned,

- Potential delivery models for the Shale Wealth Fund – to ensure that households and communities benefit, and to

-Decide how funds are spent, and how any process should be administered.

The consultation runs until October 26. Visit www.gov.uk/government/consultations/shale-wealth-fund and fill in the survey at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/D5ZQQKB

Responses can also be emailed to shalewealthfund@hmtreasury.gsi.gov.uk or send by post to Energy Branch, Energy, Environment and Agriculture Team, HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ.

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