Fracking victory in moratorium defeat
A vote in the House of Commons today (26th January 2015) saw a proposal to introduce a fracking moratorium overwhelmingly voted down by 308 votes to 52.
The vote was the contrived result of a rushed Parliamentary inquiry conducted by the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, which produced a widely denounced report calling for a fracking ban on climate and environmental grounds.
In what looks to have been a deft political manoeuvre, Labour indicated it might support the moratorium unless the Government agreed to adopt its 13 conditions for fracking contained in an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill.
Then, in a Commons debate on the Bill, the Government conceded to Labour in its demands and, shortly after, during the vote on a moratorium, Labour abstained, helping to deliver the majority needed to stop a ban in its tracks.
What does it all mean in practice?
Apart from giving us a glimpse into the sometimes murky world of politics, it hasn’t really changed an awful lot.
For instance, Labour’s ‘asks’ on fracking regulation don’t seem to add much that wasn’t already a requirement.
What it has done is show that, for all the political posturing, when it comes down to it, the major parties are supportive of shale gas and other forms of onshore energy extraction.
In the next few days, Labour-led Lancashire County Council will most likely rule on two Cuadrilla planning applications for shale gas exploration on the Fylde.
So far, planning officers have recommended that the applications be refused on the grounds of noise and potential traffic impacts and, crucially, not the myriad health, safety and environmental concerns cited by shale opponents.
It will be very interesting to see how this now plays out.
In particular, will today’s politicking in Westminster now mean that the Labour group on Lancashire County Council is more comfortable passing the two applications in light of the additional regulatory controls secured by the Shadow energy team, provided the applicant satisfies planning officers on noise and traffic?
One thing is for certain: no amount of second-guessing can help anyone predict the near-term future of fracking in Britain, as today shows.