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Fracking: ‘It’s not about money, ... it’s all about safety’

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Handout photo issued by the BBC of Prime Minister David Cameron appearing on BBC1's current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday January 5, 2014. David Cameron said it was

For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only. Handout photo issued by the BBC of Prime Minister David Cameron appearing on BBC1's current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday January 5, 2014. David Cameron said it was "fair" to protect the basic state pension from cuts, but declined to rule out a squeeze on other pensioner benefits after the general election. See PA story POLITICS Cameron. Photo credit should read: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

 

Council leaders want to discover the facts before deciding whether to support fracking in Ryedale.

Cllr Linda Cowling, leader of Ryedale District Council, was speaking after the Prime Minister announced that local authorities could earn up to £1.7m per year for every fracking site in their area.

The incentive is the latest attempt by the Government to persuade authorities to support the controversial method of extracting oil and gas from shale rock deep underground.

Studies suggest Ryedale could be among the districts targeted by the fracking industry.

Around a dozen companies having licences to explore sites across Yorkshire.

Anti-fracking campaigners, however, argue it poses a risk to the region’s environment as well as the tourism and farming industries.

Cllr Cowling said: “We need to get the full facts on Monday’s announcement before we can make any decisions on the implications for Ryedale.

“I am not really interested in how much money fracking will generate. What I really need to know is whether it is damaging to the environment.

“If it is dangerous and damaging no amount of money can put that right; if fracking is safe I am happy for it to go ahead but I would have to be convinced. Obviously the sums of money involved are large and are potentially very beneficial for our district.”

David Cameron claims there is the potential to create 74,000 jobs, more than £3bn of investment and cheaper and more secure energy through fracking for shale gas.

“A key part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain’s future is to back businesses with better infrastructure,” he said. “That’s why we’re going all out for shale. It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people, and economic security for our country.”

Speaking during a visit to Gainsborough where Total announced in would make an investment in shale gas wells, he added: “We have the strongest environmental controls in this country. Nothing would go ahead if there were environmental dangers. I think people can be reassured by that.

“But I actually believe it’s when these wells go ahead, when people start to see the benefit, when people see there aren’t environmental concerns, they will see that it is quite right that this is part of our long-term economic plan.”

The shale gas industry has previously promised £100,000 for every test well and one per cent of proceeds when a well goes into production which could be worth up to £10m over its lifetime.

It will today ask for suggestions on how the money can be shared through ideas including community funds or even direct payments to people living close to a site.

The extra money for councils will come from allowing local authorities to keep all the business rates paid by a fracking site rather than 50 per cent under current Government rules.

But there are growing signs of opposition to fracking from communities in the region where sites are most likely and yesterday protesters held a march at a test drilling site near Manchester.

Russell Scott, from the group Frack Free North Yorkshire, said: “North Yorkshire has a booming tourism industry and a world class agriculture industry. Fracking has been proven in the USA and Australia to have a very negative effect on both these sectors.

“The proven environmental damage associated with fracking, the subsequent public health concerns to local residents in close proximity to fracking wells and the potential risk of water and air contamination should be considered more important than any relatively minor financial incentives.”

Fracking involves drilling deep underground before a mixture of water and chemicals are pushed at high pressure to force out gas and oil trapped in the rock.

 

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