Plaid Cymru seeks guarantees over Wales fracking ban after Tory MP’s backs resumption of drilling
The leader of the Plaid Cymru group in the House of Commons has written to the UK’s Energy Minister seeking a guarantee that Westminster “will not attempt to impose fracking on communities in Wales”.
The letter follows an exchange with Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies regarding fracking during a recording of Any Questions on BBC Radio 4 last Friday.
Mr Davies said during the recording: “We would like to see more of our own gas being produced … I really hope you [Jo Stevens, Labour] and Plaid Cymru will support making more use of the gas that is underneath our feet instead of ruling it out for environmental reasons. We need that gas.”
Presenter Chris Mason asked if that is government policy: “You’re saying pro-fracking are you?”
To which Mr Davies replied: “If we can safely access gas through fracking, we should do it.”
In her response, Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “It would be a catastrophic mistake to consider fracking in the middle of a climate emergency. Starting fracking now would mean missing our emission reduction targets and giving up on our efforts to limit the effects of climate change.
“I would ask Mr Davies in all seriousness what exactly he is proposing. Wales has banned fracking since 2018, and has withheld planning consent for fracking since 2015, after the Welsh Government supported a Plaid Cymru motion.
“Meanwhile England, under his own government, has put a moratorium on fracking since 2019. His government colleague Greg Hands said as recent as last month that the ‘pause on fracking implemented in November 2019 on the basis of the difficulty in predicting and managing seismic activity caused by fracking, remains in place.’
“Serious questions must be asked. Either Mr Davies dropped his ministerial mask and publicly undermined his own government’s policy – or the UK Government are quietly considering imposing fracking on Welsh communities.
“The UK Government must urgently clarify whether it will respect Wales’s fracking ban.”
Current energy needs
In the letter to Greg Hands MP, Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change Ms Saville Roberts wrote. “Shale production will not meet our current energy needs or address the cost-of-living crisis; it will take too long and be too expensive.
“The UK Government commissioned review by the British Geological Survey of the latest scientific evidence around shale gas extraction in England should have no bearing on our ban in Wales.
“The UK Government may be giving in to climate deniers and fossil fuel opportunists, but I must remind you that the powers over licensing for oil and gas extraction on land as well as in intertidal areas, estuaries and coastal inlets were devolved to Wales in 2018.
“I would appreciate if in your response you were able to give me a guarantee that the UK Government will not attempt to impose fracking on communities in Wales.
“I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest possible convenience.”
Last week the UK Government commissioned a review of the latest scientific evidence on fracking, as the debate over UK energy supplies intensifies.
There has been a moratorium on shale gas extraction in England since November 2019, on the basis of evidence that it was not possible to accurately predict tremors associated with fracking.
But Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has written to the British Geological Survey asking for a report on the latest science around fracking including new techniques, improvements in geological modelling or areas outside of Lancashire – where fracking has taken place – less at risk of tremors.
He said the Government was and would be guided by the science on shale gas but in the light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine it was “absolutely right that we explore all possible domestic energy sources”.
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